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"Flexibility at its Finest" - July 18, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a self-labeled Type-A German (T.A.G., for short). Flexibility is not a character trait we T.A.G. types are born with. We have to learn it. Sometimes the hard way. For me, this was the homeschool adventure.

In my former life, there were several of my friends who could label me as one of those homemakers who cleaned before anyone else realized things were filthy, or even remotely dirty. There might be one dust bunny under the table, God forbid. I never even owned a real mop until this past year. After all, the only way to mop a floor was on one’s hands and knees with scalding water and no rubber gloves. A real mom was supposed to just offer up the painful knees and burning hands, don’t ya' know?

I could also be caught with the best-stocked pantry in the state. One of my daughter's friends was over one day when I arrived home with a car load of groceries, so she helped us carry them in and put them away. Her statement says it all, "Is your mom stocking up for another Y2K or something?" The year was 2004.

Like I said, homeschooling changed all that. Well, not all of it, but a good deal of it. For instance, I no longer go upstairs where our four children slumber and run a home for orphaned items. Seeing the disaster zones which double as their bedrooms is enough to send a clean freak to the confessional. So, I've learned to let that go. I have come to realize that no one ever died from a gross bathroom or no clean underwear. Eventually, the laundry makes its way to the laundry room, and one of the college girls will clean the bathroom with some prompting, which sometimes happens only under threat of a $20 fine. No kidding. It's the quickest way for a mom to make twenty bucks. And, just as information, that is how I make a living–off my children. Whatever money comes through the laundry is MINE! Now that our daughters do the laundry, they are happy I made that rule. They are earning off their brothers all the money I earned off them!

The other thing I have given up is perpetually well-stocked cupboards. After ten years, I still have not figured out a convenient time to go grocery shopping. You might find me at the store at 7:30 AM; you might find me there at 10 PM; and, I confess, you might find me there on–GASP!–a Sunday. I can't help it. I also now rely on our children to cue me in that it's time for food. "Mom, we've got Mother Hubbards again!" "Okay," I say, "make a list. If it's not on the list, it won't be in the house." They are so good at making grocery lists now.

However, the ultimate breakthrough in flexibility came one August day, after I had started the new school year. My husband suggested that our family go camping, just the six of us. I agreed. He said that he thought he could get home by noon that Friday to help pack the van. I knew that was a stretch; yet, I am a woman of faith. I tried to put out of my mind that he worked 90 minutes from home in the busiest metropolis of our state. When he called at one o'clock to say he was finally on his way, I moved into car-packing mode in an effort to get us to the campsite by dark. I also asked a fatal question for inflexibles like myself. "Where are we camping?" I inquired. Well, he hadn't quite decided. We started out driving southeast. About 20 miles down the road, he changed his mind. We turned around and headed northwest. I maintained a fairly cheery disposition, considering.

I did have to share one thing with him in the van on the way, however. I told him that his mother had called and asked why we hadn't taken off for camping yet. When I told her that her son was running late and that he hadn't decided where we were even going, and that I had planned the meals, packed the car, and gotten the four kids ready all by myself, she said something I found incredible. "You ought to be more flexible," she said. My husband laughed his head off and kissed me, which let me know that he had already discovered what I was just beginning to uncover: that I am way more flexible than I or she even realized!

By the way, we ended up at a campground about two hours from our house and had the time of our lives, and I even counted the weekend as part of our 180 school days. A T.A.G. can hardly get more flexible than that!

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer