This past week, the 2015 Boston Marathon route went right past our street, as it always does. Being new to the street, it is relatively new to us to be blocked in for the entire day, as runners and spectators flow by for hours. The kids set up a lemonade stand. Unfortunately for them, and everyone else, the weather didn’t cooperate. The cold wind drove rain directly into runner’s faces. Spectators were drenched and cold, and some left. However, I was surprised, and, proud of how many remained to cheer on total strangers in the inclement weather. I also had the opportunity to notice some things that I had never seen before.
Before the runners begin, there are disabled people who complete the marathon in wheel chair/biciycles that they wheel with their hands. First of all, running the marathon is amazing to me. It’s an extreme sport, make no mistake. The idea that people willingly do this to themselves is awe inspiring. The training, the time commitment, the planning involved- and then to add a body that doesn’t function like others…it blows me away.
We watched for hours. We left for meals, and came back. We dressed more warmly. We cheered until our hands and voices hurt. Still, we weren’t there to cheer the final participant, a man with muscular dystrophy that finished the marathon in 20 hours.
I began to think of the marathon as a metaphor for parenting, and homeschooling. We watched as runners occasionally stopped to stretch, each a sport snack, pop a piece of gum, or do whatever they needed to continue. Now, these were not elite runners, running for a medal. These were people who just wanted to complete the marathon and do their best. In the same way, most of us don’t claim to be parenting experts. We just want to raise our kids the best we can. In order to finish the marathon, which lasts for the entire life of us and our children, we need to occasionally replenish ourselves. Take a nap, get a snack, have a date night with our spouse, take a vacation without children. It’s okay to have interests and friends that nourish us. In all the crush to shuttle the kids between activities and make nutritious foods, all the while limiting screen time and enforcing bedtimes, we forget to feed ourselves. I think about my mental and physical energy as a bank, and if I don’t make deposits to the account, I won’t have anything left to withdraw for my family.
You have to do the work, you have to train. This past brutal winter in Boston, we saw people running. Running in freezing weather, in rain and wind, and on icy streets with 6 foot drifts of snow on either side. Why? Because they were training for the marathon. If I had tried to run the marathon after a winter of eating junk and sitting on the couch, I could have died. DIED, people! Legend has it, original marathon runner,Pheidippides, a Greek messenger running with news from the Battle of Marathon, died. I’m not sure if parenting, or homeschooling, has ever killed anyone. It feels like it could, though. Colic induced sleep deprivation, frantic internet searching to figure out if you need to call the pediatrician or go to the emergency room, baby proofing the myriad dangers in your home, and perfecting you jiggle, dance, walk that soothes the little ones in the early morning. All this requires work, preparation, lots of devotion, and help. Similarly homeschooling every year and every child is different. Parents read up on curriculums, determine their children’s learning styles, create schedules, and keep trying and growing when something doesn’t work. You don’t wake up one day and decide to educate your children at home without many sleepless nights, reading lots of books and blogs, and plenty of experimentation. Make no mistake, you are training for an extreme sport in parenting.
Even so, you can’t control all the conditions. You just prepare as best you can. The big day, it could rain. You could be under the weather. You could get an injury. You just do the best you can. Sometimes, you’re going to have a bad day at the office. The kids will underperform, or refuse to work. The house will be a mess and you will be distracted. You just keep moving. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. On those days, refocus yourself on the most important goals to you. For some, this will be the basic academic work, reading, writing, and arithmetic. For some, this will be foundational memory work for Classical Conversations. For others, this will be habit formation and character development. Read aloud, cuddle, play, and talk to the kids. This is where you are walking….you’ll run again soon.
Don’t forget about the people running the marathon from their wheel chairs, or pushing others in their wheel chairs. That’s just like parenting. You may have a disability, or your child might. That doesn’t mean you don’t run the race. You’re tough, and just like a little rain won’t stop you, being different won’t stop you either.
Don’t forget the role of the spectators. Well wishers will come out and brave the weather just to encourage you. Everybody wins when kids raised well. Sometimes you’ll hit a wall and there will be no one there to help you. Just keep going, another high is just around the corner. Keep that in mind when you’re child is throwing a tantrum in the check out line. Or the whole family has the flu. Soon, you’ll be cuddling your little one and he’ll say, “You’re my favorite mommy.” Keep that in your back pocket for the hard times.
Parenting is hard. Homeschooling is like the extreme version of parenting. Only us crazies choose to do such a thing. Some people will never understand. Sometimes, you’ll doubt it yourself. But just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll reach the finish line.