Sometimes I wish I were illiterate. Honest. I realize the irony as I write the words across the page on my blog. But, sometimes, just for a moment, I wish that the burden of responsibility did not lie on my shoulders. I know too much.
I’m knee-deep in curriculum for the coming homeschool year. Bright sticky notes hang garishly all over the desk – to-do lists, grocery lists, books that have been purchased, books still to buy, blog ideas, Bible verses, funny quotes from my kids, chore lists, schedules, fall clothing needs, birthday lists, meal plans… Don’t tell me I need a planner. (They are too compartmentalized, never handy when I need them, and can’t seem to last me more than a week. And then I revert to sticky notes.)
It’s the homeschooling, homemaking, home-er-welming mother’s new school year resolution time. I will lose the weight of last year’s teaching failures. I will exercise my children’s minds every day. I will be organized this year. I will keep my house clean and hospitable. I will make my children brilliant. I mean, brilliant-er.
But of course, that will last all of a week. And that next Monday I will wake up, roll my growing frame out of bed too late, and patter into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, to sit forlornly with a cup of coffee staring at last week’s unfinished school and house lists. And I will sigh. And probably go buy a planner.
But of course, that’s not what I really need (though maybe this year it will help…) And it’s not what my kids really need (though it’s not an excuse for them to skip math, or reading, or writing, or spelling, or science, or history, or art, or typing, or logic, or piano, or etiquette, or any of the bazillion other things they simply have to know before I can untie my apron strings- aurgh. But I digress.)
Knowledge is power. Of course I want my kids to be powerful. But what if my quest for power is overshadowing a greater goal for them?
There will come a day when I will stand before the Judge of all the earth. He will look at me with piercing eyes, and He will ask me one question.
It will not be, “What did you do with your sons?”
It will be, “What did you do with My Son?”
What good will it be to my own children if they can grow up to write computer code, give persuasive speeches, name every country and capital, philosophize, harmonize, digitalize, make lots of money, cure cancer, or even do the dishes without being asked – but they have not learned from me that the paramount object is to know Jesus? Might they save the whole world, but lose their own soul? If they did not learn this one thing from me, what a tragedy would be on my head.
This is not an excuse to be lackadaisical in my approach to teaching my children all they need to know. I want desperately for them to learn, to know, to soak in and apply. That is why we homeschool, that is why I pour my mind and energy into making their waking moments meaningful, and that is why I plan to continue.
But I would rather fail – utterly – teaching them even basic knowledge, but know they gained true wisdom. If I had to choose. Because I’m willing to bet even Jesus couldn’t find China on a map (based on what he learned during His school days anyway.) I suppose He could cure cancer though. Maybe it was because His mom had a really good planner.
It was late. The house was quiet. But I was on a role. Half the laundry sat in obedient piles forming a semicircle around my sofa throne. I sat, queenlike (sort of), bare feet balanced indelicately on either side of the laundry basket below me on the floor. The linoleum in the kitchen had just been mopped; the hardwood in the other rooms had been vacuumed before that. A mountain of clean dishes was drying; the dishwasher hummed submissively. The week’s menu plan was mostly assembled on the dining room table; a grocery list lay freshly scribbled next to it on a sticky note. My humble kingdom was submitting to my sweaty will.
I was tired, covered in dried sweet potatoes and whatever else the baby had lovingly raked through my hair after supper. A bright pregnancy pimple glowed on my cheek. The littlest guy had been cranky and uncharacteristically clingy all day. I wondered if he was simply teething or coming down with a more serious illness that had been passing though our local friends. My Saturday to-do list had found the nerve to sit tauntingly untouched on the cluttered counter since morning. Dishes and laundry piled, toys multiplied underfoot, boys tracked mud across the rug, ants chose the day to wage war in conquest of the sugar bowl. Bedtime hadn’t come soon enough. So it wasn’t until I came back down the stairs and surveyed the carnage that my daily chores had finally begun.
My husband glanced up from scanning the daily news. He’d come home in time to say goodnight to the boys, and was finally eating a late supper which mostly consisted of stale chips and salsa. He helped me clean up the boys’ supper dishes, choking down the remains of their cold leftover chicken. We exchanged a few bits of the day’s drama – who needed extra attention, what was the most expensive failure, the hardest won victory, what got broken, who spit on whom, that newest insurance issue, and what needed cleaning up. (Our jobs managing a home and a store are not so different.) Then I turned on the faucet over a full sink… And commenced the whirlwind homemaking attack.
It was nearly three hours later, as I sat so ladylike and regal folding laundry, that he sighed and closed the thick biography on his lap. “I guess I’ll go to bed.” He said quietly. “I need to get up in about 6 hours…”
I was in the middle of a rousing internet video conference on the science of thyroid malfunction (I actually find that stuff fascinating) and was fighting the divorce rate among five laundry loads of mismatched socks. So the weight of his words didn’t immediately sink in. But as he stood up against the lamplight from across the room, the shadow came over my own conscience.
We go to bed together. We’ve been married almost 13 years, so I guess you could take it more intimately and that should be no shock, but I simply mean our heads generally hit the pillows simultaneously. Sure, there have been nights when one of us stayed up to finish cramming for a college final, or to watch the last overtime period of a final hockey game, or to nurse a waking baby, or chat long with a far away friend. So there’s no rule. But it’s just a thing we usually do.
But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t leave that laundry half done. It was on the list. It had to get crossed off. I frowned as I struggled with my conscience. Chores – never ending, ever present mama to-do lists – are not supposed to supersede time with my husband.
There is always more I need to do. I have a little old breaking down house and five energetic (and destructive) boys under 8. And I homeschool. And the youngest two children need carrying around quite a bit. There is never enough time in a day, and always something that simply can’t get done. I struggle with being organized and prioritized enough to look like we’re not a total disgrace to humanity. Daily.
But at the end of the day, I try to put down the mama to-do list, the house list, the friend list, the self list, and pick up the wife list. Our worlds collide precious little. I don’t want to wake up in ten years and realize we’ve lived such separate lives that we’ve grown foreign to each other. Some day, the chores will be so done I might actually be bored (at least that’s what they tell me.) The kids will be grown. The self won’t seem to matter. But my marriage still will.
Together, before we crash exhausted and dreamless, we can commiserate over bowls of ice cream. We can laugh too hard in communal over-tiredness at something ridiculous that a child said or that went wrong at work. We can sit silent near each other and soak in the brief stillness before tomorrow’s storms rise on the horizon. Our marriage is often as simple as that.
Or as hard.
I failed. We stared at each other across the laundry-strewn floor. “I’m sorry, honey.” I stammered. Sleep sounded wonderful, curled up next to him between cool sheets. But I couldn’t see the floor for the laundry. And the doctors on the screen were animatedly discussing long term effects of diet on thyroid hormones. And it wasn’t that my husband wouldn’t be the least bit offended if I stayed up a bit longer. He would be asleep and oblivious moments after lying prostrate. It’s a gift he has. A sleep switch. He wouldn’t miss me if I wasn’t there next to him at that moment. But I realized with a start that my chore plan had totally overridden our routine. And why? Just so I could get the laundry done ten hours earlier? The kids should have and would have helped me with it after breakfast. But that is a much more labor-intensive operation (“Don’t wear his underwear on your head!” “Towels are not hammocks; stop swinging the baby!” “Yes, you have to help; no, you’re not too tired to pick up a shirt.” “You are strong enough to put a washcloth in the pile.” “Balled up socks are not snowballs!”) I was much more efficient alone, at 10 p.m. But efficient isn’t always good for raising children or maintaining marriage…
I paid the price. The next few days, he left the house at 6:00 and didn’t get home from work until about 10 that night. We were both too tired, even to discuss life over a dish of ice cream, before we slept. The next day he worked early again, then came home, grabbed his guitar, and spent the next three hours at church, where I hibernated in a dark nursing mothers room, before finally coming home to leftover pizza while I put overtired children to bed too late.
Crazy days happen. We expect them, and they’re often both necessary and good. But without that boring little routine, living life together when we had a brief chance, we both turned more self-sufficient. Unfortunately. As the full days passed, I got irritated to find his separate life intruding on mine. How dare he leave his work pants piled on the floor so I would miss them for laundry day? Why would he leave paperwork strewn on the table after I had spent an hour filing before he came home? Didn’t he know how important it was to me that he come upstairs to say a late goodnight to the boys rather than placidly munch cold noodles in the kitchen? I fumed that he’d grown so out of touch at home.
He (I’m assuming here, he never complained) took it personally that I spent so much at the grocery store. “Didn’t she know I had bills due this week?” He probably frowned when he came home late and found the Oreos gone. “I bet she spends every afternoon just sitting around on Facebook and eating all the cookies.” He likely sighed when I slept past six and didn’t get up to see him off. “She doesn’t know what it’s like to be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.” He probably silently wondered how I could be so oblivious to the demands of his job.
We finally found each other sitting on the sofa on Wednesday night at the same time. It was late. The house was, again, a mess. His phone hadn’t stopped buzzing with questions from the office. “Hungry?” I asked. He nodded. I scooped way too big bowls of ice cream and drizzled them with chocolate syrup. Over big spoonfuls, we caught up. Bits and pieces. “So and so had trouble getting their chores done today.” “Oh yeah, same thing at work…”
“Hey, I need to pay the water bill tomorrow.” “Ok, I’ll hold off on that big diaper shopping run then.”
“Talk to your brother recently? Are they still buying that house?” “Yeah, I talked to him yesterday. Is your brother driving up this weekend?”
“You ready for bed?” “Yeah. Let’s go.”
By the time our heads both fell against the pillows that night, our lives didn’t seem so foreign anymore. My mommy hood roll was still messy. His leadership roles were still hard. We were both so tired. But I snuggled down next to his frame, already deep breathing in the darkness, and licked a hint of chocolate from my lips. Marriage is sweet.
I woke up the next morning to heaping loads of laundry just waiting for attention. But laundry is patient. Laundry is kind. Laundry never fails. So it can wait. At least until morning.
Grandma came last week. She picked up my oldest son, my eight year old, for a date in her backyard. It was a momentous occasion.
It was chicken killing day at Grandma’s.
They gathered the two month old birds that had grown so fat they could barely walk. They flipped them upside down and quickly, with a sharp knife, ended the deep chickeny thoughts of every one.
My son watched the blood drain out. And he helped Grandma and Grandpa and their friends move the fluffy bodies through the process, assembly line style, until they had been converted into neat little packages of thighs, breasts, and wings. White, bloodless, and unrecognizable from their original state.
We ate fresh baked chicken for supper.
I am 10 weeks pregnant.
Did you know that means I am at the perfect age for an abortion?
If you try much earlier, the risk is much higher that they will miss the little fetus as they scrape out the womb. The baby is formed enough now that they can recognize all the parts as they pull them out piece by piece- ripped off arms and legs, mangled organs, crushed head, pulsing heart.
I know that is graphic. I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir. But I also know they never told me the process when they made it an option. In fact, they made it sound like a sterile, almost alluring choice when I was 21 weeks pregnant with a baby whose spine never completely formed. And for a moment, I joined the millions of women who feel the panic rising in their throat and wish there was a way out. And I am very glad I didn’t take it. But recently I looked it up. It bothers me. Blood bothers me. Death bothers me.
And it should.
The life of the flesh is in the blood… Leviticus 17:11
My son came face to face with death. He told me the hardest part wasn’t watching the chickens stop breathing. That was quick, almost painless. It was pulling out the hearts afterward. It was the blood.
I know the news has images of thousands murdered in the Middle East. I know there are wars and rumors of atrocities in many places. It is horrific. Barbaric. And we quickly condemn it from our side of the world, and turn off the screen and go back to our lattes (or laundry, etc.) But here, in our “civilized” culture, thousands more are being fatally ripped to shreds. Silently. In California alone, where most news that hits the front of magazines originates, around 200,000 babies will be ripped from women’s bodies this year. Hearts still pumping. And it won’t make the news. I wonder who shall be judged more harshly?
I know this isn’t a fun post. But this weighs heavy on my heart. I hate that my country empowers people to sin. It empowers boys to think they can claim sex as a right, with no fear of personal consequence. I have boys. I want to raise men. Men take responsibility. That is why I let them see blood (in a controlled environment.) That is why I go to the trouble to vote, though I don’t like hype and hate the mess of politics and it’s hard to cram so many little bodies around me in a voting cubicle. If I don’t choose a government who will fight for life on my behalf, I do no better than standing on the sidelines watching the slaughter. Our country would rather save the animals and kill their own people. I would much rather eat the animals, and treat people worthy of life. Jesus did.
He bled to save our life. It cost him dearly. But He considered your life worth it. Babies the age of my newest one will die today. Let’s not be chickens. Life is precious and I will fight for it.