Friday, August 18, 2006

As summer draws to an end ...

NOTE: Due to concerns about safety and privacy, I have decided to take my husband's suggestion to not use our children's real names in my writing. From now on, my oldest child will be known as Rachel, middle child as Sara, and youngest as Gavin.


Some of the issues we have faced this summer have left me exhausted. Bone-weary tired would be a more accurate description probably. Tired of thinking. Tired of analyzing. Tired of weighing options.

In early June, before our anticipated move later that month, I visited the elementary school near our home-to-be and put Rachel on the waiting list. "Good luck," I was told. "We have a long waiting list for first grade, but we'll be sure to let you know if a spot opens up for her."

"And what if that doesn't happen?" I asked.

I would drop her off at the neighborhood school every morning where she would get on a bus and be taken to another school in town where there was a first-grade opening, I was told.

"Hmmmmm..." I said. (Translation: Not over my dead body.)

"Well, if there were no spot available here, we would probably homeschool her until a spot opened up," I told the nice lady in the school office, certain that the first-grade teachers would be happy to work with me to keep her in pace with her public-school peers.

"Well, now you're talking about a different animal," she informed me, turning her nose up ever so slightly. To homeschool, a parent must inform the superintendent's office at least two weeks prior to starting. The child is then completely removed from the district's enrollment and, consequently, removed from any waiting lists. That means that as long as I'm teaching my child at home, anybody off the street takes priority over her until she is re-enrolled.

And so we were left to wait for more than two months. Not certain what the outcome would be, I was reluctant to make decisions one way or the other. I didn't want to purchase school supplies and back-to-school clothes, but neither did I want to spend several hundred dollars on home schooling materials. Rachel handled it more patiently than I, but she made it known on several occasions (okay, it was more like DAILY) that homeschooling was definitely her preference.

While I am certainly not opposed to homeschooling, I've just never been convinced that it's the right choice for Rachel (for reasons too numerous to expound on in this post).

What I found most interesting during these past two months were the reactions of other moms. As we hung in the balance, waiting for God to give us a burning-bush experience and make it obvious what we were supposed to do, I had several conversations that went something like this:

Friend (and I use this term loosely to describe a variety of friends/neighbors/family members with an opinion on the matter): So what does Rachel think of moving to a new school?

Me: Well, we're not certain yet that she will even get in because of a crowded waiting list. It's possible we may choose to homeschool next year if she doesn't get in.

Friend: (long pause) Oh. I see. And how exactly would you manage that with a full-time job and two younger children?

Me: My husband's schedule and mine are such that between the two of us, we could pull it off, if that's what we need to do.

Friend: (long pause) Oh. I see.

Better yet were the ones that went like this:

Friend: So what does Rachel think of moving to a new school?

Me: Well, we're not certain yet that she will even get in because of a crowded waiting list. It's possible we may choose to homeschool next year if she doesn't get in.

Friend: Oh, I've been praying for a long time that you could get your kids out of the public schools! They're teaching such garbage there, these days, you know, and I'm just convinced that no good thing can come out of the public school system. Oh, you can't possibly know how happy it makes me to hear such happy news!

Me: Ummm, we haven't exactly made that decision yet. Things are really up in the air at the moment ...

Rare was the person who didn't have a strong opinion one way or the other, and nearly every conversation about the matter left me scratching my head and wondering over and over again, how is it that we in the Christian community have taken matters of taste and preference and turned them into our own personal doctrines that everyone else must follow? It seems to be that the way we justify our own choices is to put down everyone else's. And the more scripture we can use to back up our choices, the more righteous we feel.

Here are just a few:

Breast vs. bottle
Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms
Cloth vs. disposable
Homemade baby food vs. Gerber
To see movies or not
Large families vs. small families
Bunned hair vs. cut hair
Dresses vs. pants
Makeup or not
To partake of alcohol or not
KJV vs. everything else
Homeschooling vs. public or private schooling

The list is endless. And as a working mom of three bottle-fed, disposable-diapered kids who are incredibly well adjusted, smart, and growing in Christian character (who will be public schooled), I've grown accustumed over the years to the stinging criticism (both verbal and nonverbal) from other moms who have made different choices.

Do I feel even a trace of superiority to other moms who have taken a different path than I? What about the ones who have chosen to have more children than I can even imagine birthing? Or the moms who are washing by hand and line drying mounds of poopy diapers daily? The ones who grow their own veggies and hand puree fresh carrots for their toddlers instead of tossing a few jars of Gerber in their cart at the supermarket? Absolutely not. In many cases, I wish I were more like them.

But that, short and simple, is just not a road I personally have been called to walk at this time in my life. I'm one of a growing number of WAHM's -- work at home moms. We've traded our offices for living rooms, our business suits for sweats, and our power lunches for PB&J. And yet, instead of being praised for being hard workers who have made many sacrifices to have both an income AND time at home to raise our children, many of us find ourselves isolated and alone. How much nicer it would be instead of feeling judged by each other if we could extend grace, acknowledging that just because God has instructed one woman to make certain choices in her life does not give her the liberty to impose those choices on anyone else.

As believers in Christ, we're going to spend an eternity living as neighbors in heaven someday. We might as well learn here on earth how to get past the pettiness and -- as a former pastor of mine used to say -- KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING!

For a more thoughtful treatise on this subject than I could ever write, stop by Days to Come. It's one of the best posts I've read in a long time.

4 comments:

Lisa said...

I havent even read your post but had to tell you I LOVE your kids new names!!! How fun was that?!?! Did the older ones get to help pick there names??? :o).... ok, now to go read.

Lisa said...

I hope R's schooling works out for you all. That has to be frustrating.

Michelle- This One's For The Girls said...

Oh how I completely understand your frustration on this. I really liked Jeana's list of Biblical examples of people who were called "the less than ideal thing."

I really wish I had all of my children at home with me still. But my husband has led us in a different direction and so I'm confident that my kids are all where they need to be. (I still homeschool 8yod.)

I get criticism from every direction--truly--I can make no one happy!!

Pray, obey and trust. God loves our kids more than we do. I find a lot of solace in that.

Michelle- This One's For The Girls said...

Oh how I completely understand your frustration on this. I really liked Jeana's list of Biblical examples of people who were called "the less than ideal thing."

I really wish I had all of my children at home with me still. But my husband has led us in a different direction and so I'm confident that my kids are all where they need to be. (I still homeschool 8yod.)

I get criticism from every direction--truly--I can make no one happy!!

Pray, obey and trust. God loves our kids more than we do. I find a lot of solace in that.