Last night I had a great meeting with other homeschool moms. I really needed to get together with other women. And of the women in our group who came, all have at least one special needs child that they teach at home. So these women understand when I tell them that Mr. I had a difficult time before picture day and that Ms. D fantasizes about running off to the birth family. The women in my group may or may not deal with similar issues, but they understand how God can work through imperfect moms to help imperfect children. Not that any child is perfect, but in some circles a mom has to put on a false front lest she and her children be shunned. I've belonged to that kind of group before and was able to somewhat fit in, at least well enough to be tolerated. I certainly wouldn't fit today.
But last night's meeting was especially encouraging to just about everyone there. Women shared their experiences and supported one another. It is so easy to have expectations when we teach our children, and if those same children have physical, psychological, or learning problems, those expectations can be so burdensome. For instance, a couple of years ago I had the expectation that Ms. D would be able to take Algebra I her first year of high school. When we hit a wall last year, I became more and more frustrated, and so did she. It wasn't until this year when I found out why she'd hit the wall that I realized that teaching Algebra to her using a certain curriculum was too difficult. I had to make some adjustments to my expectations and to the way I was teaching her. I also realized that Ms. D was actually doing very well, considering her abilities. So instead of feeling discouraged, I was encouraged.
Sometimes the unrealistic expectations come from outside. I know of husbands who are not completely on board with their wives homeschooling, relatives and friends who worry about what is best for the child, and school officials, doctors, and psychologists who think the only way a special needs child can be educated is through the public schools. Sometimes we homeschool moms feel those pressures and either push our children harder than we should, or we get discouraged and want to give up.
Other times the pressures come from within us. Most mothers want the best for our children. We see our children's strengths, passions, and potential and want them to live a happy, fulfilled life. I have adjusted over the years what a good life for my children would be. I want them to do well, know and love God, and have good relationships with others. And sometimes my goal for my children is downgraded, and I just hope for them to stay out of jail and not have a teen pregnancy. But I still want the best for them. I love them!
But I, like many parents, have a lot of self doubt. We have bad days when we are ill, the children fight or have problems, and life's circumstances overwhelm us. Last night at our homeschool meeting a woman shared with us about a Cheerio Kind of Day. I won't tell the story, since I haven't asked her permission and she is so much better at telling it than I am. I'll just say it has something to do with a toddler who was discovering his environment, a large box of Cheerios, an overwhelmed mother with a new baby, and a neighbor friend who broke into her house for a welfare check. For those of you who wonder about breaking into a neighbor's house to make sure everything is fine, this incident happened in the Midwest. I've lived in the Midwest and now on the West Coast. If anything happened here in California, the neighbors probably wouldn't notice unless fire is involved. It isn't rare to not see or talk to your neighbor for months. But in the Midwest, at least while I had lived there, everyone knows his neighbor's business. If something is wrong, the neighbors know almost before you do. Fortunately for my friend, her neighbor helped her on the Cheerio Day. And from then on, when one of them is going through a trial, the other sends her a picture of Cheerios. And in remembering the first Cheerio Kind of Day, my friend realizes that things have been worse, things will get better, and she is not alone.