Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Educate Me

I was in such a good mood today.  I'd received a call from my sister-in-law about a treat for one of my sons, a visit with a long lost college roommate via the wonders of Facebook, I'd tidied up the upstairs, done all the wash except for the girls downstairs, and played blocks with my toddlers. My mom had called and I'd written 400 words on my WIP (work in progress) with an idea of where I was going. Yes, things were going very well until I clicked on a favorite blog to see the comment:

"If studies show (as I believe they do) that a grammar school teacher's effectiveness is decreased proportionally for each child added to her class of 20 students, why should we not conclude the same is true for parenting? Educate me."

Now my reaction is two-fold, Pastoral and Parental.  As the Parent, mama bear wanted to come out, maul the commenter, stomp around a bit, growl threateningly, and then ask the person which of my children shouldn't be.   

It hurt because it isn't like we don't spend much of our parenting energy trying to make sure to the extent humanly possible, they know solidly, that we love love love love love love love them all, and that we would crawl over broken glass for each and every one of them and fight off sharks and scale tall buildings and work until we are bones to provide them with what they need to live, to thrive, to know beauty, to know truth, and to have a deep faith and solid education.  

That being said, it's damn hard work and we don't always hit the mark.  Sometimes I don't have all the supplies we need, or the homework gets lost in the shuffle, maybe I could have read to this one more or we could have done more enrichment with that one. I probably shouldn't ever blow off Cub scouts, we've lost library books a lot of times, and yes we're often late and frazzled when we get there. I can continue the litany of self flagellation but you get the point.  The comment hits bone and blood of my heart.  

It is a constant prayer, because it is clear, doing this sometimes feel really feels forever impossible.  I ask God every day for serious help.  

Pastorally, I want to (as the person asked), educate.   How do I educate someone on the value of the infinite?

How many sunsets are too many?
How many flowers should cover a field?
How many stars should there be in the universe?
How many drops in the ocean?
How many smiles in a lifetime?
How many hugs?
How many birthdays do you want to celebrate?
How much do you want to love?
How much do you want to be loved?
How much do you want to serve?  
What would you give to love forever?
How many souls do you hope to love in Heaven?
How many souls do you want to love on Earth?
What is the limit of your capacity to love?
Can you love for more than a sprint, more than a million marathons? 
Are you willing to try?
Do you want someone to love you that much?   
These are my answers.  

If you're grading on if we have Ivy League bound and academic superstars, Olympic athletes and senators...not yet by the world's standard, but who knows what the future holds?  We do know we have smart talented beautiful people who care about each other, who think, who know how to serve, who know how to share, who know what sacrifice means, and who help each other out.  Some play musical instruments, some paint, some run, some do plays, some play softball, some read, some write, some are still discovering their talents.  They are children.  I can't explain except to say, love is not the same as education.  Love multiplies.  It never subtracts.  The grade is Heaven or not.  Love or not.  Not A's or not.  

And then I thought about each of them.

My oldest intends to become a teacher. Perhaps because he has been part of a family of many, he understands the degree of diversity in learning better than most. He's lived it.

My next oldest is deeply driven to excel.  We have never helicoptered. It is all her and she knows it.

My next oldest holds a gentleness that I marvel at, and credit with her having to open and reopen and reopen her heart, to share her family with her siblings.

My next oldest said his favorite family memories are when we all play together --football or races or something outside, but everyone, even the sister he normally likes to tease.  So even the seemingly lone wolf of the family, defines the happiness of his family, as all of it.

The fifth loves beauty. She holds regular salons for the younger girls, doing their hair, painting nails, and all come back inside all smiles. Hers is a nurturing sparkling spirit.

The sixth is a gentleman. He loves books and games and randomly compliments his siblings and family out of the blue, leaving the rest of us bemused, pleased and slightly puzzled as to what we did to merit anything.  He also shepherds his younger brother with a kind heart that echoes his father.

The seventh is a bright sunny smile almost all the time. She wants everyone around, and everything is a celebration.

The eighth is quieter, but fiercer in spirit.  She comes to me and gives great hugs when she senses I am stressed.

The ninth holds my heart tightly.  His smile is widest when he runs arms spread out to me from the bus.  It's a one tenth of a mile from the street up our driveway to the house, so it's a dramatic scene that brings a smile to everyone's faces, the busdriver and the attendant love it.  It is a favorite time of the day for me.

And the tenth, she is the exclamation point. She is fiery, she is funny, she guides her older brother and brings him along. He speaks more now that she is speaking.  They are best friends.  It is a special gift to him, for her to be here.

This is not to say there aren't dozy fights or colds that seem to hold on forever as they jump from kid to kid or messy rooms or lost books or forgotten assignments or endless laundry or bills. I sure wouldn't have said, I'd like to have to change diapers and pay college tuitions for 22 years each, but I do know, this is the genius of God, to give us a community to love and pull us out of ourselves beyond what we would have imagined.

Considering each of them as an island, they would benefit it is true if they had been the sole focus with respect to academics or athletics or whatever the specialized interest might be, but they are a nation, the whole of them, and what affects one, affects all.  They are family. They protect and love each other fiercely.  They don't always appreciate each other. (What sibling does?).   But when one is sick or one is hurt or one is struggling, there is a surge of alliance in the others.  They all sing full throttle at a birthday, even the ones who don't like the pink cake or the choice in frosting.  They go to each other's games and plays and they read each other's stories and celebrate each other's victories.  

I wondered if it sounded like self justification, except it isn't.  I know their talents are their own. Maybe they'd be more polished if there were fewer of them, but I wouldn't want the absence of any of them for more polished versions of the others.  

These are my children.  They are like my fingers.  I love and need them all.  


Unknown said...

"I wouldn't want the absence of any of them for more polished versions of the others."

Well said.

Kristin - mom to 8

Maria said...

That was my favorite line too. :)

Anonymous said...

I liked one person's comment that the study is based off of having more than twenty students. You are only halfway there!!

Sophia's Favorite said...

The guy, Pat, or Prat as I call him, is a pro-abort internet troll. He didn't mean his question; his words have no meaning other than "I hate you".

He has elsewhere demonstrated he does not know the difference between haploid gametes and diploid zygotes, which is something most of us learned in 9th-grade bio. That is the caliber of intellect you're dealing with.

Spare him no thought.

Sand Mama said...

At least three times ,I've had this kind of conversation with a person who, turns out, has had themselves medically sterilized and has grave misgivings about having gone down that road.
More often than not, people who feel very strongly about the choices made by others, are suffering insecurity about their own.
Your family sounds beautiful.

priest's wife said...

"They are a nation" LOVE this! We have 4 kids...still a nation, but a small one- praise God their 24 first cousins are of the same heart and are part of the 'united nations' that is the extended family

Proteios1 said...

Ugh. False equivalent.
I married a teacher. SHe works hard. But its like making her responsible for standard test scores. Well we have two mother/father kids out of 30. Fifteen have no father. 10 kids have one or both parents in jail. 2 kids have drug addicts at home...blah blah blah. Ithink there are more things to consider here than just a number.

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