Dear Younger Me,
Where have twenty-three years gone?
When you set up your first school space in the spare bedroom, you had a vision for your children. You wanted them to finish homeschooling well, realizing the path for each learner may look different. You hoped they would be prepared to hold a job or be accepted and graduate from college. You questioned educational philosophies, researched curriculum, and worked tirelessly to meet the daily demands of home and education. In the midst of hard, frustrating days, you wondered if any of what you were doing would matter and if graduation day would ever come.
Cheryl, being on the other side of those twenty-three years, I know what mattered in your days. I know because I have regular, meaningful conversations with your adult children. Allow me—the older Cheryl—to give you a peek at the harvest you so diligently—and often unknowingly—sowed.
As you are actively involved in your full days, I am not sure you realize the great impact you are having on your children by encouraging their strengths. When I talked with your son, he expressed gratitude toward you for allowing him to explore, to wonder and discover. He reflected on the times you allowed him and his brother to make aluminum foil boats, over and over, roll after roll of foil, until they figured out how to construct the best boat for their endeavors in the rain puddle. He also fondly remembered the time and resources you provided for them to make baking soda rockets, again catering to the need they had to explore and experiment.
Your oldest son also expressed appreciation for being allowed to do difficult or out-of-the-ordinary things like researching water-filtration systems for countries plagued by poverty and spending hours reading classic literature or books in his interest areas. When he faced difficulty, he was thankful that you were willing to sit and listen, to process perspectives and solutions. In the course of our conversation, one thing I heard over and over was how you purposed to focus on his strengths and build his skill set. In order to do so, you stopped dreaming of what you wanted for him and asking him what he desired. His experiences at home were essential to him being ready for college, graduate school, and now the analyzing and problem solving he does in his career field.
In your full days, I am also not sure you realize the impact you are having on your children when you step in their shoes, empathize with their struggles and challenges. Like the many Sundays you allowed your youngest son to wear sandals to church because sock seams were itchy and irritating. When he needed to move to learn, you took learning outside or allowed him to jump on a mini trampoline in the family room. His outdoor learning continued through his experiences in Boy Scouts where he could not only be outdoors but use his gifts of hospitality and service to teach and lead younger scouts. As he moved into the middle school years and reading wasn’t appealing, you searched for books which were engaging and from which he could learn. You were an advocate for what he needed, not for what others thought you should do with him.
When I talked with your youngest son about what mattered, he told me he appreciated the sacrifices you made for him to do what he loved. He was grateful you took time to work on skills he would need later in life and that you talked to him about how and where he learned best. Like his brother, you put your ideas aside in order to make room for his aspirations. He noticed. During our conversation, he expressed gratitude that you believed in him, supported his desire to go to college (and grad school) even though you knew testing, especially the GRE, would be a challenge. Guess what, Cheryl! The child you encouraged through math problems and composition not only finished high school but also earned a college degree and was accepted into grad school. Working on his doctorate, he plans to empathize with and support others, to bring them hope and encouragement as they regain their physical independence.
Cheryl, your children notice when you give up something you could be doing to sit at the table and help process step-by-step how to multiply fractions (for the fourth or fifth time) or spend time searching for that hard-to-find anatomy book which will fuel a reluctant reader’s science studies. And when your creative child wears a pretend Martha Washington wig to the grocery store, think of the smiles she will put on the faces of people who haven’t had a little learner in their home for a while. These efforts on behalf of your children made an impact on your children.
Continue to observe and foster the strengths of your children. Call out their giftings and speak life into them. Empathize with their challenges. Celebrate their triumphs. As you spend time with your children, talk with them face-to-face and listen to their concerns, even when you have been wronged or have other opinions. Remember, your children are learning and growing, trying to walk out their faith, and these intentional moments tell your children their thoughts and well-being are important to you. Cheryl, what you are doing matters. Your adult children told me so.
Every moment matters,
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”850″ size=”18″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”] Cheryl is passionate about equipping and inspiring parents who want to nurture a desire for life-long learning in their children. She enthusiastically shares practical examples, ideas, and stories from 30 years of teaching experience and research. A mother of eight children, infant through adult, Cheryl knows the trials and triumphs of embracing each season of life. A popular speaker and magazine columnist, Cheryl authored Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence and several math resources.
You can read more from Cheryl at Celebrate Simple.[/mks_pullquote]