At the end of my grandmother’s very long life, the early days of mothering were still very important to her.
I know this because she chose to include two items in her obituary: room mother, and cub scout den leader.
My grandmother lived for 94 full years. She went to college, she traveled, and after her husband died unexpectedly in the 70s, she managed a family on her own.
She started a business; she volunteered.
And when she helped to write her obituary, she included these items with equal value.
Never discount the importance of these days in the trenches.
I was talking with a friend recently about meeting new people, and awkward small talk – specifically how to explain to strangers what we do all day. And maybe even more challenging – why we do it.
Although homeschooling becomes more popular all the time, we are still early settlers – maybe not pioneers, but the next generation – the ones who know a little about the land and what we should plant, but we’re still building and developing community.
Before kids, I didn’t imagine myself as a homeschooler. But I did want to be a room mother.
And so when I unexpectedly got laid off at 9 months pregnant, I took it as a sign.
The larger my baby grew inside me, the more he squished my heart up into my throat, I think. It became hard for me not to shout that I didn’t want to go back to full-time work.
I loved my job, but I knew that my particular career choice was not going to be well-suited to balanced motherhood.
And I wanted to get to be a mom too, not just a newspaper lady with a kid in the background.
Have you been watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?
Where are her kids?
I mean, I love it – I do. But was it like this in the late 50s? Kids neither seen nor heard?
Not for Grandma Lois.
Her children were a joy to her. My Aunt Chris told a story over Christmas about boy scouts dipping candles in their old kitchen, in their family home.
She remembers her mother this way. She also remembers living room tents and slumber parties with cousins and picnics …
Her boys remember taking off on bikes and their mom telling them to have fun and stay out of the creek.
She was there.
We are HERE with our kids. That’s what hard to explain, I guess, to people who don’t understand homeschooling.
It’s part about school, and part about just life.
It’s a little about math, and a lot about errands, really.
Can I tell you a secret, though? My son and I have the best talks while running errands.
I woke up this morning with two thoughts – the first was that I wanted to write about my grandmother, and what I noted in her obituary – that the early years of mothering mattered to her, continued to matter to her as she looked back over along life …
It sort of stuck out to me like a flashing beacon, and what it said is that this is not time wasted.
The second thought was that I have a Day in the Life post due soon to a site where I contribute, and I’m worried about it. Every year, I find it harder and harder to quantify what we do here.
My kids are 11 and 14, with birthdays in the next few weeks. They are their own people in many ways, and I am simply their support person.
They are doing their own thing a lot of the time, and so am I.
Is that OK? Is that enough?
I had a 3-year-old person visit recently.
I’m pretty sure I was in the second-best shape of my life when I had a 3-year-old (only after when I was an athlete training 4 hours per day).
In the time she was here, I was up and down a lot from my chair.
We pulled stuff off shelves and out of the fridge, and I started to remember what it had been like back in the very earliest days …
I’m not sure I could get through that kind of intensity again.
My husband had a really demanding boss, and we were still figuring a lot out. I can remember taking my own 3-year-old and infant to my annual gynecologist appointment, because I didn’t have a support system.
My 3-year-old narrated.
It was eye-opening for both of us.
For a long time, I was surviving.
Back then, I wondered frequently if I was doing the right thing. I was an exhausted and stressed mom, who was running on empty all the time.
I knew I wasn’t at my best, and so I wondered how I could possibly be giving my best.
Pre-school was a respite for me, and when it didn’t work, I wasn’t sure that I could manage homeschooling a precocious kid while caring for a baby.
I tried, and we sent him back to school after the first few months.
And then we tried again and it stuck.
But I still get scared sometimes.
Now I am a busy mom, who is trying to balance work and school and life.
What if this has all been a mistake? That’s what hits me at 3 in the morning.
That my kids still need to work on handwriting. That we are behind in math.
That I am failing them.
And so what Grandma Lois reminded me is that being here is important.
That’s not about homeschooling.
That’s just parenting.
Being here is about listening, and laughing together, and being counsel and silly what-if conversations on the way to the bank.
So even when we get scared about the homeschooling part, maybe we can find some comfort in the other part?
Maybe we can remember that at the end, that will matter.
“She has watched every moment of your life, almost, and she loves you as God does, to the marrow of your bones.” – Gilead
And so in our days with our kids, maybe we can shift our focus:
- Maybe we can try to smile more.
- Maybe we can do more projects, whether or not they are “school.”
- Maybe we can watch TV and movies together.
- Maybe we can go boring places, but talk on the way there.
- Maybe we can have more picnics.
- Maybe we can build more tent cities.
Maybe, we can just love our kids as they are. Grandma Lois had an incredible way of doing just that.
In fact, she taught me a lot about how to love people well.
So that is what I strive for each day here. To see my people. To love them. To be here.
These years in the trenches matter.
In fact, when we look back, they may feel like what mattered the most.
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