Doing hard things
It is easy to say your want your kids to have opportunities to do stretch their character muscles and be challenged. That sounds good and wise. It is however, a whole other thing to actually facilitate them doing the hard thing. Sometimes we aren’t privy to the actual challenge until after it has occurred. Like today, Audrey climbed a tree, high. And when she went for the final dismount she fell. Scraped her whole belly badly. She did something hard and it didn’t work out super well. She is fine. But she will do it differently next time. She’ll find another way out of that tree that doesn’t net her being carried into the house in her brothers arms.
One of our kids stepped up, stepped into what we knew would be a challenging academic program this year. Last year as we decided on how to proceed, I wanted to say “let’s wait a year”. But she was ready. I knew she was. And I wasn’t being honest with myself if I said otherwise. She declared one day as we deliberated “Mom, I know it’s not going to be easy. I want to do it anyway.” It was a mute point from that moment forward. I wasn’t about to hold her back. Sometimes our fear prevents our kids from going, being, doing what they were made for. Finding a voice for that fear and calling it out so you can take a brave step forward is something I’m learning is paramount important while raising children.
Another child this year wanted to do something brave. He wanted to take on a memory challenge for our homeschool work through Classical Conversations where we participate in community each Monday. I read the requirements early this year and laughed. Who could do that? I brushed past the request to try for it. And I let months go by without encouraging him to work toward it. The year passed and he was tenacious on his desire to pursue it. Everything, I mean everything, in me wanted to say no. Not because I didn’t want to invest the hours of quizzing to help make sure he knew it. Honest truth? I wanted to say no because I could not handle the possibility of him failing. He would not accept my unspoken answer. The kind of answer mom’s give when they don’t want to say the actual word no so they instead don’t invest the time and heart into making a yes happen.
It came time I had to “proof” him so he could proceed with the process of being officially acknowledged for this feat. I halfheartedly picked up the notebook and proceeded to sit on my bed for two hours with him. Asking question upon question. When we finished the 7 subjects, he asked what was next. I said “Um, nothing. There is nothing left.” He had recited, near perfectly the information below:
- The entire timeline of 160 events from creation to modern times;
- Twenty-four (some very lengthy) more in depth sentences about history;
- Twenty-four science questions and answers;
- Multiplication tables through the fifteens plus squares and cubes, conversions, and math laws;
- Continents, countries, capitals, and physical features from around the world.
- Twenty-four definitions or lists from English grammar;
- Latin noun cases and declensions,
- The forty-four U.S. presidents.
About 400 pieces of information in all.
He looked at me. Quiet tears ran down my face and his own eyes welled up. I had almost held him back from this super difficult thing for only one reason.
I did not want to see him fail.
I could not bear the thought of him not making it. I felt physically ill at the prospect. And in my doubt and fear I nearly robbed him of this big win. He pursued something he wanted to accomplish with such passion and determination.
Ideally, I would like to say “lesson learned”. But I know better. This lesson? The one where you don’t fret one bit because you’ve raised children to be brave and take risks and given them chances to succeed OR fail? It isn’t ever mastered.
We always said we wanted to take our kids overseas when they were middle school age. Which felt like FOREVER. But now here we are and here they go. Off on a plane in July with their daddy to Africa, to one of the poorest nations in the world. To serve and love and get their hands dirty and hearts split open in a most beautiful way, one they wouldn’t likely ever experience here. One more opportunity to release, to be brave, to take a deep breath and remember, God is writing their story and the unfolding of each step is something to behold.