As our family finished creating a mission statement over the break, one of the principles that made it on the list is “We don’t give up,” or as it’s remained in my mind, “We do hard things, we persevere.”
This week of starting back to school has been an essay on doing hard things. On the first day, it was hard to get up at a decent hour and accept that the day was not our playground. That morning I pushed all five of us through the motions anyway. As we sat down to sketch together in the afternoon, I thought we were on the other side of hard for the day. And then I heard, “I just can’t draw, I can’t do it, I won’t do it!”
I looked over at my eight-year-old, earnest in his fears and self-doubt, his face scrunched in a ball of misery just like the paper crumpled in his hand. He didn’t have to sketch with us, it was the first day back to school after all, I could have let it go. It would have made my own sketching time much easier if I’d released him from trying.
“Buddy, we’ve been talking as a family about how we do hard things and we don’t give up. Don’t give up, keep trying.”
And then I added other words about how his drawing didn’t have to look just like the cup of hot chocolate he was trying to sketch (that’s right, I’d even sweetened this sketch time with hot cocoa and homemade cookies). And his older sister helped by declaring her drawing wasn’t going as planned so she was going to free herself from being realistic by doing a one-line sketch instead.
With enough cajoling, he eventually finished a sketch and I knew there was a small notch on his belt of belief that he could finish what he started, a notch that would help with the next challenge that was sure to come. I put his finished sketch in a frame and that night I was a very tired Mama who was glad we were a family who did hard things.
The “I can’t do it!” theme has been persistent this week. Wednesday it was multiplication, Thursday it was another drawing assignment and another math assignment. There’s been shouting, thrown objects, and general mayhem that’s made giving up quite appealing to all of us. Along side my son’s energetic rant, I’ve carried on my own inner monologue a few steps away:
“He needs to learn how to do hard things. He needs to gain some drawing skills so he can gain confidence. He’s got to learn how to deal with frustrating problems” (notice the subtle turn here) “I just can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I can’t teach all of my kids these skills, I can’t face these problems everyday, there’s got to be someone else who can do this instead of me. I just want to stop.”
After my own rant ended, another voice began:
“But Aimee, you’re trying to quit, just like your son, you need to learn how to persevere, how to overcome hard things, just like your son. ”
Now I didn’t like how the tables were turning on me at all. I didn’t like the suggestion that I had as much to learn as my children about overcoming obstacles and pushing through problems. I wanted to think of the beautiful release of quitting without equating it to my eight-year-old balling up his drawing and throwing it in the garbage. I wanted my internal fit to look a little less childish than my son’s, but it sounded mockingly the same.
I realized that I was in a hard place and it wasn’t that easy to push through the moment, which turned me toward empathy and grace for my son. If I couldn’t instantly conjure the strength to get to the other side of my challenge, then I couldn’t expect such a quick turnaround in his countenance either. I had to do more than get frustrated and impatient, I needed to come along beside him, be intimate with his struggle, and call with him to the Lord for help.
This week my son and I have pushed through some hard things. He’s gotten out new paper and tried again. I’ve sat beside him. He’s wisely taken a break from a project, with plans to return to it when he’s ready. I’ve allowed him the space to struggle. He’s gotten my help to finish a math assignment. And I’ve stayed, minute by minute, hour by hour. There was some chocolate involved in the day, some frustrated words, as I’m sure there will be tomorrow.
My son and I both have assignments in front of us daily. I’m handing out his assignments and God’s handing out mine (of course, God is actually teaching us both). Today I got a little notch on my belt to remind me next time I don’t have to give up, that I can push through hard things.No comments