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"The Exhausting Chase" - July 5, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

After a decade of declaring that I would never homeschool, we ventured into it. Stepped knee deep into it, that is. I was not prepared to be a selfless homeschooling mother. I was used to organizing my day the way I wanted. I ran the show, and everyone knew it. I had no idea what was waiting for me on the other side of this decision, and I confess that for the first three years I was pouting. I was put out, and I felt that I must homeschool in order to raise good and godly children who loved Holy Mother Church. I was frustrated that there did not seem to be a solid school on the planet that would provide my children with a love of the sacraments. The kind of love I wanted them to have. So, I became a chaser of children to the point of exhaustion.

I was not accustomed to beginning the laundry at nine at night. I was not used to the Mother Hubbard theme that had now become my cupboards, and I was not fond of going out to shop after dark, yet nine at night also became my shopping time. And somehow, despite my best intentions, midnight became my regular bedtime. This was a recipe for trouble.

I was also not a fan of the dust and dirt and toys that now were commonplace on every floor of my home. So I hounded my children. Toys were to be up or down or out, but not on the main floor. That was MY floor. "Was" is the operative word here. Homeschooling changed all that–eventually.

But for the first two and a half years, I held onto my pride and my way of doing things, expecting everyone else in the house to cave in to my whims. That included all human people, from my wonderful, supportive husband to our four innocent children. And, truth be told, I was hardest on my oldest. Aren't we all? There is not an oldest child anywhere who does not shoulder and feel a huge responsibility to get it right. Ours has done a marvelous job, by the way, in spite of my incapability to master early on the relaxed homeschooler mentality.

So, I would push my oldest to do more, try harder, work better. Not that she didn't need a little of that. She naturally came by the gene that tells her if it's way too hard, better not even try. However, I have to confess that many days out of fatigue and frustration, I really went overboard with trying to get her to have something critically important, say like better penmanship?! Now that she's 21, I have to wonder about that one. Or, I would argue and yell at her about something even more important, say like diagraming sentences?! Now that she's 21, I have to wonder about that one, too. I do think diagraming has its place in a child's curriculum, but let me just say that unless one is going to be an English major, diagraming very complex sentences can go in the trash can, along with lots of other academic ideals, and a mother can save herself a lot of unnecessary angst.

One day, after nearly pulling my hair out, I called Fran Crotty at Kolbe Academy. Keep in mind that this man knows nothing about our individual family, and I told him no specifics about the scene that unfolds when my daughter and I are having one of "those" moments. I just started rambling a bunch of nonsense into the phone about putting her back in school, and he calmly asked me four questions about her character. Then he said, "So, your daughter is 12. Let me tell you something, Mrs. Thayer. You have given your daughter all the tools she needs to succeed. Let the work be hers, not yours. The next time she starts to pitch a fit and runs off to her room, do not chase her up the stairs. Wait it out. Within 30 minutes, she will return and be ready to work." And you know what, he was right, but I wonder how he knew these two things: that our daughter was 12 and that I chased her up the stairs. It could have been a lucky guess, but I suspect he had taken many calls from distraught mothers of 12-year-old girls over the course of his career.

Anyway, those four questions have become a measuring stick for me. Here they are: 1. Is your daughter able to complete chores? 2. Does she generally do them obediently? 3. Does she have a prayer life? 4. Can she make a good Confession? If your answer is "Yes," to those queries, then you, too, have given your child all the tools. So relax, quit chasing your child, and get a good night's sleep! Oh, and have fun on your next day trip to the grocery store–or the confessional–whichever you need most.

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer