The Day I Quit Parenting

I homeschool my two children.  Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  I know I sure do sometimes.   Some days, I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite gig.  It’s exhausting.  It feels futile.  The kids don’t want to listen.  They aren’t motivated.  I’m not motivating.  It can be boring.  Some days are a struggle just to survive.  Other days are exciting and fun!  We get to do cool experiments!  We get to go to neat places!  We get to read exciting books!  And best of all, I get to watch the lightbulb moments and be there when they have the grand experiences, and I get to watch the manifestations of the Lord’s gifts unfold in each of them.

And sometimes we have homeschool days that start with me being unsure if I’m going to survive the day and end with me amazed at the learning that took place that even I was completely unprepared for.

Yesterday started out as a great day.  My husband got up before me (which never happens), and made my coffee for me.  Heavenly!  I enjoyed a quiet, relaxing morning snuggling with my little girl while my big guy slept in.  I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  It was picturesque, really.  A perfectly lovely start to my day.

And then.

They washed hands, put dishes away, and went upstairs to get dressed.  15 minutes later, after much banging and stomping, screaming and squawking, I went upstairs to discover that Natalie was still in her pajamas, and Aiden was wearing his pajama shirt and only his pajama shirt.  I gave them a deadline.  They not only didn’t meet it, but they seemed completely apathetic to the reality of the smoke coming out of my ears.  This has become a common scenario in my house every morning, and I’m nothing short of over it.  I started to yell.  But then I stopped (natural consequences, I heard a familiar voice in my head say).

“Okay, guys, I’m not going to ask you to get dressed anymore.  I’m not going to ask you to get your work done anymore.  You know what needs to be done.  I’m through parenting you this way.  If you want to be disrespectful to me and disobey me, then that’s your choice.  I am taking the day off.  Enjoy yourselves.”

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!  “What are you saying?!” I thought to myself!  “This can only end badly!”  But it was too late.  I had said it, and I was sticking to it.  I closed the door and walked away, more than just a little bit terrified.

The kids, sensing my anger, thought it would be helpful if they made my bed for me.  It was a nice gesture, but I was looking for a real change of heart.  “Thank you for making my bed, but I’m still taking the day off from parenting you until I see a genuine change in your attitude and behavior.”  The kids then went downstairs.  Aiden did about five math problems, and then he quickly figured out how to work this day to his advantage.  He threw math by the wayside and started to play. He and Natalie made up some game and played together for about half an hour, and then they went outside, having an absolutely grand time.  I reorganized a closet, still terrified.

After a few minutes in the frigid weather, Aiden decided it was too cold and he needed his gloves and scarf, but the scarf wasn’t where it belonged.  “MOOOOM! Where’s my scarf???”  “I don’t know.”  “Can you help me find it?”  “No.”  “Why not?!”  “I’m taking the day off, remember?”  “Oh….yeah.”  He fumbled around for another minute and then went back outside.  After a while, they both came back in.  “MOOOOM! We’re hungry!”  “Okay.” “Can you fix us a snack?”  “No.”  “Why not?!”  “I’m taking the day off today, remember?”  “Oh, yeah. Uggggh.”  So they fixed themselves a snack while I continued working on my closet, and then they went back to playing.

Eventually, lunchtime rolled around.
“MOOOOM! It’s lunchtime!”
“Are you going to fix…oh, yeah…can we fix lunch for ourselves?”
“What can we have?”
“Whatever you can fix yourselves.”
“Can we have a sandwich?”
“Well, I don’t have enough bread for lunch today and for your lunchbox tomorrow.”
“Oh…can we have an orange?”
“Well, you have to have a sharp knife to cut the orange, and you can’t use a sharp knife without my supervision.”
“Oh…can we have leftover pancakes?”
“You can, but then there won’t be any left for breakfast tomorrow.”
“UGGGGHHHH!  Can we have black olives?”
Two minutes later, “Mom! How do you get the can opener to work?”
“I can’t show you today, son. Sorry.”

Eventually the questions stopped and they scrounged around for an appropriate meal combination.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t much, and after thirty minutes, they were hungry again.  It was about 1:30 by this point.  I was in an upstairs bedroom, and Aiden came in with a quiver in his voice, trying to hold back tears.  “Mom, I don’t like you being off today. I can’t find enough food to fix and I’m hungry, and everything is just too hard for me.”  Calmly, I respond.  “I thought you were having a good time being on your own today.”  “I was, but now it’s too hard, and I need your help.”  I told him that I needed to take a shower, and while I was doing that, if they got the kitchen and playroom cleaned up, then we would revisit the situation and sit and talk.  It took a while, but eventually they got everything cleaned up, and Aiden got started on his school work again.  While I was showering, I asked God to show me the spiritual lesson that I could offer my hungry, tired little stinkers.  Since I’ve been reading through the Old Testament with them this school year (Egermeier’s Bible Story Book), the answer came quickly.

I brought them to the couch and sat them down.  I asked them how they thought the day had gone.  “Bad,” they both agreed in unison.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because we couldn’t do anything.”   “Why couldn’t you?”  “Because we needed your help. We thought we could do it on our own, but we couldn’t.”  “Hmmm.  Sounds familiar.  Do you remember all of the stories we’ve been reading about the Israelites?”  “Yes.”  “Do you remember how, when they put their trust in God and loved and obeyed Him, God blessed them and protected them and cared for them?”  “Yes.”  “And do you remember that when they forgot about God and started disobeying Him and doing things their own way instead of God’s way, that there were big, rotten consequences for their lives?”  “Yes.”

“Now, this situation that happened today is on a much smaller scale. First of all, I’m not God, I’m just your Mom. But what happened when you started doing things your own selfish way instead of the way that I had planned for you, a plan which was good and would have led to us doing lots of cool things today?  Was it fun?”  “At first it was, but then it got too hard.”   “Yep. It’s the same way with our relationship with God.  When we choose to disobey Him, at first it can seem like a much better choice, a more fun choice, and we think we’re pretty smart and don’t need God anymore, so we tell Him to get lost.  But after a while we come to realize that life without the One whom we’ve always depended on to be our helper and our protector, our light and our guide, who loves us the most, is just way too hard, and it kinda stinks.”

“Eventually, the Israelites always realized their mistakes and asked God to forgive them and rescue them.  And every time, God welcomed them back with open arms.  Mamas are the same way.  No matter what we do, God never stops loving us, and I’ll never, ever stop loving you.  Both of those things are a promise.”

“Yes, Aiden?”
“Today was the worst day ever. I don’t ever want to be on my own again.”
“Me, neither, buddy.”

Successful homeschool day? I think so.

3 thoughts on “The Day I Quit Parenting

  1. Alice

    So proud of you for sticking to it…………I know it was hard. What a wonderful life lesson. Thanks for sharing.


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