We recently returned from San Diego to visit one of my sister’s and her family who live out there. We had a great time. It was relaxing (as much as it can be with two year old twins). It was enlightening.
And it was a trip in which I encountered a few life cultivating Aha! moments:
1. My parenting vs my sister’s parenting is quite different…for good reason. I have twins. It has to be different.
Scene: My sister’s home and all throughout San Diego
I don’t know how many times I’ve compared my parenting to others when I tell myself not to because when I do I immediately set myself up for failure. It is never possible for me to be like other people because I am not other people. Everything about me, my family, and my situation is uncommon and that means that my methods have to be uncommon.
I want to be more nurturing with my children and “chillax” already! like my sister, but I can’t. Why? Because I’m constantly in survival mode with my two-year old twins. When one kid isn’t doing something dangerous or destructive, the other one is, or they both are at the same time.
I like staying at home because I can keep them under control and I prefer to be within a 5 minute driving radius from their beds because my son will fall asleep in two seconds in the car, but that means he will not take a nap when we get home, even if he only slept for 5 minutes.
The only place I can go shopping with them by myself is the grocery store because they have carts that contain them. I give them an ipad and iphone during Daily Mass (I know…sneer, sneer!) because I’m alone with them and I want to concentrate on God’s Word, not two toddlers trying to take a bath in the baptismal font, climb and play on the piano, the altar, the pews, the kneelers, the choir section, etc.
Going out to eat, to the zoo, to a museum, to anywhere that doesn’t have floor to ceiling padding? Forget it unless I have one other person with me to chase after them. It. Is. Exhausting.
I’ll be honest, I look forward to their bedtime. That is when I finally get to relax!
2. Watching my children’s love for others.
Scene: Any place with people we adore.
Lately, both Gadsden and Davny want to be held, hugged, coddled, pushed in a stroller, pulled in a wagon, etc. by everyone except me. It broke my heart for a while because I thought that I wasn’t being a nurturing enough mother to them and that’s why they wanted other people.
Then I realized that No! it’s the devil talking in my head again. It is good that they want other people because they are practicing exactly what I do. They are loving others as I love them!
They have observed my affection for them along with my family, friends, and neighbors and want to give that kind of love too. The love of Jesus!
Jesus always and forever will love his mother, Mary, but as a young child he didn’t cling to her. He loved as she did. With absolute sincerity freely given to anyone and everyone. That is exactly what my children are doing.
I will praise their fondness for others, not hinder it for my own selfish reasons. They are children of God and that is what He wants.
3. God gives each one of us different fears to fulfill His plan through us in our own unique ways and in our own unique timing.
This excerpt (I added in the words in bold) from a Franciscan Media article about St. Rose Venerini sums it up more eloquently:
Whatever state of life God calls us to, we bring with us an assortment of desires, fears, experiences, interests, gifts and [blankety blank] however small they seem to us. All that we are is meant to be put to service wherever we find ourselves.
How did I stumble upon this Aha! moment? By a casual exchange on a hiking trail near my sister’s home in Solana Beach.
Two young ladies, most likely in their twenties, spot me running through a canyon trail.
One of the girls: Wow! You are running this trail? How can you do that?
Me: I’m trying.
I proceed to run on and turn around at the dead end. I pass by the girls again, but this time one is climbing and scaling the canyon for a photo opportunity.
Me: Now that is daring! I would never do that!
My fear of heights dissuaded me from climbing up the wall of a canyon to obtain an amazing cliff hanging photo. Those two girls did it without hesitation.
On the other hand, their apathy for running prevented them from taking the long trail filled with animal life, beautiful flowers, and a spectacular water view. I ran it without a moments thought.
I may have missed out on a unique photo opportunity, but they missed out being immersed in a lively natural habitat and interacting with other people on the trail, in which I heard a few simple words come out of a young boys mouth that changed my way of thinking about fear.
4. It’s only the end if you want it to be.
This same trail goes up to a lookout point that oversees the lagoon, which is blocked off by a scant wooden post fence that is easily able to climb through and continue a trail of your own, if you so wish. Although the terrain is quite steep and unstable, as the sign on the fence clearly states.
At the top I overheard a brief, but profound comment made from a son to a father. Son looks at the fence and says:
Dad, it’s only the end if you want it to be.
The father was definitely not interested in going beyond the boundaries. He remained on the safe side where I was, but that boy’s words stuck with me.
He was only speaking of a physical roadblock, but I thought this statement could be applied to any fear I have in life. It is only the end if I want it to be.
These fears and desires that are unique to each one of us can change gradually overtime or as quickly as hearing simple comment like the one I just heard.
What prevents me from moving forward when God is with me? He casts aside all anxiety. He is not the God of dismay and angst. He is the Doer, the Giver, the Shaker, the Creator, the Comforter. He is Love and Hope. He removes the barriers and provides me with what I need when I need it. He has done it time and time again, without fail.
So again, it is only the end if I want it to be because God is infinite and with Him we have infinite possibilities.
5. Homeschool + traveling = Roadschooling!
Scenes: Birch Aquarium, San Diego Zoo, Train ride along coast from Solana Beach to San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Juan Capistrano (scroll to bottom for more photos)
With each adventure we embarked on in San Diego, I began to see how God was distinctly shaping my vocation as a wife and a mother.
Ever since the twins were born I’ve had an inclination to homeschool, but with the normalities of the culture we are submersed in there is a constant battle between putting them in private school and homeschooling.
The thought of teaching them myself scares me beyond measure. I am no brainiac, I have no desire to teach, and they might turn out to be just like me. Not only that, but sending the kids off to school sounds like a daily vacation in which I could get many things accomplished such as cleaning, doctor visits, exercise without interruption, grocery shopping without tantrums, Daily Mass without my son wanting to join the consecration on the altar, Eucharistic Adoration, Spiritual Direction and confession without scheduling Matt or a neighbor to be home, need I go on?, and oh, yeah…I have zero patience (my family will be the first in line to tell you that one). But…It’s only the end if I want it to be.
I realized that this desire to homeschool wasn’t from me, it’s from God, and it wasn’t for me, it’s for my children. But it doesn’t end there. He wants me to take homeschooling further than I ever dreamed. He wants me to take it on the road.
These experiences in San Diego proved that to be true. The excitement on their faces, the absorption of knowledge, the embedded memory that can’t be obtained just by reading about it or looking at it through a picture. They are immersed in the adventure, they become a part of the history, and that is the greatest education of all. The best teacher in the world can’t top the actual experience. I believe that is why I love to travel so much.
My husband’s new career has a lot of flexibility with schedule and travel, as well. This is something that he will be doing for the rest of his life, so we have ample ability to go anywhere (as long as he has cell service) during our children’s educational years.
After some contemplation I realized that not only will this roadschooling teach our kids, but it will help us bond as a family, it will teach Matt and I more about the world, but mostly we will have the ability to help other people along the way. People we would never encounter here in our safe and comfortable community of McKinney, Tx. We can show people throughout the United States and the world our faith through the love that we share as a family and through the experiences we encounter.
We may be a small family, but we are easily mobile and we have great love. With that great love, we can take it with us wherever we go and change the world.