I guess I always thought that someday when I was out of diapers (and that would be after drowning in them a full ten years with four kids), my days would be easier and less stressful.  For all you mamas struggling through your days wearing formula stains while potty training, let me just tell you it does get better.  At some point you will sleep again.  I promise.  They will eat on their own and need you less.  But now that you’re in this, and can’t back out, let me just tell you a little secret that no one tells you.  Here it is:   while it is true that the physical stamina gets notched down some, as your babies grow (you will not have to chase your two year old through Wal-mart for forever), the mental challenges get wrenched up.  A lot.

I have felt like the plate spinner in the middle ring of the circus more often than not lately, even though this home schooling journey has eased somewhat the last couple years.  The oldest is in college and the next two have most of their classes online. I should be on the downhill slide into an empty nest. Coasting in. Interestingly, the questions the still-at-home kids ask me now usually are not as easy to answer as they once were.  I can’t look them up in a textbook.

The question of the day(s) is how do you help them and teach them to navigate their lives when I can’t navigate my own?  I have eased buckets of tears the last few days, brought on by the stresses of life, and my heart aches for these kiddos. Life lessons are, in many ways,  harder than the academic ones, but infinitely more important.  I’m so grateful to be with them all the days to teach them, really teach them.  I want them to learn from me and their dad (not ‘caring’ peers) how to navigate through a complicated friendship, or a troubling professor, or budding romance.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to raise them as we are called to do, at home.  But there are some days that are just hard.  Some are stretching and painful.

My mama heart knows that tears are stretching exercises, making them stronger. Stretching hurts, I know because I am an expert.  I have adhesive capsulitis in my left shoulder and visiting the PT often induces tears.  He stretches me in ways that I should be able to do alone, but because of an injury, I can’t.  It’s become frozen.  Lately I’ve wondered often about the other parts of me that may be frozen and how God stretches and how it hurts.

I spent last night counseling the teary oldest about future living arrangements and scholarship applications and psychology tests.  In the next breath, with that one still on the phone, I’m disciplining another child for needing help with an assignment I felt should have been turned in earlier,  and dolling out Advil for the boy’s injury in a basketball game from which we had just arrived home.  Did I mention it was about 10 o’clock at night?  All this was after the earlier ‘teaching moment’ in the afternoon with the fourth chitlin about how her paper needed to be edited better, and earlier,  to turn in to her teacher (also an online class).  I’m disciplining them for their unpreparedness when I can’t even seem to put two thoughts together to prepare dinner before we leave for a game.  Don’t we always feel unqualified to teach them? or lead them?

These days, I still find myself repeating things. Always the mama’s duty, right?  But now, instead of multiplication facts, the lessons I’m finding myself repeating are tax issues for the oldest who is currently filling out her FAFSA (which, I may add, is proof that the government is totally off its rocker to require tax information from the parents of college students the 1st of February),  while helping the boy properly word an email for his boss at his part-time job to be aware of his upcoming basketball games.  Then I train the #3 child, who recently experienced a fraudulent checking account withdrawal,  about banking safeguards, and then advise that same child as to what to expect from the boy she tutors every afternoon. And then I watch as my preteen prepares for an archery competition by practicing outside for hours, then runs inside to practice with makeup. Life. Goes. On.  And who can keep up?  Really?

(Seriously, who has their taxes done by February 1st?)  Who knew you’d have to sign away ALL information related to your financial EVERYTHING, including completed taxes, just so your kid can apply for scholarships?  Well, honestly, maybe such things have been done forever, but since I never made grades worthy of a university academic scholarship, I guess I wouldn’t know.  Whose kid is she anyway?

I think I’m missing the days of making sure math is done and science experiments don’t blow up the house.  I never thought I would look back and think those days were easy.  As He’s stretching them, it seems He’s also stretching me…….to yearn for Him and long for His wisdom.  These kids of mine, they know, OH HOW THEY KNOW, that I don’t have it all together all the time.  They watch me have meltdowns and yell at refs.

But what I hope and pray they also know about me, about life, is what I do when I’m overwhelmed, where I go, and Who I go to.  Here it is mamas, my truth for today:  It’s ok to not have all the answers.  The ONLY thing we are supposed to teach them really, when the world becomes overwhelming, is WHO to go to to find them. These are the real lessons, the ones, the only ones, that matter.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let her ask of God who gives to all men (and women) generously and without finding fault, and it will be given to her.           James 1:5