Changing the face in the mirror

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This post is a shout out to all the Helicopter Mommas out there in Homeschool Land.  In this world of seat belts, knee pads, bicycle helmets, cell phone tracking, car alarms and baby monitors, we Mammas prize safety (i.e., control) above many other ideals as we rear our children.

Or at least I do, control FREAK that I am.

My “little” girl is bigger than me, smarter than me, and (obviously) possesses much more strength and agility than I do, what with her being young and me being, well, not-so-young.  Yet in my heart, I still see this:

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whenever I look at her.

This semester has been ROUGH for me.  I’ve experienced extreme anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear in the context of homeschooling and her very crazy, busy schedule of CC/skating/speech and debate club.  Did I mention anger?  Last week, the anger built up inside me to such an extent that I felt like my blood was boiling.  It doesn’t help that intense emotions bring on the hot flashes!  But in that moment, when I went to bed early because I didn’t trust the words that might come out of mouth, I did what I should have done from the first day that the schedule made me anxious: turn her “busyness” over to the Lord in prayer.  I asked Him to help me see clearly.

Since then I’ve found great council about the windstorms of this crazy homeschooling life from things I’ve read in scripture, such as these verses in John 6:

Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them,“Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

Yes.  There is peace in the knowing that Jesus is here in the middle of our storms, isn’t there?

I also found a different perspective from various posts I read on FaceBook, such as this one from The Libertarian Homeschooler:

And what’s true is that they (your children) control themselves and you control yourself and in the end, their decisions are their decisions, not yours. They are separate people. You give counsel, they make decisions and mistakes and if they ask for help you give it. And that’s about as much as we can do.

This past week has been a time of looking in the mirror, looking for the planks that stick out of my eyeballs so far it’s a wonder I haven’t walloped anyone yet.  These are some of the lessons I’m learning as my daughter traverses 9th grade:

Lesson 1: It’s ok to let her make mistakes.  This is one that the teacher in me struggles with every day…especially as we sit side by side and work Algebra problems together.  If I happen to be ahead of her, I find myself writing in the book little clues to “help” her along.  For example, today we encountered a problem like this:

(2x + y – 3x) – (4x – 4y – 3).

I circled the subtraction sign between the two sets of parentheses and then drew little arrows signifying that the negative sign carries over into each term of the second set of parentheses.

Why do I keep doing stuff like that?  It’s not that she doesn’t know how to do the problem herself.  And I’m not doing her any favors when I do give out “spoilers” because the day will come when I won’t be there to give them.  Plus, it annoys her beyond belief.

(Please don’t get any notions that I sit next to her and do all her work with her.  I’m not THAT controlling.  Math is the only subject we do “together.” I’m taking Algebra because next year I’m supposed to teach Pre-Calculus and Trig to 11th graders next year, and I have to start out somewhere.)

Mistakes are actually the backbone of learning. That’s why we work math problems with the answer key sitting in front of us, and we check each answer as we go along. I do the same thing when I’m working out my Latin exercises.  (Again, I’m not supermom.  I’m going to attempt to teach 11th grade next year, and Latin is on the curriculum.  If I sleep with my head against the text, will I learn it any faster?)

So..self, stop writing clues in the textbook!  

Lesson 2: She’ll get it done, eventually.  I’ve noticed that my stress level rises when HER work load increases.  Harboring stress inside myself for someone else’s schedule is ludicrous, and has to stop!  This means taking a deep breath when I see her doing leisure activities even though I know she still has items on her mile-long to-do list.  It means I need to stop asking her what she’s working on every twenty minutes.

But it seems like every time I ask her, she has been “taking a break” and is only just then getting started back up with school work.  How do I reconcile my supervision duties with her need to learn how to schedule her work?

By letting her get backed up, disorganized, and freaked out about XYZ that is due TOMORROW, that’s how.  When she’s faced with a paper that’s due, a test, and a project with only ten hours until class begins, she’ll kick herself for reading fan fiction instead of finishing XYZ.  And if she doesn’t get it finished on time, then the consequences will kick in. But I need to give her space and time to succeed on her own without my meddling.

So my goal is to limit the questioning to once daily.  My strategy for dealing with the intense desire to redirect her…is to redirect myself instead to one of MY neglected duties, such as all those chores that I keep putting off doing…

This is ugly business, examining the mirror and performing eyeball surgery to remove all those planks.  But necessary.

One thought on “Changing the face in the mirror

  1. We aren’t even homeschooling any longer and I am STILL exactly the same way as you describe! Just wondering…are you an extremely empathetic person in general? I’ve figured out that I am, and that empathetic part of me rears its ugly head when it comes to my daughter, and I actually take on every single emotion that she has. Is she stressed? I am more so. Is she heartbroken? Double for me. Is she confused? I’ll try to figure everything out for her. (And so on…)

    This is VERY unhealthy and I recognize that…yet, it is our dynamic. So yeah, that plays into this whole ‘controlling mom’ scenario for me, big time. By managing her life, I’m reducing MY stress, MY disappointment, MY fears.

    Your point about letting her make mistakes REALLY hits home for me. I have this weird thing going on where I feel like if I don’t dot her i’s and cross her t’s for her…her whole life will end up a disaster. Surely if she doesn’t get all A’s on her report card she’ll never make it through college, be successful, be a good wife and mother, be happy, have health, etc. So crazy! Yet, it’s this constant undertone in my life. Make sure she makes NO mistakes. Again, so unhealthy for BOTH of us!

    Do you by any chance watch the TV show The Middle? The oldest son just went off to college and flunked out of all his classes because no one was there to make sure his homework got done, that he went to class, or even woke him. It really resonated with me because, for example, my 15 year old sophomore in high school won’t wake up unless I give her several wake up calls every day! Long term assignments? I’m ALL UP in her grill about them. We had to stop having me proof-read her writing assignments because instead of looking for small mistakes, I was always trying to get her to tweak this word, or re-write this sentence, etc. CONTROL FREAK MAMA.

    Wow, this got long. Anyway, all this to say I totally get it. Maybe it’s the only child thing, I’m sure it plays into it. They have our WHOLE attention, much to their dismay! At any rate, here’s to letting go a little more each day, for their own good…and OURS. May it not kill us. 🙂

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