I have just completed a much needed weekend by myself. I've been feeling pretty burned out and tired, so I asked Geoff if he could take the kids to the cottage for a couple of nights so that I could have a little bit of quiet time to collect myself. Thankfully it worked out and I have had a great (quiet) weekend at home - just me and the dogs.
I didn't accomplish very much at a practical level! No organizational projects done despite the need, minimal cleaning, a few hours of Netflix, a fair bit of reading, several cups of coffee, naps in my library chair, late nights to bed. But maybe that was accomplishment enough because what I ended up being able to do the most was think. It didn't take more than about an hour on my own before I had my first insight, my first non-urgent thought about life. And the thoughts kept tumbling out of my head all weekend like that.
Mostly my thoughts were about the kids. All three are going through lots of teenage angst and issues, and they all need regular insight, discernment, and prayer on my part to be able to understand what's truly going on with each of them. All three are so different from each other - is it possible to have three opposites? They have fundamentally different personalities, gifts, challenges, interests, abilities, ways of thinking and processing, ways of being motivated, general outlooks on life, and so on.
I have found over the course of years that because they are so different from each other, parenting my three cannot employ a cookie-cutter approach. What works for one child has no bearing on another. Ways of encouraging, disciplining, monitoring, spending time with, praying for, and loving each of them for the unique people that they are is critical for me - even though sometimes the kids would prefer that I use a one-size-fits-them-all approach (when it suits their wants). I never promise my kids equal treatment, as treating them exactly the same would have very different results, depending on the child.
As other parents undoubtedly also experience, I find this whole parenting thing exhausting. The mere premise of parenting is the most challenging thing I've ever undertaken. In addition, as homeschoolers, the kids and I have spent the majority of our last decade+ together - whether schooling at home or out and about with our family and friends. Homeschooling is fantastic and I wouldn't change it for the world, but it is overwhelming and exhausting at times. Complicating everything, this past year's covid crisis meant that all of our usual outside-the-home activities were cancelled or switched to an unsatisfactory online format; accordingly, like many others, the kids and I have basically spent every waking moment together since the pandemic began. This
never-ending time together has been in equal measures wonderfully enriching and relentless. Hence the beauty and benefit of this weekend by myself, so that I could just think about each of my kids and their unique issues and how best to support them.
It was amazing to observe that it took mere hours on my own to be able to discern, as I let my thoughts wander and settle on each of the kids, what the 'big picture' is on their lives at this stage of their development and maturation. Once I had an understanding of this 'big picture', I was able to identify their current strengths and challenge areas, and began to work out a plan for how to help them with the character challenges they face at the moment. The reason I think this was amazing to observe about myself is that I so seldom have even an hour or two where I am completely alone, and yet mere hours alone and quiet is all it took to begin to reset and reassess what needs doing.
As I thought and processed this weekend, I kept a file open on the computer where I made note about my thoughts about each child, and I added to it as the weekend progressed. I jotted down random thoughts I had about each of them, honed in on the big picture of where they're at this moment, listed their current challenge areas as they came to mind, any noted any strategies that came to mind as I thought about how to help each of them with their current issues. This was such a helpful process and both practical and future oriented. Processing this way gives me something to sink my teeth and determination into in the days ahead when I will undoubtedly find myself more engaged in the tyranny of the urgent than in employing a thoughtful and intentional approach with my beloveds. I am now armed for those coming days with the deliberation and intention I will need.