When You’re Not Enough

I have never been enough.

I try. I really do.

From the beginning, I studied and worked with all my might. Most of the time I am adequate, but there are things beyond my abilities that bring me to despair.

No matter how much I try or what I do, this one is more than I can handle. The hours I spend learning and searching increase my knowledge to the swelling point, earning me the label of amateur expert. Yet there he is, impervious. My carefully chosen words are so many flimsy soap bubbles, the noise a mere whisper before expiring with a quiet ‘pop’ more sensed than heard.

He wants to hear me, but the walls between us are thick and wide. He turns his head. The vibrations reach him. I will him to touch it, grasp it. Sometimes he does reach. It is a flimsy thing, not easily held. The fragmented traces it leaves, when it does find him, are like bits of melody, a song in separate pieces.

We begin again, with a slight adjustment and renewed persistence.

In all the long, long nights of bitter tears and angry, screaming prayers, failure has taught me this hard lesson well.

I can never be enough. Because perfect doesn’t exist in this world.

I am always enough. Because I will never give up on him.

There is a reason that mothers and fathers who face extraordinary challenges are referred to as parents in the trenches. The challenges in and of themselves are not the enemy. Those things that destroy your soul wear many masks. A few of their names are comparison, fear, and doubt. And they have a whole heap of nasty cousins.

Progress can be a messy business. Things don’t happen in a straight line. Who am I kidding? This is trailblazing work, walking a person through their own uncharted territory with scant signposts along the way. Even when you are certain sure you are going the right direction, there is a constant nagging doubt. Maybe this is not the right way after all.

When circumstances are particularly challenging, different, or unique, companions along the way are few and far between. It is a terrifying moment when you realize that even the advising experts often have no clue what they’re talking about.

I don’t know if I’m always doing the right thing. What I do know is that I have hope that I am not doing the wrong thing. Hope. A thing both fragile and strong, a whisper and a shout.

A wise man told me, “You can only do what you can do.”

This is a phrase I have repeated to myself more time than I can count. In my heart of hearts, I know I have given as much as I can. Not perfect parenting, by any means, but the best I could do at the moment.

You can only do what you can do.

After that, you have to have faith that things will work out. The distance between hope and faith isn’t so far. Perhaps it’s the final step in all the striving, the ending place of when you have poured it all out and nothing is left but faith.

Doubts are always there, but in the shadow of faith, doubts shrink down to manageable size.

Sometimes the best we can do is to focus on the next step. The next small goal. Celebrate those moments. For some of us, when our children learn to tie their shoes it is a much larger accomplishment then it is for your typical child. Every child is unique. Some are more unique than others. Averages and typical growth charts are nothing but scribbles on paper, not applicable.

Comparison destroys progress. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself to not play the comparison game, I fall into the trap. Often. We have to have a measuring stick to go by, otherwise we don’t know where we’re going. The problem is, the measurements keep changing.

The things you thought you knew no longer apply. These are the times when you have to dig deep, and get close to what is deep, deep, true. It is amazing how much preconceptions are worthless when it comes down to it. Throw almost everything out the window. Walking through life with someone who sees and experiences every moment a little bit left of center, a slightly different shade of blue, it helps a person find the pared down, close to the bone truth of the way things really are.

When things are terrifying, and they are, you can’t be afraid. You are the anchor, the place they call home. Fear is a luxury you cannot afford.

If you pay homage to fear, it will never be satisfied. It will eat you alive, you and your babies with you.

Trust your own good sense, do the best you can, and refuse to lose hope.

You can only do what you can do.

You are enough.

**********

I was so hesitant to post today. I hope it conveyed what is on my heart and that this post is an encouragement.

If it encouraged you today, please leave a comment, like, or share.

All my best,

Donna Jo

 

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Teach Them To Follow Their Dreams

Hi Everyone,

This was meant to be chapter one of nonfiction book about homeschooling that I wrote a couple of years ago. The idea of editing an entire book is overwhelming me, so I will post it bit by bit. I would love to know what you think.  I will still be working on my novels, but wanted to be an encouragement to parents going through some of the same things we did. I want you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is worth all the effort and sacrifice we put in.

You are doing important work.

****************

Be a dream encourager.

Teach them to follow their dreams.

I had dreams for her. I had dreams for all my children, but for my little girl I had cotton candy, white-lace-curtain-dreams. I knew exactly what I wanted her room to look like. We would wear beautiful, hand sewn, matching dresses. In this magical world, the days would be filled to the top with joyful moments. We would cook together, sew together, and take nature walks. She would have long, beautiful hair and I would spend hours and hours brushing and curling it. Demure and lady-like, she would sit quietly by my side when I suggested, in a calm and gentle manner, that she do so. Like I said, it was a dream.

By the time I had proof positive that I a little girl was actually on the way, I had birthed enough boys to realize many of these ideas would probably not come true. Still, I never even considered a girl child of mine would not like to sew and cook. After all, my boys all learned to quilt and are well acquainted with the sewing machine. Two of them can cook reasonably well, and one excels in the kitchen. Maybe this is why my daughter sees absolutely no reason to spend her time over a hot stove.

There was a period of time when she became interested in sewing, but she didn’t want my help. She was in a club that sometimes did sewing projects, and these she did with her brother’s assistance, because she would rather sew with him than with me.

I bought plenty of hair bows and barrettes. She never liked me messing with her hair, and hid in the closet to hack it off. She’s not a big fan of brushing her hair either. Saying that here will probably get me in dutch with her, but it’s true.

She doesn’t love the same things I love. She needs to go her own way. My dreams are not hers. She needs her own.

Each of my children has their passions. This is how it should be. While there is a sorrow in not being able to share things that delight me with my most favorite young lady in the world, we share enough. It would be a terrible disservice to cripple a person by smothering their gifts, either by superimposing our own or otherwise.

They have to have room to grow, to find their true self. They need time and space. Every person is born with natural inclinations, and the wise teacher will be able to discern the areas in which a person will naturally bloom by observing them. We live in a world full of limitless possibilities; as long as we don’t limit ourselves by spending too much of our time and energy trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what our lives should look like.

Human beings are born wired to learn, to explore, and to search out new experiences. A baby grasps at things both familiar and new. This is the way we are made. No one has to force a toddler to reach, test, and try new things. As long as we keep reaching, we will find what we are best suited for. The best thing we can do for our children, and for ourselves, is to get out of the way of natural tendencies allowing our dreams and passions to instruct us.

Growing dreams takes time.

Nurture them the same way you would a tender plant. Give your students opportunity and fertile soil in which to find their rightful place. Allow them to experience plenty of opportunities. My children were shocked to recently meet someone who had never been to an art museum. While peers may often shake heads because my children were not raised on cable TV, mine are surprised and saddened that many of their friends went through their entire childhood without ever building a fort or digging a hole big enough to put your whole body into. A childhood without trees, music, and art, is a childhood of poverty.

We may not have had a great deal of material things, but God blessed us with abundance. Children need time in nature and time in the quiet to use one of the greatest assets at their disposal, their imagination, and they need books. Lots of books. Encourage your children’s interests. Listen patiently to them talk about what they love and they will love you for it. Feeding dreams is an honorable calling. Watching the growth is a blessing. Trust me on this one. It’s not something you want to miss.

There are two sides to this coin. As with everything in life, balance is hard to come by and maintain. Not only do we have to encourage them to strive towards their chosen goals, we need, at times, to give them a reality check. People will lie to you. They might tell you you’re great at something because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Limitations are in place to help guide us to the calling we were intended to pursue. Don’t get in the way by refusing to acknowledge the fact. I am not talking about being critical or actively discouraging children from their true ambition. They will never learn what they’re capable of unless you encourage them to test limits and reach goals higher than they can realistically expect to achieve. More often than not they can and do move beyond what they thought they could do.

But let’s face it, not everyone can be a rocket scientist or a famous singer.

Sometimes your children won’t listen to you, no matter how well delivered the advice. I have found the best thing to do is to get out of the way and let them either succeed or fail.

I used to think that anyone could sing. Then my middle son decided he would like to be a musician. He never did learn to sing, however he did learn to play the guitar, the piano, and produced an album as his senior project. He has a extremely good grasp of music theory and has mad technical skills. He just can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Just because he can’t sing doesn’t mean he’s not a musician, as he has proven.

I suspect he still thinks maybe he could learn to sing if he had a better teacher. Maybe he’s right. There’s nothing quite as delightful as watching your children prove you wrong by succeeding at something. I will always be their biggest cheerleader.

Protect them from dream killers.

Reality may be harsh, but false perceptions can be more destructive and even harsher. There will be always be those who will try to hold people down. Learn to recognize them. Finding the strength of character to break away from those who seek to hold you down can be difficult, and often is, but to succeed and to be pleased with your own life this is something you must do. The world is full of naysayers, both obvious and not, who delight in other’s failures. Be careful of the environment you place your child in. Even if you think you have done the best job and trust implicitly the people who influence your child, do a health check every now and again. Situations can change. Just as you reevaluate your child’s academic progress, reevaluate the situations they are placed in. Home educating is no guarantee against the typical social positioning and conflicts. Talk to your children and listen to them. Be that obnoxious mom. You’ve earned the right.

Everyone has been born with a unique destiny, a purpose for being.

Following our passions enables us to be satisfied. There is much more to life than simple muddling through, surviving day by day. I believe we are part of a much bigger picture, fitted together into the grand and beautiful design. Everyone matters.

As I write this I’m visiting at my middle son’s house.

“I need encouragement,” I tell him.

He ignores me, looking at his phone.

“Pay attention to me,” I demand.

“I’m listening,” he says, “I’m looking up how to be an encouragement.”

“Nice.”

“No really, listen. You’re great, you’re awesome, good job.”

I can’t tell if he’s trying to make me laugh or irritate me. Whatever.

“Thanks,” I say.

The time it is late and I suddenly realize something.

“I forgot to make your lasagna,” I tell him.

Earlier, I had told him if he brought groceries I would make him one.

He shrugs. “You don’t have time to make lasagna. You’re busy changing the world with your writing.”

I swivel my head around to look at him. He is going through his mail, his head bent over the pile of flyers and envelopes. I can’t read his expression.

“What do you mean?”

My visit has been too long and we are starting to get on each other’s nerves. It’s hard to read people when you’re busy jabbing at each other. He looks up. He wears little boy earnestness, something he’s never quite outgrown. My beautiful intense child.

“You’re sharing wisdom with your writing.”

He says this with utter seriousness. He believes in me. A spare five minutes ago, I was whining, complaining.

Now I say, “That’s what I meant earlier. What you just said is encouraging.”

He furrows his brow. “Really?” He seems honestly surprised. He thinks about it a moment, and then shrugs. “It’s the truth.” He goes back to pawing through his mail, as if he had not just handed me a priceless treasure.

He’s a dream encourager.

I never knew I was growing my own cheerleading section.

*****

Did this post encourage you? Leave a comment and please share with someone.

All my best,

Donna Jo

 

Under the Microscope

When we first started homeschooling, I wasn’t aware of it. I was too busy trying to get all my ducks in a row. Besides, I have never really understood why what I do should be of such intense interest of outside parties.

It was the homeymoon phase and didn’t last very long.

Every mom knows this intrusion on her parenting skills. It starts just about the time your baby bump begins to show, and continues until . . . well, I don’t know when it ends. I haven’t got there yet.

With homeschooling it’s kind of like that, times ten. Your friends, neighbors, relatives, random strangers on the street suddenly turn a critical eye on your life. Everyone has an opinion. And then there are the demands we place on ourselves.

The very first book I read about homeschooling advised me that my house must always be in order. I tried to laugh that off, but it made me nervous. A week or so later, I joined a group. With membership came a list of written rules. The most important thing we were to remember was that we represented something important. Members were severely admonished us to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting this responsibility. At all times. 

Then there are the questions. Most of the time these are fine. An exception would be one of those ambushes when an angry looking adult corners the poor homeschooled kid. Then the adult proceeds to quiz the child on various subjects until the child is caught in a mistake, at which point the angry adult says something like, “Aha! I knew little Johnny’s education was being neglected! He can’t name all of the Kings and Queens of England in chronological order!”

During these inquisitions the homeschooled child will misspell simple words, fail easy arithmetic, and forget the name of the city in which they reside. They will also confess to sleeping until 11:00 because, “Mom said she was never teaching us anything ever again.” and “We like to sleep all day.”

On the other side of the coin, there are the enthusiasts. A truckload of shiny assumptions line the path to the homeschool pedestal of perfection. Myths abound. The idea that mom has endless patience and the children are all little geniuses who always behave perfectly does not really describe what our family looks like. Not that reality ever stopped me from trying to grasp the elusive brass ring of perfection so tantalizingly out of reach as the ride takes me ‘round and ‘round.

This brings me to my own worst critic. Me.

There are lists, scope and sequence charts, and all sorts of assessment tools that are meant to be a guide. Being a mom, however, I can easily and quickly turn those helpful tools into proof of my inadequacy. Although logic dictates that not everyone congregates around the 90th percentile, no one ever brags about being average.

I celebrate all kids who have found there place to shine, and am rightly proud of them. But being average in a world of perceived stars is hard. I forget the truth. Everyone has their own specific gifts and should be encouraged to flourish in them, whether those gifts are the usual ones or not. I have to remind myself that the quiet gifts are as valuable as the loud, trumpeting kind.

Nurturing is my calling, not comparing.

My house is a mess. My yard is a mess. I have allowed poor nutritional choices on occasion. If I am supposed to be wonder woman, I think I was strangled by my cape.

All of this pressure to be perfect can blur the home educating mom’s vision.

Most years January was my typical time of year to panic about school. Mid-year evaluations would reveal how much we had fallen short of my goals. Never mind that I knew full well that these were unrealistic.  I would disregard the fact that at the time I made these plans I never actually expected to complete everything. This need to compete would typically unbalance me for a week or two before I returned to my senses. Sprinkled throughout the journey, in moments of weakness and stress, sporadic fits of ‘pursuing perfectionism’ have plagued me as well.

I’m doing better now. At least so far today.

Seven Things to Remember

We are destined to fail at perfection, because perfection does not exist in this world.

No one can do it all, be it all, or have it all. We were never meant to.

Growing up young men and women is imprecise and not to be measured by man-made standards.

There will be mess. Always.

Critical people are not useful and can really get in the way of your goals. They do not have the right to ruin your destiny.

Trying to live an ideal not your own is life draining and a stumbling block.

Good enough is good enough.

What reminders to you need to tell yourself?