I took the baby for a walk this morning, and four of the five older kids wanted to come along too. These kids don’t dawdle behind me anymore or hold onto the side of the stroller, they run/bike/scooter/roller-blade ahead. Even at a walking pace they are faster than me now, and I don’t mind. I watch them spread out ahead of me on the path. They circle back in turn to look at something or to share a thought with me or a sibling. Swinging wide loops they draw me, their anchor, back toward the center of our swarm.
August is always sort of an angsty month for me, as I feel the summer drawing to a close and know that soon I will have to start school. I cling to the freedom of summer. Fall sounds too hard. Just making dinner every night and keeping the bathrooms clean is hard enough…do I really have to do school too? My current daily level of exhaustion is far from zero, and school looms like a mountain before me. I want to rebel. Even more than in February, I need to talk myself down in August.
There are plenty of reasons why my dread of fall and how hard it will be is overblown. Rationally, I know that a day passed in (comparative) idleness and distraction is not actually that much easier for a mom of six than a day ordered by routine and a degree of self-discipline (it is…and it isn’t). Children who have been occupied doing meaningful work are generally more pleasant to be around than those who have lazed all day. Just re-instituting (again) the practice of meal-planning will make dinners easier. When I have not been maintaining the routines of the school year, they begin to look like taskmasters that will make my life more difficult; but I know that once their rhythm is re-established, they are actually comfortable friends that serve me well.
I can tell myself all these things that I know are true, but it still doesn’t make me want to ring in the fall. That is the mental struggle of August.
But now I look at these children in front of me, and I really see them, each of them. I see where they’ve grown this summer, and where they need to grow. I think about what each of them needs from me this year, and the privilege that is mine to meet those needs and be witness to that growth. I think about how few years I have left with the oldest ones, about what a gift this time with them truly is and all the ways I want to use it well. I really look at these children, and my heart overflows in doxology.
Praise God for these children!
Praise God for the time I have with them!
Praise God for eyes to really see them!
My heart leaps with spontaneous praise, and instantly I am eager for fall. What a gift, that out of thanksgiving comes an earnest desire for vocation.
My plans for the fall are a work in progress. Everyone has grown a year older, and so the academics continue to ratchet up by degrees. A mobile baby will require some strategizing. I’m finally ready to admit that a Cindy Rollins-style Morning Time just may fit the bill for bringing back in some of the enriching things that have slipped out of our days in the past year or two. But let me add one more thing to the list: let’s make sure to take some morning walks. I see my children everyday, but I want to make sure I build in some time to really look at them.
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their six children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.