Aside – Maybe it was the move. Or maybe it’s all these boys to men. Maybe I need a bookcase. All I know is that I have 3 copies of A Tale of Two Cities because when I needed a copy – one couldn’t be found. When a new one comes home, suddenly, all the other copies come out to greet it.
Our conversation with the boys over the last few years had slowly atrophied. With two of our sons, it started about 7th grade (since I homeschooled the oldest of the two in 6th grade, we didn’t really notice it until he entered public school in 7th) – “Did you do all your homework?” What’s missing?”
Then came on-line websites allowing parents to see grades. Seeing grades quickly metastasized into seeing what was missing – what was missing created a make-it-up response.
“Did you turn it in? Are you caught up? What’s missing now?” Bafflement. Stagnating conversation. Averted eyes from eyes that used to smile wide open.
8 years of this cycle. Some say its ADD – not a sitting-still kind of problem. Not really a paying attention kind of problem. An ADD as a focus-related issue. Sure – go ahead. Write it down on a calendar. It doesn’t help, though, when you don’t remember the calendar.
My boys will tell you I’m a fighter – I’ll go to the mat for them. If there’s a problem, I don’t give up until I find the cause and the solution – whether it’s through books or faith – or both.
This grizzly mama – was terrified of PowerSchool. The anxiety just froze me. I can’t even look today – with my two boys who work hard, turn everything in – and just plain make educational parenting so easy. My husband checks their grades – and the boys check. All they get from me is a deer-in-the-head-light look and “Ask Dad.”
When I started reading Sticky Faith – and our unofficial small group started getting together (read here) – my eyes opened to how I needed to change the conversation. How I needed to break bad habits.
Bad habits I regret.
Determined, the conversation with my boys has been changing. I will admit, the new curriculum at the Latin School (see big decision here) has impacted our conversation through our topics for the at-home boys. For the launched sons, ideas instead of action-quzzing is becoming the go-to. It’s not always easy – learning new habits – but it has been liberating, a throwing-a-monkey-off-my-back kind of thing.
Conversations with the at-home boys? Instead of conversations over literature like fructose – empty of value and nutrients, we are learning to have conversations over literature like honey – good for the mind and the soul – and we t.a.l.k. about real social issues – the root of social issues. I ask about what they’re reading – and the conversation unfolds – like honey sliding down a jar.
The freshman, he asked, about Dr. Manette in A Tale of Two Cities – “Why would he just make shoes. He got out of jail and he’s just making shoes. That just doesn’t make sense.”
In the America I grew up in – it doesn’t make sense. To these sons who never had the mumps, measles or rubella. To these sons wrapped in security nightly – who were born into a country where God didn’t have to take a back seat to political manipulations – where citizens can freely express their opinions without retribution – No – it doesn’t make sense why Dr. Manette made shoes in self-imposed isolation after being released from prison.
Classical literature helps us make sense of where we’ve come from, where we are – and envision where we’re going.
Imagine, I told him, staying for 20 years in a room the size of your bathroom. All you have for light is a small window. No toilets. One or two bowels of food a day. No bathing. Wearing the same shirt, underwear and pants for 20 years – no washing. Sleeping on maybe some old, soiled hay. A blanket? Maybe one that wore out. Bugs? Mice? all the time.
Nothing to read. Nothing to do. Nothing to fresh to think – and so you make shoes.
For 20 years – that’s the only accomplishment, the only sign of days passing – because the shoes become are proof you exist. We all need goals to complete.
And suddenly, you’re freed. Released out into the sun-light – and like sitting in one position too long – it’s too much – too scary – to look beyond the shoe-making-process.
All because due process didn’t exist. All because one man’s position was more important than another. All because the government system said not all men were created equal.
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land” (Magna Carta, June 15, 1215)
The Magna Carta gave birth to our Declaration of Independence – which gave birth to independence to an enslaved people in France.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Dr Manette had atrophied in prison, mentally, emotionally – maybe even spiritually. He needed time to stretch – his muscles, his mind – and his spirit – so that change wouldn’t rip him a part.
Dr Manette stretched – stretched to live freedom fully. His only communication in 20 years – with himself and the process of shoe-making – it stretched, too – and grew whole, capable of love and full conversation.
Great literature – doesn’t make mountains out of mole hills. Great literature doesn’t incite artificial drama. Great literature takes universal truths and shows us how to stretch ourselves into something better than we are.
I wasn’t in Dr Manette’s prison – but I had been in a prison none-the-less. I don’t have people in high or low places to fight for my release, like Dr Manette did. But I have the Father – and His son and the Holy Spirit – and I cried out to them, like a little girl being bullied running to her father because she believes, she knows her Father can fix anything.
“For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help”
He knows the mission statement on my heart – to show my boys how to grow old loving the Lord. That means not giving up in the middle of it all – 3 sons out of the nest, 2 in. It means not settling when things don’t go right. Not giving up – not letting dreams die and when each little dream dies a part of me dies, too – no , not that kind of death. I don’t want to be weak that way.
“He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.”
In the not giving up, in the standing, arms stretched for Him to pick me up, hold me close, save me, save this dream, this mission statement, He fills me with things of Him – gives me ideas and tasks to fuel my mission statement – because I am precious to Him. I am the apple of His eye – how awesome is that!
“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight”(Psalm 72:12-14)
I am stretching those things that atrophied – the conversation is coming along.The PowerSchool? Not yet, but if Dr Manette can throw off those inside shackles – I know I can, too – especially when I know who is for me!
Still Counting Gifts with Ann at A Holy Experience:
- overcoming the daily to take photos of autumn leaves – at the time I wanted to take them – at 4:30 p.m. – when the sun hits the yellows, reds, oranges and greens – lighting them up from the inside out.
- Wild Apple Ginger Tea
- a squirrel finding nuts he’d buried outside my work window, then climbing on the sill and knocking on the window.
- Mama’s Hot Chocolate homemade ice cream Saturday with a kind friend of my husband’s visiting from China
- sitting over dinner with one of my boys who is wearing independence well, and I ask a hard question – and he smiles giving me a surprise answer that encourages my heart in its insight and liberation.
- hello hugs from friends
- an early morning circle of prayer with these boys, their dad and me – holding hands, believing, God-listening to our prayer for Nanny.
- That my mother-in-law is recovering, slowly, still in ICU. Praising God that He protected her. 1/3 usually die before they realize they are bleeding internally. Nanny is the sweetness of our family – He knows we need her
- Praying friends
- One of my boys, leaving work early, putting family first to go see his Nanny, driving 2 1/2 hours just to see her. Love his heart. Love how big its grown
- Pony-tale holders for boys growing their hair long
- Brother’s joking and laughing on the car trip to see Nanny 2 1/2 hours away
- the boys holding their Nanny’s hands as they prayed for her in ICU.
- windows open just a sliver to let the cool night air spill in
- My little engineer, pulling out a remote-controlled robot he can program on his computer – bought for an older son – and come alive for inspiration – and amusement. He put a dog treat on the floor and used the robot to protect it from Sadie, who was as scared of the robot as she is the cat. Her determination paid off, though – she got the treat.
- Watching Billy Graham, remembering watching his crusades growing up with my grandmother, who sat and watched, quiet – every time, remembering when about 28 years ago, watching him on t.v., my husband out of town – and calling the number he gave to dedicate my life to God. I’d given my life to God in the second grade – but I needed a new committing in this relationship – and I did it that night.
- 3 yellow lemons, waiting to be sliced and put in my water.
- my husband’s smile