Is it Hard for You?

As so often happens, a semi-long ride in the car prompted lots of talk amongst my little people and I. I’m learning these windows of opportunity to really talk to them and more importantly, to listen, are fleeting and few. I try to be present for the moments and conversations as they happen. (Keyword is TRY. Sometimes I miss it.)

As you all know, our feed store adventure came to an end and now I’m home with the kids – which has been fantastic so far. We’ve been doing just as I hoped – getting our school grove back, making a little progress on the house, and working on lots of outside farm projects. The end of the feed store sparked a lot of conversations. The one I’m going to tell you about was probably the hardest one for me.

I’ve learned that my kids have to see me vulnerable, not getting it all right, not having all of the answers. Or more importantly, they see those things and they need to hear that I see it too, that I accept it, and that I’m not pretending to be more than I am. If I can be real, and real with them, maybe I can impart the courage to be real to them. Maybe.

As he usual, Isaiah asks the hardest questions. He started out with, “Mom…Mom… Do you think the new owners will do better with the feed store than us?”

You mean than me, right son? The words I thought but didn’t dare say, they took a lot of ownership in the feed store. But at the end of the day, it was up to me to run it “right”.

“Yes, I do.” I replied. Eyes on the road ahead, don’t look in the rear view mirror. Don’t encourage wherever this is leading.

“What do you think they’ll do better?”

It boils down to consistency, and I wish that had been my answer, but I said, “Everything,” with a shrug, “probably everything, kiddo. They’ll keep the store stocked and they won’t let someone work there that doesn’t show up on time. The store will be open, clean, stocked. And rightfully so, they should do better than I did.” And quieter. A lot quieter. No baby crying in the high chair, kids running with show sticks and screaming, and 12-year-old sales pitches.

The car fell silent, and I’ll be honest, my thoughts were starting to get to me. The failures. The things I could have done better. The things I should have done better. Could have. Should have. Would have. Somewhere in that mess of thoughts, I heard the sweet voice of my boy again, “Mom?”

“Hmm?” I finally glanced in the mirror, meeting big, inquisitive eyes.

“Is it hard for you?”

“What?” I asked.

“Is it hard for you, knowing they will do better than us?”

Why doesn’t the team that helps you give birth to a child also hand you a book or pamphlet that prepares you for the fact that your kids will kind of gut you, while expecting your honest, vulnerable answers, but needing you to shoulder your trials with grown up strength – especially when you most want to curl up and let someone else make the decisions and take on the responsibilities? Why, in this moment, when everything is still raw, fresh, and I’m still kind of crossing my fingers that I did the right thing, does my son need to know if it’s hard to know they’ll do better? Is he asking me if I know that I failed?

“So hard, Isaiah. It is so hard knowing they’ll do better. And good. I want them to do better, because getting the feed store was an honor to me. I felt like the torch of something historical and long-standing had been passed to me, to our family. I wanted to carry it well, but the truth is, I didn’t. I tried. But too many things out of our control happened after we got the store and I just never could quite get my act together. I wanted to run it as wonderfully as the new family is going to, as wonderfully as the family before us did. But I can’t honestly say that I did as well as I hoped. And all of this is hard. Except for the part that I know I’ll be home with you guys, and we’ll have great adventures and we will build things and grow things and learn things.”

His voice sounded weepy, and his big blue eyes had tears welled in them, “It’s hard for me too, Mom. I wanted the feed store to go right, too. I liked owning a feed store.”

I didn’t realize how much ownership my kids, especially my two boys, took in the feed store endeavor until we let it go. I wanted that – in fact, when we first took over, I did very specific things to make them feel like it was theirs too. This was their adventure, too. They were part of making it what it was.

It wasn’t until after everyone was in bed, and I was left alone to my thoughts, that I could pick out that truth. I definitely felt the sense of loss and the things that didn’t go well were at the forefront of my mind. I may not have done well in all the things I wanted to, but my kids learned a lot. They took part in the adventure, they took part in the dreaming, and they are also learning that sometimes we let go of something good, to make room for something better.

Being home with them is definitely something better in my book. So yes, it was hard to let go, it was hard to let go to someone who is going to make the store everything I couldn’t, and I think these kinds of things are always hard in life. But when we do a hard thing for the right reasons, it makes the hard thing bearable.

If you’re facing a hard decision, make sure you choose the best, not just the good option. And look for the right reasons that make the hard thing bearable.

Until next time,
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Just Like That

It’s over so much the same as it began – a few weeks of anticipation, leading up to the final moment. It feels just as surreal to close this chapter as it did to open it.

I’ll never forget the day I first turned the key in the lock and opened the feed store. I couldn’t believe it was mine. So many ideas had come to mind in the weeks leading up to that moment, I had started a notebook just for the ideas.

I had too many ideas to know where to start, and I started too many ideas too fast, and lacked the follow through necessary to truly know which ideas were successful and which ideas weren’t. (This tends to be a recurring problem for me. I’m working on it.)

Knowing how many ideas were left untried, and walking out that door for the proverbial last time (I mean, I’m sure I’ll be back to buy feed), was downright hard. I put so much of myself in to that store. But things don’t always go the way we think they should, or even will.

A dear friend called today in the middle of me counting failures and kindly but adamantly reminded me I was looking at it all wrong. Sure, I could count failures if I wanted to, there surely are failures to count. But she pointed out that with all our family walked through in the last several months, I chose my family. I chose to be with them, available to them, present for them.

And she helped me clear my head so much. Instead of counting failures or even feeling like this happened to me, I could see the choices I made. And as I write this, while I acknowledge disappointment and things that could have gone different or better, I don’t regret that I chose my family. I didn’t bury myself in my work and wait for the storm to pass.

In 2 months, 2 years, 2 decades, I know I will be glad for investing my time and energy in my children, regardless of leaving a business behind. I think in a few short years, had I made the store the priority, I would have realized my kids were grown and I wouldn’t be able to get that time back.

I think this is one of those times where I am learning to say no to something good, to be able to say yes to the best.

HSF 7: Once the toes have been cut off

I read a great status update from The Libertarian Homeschooler. This is what they had to say:

“Sometimes people struggle as they try to let go of the idea that a child should know such and so by such and such age. Yes. Curriculum. Scope and sequence. It gives us a sense of control, doesn’t it? Life is safer if you’ve checked off the boxes and done what everyone says you should do. If it all goes off the rails, you were walking lockstep with the culture and so you are not to be blamed.

You are a good parent if you do it the way the culture says you should. Never mind that what the culture is producing is a hot mess. Oh…right. Hot mess. You’re walking lockstep with a culture that worships scope and sequence and curriculum and What Your First Grader Should Know and rote memorization and it is producing hot mess. So much for safety.

Why isn’t this working?

Imagine if we applied this curriculum way of thinking to shoes. At age nine months everyone wears a size nine shoe, regardless of the size of their foot. Everyone must try to succeed in their day-to-day activities–learning to walk, run, carry things, climb–in the size nine shoes. Only children who actually wear a size nine stand a chance, of course. There are very few children who fit into a size nine shoe. Those who have problems will be deemed in need of medication, remediation, or disciplinary action. Some will have the ends of their toes cut off for the sake of the shoes. Some will have their feet bound. Others will have them strapped to their feet because their feet won’t stay in them.

This is schooling. This is what following the curriculum looks like. It works for some, but not most. And it is not done with the needs and capacities of the child in mind. It is done for the ease of the adults who make the shoes and the adults who fit the shoes. It is done to the child, not for the child.

That’s why it doesn’t work. Children are aware that this is being done To them. They resent it. And we end up with a hot mess. And we wonder why.”

I have my own thought to add.

Once the toes have been cut off, and you change up the way things have been done for several years, it is hard. It is hard for the one teaching. It is hard for the one learning. Because it’s like teaching someone how to walk again, but harder. Because, I don’t always have the right words, or I can just reach out and steady him by his britches.

I don’t always know how to motivate someone that is so used to “conforming” that he struggles with the freedom. I don’t always know how to communicate effectively what I’m trying to teach him, because he’s used to 40 minute periods, 10 minute breaks and too much busy work. We have good days and bad days. I believe learning takes place all the time, and I used grocery shopping to teach the little boys to count. But I got this one as an instant addition, and he knows how to count. So, I’m being stretched and challenged to find ways to help him stretch out of the box.

I want his toes to grow back. I want him to find something he is personally passionate about. But I don’t always know where to point him because I didn’t expect him to need so much direction from me. I thought he would think freely, but he’s been taught to need directions. His toes will grow back, and he will find the shoes that fit, and I am beyond thankful to be part of this journey!

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?