A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with the strife between the boys and me during homeschool. A couple of days escalated beyond strife and into intense friction, yet afterwards there was tremendous compassion, kindness, and a genuine love between brothers. Is this the only way to see good behavior? Does the pain have to come first? Do feelings have to be hurt in order for tender care to be found?
It’s very difficult to homeschool when one or the other son balks at most everything I say. If there’s not balking, then certainly there’s serious bunny trailing (okay, they come by that one honestly!). If not balking or bunny trailing, it’s, “Can we play Game Cube?” “Can we watch Wallace & Gromit?” “Can I do clay?” or “Can we go to the park?” Often times, it turns into full-on refusal and defiance. Instead of being able to work on the task at hand, I have to do battle with at least one son. The other son quickly runs off to freely play with something – anything – while I’m stuck in a small skirmish! Oh yes, they’re learning SO much!
On Tuesday of that particular week, there was so much (it felt like too much to me) to be done – household chores, a trip to the credit union, go to the grocery store, check some accounts online, as well as do homeschool. The boys got up and played very well together (pleasant surprise!), so I continued working on other things, assuming we’d get to school later in the day. That didn’t seem to materialize. So around 4:00 p.m., we headed over to Garden of the Gods for class photos, physical activity, and our first letterboxing adventure.
Things went well for awhile, until ClayGuy started relentlessly mocking his younger brother’s fears. Unfortunately, some of it was kind of funny and I made the BIG BAD MOM MISTAKE of laughing! Oops! This did not help Z one bit. He was very hurt and upset about this. So I made ClayGuy quit, but the damage was already done. Of course, the fact that I had already been telling Z that he needed to lighten up, quit worrying, and let me be the mom didn’t help either. So now we had one very sad 11-year old who wouldn’t be consoled by his brother or me. ClayGuy attempted to apologize, but Z would have nothing to do with him.
When we returned to the van, ClayGuy decided that now no one wanted him and he wouldn’t join us. He scrambled down a brushy area and around the backside of some rocks. He clambered atop the rocks and waited. Z was desperately trying to locate his brother and wanted me to help. I was just irritated with ClayGuy for his little game. We began the hunt and Z found him on the backside of the rocks. We headed for the van, but ClayGuy still claimed that no one wanted him, so he may as well stay there. Meanwhile, Z is in the van and has started to cry. I’m in the front seat, angry. I rolled down the window and barked at him a couple of times before he finally decided to come along. By now, Z is completely devastated and will not stop crying. At last ClayGuy begins to gain some compassion and sympathy for his brother, comes and sits with him, and puts his arm around him. For the remainder of the night, ClayGuy is the best big brother on earth. He tells Z how he won’t ever leave him and even if he’s not with him, he’s never far away, and he will always come back. He even asks Z, "Who will never leave you nor forsake you?" Yep, GOD! (His word does NOT return void!!)
We ultimately spent three hours at Garden of the Gods. Yes, there was physical activity – walking around and some climbing, and there was the lesson of compassion and the opportunity to love one’s brother. How do you put that into an educational portfolio? Yet, isn’t that a much greater lesson than knowing how to multiply fractions or diagram a sentence? Will it benefit the score on a standardized test? No. Will it make him a better human being? Absolutely! Was God pleased with the way ClayGuy treated Z that evening? I think so. I know I was!
These are the things I must document, because it’s precisely on those days that I feel as if I’ve accomplished NOTHING in the lives of my children. Yet they are learning things – not the tangible, provable things of life, but the holy, important things of God.