Shortly after Max was born I got this crazy idea to make my own advent calendar. I remembered always having an advent calendar as a child and Pinterest was filled with so many great ideas that I figured it would be simple. I’m inherently neither a sewer nor a crafter. I have zero patience for those sorts of things. However, I decided that this was a project I could handle. Insert eye roll and large laborious sighs.
It took me close to a month to complete my advent calendar and at the end it looked like an 8th grade Home Ec student made it. However, it was functional and so I used it with the intention that I would replace it with something nicer and probably store bought. Over the years the pockets of our advent calendar have been filled with all kinds of things – tiny toys, Christmas ornaments, activity coupons, bible passages, pencils, candy and other special treats. Every year I take the calendar out with the idea that I will look for something “nicer” – something a bit more professional looking.
This year as the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations were pulled into the house I handed the advent calendar to Lucy and told her to hang it up. She and Max exclaimed in delight and jumped around squealing with anticipation of what the calendar might hold this year. Again, I stood back and admired my shoddy sewing job.
It was several days later when Lucy and I were busy running errands that she said to me in the car, “Mama, when you are done with the advent calendar – like when you no longer have kids at home – can I have it for my kids?” *sniffle*
As mothers we are so hard on ourselves. Our expectations and standards for what we should be doing and how much we should be accomplishing is beyond unrealistic. I recently read a blog post on the momastery describing a visit to the elementary school where children were asked to write about their dreams. All the children wrote down that they dreamed, “for my family to be happy”. Happy. That is what our children want. They want us to be happy. Lucy’s request for my lopsided, poorly sewn, messily finished advent calendar is a reminder that where I see mistakes she sees beauty. Where I’m thinking “I could do better” – my children are thinking “I have the best Mom ever”.
Perhaps the job of motherhood isn’t nearly as hard as we are making it. Perhaps if we focused more on being happy and less on being perfect this job would seem far more attainable. Perhaps happiness just means a simple adjustment in perspective.
Frankly, I don’t enjoy the reading of “Goodnight Moon” or “Who Loves Baby” or any of that toddler junk that kids like to hear when they are under five years old. I know that most people stop reading to their kids when the kids can read to themselves, but in my opinion that is when the books finally get interesting. As a result, the kids and I read together every night. I have two rules. First, I get to pick the book and it can’t be a book the kids could read on their own. My second rule is that they can’t interrupt the reading with questions that are unrelated to the story. It has taken awhile for these rules to settle in but we have a pretty good rhythm now and I’ve used this opportunity to read children’s books that I never had a chance to read as a kid.
OH MY GOODNESS!! Okay, I now understand why children’s literature is an actual major. These people are messed up – these “children’s” stories are written by deranged individuals. Have you read anything written by Roald Dahl? Drugs. It is the only explanation.
The best part is having the kids recognize the differences between the movies and the book. For example, did you know the “Wizard of Oz” movie is hardly anything like the book and the book has a horrible ending. Seriously, Lucy and I complained for days about the terrible ending. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – the movie not even remotely anything close to the book except there are penguins and a guy named Mr. Popper. This is quite possibly the best book club I’ve ever been a part. The kids and I look forward to our time with a good book and I love hearing them plead “one more chapter”. Well, Lucy pleads, Max usually falls asleep after the first chapter is read. I thought I would share a list of our favorites:
1.) The Wizard of Oz
2.) Mr. Popper’s Penguins
3.) Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
4.) The Twits
5.) The Secret Garden
6.) The Fantastic Mr. Fox
7.) The Littles (several volumes)
8.) Peter Pan
9.) Winnie The Pooh
10.) Alice In Wonderland
11.) Charlotte’s Web
12.) The Wind In The Willows
We stopped reading “Ella Enchanted” because it was God awful slow and neither Lucy nor I could ever get into “Little House on the Prairie”. We are definitely open to recommendations so please leave suggestions for books that you and your kids have enjoyed reading together. The next couple on our list include:
1.) Tom Sawyer
2.) Through The Looking Glass
3.) Mary Poppins
4.) Jungle Book
5.) Swiss Family Robinson
As expected homeschool is not all rainbows and butterflies. Surprising, I know. The kids and I have had our share of run ins over doing their work, fighting with each other and the normal things that would be expected from children. However, the most unexpected challenge has been the making of new friends – not the kids making new friends, but me.
I miss my moms.
I miss chatting in carpool and catching up with friends at those stupid school fundraisers. I miss the circle of support that you receive from a friend rolling their eyes with you during curriculum night. The knowing glare when the teacher explains the daily reading log and you’re both thinking, “yeah, that will never happen”. The communal groan when the sign up sheet gets passed around for the third classroom party. The community you feel knowing that you are all just trying to survive – together.
Don’t get me wrong, my friends – my real friends – have been incredibly supportive. We’ve had play dates and phone calls and I know that they are around me supporting me in my choice, even if it is different from their choice. That is real friendship – a friend who can still support you while doing something different. But I miss the community of people who ARE doing the same thing. I miss the comfort and confirmation from other mothers knowingly nodding their head in agreement and encouragement.
Recently the kids and I attend a homeschool event and as we walked into the room we realized that everybody already knew everyone and as everybody happily chatted and played we were left in the corner. I tried to make eye contact with several kids and moms but most smiled and looked back to their conversations. The awkwardness and isolation washed over all of us — Lucy, feeling it the most acutely. As we left having not a single person talk to us Lucy said, “I need a break from meeting new kids. Can’t we just hang out at home?”
I slinked home feeling defeated and insecure. Perhaps I was not the best person to teach my kids to make friends. Perhaps I made the wrong decision ripping them from the bosom of their friends at school. Perhaps they will grow up to be social outcasts.
Wednesday came and the kids and I went to Max’s first speech class. As we sat in the lobby waiting for the speech therapist another family walked in. The mom tall with long red hair, a young girl with glasses, about Lucy’s age and their youngest daughter with long beautiful blonde curls. The speech therapist arrived and the youngest girl and Max walked off to class. I introduced myself and asked if they were also homeschoolers (it was in the middle of the day so it was a safe assumption). She timidly responded, “yes, this is our first year” – I controlled my enthusiasm as much as I could when I responded, “ours too. How old is your daughter?” She pulled up a chair next to me and said “This is Madison, and she’s ten”
Thank the Lord above!!
Well, Lucy and Madison hit it off right away with a whole list of things in common and as the mother and I chatted so did we. As we walked back to the car Lucy turned and said “I made a new friend.” Friendship is always easy with the right person.