All dressed, hair curled, piano practiced, lunch packed– ready to go.
“But I don’t want to go to school today.” Mary pouted. And who can blame her? The dark sky and snowy sidewalks could scarcely compete with our cozy red chair.
“That’s fine,” I replied, “you can help me clean the house.”
My words were met with immediate scoffs and arguments from her brothers (because if I want advice on parenting, my older children are always willing to school me).
“You can stay home too.” I offered. But Xander, who obsessively checks his grades twice a day and sweet Gabe, who adores every aspect of school, simply ignored me. We prayed, dispensed kisses and farewells, and I began to put away cereal boxes, gather dirty dishes and rattle off the list of chores for the morning.
Mary watched me for nearly a minute, then ran upstairs for her boots, to the mudroom for her backpack and out the door with a flurry of “I love you”s and blown kisses as she raced to catch the crossing guard’s hand.
Every conflict isn’t resolved that simply, but I believe children thrive when they are given freedom to choose. Yes, every choice has it’s consequence– missing school means dusting the bookshelves– but those choices can be offered without lectures or insults.
I expect a lot of my children but I don’t require performance beyond their abilities. Musical prowess and academic achievement are lovely, but kindness and charity far exceed them in importance.
Friday was a day off school in our district. Stefan, Hans and I were attending a youth service project in the morning and left almost 12 year old Xander home to babysit. Shouts of excitement met us when we walked in the door at 11:45– strategically placed around the room were balloon replicas of our entire family. The littles were giddy as they displayed each model, pointed out the facial features, props and giggled over the pillow stuffed bodies. My mannequin sat at the computer where they said I had ignored their questions all morning (as usual).
As they chattered and gathered their air-headed friends onto the couch for a photo op, I marveled that they’d spent four hours together so happily (a fight did break out about five minutes after this photo). It’s not the concertos and the perfect report cards, but these moments, their care for each other, that bring me joy.