I paused, his own words overtaking mine. Closing my mouth, I gave him the right of way. I sat silent, stunned. “Ffff—ARRR–Nnnn. No. Far-MM-er. Farmer.” Farmer Alfalfa, a smiling goat garbed in denim and a yellow hat with a piece of straw sticking out the top, sat on his red tractor. Next to him were his fellow workers in Busy Town.Blacksmith Fox. Stitches the Tailor. Grocer Cat. The book sat sprawled across my lap, along with my three-year-old son. My five-year-old boy sat on my left, and my seven-year-old sat to my right, leaning in close and reading words as I had never heard him before. He had a certain look in his eye, a mischief. A secret unfolding.
“Zeke, where did you learn to read these words? Have you been practicing on your own?” I looked at him, my brow furrowed. His little brothers waited for the rest of the story. I did, too, but a different one. Zeke’s grin grew wide. “Yes! I wanted to surprise you. I have been practicing by reading to Ellis and Willy.”
His eyes held a new excitement, and also a developing confidence. In that new confidence, I felt the rug being pulled out from beneath my own insecurities. Reading had not come as easily as I had hoped. A few months before, we had tentatively stepped into our first year of homeschooling, and major doubts swarmed in my mind. Those doubts gained volume as week by week, reading crawled at a snail’s pace, sometimes stalled altogether.
Can I really do this? I kept asking myself. But this evening, with my boy sounding out whole sentences, I realized I had been asking the wrong question. It is one of those ever-present, always-hanging-around questions for us moms. Can I really do this? It nags at our heart and weighs on our shoulders. Sometimes it causes atrophy in our spirit, a suffocation of will. Insecurities so deep, so insistent, that we wonder if God made a mistake in choosing us for this job.
At the root of this question, “Can I really do this?”, sprout a million more questions. Each shooting off in a new dizzying direction, a web of self-confidence bound to decay.
What can I do to make this work?
What am I doing wrong?
How can I do this better?
How can I be a better mom?
As my idea of what his reading should look like dissolved into reality, I took it personally. What was poked holes in all of my assumptions of what should be. In my mind, I was failing. Until I rephrased my question.
What might God do with this one faithful step?
That evening, as my boy’s confidence grew, my own folded into something new, something far more beautiful than self-effort. God had a bigger vision. My son’s ability to read was built on foundations we had been working on over recent months. Phonics, long vowels and short vowels, blended sounds… but ultimately, it wasn’t up to me. Just as the apostle Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
Parenthood is a succession of forward steps demanded by time. They will crawl, walk, potty train, read, socialize, date, drive…. We know each phase is on the horizon, but we wonder what it will actually look like. Deeper, we question whether we’ll be able to do it. Shakily, we walk forward into each new thing. Only we don’t have to. Walk shakily, that is. Instead, we can take bold steps. We do it every time we remember that God has a bigger vision for our kids’ lives, and that He will make much of our small, faithful steps.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
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