Pray when it's time to pray. Study when it's time to study.
Play when it's time to play. Show kindness to everyone you meet.
But do it all for the love of Jesus.
-Saint John Bosco-

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Biggest Challenge This Year . . .

Nope. It wasn't bringing a fourth child into our family. Having a baby is always difficult. Sleep deprivation definitely has a strong effect on my days. During my pregnancy with Little T, what I was most nervous about was homeschooling with an infant as I had never really done it before. Two years prior when Little V was born, Little J was in first grade and Little N hadn't even begun homeschooling. Homeschooling was just not as time consuming as it is now. With this last pregnancy, I was very aware that when the baby was born, I would have a lot more on my plate.

But actually, the effect of having a baby on homeschooling was much less than I had anticipated. I guess I had expected the worst case scenario, which in retrospect seems like a good way to approach the change. It meant that I was pleasantly surprised that homeschooling with a baby wasn't as hard as I had thought it would be.

So what was my biggest challenge?

Ironically, my biggest challenge had to do with our oldest child, not our youngest.

My biggest challenge was realizing that our oldest child, nine-year-old Little J, is a very strong-willed child.

My biggest challenge was . . .

Realizing that this is who he is and that it's not something I'm going to "fix."

Realizing that it isn't even something that needs to be fixed or that should be fixed. Whoa. That was a challenging ah-ha moment. I'm still wrapping my head around that one.

Realizing that it's possible that I have been mothering him in a pretty ineffective way. For the past nine years. Boy, was that humbling.

It took nine years of motherhood for me to stop trying to fix the "problem," and to realize that Little J's personality isn't a problem. It's just who he is. It's not my fault. It's not his fault. It's just who he is.

It's exactly how God made him and how God intended him to be.

Maybe I should stop battling who my son is. Because you know what? I'm going to lose that battle. He is who he is. I'm not going to change that.

What's more, by battling this part of his personality, I am not appreciating the gift that it is. Yes, having a strong will can be a tremendous gift! I am just beginning to understand that. It's my job to encourage him, to love him, to never give up on him and to help him learn how to manage his strong will in a Christian way.

I need to learn to parent and teach him in a way that complements who he is, rather than battles it.

That's the journey I'm on right now. Helping me along the way has been this wonderful book:

Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child
I've read it once and I'm going to reread it. This book helped me understand Little J and enlightened me as his mother. It gives practical advice about how to manage him, how to avoid conflict and how to deal with conflict. I honestly believe that it would be beneficial to all parents, not just parents of "strong-willed children."

This book helped me come to the realization that I needed to approach mothering Little J differently and that I needed to homeschool him differently.

That has been a humbling realization this year. So no, my biggest challenge has not been the lack of sleep, nursing while homeschooling or even a baby learning to crawl. It's been the realization that in some ways, I may need to relearn how to mother my nine-year-old. 

*****I am currently working on another post with more detail about homeschooling the strong-willed child. 

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