Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Canvas

I just caught myself being jealous again. Yes, jealous! I read the review of a book I wish I wrote on a topic of my passion, “Stories That Heal the World.” The reviews were terrific, and they were all written by people whom I respect. I gulped and bought a copy. Why didn’t I write that book? Wait, I didn’t have the time (or the mental capacity) to write that book because I chose to be a homeschool mom instead, and for the last 15 years I have been in the trenches being a parent: A very committed and very hands-on parent. Do you ever feel this way? Like someone else is living the life you thought you wanted, or someone else has the kids you hope your kids will become?

Living in Los Angeles has made me keenly aware of this phenomenon. Ever since my kids were little I have been privy to conversations between parents about how great their kids are…parents boasting and bragging. I have even been guilty of this! Why not? We should be proud of our kids for their accomplishments and feel good that all of our driving and money spent on activities has paid off. For those of us who have chosen to be very hands-on parents, our kids are our canvas. At least it feels this way, even if it is not entirely true. If we were career driven prior to having children we may even see our peers and colleagues rise up the ranks while we seem to be treading water in the same place. But are we staying in the same place? What is this canvas and the picture we are trying to paint by being so intensely involved in our kids lives, especially if we are home educators?

Do we want our kids to be smart, achievement oriented, good athletes and musicians, great singers and dancers? Do we want our kids to win the science fair or be chosen to play college football? Can we measure our success as parents by the outcome of our kids? My mom, the late Dr. Evelyn “Effie” Golden was an incredibly inspiring person to many in her community, and my role model. She was a doctor and community activist. In 1958, the year before I was born, she was the chairperson for a large PTA convention in Michigan. She gave the keynote speech and in it she said:

“Most of our discussion will center around what young people are doing today, but I believe we should be discussing what young people are thinking. You and I as parents and educators are guilty because we have been more concerned about the minds of our young people than we have about their hearts, more concerned with their intellect than we have with their emotions. We have examined intellectual growth more than we examine who they care about. Their attitudes toward life, their concern for poverty, ignorance, prejudice, greed, racism and their concern for humanity. Their concern for the kind of person they want to become. Their desire to make this a better world, and their courage and willingness to be trail blazers and to assume risks, to work and make this land of ours a better, cleaner, healthier place for people to live. If this world is to get better, it will be only as the people in it get better.”

Her words could have been written today. Nothing has really changed. Our world is still a fraying tapestry and the holes are getting larger rather than smaller. On the eve of this Thanksgiving I sit and ponder her words and I think about my canvas: My kids. I chose to be a painter on this canvas, rather than the writer of that great book. Perhaps someday I will write that book, but not today. As I let my jealousy subside I am reminded that I am exactly where I need to be. My painting is a work in progress and the paint is still wet.

My mother’s words ring loud and clear. My hope is that my kids have absorbed an outlook on life that focuses on caring for others perhaps through the care I have given them. Parenting should not be viewed as a sacrifice, but rather as the greatest mission a human can have, raising the next generation. Being a parent is not a “job” that gets you promotions or wins awards. It is rare to hear the words “thank you. It is not glamorous and there is no pay…and did I mention that it is 24/7? And yet the payoff is greater than any “job” I have ever taken. The payoff for me is a legacy of repairing the world for future generations.

This is the last year of my journey as a homeschool mom (to my own kids) my kids are growing up. They are adding colors to the canvases of their lives that I could never have imagined.  My mother used to say “give them wings and they will fly”. I am so proud of all their accomplishments but I am equally proud of the people they have become. They are caring and have the courage and willingness to be trail blazers and to assume risks to make the world a better place for all.

We are exactly where we need to be. Painting can be challenging. Often it is hard to figure out what to paint, especially if the surface is not smooth or the colors don’t stick. This painting is not a paint-by-numbers, but an abstract. Some of us have chosen to be home educators while others have landed here by default. It doesn’t matter how we got here, all that matters is that we understand that painting is an art…education is an art. Great art is not only filled with passion, but compassion. We are all artists on a journey and for some of us this is a full-time job.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful that I live in a place where home education is possible and I can pass on the legacy of my mother and the values that are important to me. “If this world is to get better, it will be only as the people in it get better.” It is not what we say but what we do that makes a difference for our kids. Be an example of care and compassion and your kids will follow. Today your days may be long and the work hard, but in the end the reviews will be outstanding. I send each of you a hug for a job well done.