If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that I write less and less about disabilities parenting, which is weird since I’m still doing it all the time. My weird parenting life doesn’t look like it did before, though, when Jack lived here and everything was essentially a perpetual hurricane.
To wit, I’ve decided to discuss a change that we are in the midst of making for one of our boys. It’s a big change, at least for me, and it is directly related to the kinds of issues which are not as deeply encompassing as Jack’s disabilities, but are nevertheless real.
So, drum roll……
I am pulling my youngest boy out of school and beginning an online homeschool program.
This is officially me doing something I said I would never do.
School with its incumbent noise, chaos, and plethora of children and activity just isn’t working out for Truman. He is super smart and tests above average, but gets in trouble multiple times every day for being off-task, distractable, and having an excess of energy which channels into being silly or not listening.
I had a dream a few weeks ago where I was sitting with my Primary class in singing time. There was a little boy who couldn’t sit still. He was still happy and listening and participating, even though he was wiggly and kind of loud. A man in the room kept angrily telling the boy how irritating he was, and how he needed to get it together and stop wrecking the experience for everyone else.
In my dream, I was outraged at this. I tucked the little boy into my side, wrapped my arm around him, and quietly said to him, “You are doing such a good job today of being in Primary. I am so proud of you. I love how hard you are trying and I am so glad you are here.”
That was the dream. And as the days passed, I realized it wasn’t about my Primary class at church, but about my own little boy who is sweet, smart, kind, and creative, and who struggled every single day at school to even process all the sensory input coming his way.
He told me a few days ago on what turned out to be his last day ever at our neighborhood school, “I said lots of prayers, Mom, but it didn’t work and I still got in trouble.” Every day in a big, busy class of lots of kids with one teacher who is really trying to keep it all together was a formula for disaster. For him. For other kids, it works perfectly fine. For Truman, it is essentially exposing him to the worst learning environment for his particular needs and issues.
Even still, I didn’t want to homeschool. I’ve never wanted this.
But in addition to the dream, I had a series of micro-inspirations which told me that teaching Truman at home would not be painful drudgery, but would actually be freeing and really pretty terrific. I think at an earlier point in my life, I wouldn’t have been able to hear or interpret these spiritual messages teaching me how to proceed. I would have been resistant and slow to get on board, or at least slow to listen. But in this post-Jack’s caregiver life, which is also my post-spiritual-journey-times-two life, those subtle promptings and ideas went straight to my core, and I immediately paid attention.
The good news is, people have created quality curricula and the school district employs teachers to oversee this kind of parent-led online education for someone like me, who isn’t crunchy or fundamentalist or even remotely inclined toward coming up with creative second grade math methods. And they offer some great class options, like coding. Our second grader is now enrolled in coding, which is basically his dream come true.
I went through quite a process of personal acquiescence coming to terms with these changes. Specifically, I had a few really sad days thinking about how we are different, how we will always be different, and how different often equates to being hard.
I drove past the elementary school one morning and watched all the moms walking their broods to school, babies strapped onto their chests, pushing their toddlers and preschoolers in double strollers, supervising their little kids on bikes, and I felt this profound sense of otherness and loss.
We do things the hard way, not the normal way.
This is what ran through my head for the better part of of a week.
I think everyone in the world has felt this way at some point: I’m not like everyone else.
I don’t know why it’s such a heartbreaking, universal concept, but it is. We all just want to feel like we matter, we fit, we are valued, we are loved.
Which leads me to another recent dream. In this dreamscape, I was in a house with my parents and sisters, and an artist was giving each of us a painting he had done of Jesus. Each painting was different. Mine was almost a completely white canvas with Jesus in the distance, a stylized figure in robes reaching out to touch someone kneeling near him. It was beautiful.
Then (still dreaming, remember) I saw that someone, thinking they were being helpful, had taken my painting and stretched the canvas around a block of wood, gluing it in place. They had also taken red paint and painted big, sweeping brush strokes all over the painting. It was hideous.
I felt so annoyed that someone had taken something so lovely that was given just to me and altered it into this kindergarten craft project.
Jeff’s interpretation of this was that the paintings are spiritual gifts, given in individualized iterations to each of us. How we use them is something we rely on our Heavenly Parents to instruct us in. His take was that my own inward sense of how I should wield my spiritual gifts is different than how outside perspectives might see them.
One of my dear friends and spiritual mentors listened to me telling my dream and felt the paintings represent the personalized way Jesus reaches out and sustains each of us. We all need him in different ways and for vastly different reasons. But we all need him. His gospel’s economy, remarkably, is such that he KNOWS all of us and how to meet us in our pain and our inadequacy.
I don’t know the full meaning of the block of wood and the messy red brush strokes. I think they might be a reference to me thinking my gifts, my perspective, my life’s work might be contorted by a sense of pressure from outside sources.
What I want to remember, though, is the gift of the painting–its clarity and purity. It was such a simple and beautiful painting.
That’s the gift. That’s the pearl.
It’s Jesus, our Savior.
I don’t need to bend it or mold it into something else. I don’t need to cover it up with globs of paint.
I just need to see how Jesus holds me up and helps me move forward. My job is to appreciate it and to keep looking to him and at him, because he is my answer.