The other day, I drove my 13-year-old son to the store to buy him a new pair of shoes. He has been growing so much that it has been hard to keep him in clothes and shoes, lately. He’s somewhere around 6’1″ and doesn’t appear to be done growing any time soon.
We talked as we drove to the store. He sat in the front seat next to me and we had a really nice conversation. He told me about something he had been thinking about for awhile. He asked me some questions. His tone of voice was very calm and pleasant. It was a joy to be able to spend time with him like that.
It may seem like a small thing; but, this was a big deal to me because my son and I haven’t been getting along very well, lately. As he has gotten older, our relationship has gotten more and more bristly. We used to have long conversations that never seemed to end. As my son has entered his teen years, however, he hasn’t wanted to talk to me as much. He hasn’t wanted to spend as much time with his family at all. He talks fondly about the day when he will move out of the house. Some of the things he says are very cutting to my heart.
Are You Discouraged?
I thought that our decision to homeschool our boys would spare us from some of the less pleasant aspects of the teen years. I’ve heard so many stories of homeschool families who are extremely close… who have deep, meaningful relationships which never seem to get tested… whose children exhibit exemplary behavior at all times… who feel completely fulfilled and never question that what they’re doing is working – or at least this is the way it seems from the outside. I wanted that for our family as well.
Lately, our home hasn’t been anywhere near as peaceful and idyllic as I would like. I grew up in a home which was filled with anger and yelling and bitterness and I don’t want that kind of thing in my home at all. When your teenage son is yelling at you for the umpteenth time that day, however, it makes it very hard to remain calm and loving and peaceful.
It appears that these next several years are going to be a bit harder than I had anticipated. Does that mean that every moment is terrible? Absolutely not. And I need to remember that when we are going through a hard moment. But the hard moments are PAINFUL and they are taking a lot out of me.
I recently saw a video clip by Todd Wilson, the Familyman, called “Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe.” In this video, Todd said that homeschool moms end up feeling discouraged much of the time because we think that everyone else has smarter kids, cleaner homes, make more elaborate meals, etc. He also said that many of us feel like we are failing when it comes to teaching our kids. Believe me, I’ve had days (months?) where I have felt that way as well. It was encouraging to me to think that I wasn’t the only homeschool mom to feel this self doubt.
Lately, it feels like we are at the base of the very last steep hill that we have to climb in order to launch our sons into the world. I have SO MUCH MORE to learn – but I will try to share any insights we are able to gain as we navigate through this complex time of life. Meanwhile, here are a few things which seem to be helping us right now:
1. Pray, Pray, Pray – I don’t have all the answers. I definitely need God’s wisdom to make it through this phase of life. God has promised that He will give us wisdom if we ask and I’m counting on that!
2. Spend Time with Each Child Alone – My sons act very different when they are alone with my husband or I than when we’re all together. Whether this is when we tuck them in at night or if we are driving in the car, we need to try to engineer time alone with each child. You may find that these opportunities often come when you are tired or are in a hurry. Slow down and take a few moments to connect with your child – no matter how exhausted you may be feeling at the time. These are the good moments that you will always remember… and so will they.
3. Be Sure they are Getting Enough Rest – All children need plenty of sleep. As teenagers, they still require MORE than 8 hours of sleep a night. Do everything you can to ensure that your kids are keeping a consistent bedtime as often as possible. If you find that your son is struggling more than normal, you may want to schedule lighter studies for that day or even have them do some reading in their room. We’ve done this before and had my son fall asleep and take a nap for several hours! Getting enough sleep definitely brightens their mood.
4. Investigate Supplements – My oldest son is a terrible eater. He suffers from sensory processing issues and one result of that is that his diet isn’t the most balanced no matter how hard I try. After hearing Dianne Craft speak about a boy’s brain and how nutritional deficiencies can affect their behavior, we have our boys on a strict regimen of supplements including things like fish Oil, probiotics, and 5-HTP. If my boys skip these supplements for even one day I can tell the difference.
5. Limit Electronics – We were adament that we weren’t going to let our sons get addicted to electronics… but, I was duped into letting them into our home when the Wii came out. I thought the Wii would be different because you supposedly had to move in order to play it. That is so untrue! If your sons aren’t yet addicted to video games, don’t even let them start. I wish I hadn’t. We’re still trying to figure out how to wean our boys off of these… but they are definitely more surly after they have been staring at a screen for awhile. I think it’s because those games are so easy and satisfying that they make real life seem hard in comparrison.
6. Spend Time Recharging – Sometimes you just need to get away from the kids and from homeschooling for a few hours. This becomes easier to do as the kids get older and can stay home alone. Try to plan some errand running on your own so that you can enjoy the quiet car. Bring some tea with you and make it into a pleasant, peaceful experience. Schedule time with friends occasionally. Take a bubble bath. Read a book for pleasure. We all have things we enjoy doing which help us to feel more energized. Try sprinkling a few of these things throughout your week and you will notice a big difference in your own energy level and attitude.
7. Spend Time Alone with Your Husband – This is another thing that we’ve been trying to do more and it definitely makes a difference. Talk things out with your spouse. Get his feedback. He remembers what it felt like to be a teenage boy. Ask for his advice. Also, just spend some time together without focusing on the kids at all. When your relationship with your husband is good any issues with the kids won’t feel as insurmountable.
8. Reach Out – It’s easy to keep our discouragements bottled up inside ourselves because it’s embarrassing to tell anyone else about our struggles. I am part of a small group of ladies who pray with and for each other… and as we’ve gotten to know each other better we’ve been able to be more honest with each other. It has made such a difference to know that someone else is praying for us – and that other people are struggling with some of these same issues. Don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to at least one other homeschool mom or family member whom you can trust.
9. Hang Onto The Good Times – As the boys are getting older, more and more we are given glimpses into activities they enjoy, skills they are good at, ways they’ve matured, etc. Write these things down in a journal or somewhere that you can keep handy. Then, when you have a rough day with your son, you can read about all of the areas where they have grown and feel encouraged again. And remember, what you are doing is making a HUGE difference in your son’s life!
This year has been one of the most discouraging ones I’ve had in a long time. We’ve been dealing with health issues in our extended family, business setbacks, and an extremely harsh winter which has kept us inside the house way more than normal. Add to that a tween and teen boy who are starting to feel the effects of their raging hormones and none of us are totally sure how to handle it… and it makes for some long, long, long, days.
But the difficult phases of life will pass and you and your children will be better for it if you persevere. I love this quote from Scott Brooks, who was a professional basketball player and is now the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, “I believe this with all my heart: the greatest coach of all time in my eyes is my mom. She’s instilled in me a toughness and a perseverance and just a never-quit mentality, and I thank her every day for providing for me, for what she sacrificed her life for.”
Imagine a day in the future when our sons are able to look back and say something similar about us. Our determination to continue on regardless of the sacrifice and hardships will be inspiring to our children. This is hard, and sometimes it’s discouraging; but, we can do it! We must persevere for the sake of our children, our families, and our own personal growth.
Question: Are you discouraged? Have you discovered any tips which might be able to help the rest of us through this difficult phase of parenting? Please leave a comment below.