The Dragon In Me

Life as a homeschooling mom is not made of rainbows and sugar cookies and unicorns flying around in the back yard. Nor is it a walk through the fiery depths of hell, dodging land mines and fire-breathing dragons. Usually, my life wavers somewhere between the two extremes…except on those times that I AM dragon.

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A fire breather captured in the act on Navarre Beach, FL

The fire-breathing dragon is the giant clock that ticks over my head. Procrastination is the bane of my existence…funny how I turn my own blind eye to it while vehemently bemoaning its presence in my daughter’s life.  Last Friday, I asked my daughter how much she had left on The List to complete…and to my utter horror, She.Didn’t.Know.  It was noon on a Friday afternoon, and she didn’t even KNOW what she had or had not yet completed on The List?

(For those of you wondering what The List entails — it’s a list of the assignments I expect her to complete within one week’s time. The fact that I capitalize The List speaks to its importance in my can’t-quite-let-go-teacher-mindset!)

I became so angry that I burned up. Flames shot out from the top of my head, and smoke escaped through my very pores. I go to the trouble to craft The List with her best interests in mind, and she doesn’t even know what’s on it? Why do I even bother homeschooling?  Instantly I had visions of my child wandering aimlessly through college and adult life, living on the streets because she procrastinated and didn’t meet her deadline. And it would be all my fault because I am the one managing this education of hers and doing a very poor job of it indeed.

What makes matters worse is that her deadline for The List wasn’t even on Friday. It was on Sunday.  Yes, I own it. Not only do I over-react, but sometimes I even Over-Pre-Act.  That means I get all hot and bothered about something that hasn’t and probably won’t even happen.

The fury emanating from my eyes at that moment was fueled by disbelief that my uber-smart homeschooled daughter apparently did not ascribe as much priority and importance to The List as I did. It felt like a slap in the face and I was disappointed that she had not met my expectations of at least knowing what was ON The List.

I’d like to tell you that I behaved like a grown up and sat down and had a nice chat with her about priorities and the importance of education and how I knew she could do it.  But I didn’t.  I dropped her off at skating practice and told her if she wasn’t out by 2, she could find another ride home.  Then I called MY mom and cried buckets about disrespect and procrastination and priorities and how will she ever manage college and paying bills and working in the real world? I texted my husband a long rant about how I feel like such a failure as a mother and how all I do anymore is #badgerandcomplain and how she needs to learn how to get out in front of things and not procrastinate and I needed help managing and needed a backbone.

When I picked her up from skating, the smoke was no longer oozing from my pores, but tears threatened to spill and an ominous cloud hovered over the car. I said almost nothing — I was done. I was ready to call the high school and give her a taste of deadlines and stinky lockers and mean girls and boring classes and bumpy school buses.  In my head I visualized what it would be like to send her off every morning.  Let her take instruction from multiple someone elses who won’t give an inch on the deadlines or go easy on her because of her migraines/skating schedule/fillintheblank.

And then I walked into my bedroom…the room whose door I close when anyone comes over because of the piles of folded laundry on top of the folding table and baskets of laundry yet to be folded underneath and the unmade bed and dog toys scattered on the floor.  Because of the stuff haphazardly stacked on the bookcase that I meant to file away a year ago and hadn’t yet done so.  Teary eyed, I looked at the piles on top of a chest and saw…THIS.

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White Baby will probably go away with my daughter to college.

Only what I saw was torn and had stuffing coming out from everywhere.  This is White Baby.  We called her White Baby not out of any racial prejudice but because she was so well loved (and washed) that her pink arms and legs and clothes turned white. My daughter carried her everywhere from the time she could walk until she was about five…and even then White Baby went with us in the car and on trips.  When my girl grew older, White Baby got a special place up on a shelf.  Until one day earlier this year my daughter had her down for some reason and Bella, the Big Yellow Lab, found her.  And ate her.  Both of us — my daughter and I — cried.

Her little chest was ripped open, white stuffing exploding in a puff. The area beneath the skirt was completely ripped apart. So I’d collected all the miscellaneous stuffing and put White Baby up on a high piece of furniture, meaning to patch it up for my daughter.  I promised I’d fix her soon.  After all, White Baby had already been mended at least three or four times. My clumsy stitch marks run up and down her legs, and my daughter had already repaired a spot on her back that had been rubbed to holes.  But the fixing job seemed a little too difficult to face right away, and I didn’t have any white thread. I couldn’t find a needle, either.  So there she sat on my chest, stuffing oozing from her shattered heart.

For.Months, people!

That Friday, I picked her up and found the needle and white thread that I had purchased months ago. I sat on the floor of my bedroom watching One Fine Day with Michelle and George and cut up pieces of an old slip. For a little over an hour, I cut and stitched and contorted fabric and somehow sewed that little doll back together, realizing that procrastination is something that I battle with as well.  I was all out of shape about my daughter’s procrastination when my own was sitting right there in my face. All that time, she never once asked me about White Baby.

But when I finished sewing her back up, slightly damp from my tears of contrition, and placed her in my daughter’s lap, she burst into tears. We both had a Moment.

You see, I had been focusing on the splinter in her eye instead of the plank in my own.

And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Guess what? Her work was finished by her deadline (well, with a slight adjustment by her dad allowing her an extra day for an extra long speech assignment). I’d been breathing fire for nothing.

Although I’m not out to be my daughter’s friend and I know that sometimes it is my JOB to be the bad guy, this past week God has shown me that some of those things that drive me CRAZY about her habits are just reflections of my own. I put off the laundry. I put off sorting through papers. I put off the stuff that I don’t really want to or have to do right now so I can do something else more enjoyable. And I put off something that was very important to her — more important even than The List is to me — when poor White Baby sat on the shelf month after month, collecting dust.

I had to remove the dragon spikes out of my own eye before I saw the truth about hers.

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