My Soccer Mom duties began very early this morning.  I seemed to have existed in a semi-conscious state throughout most of the night because somewhere around 5:00 a.m. I needed to make sure my husband got out of bed to take my third son to the bus for soccer camp.  I take my Soccer Mom duties seriously….I do what I can.  I didn’t really need to worry about it though because this particular son has always been very good at getting up and getting to his stuff on time, and he was more than capable of waking his dad.  He’s got a lot of me in him though as he tends to subconsciously worry about things….as is exhibited when he gets up in the middle of the night to get ready sometimes.  And, when that happens, there’s a slight possibility that he may oversleep.  So, just to cushion the anxiety about getting up in time this morning, I helped him out by sleeping lightly and restlessly all night.  You’re welcome, Son.

Soccer is the first sport I put any of my kids in….even before swimming lessons.  Why?  Whenever the city’s recreation brochure arrived in the mail, I would scour it to see if there was anything in which my kids were old enough to participate because I was aware that parents put their kids in activities.  I didn’t grow up participating in any activities other than swim lessons (we just played in the neighborhood).  But with my kids, it seemed it was the thing to do once they were old enough to take part in anything because that’s what every other parent was doing with their children.  I was such a sheep.  Now a days I don’t worry so much about keeping up with what all the other parents and kids are doing.

Anyway, they had to be four for swimming lessons….unless they did the Mommy & Me class, but HELLO…..I was knee deep in boys by the time the oldest was three, so Mommy & Me was OUT!  But, soccer….back in the day they let kids start soccer at the age of three.  As my brood grew, the age changed to four; but my first three all began at the age of three.  So, soccer it was!  I didn’t ask them.  I just signed them up, took them to “practices”, and showed up to cheer for them at the games.  When they were little, those games were priceless to watch.  It was such a simple, innocent pleasure watching these clueless, adorable three year olds run around to try to kick the ball without touching it.  Or, they would play in the grass….oblivious to the game being played around them.

As with all the children out on the field, some of my kids “got it” and some didn’t.  Some of them enjoyed it, while others tolerated it.  Most of them played soccer for a few years.  But, my Jordan not only understood the game fully at the age of three, but he LOVED it.  He has been passionate about soccer his whole life.  It is his thing.  This picture shows him in one of his first games at the age of three.  The shirt was a little big and/or he was a little small.  But, what he lacked in size he made up for in determination and tenacity.  He always showed up to play hard and win the game.

1999 Jordan Soccer - 2

Through the years he has played on various recreational teams depending on our moves….always excelling and giving 110% on the field.  When he reached the age for tryouts, he played a year with his age group, then a year with boys at the next age up as he was preparing himself for high school soccer and wanted more of a challenge.  High school soccer came, and he made the varsity team as a freshman.  Everything was going his way, and he was having the time of his life.

But, then we moved.  Not only did we move, but we moved to a state which does not allow homeschoolers to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports.  Because our state had allowed homeschooler participation, I never even considered a state wouldn’t; and, regretfully, I never checked into it.  Hindsight is 20/20.

So, Jordan made the best of it, tried to stay positive, and joined a club team in a nearby city .  He was playing with boys older than himself once again, but this time he didn’t know any of them….and it made a difference.  The joy for the game was quickly lost to the point that he chose to not try out for the next season.  I was surprised to see our days of schlepping soccer chairs across various soccer fields every Saturday morning come to an abrupt end.  I didn’t see it coming.  But, I also wasn’t going to force him to play if he wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

He had a plan though.  His plan was to keep practicing, gain strength and size, and somehow find a way to play.  He joined adult leagues, he played with whoever showed up at the field on Saturday mornings, he played with all different nationalities even when he didn’t know what they were saying. Soccer is and was their universal language so it worked out for him.  He was beginning to love to play again….the joy was returning.  One nice young gentleman even stepped in to offer to train him one-on-one because he could see the potential and passion Jordan has for soccer.  I believe God placed him in Jordan’s path for a purpose.  Jordan was wise enough to accept his offer.  Yes.  He could have been a weirdo, stalker, serial killer kind of guy.  But he’s not.  He truly was and is a good man simply following his heart to help.

But, one thing was still missing….the chance to try to earn a scholarship to play college soccer.  At one point, Jordan planned to try to walk onto a team at college.  But, after much perseverance and working through many hurdles, hoops and obstacles; Jordan found a way to play high school soccer for this upcoming season.  It was not a simple process as the high schools in our district do not have soccer programs for high schoolers.  He had to find a way to be allowed to play as a transfer student in the next county.  Because he’s out-of-district, and because he has been home schooled his whole life, the process has been lengthy.  But, this fall he will enter the public school system for the first time as a senior in high school so that he can have a chance to fulfill his dream to play collegiate soccer.

This morning we put him on a bus with his new team as they headed to Missouri for a four-day camp in the 100 degree temperatures.  The kid has GOT to love soccer to do that!  It will be a first for us to have a child in the public school system.  There will be much to learn as we are unfamiliar with the whole system, and it’s been thirty years since I was part of a public school system.  It’s a little intimidating to go from a homeschool class of one to a 6-A school with class sizes in the hundreds.  I have no doubt he will do fine.  I hope the very best for him.  I hope and pray that it is a good year, a growing year, and a year filled with making memories and dreams come true.  And, what will it do for his socialization?  That remains to be seen.

You know, in the past, the times that I have slept the best, kept the house the cleanest, and had enough time for everyone were the times when my houses were on the market.  Yes, I had to be vigilant about keeping them show-ready which wasn’t always fun….but it wasn’t hard once the clutter was gone.  It’s the “having the house show-ready”…..having all the clutter gone and out of sight….that makes it so much more enjoyable.  That’s my goal…to achieve that kind of peace.  But, there is a mental block that stops me every time I try to declutter.

A friend mentioned purging yesterday.  I wasn’t sure if she meant vomiting or getting rid of stuff, but she clarified….getting rid of stuff.  Novel idea.  First of all, nobody ever taught me to purge, to get rid of stuff, to only keep what you need.  I love that idea, but for some reason….probably because I was raised by a mom who saved everything — and I mean EVERYTHING….I haven’t been able to achieve success in this area.  I was taught to hoard, not purge.  I love watching Hoarders, by the way.  It makes me feel not so bad about my house.  It even makes me feel a little smug and superior that my house isn’t that bad.  Anyway, now, as an adult, even though I know the peace I have when things are kept to a minimum, I can’t seem to unlock the part of my brain that believes I can let go of STUFF.

Secondly, I have made a few attempts at decluttering in the past.  And, you know what?  I have regrets.  I gave away my mom’s mixer….the one I grew up with.  I bet some thrift shop was thrilled to have that.  I gave away china tea cups.  I gave away one of my second son’s cherished stuffed animals — two, actually.  It was a little mommy panda bear and a little baby panda bear.  I knew he had to plea with his grandma to even let him have both of them one Christmas, but I didn’t realize they were that important to him until he was gathering his prized childhood possessions one year to store away…and he couldn’t find those bears.  I’m sure there are more regrets….those are the ones that come to mind at the moment.

But, somebody please tell me why I think I need to keep 22 beach towels when in the last two years only the two little ones have gone swimming much?  I can count on one hand the number of times anyone else in the family has gone swimming.  So, maybe I can justify keeping 8 towels….but 22?  And, bed sheets….how many of those do I need to keep?  The list goes on and on.

Obviously from the items I’ve listed above, I began trying to declutter the closet with towels and bed sheets (and a bunch of other ridiculous stuff that I don’t know what to do with).  All I’ve managed to do is pull it all out and make a mess; and then I needed a coffee break…..and the dog needed his daily snuggle too.  So I sat down to ponder why I can’t purge.

Anyone?  Anyone?  What’s the secret to letting go of stuff…stuff I never use and don’t need?  Stuff that keeps me awake at night and takes valuable time to rotate.  Stuff that simply takes up space.  I’ve done Flylady.  I’ve read all the decluttering books and tips.  The fact is….I haven’t made up my mind to do it yet.  It’s like when you decide to choose to eat more healthily, and you try about 3,000 times to follow through….but then one day you finally do it.  Something switches in your brain, and there’s no turning back.  I need the purge switch turned on.  Life’s too short to let the stuff consume me.

Social Media.  Today’s generation will never know a world without it, just as my generation doesn’t remember a time without television.  I wonder if Social Media has been around long enough that the powers that be or at the least curious scientists can now study and measure the effects (both positive and negative) of this giant social experiment in which we humans seem to be so willing and eager to participate?  I know it’s been around for a while — even though I didn’t personally get sucked into it until January 25, 2009.

But, the fact is, I did get sucked in….to Facebook.  MySpace was before my time…..I mean we old folks didn’t seem to get involved with that….at least not as far as I’m aware.  We left MySpace for the younger generation.  But, for some reason, we older people joined in the game with Facebook, followed by Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram….Are there more?  I may not even be aware of all that is out there.  And, yes, I know Linkedin is for professionals and managing business contacts.  It may not be fair to throw it in there.  But, it seems to me, that all these social media sites provide both positive and negative implications.  The question I have is:  Are the positives enough to outweigh the negatives and justify continuing participation in one or more of these social media forums?

The only form of Social Media I have joined is Facebook, so I really can’t speak about the rest.  Once I joined Facebook and quickly developed a seeming addiction toward it, I knew it would be wise to not allow myself to join any other.  At least I’m wise enough that way.  But I question the wisdom of staying with Facebook almost daily.  And yet, for some reason, it’s the first thing I look at when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep.  Something is wrong with that right there.  That’s not how it should be.  That’s not what I want.  But, it’s almost like a diet when you tell yourself you won’t ever, ever, ever eat another grain of sugar again.  Ten minutes later you are scarfing down a 2 lb bag of Peanut M&Ms.  It’s like that.  For some reason, when I tell myself to not look at Facebook until such and such is done, I get all twitchy and unfocused and I NEED to check my Facebook.  (Like I’ve checked it at least 5 times while writing this blog).  Then I check it only to find out that there’s really nothing in my feed worth seeing.  But, instead of getting off of the site, I end up wasting precious time.  I end up clicking a video which promises to hold something amazing to see at minute 1:27, or I click a picture of some friend only to end up navigating my way into pictures of their friends and their friends, etc….until I finally realize I have just wasted 30 minutes looking at pictures of people I don’t even know.  And, even though I catch myself wondering what in the heck I’m doing, I keep doing it.  Right there…..that’s my problem.  None of you people reading this probably even have that problem….but I do.  Over and over and over again.  This is actually when my adequate organizational, parenting and homemaking skills began to wane.  I blamed it on the onset of menopause when I lost concentration and organization….but I really think a huge contributing factor was the onset of Facebook in my life.

And, it’s not just the time wasted on Facebook that has me questioning why I keep returning to it.  There’s the friend thing, and the game thing, and the stalking thing, and the worst — the comparing my life with everyone else’s life.

The friend thing.   Yes.  That.  When you first join Facebook with fear and trepidation that you will expose too much of yourself or that you will somehow make an idiot of yourself (which you quickly end up doing somehow), you have no friends.  But only for a second.  As soon as the first friend invites you, word gets out that you are on there; and people from your past and/or present come out of the woodwork like there’s no tomorrow.  The friend requests pour in and you can’t keep up.  You can’t even remember who some people are, but you see people you know who are friends with them so you must be friends with them, and so you accept their friend requests.  You start feeling all popular and loved and immediately you must respond to every single request and message.  Forget about dinner.  Forget about school.  Forget about the kids.  You have got Facebook friends, by gosh!  Friends!  It’s not every day an introverted recluse all of a sudden has 50 friends.  Nevermind, that I don’t “know” them anymore.  They were in high school or college with me, and I once knew them….so we are friends!  The important thing at this point is obtaining the most amount of friends.  Gotta get more friends.  You begin feeling pretty smug about all your friends until you see they have 1,202, 937, or 339 friends on their lists.  Need. More. Friends.

And, then…the negative of the friends thing.  As you are steadily climbing the friends ladder, gaining a few here and a few there….all the while keeping close tabs on your count…..you notice your number drops.  Wait — What?  Before you know it you begin losing friends and family….real friends and family because of something you “liked” or didn’t “like” or because of something you said or didn’t say.   Whatever it is.  I have had friends mad at me for over a year, unbeknownst to me.  I have lost friends and family over the silliest stuff.  These are friends and family I would still have today if it weren’t for Facebook.  And, it goes both ways.  Sometimes you start getting hurt or upset with other people and decide to unfriend (or at least hide) them.  This.  This is one big negative of Social Media.

Another huge negative is the game thing.  Personally, I haven’t got sucked into the game thing.  Once I joined Farmville, but only for a day or two because just like in real life…as soon as I realized I had to have neighbors and socialize with them on Farmville, I deleted that game.  That’s way too much stress for a person like me.  What bothers me the most with the game thing is all the requests to play games.  You get all excited to see you have a notification….somebody wants to actually talk to you or likes something you posted.  But, then, it’s just another game request.  Major bummer.  And, the game requests clutter up your feed.  You try to block them or hide them, but they get back in there.  Annoying really.

Next I mentioned stalking.  Yeah.  That takes up too much time now doesn’t it?  I’m guilty of it.  Like I said above, I end up stalking people I don’t even know.  What’s up with that?  That’s just weird.  Makes me wonder if people are stalking me.  Then I get paranoid.  Then I question again if I should be on there or have pictures of my kids on there.  And, once again, it’s not enough to deter me, yet.

Finally, I think the number one reason I need to consider stepping away from social media is that I find myself constantly comparing what I see as my regular, boring world to everyone else’s highlight reel.  People are posting pictures of fabulous vacations, awesome kids, wonderful stories, etc.  I’m supposed to be happy for these “friends” of mine.  And I am.  Really, I am.  But, I also get all down on myself because I’m not out there running 5Ks every weekend or traveling the world or getting together with friends or whatever it may be.  I’m watching America’s Got Talent and eating cheese.  While that certainly can be fun….it makes me feel like my life isn’t enough.  I know it’s not true, but the constant status updates of all the highlights often messes with my mind.  Often makes me feel like I’m not enough.

So, I continue to ponder the great Social Media debate in my head.  Life is too short to be living it mostly online with virtual friends rather than in person with real friends…..not that I have a lot of those, but I do have a few.  Additionally, I’m not setting any kind of example about discipline and focusing on real life around me when my kids see me on Facebook.  My older boys have done well to police their time on social media once they settled down after the initial excitement and newness of it wore off.  They didn’t grow up seeing me on Facebook….they remember a time before Facebook.  I want my younger ones to have those kinds of memories….memories away from the social media world.  Ideally, I would be happy if they never got caught up in any form of social media.  Realistically, that seems almost impossible in the world we live in today.  So I’ll settle for wishing that as they grow up in this age of social media that they don’t get caught up in the addiction of it, but rather that they view it is a sometimes thing rather than an all-time-consuming thing.

I first noticed an ad in the paper.  Then I saw it for myself in the store….and then another store….and then another.  Back-to-school supplies!  I actually love back-to-school supplies.  I love the way they represent the beginning of a brand new opportunity.  I love the way they smell and feel and how neat and tidy they are before being used.  But the fact that they are already out there…that does not seem possible (mostly because I’m still limping along with my youngest three trying to finish their school from last year).  But, it is time.  The next season, the next school year, the next thing in life is going to happen whether I get those last nine second grade math lessons done with my daughter or not.

There are parts of the whole back-to-school time of year that I like.  I remember this time in my childhood with fondness.  It’s not like I ever got brand new school clothes or even new school supplies.  But I remember being excited to go back to school after a long summer of playing outdoors from dawn until way past dark.  We played hard, and summer seemed to be long….at least long enough that I was always ready for the change of seasons.  I was ready to wear clothes instead of the swimsuit I had been sporting for the past three months.  I was always ready for the crisp, cool temperatures that came with autumn, getting back to school to see my friends, and football season.

Now a days it seems this back-to-school time comes too quickly.  That’s partly because I’m much older now, and we all know how fast time flies by the older you get.  I wonder though if it slows down after a certain age and goes back to feeling like time is forever…the way it did in childhood?

Another reason it seems to come too quickly is that we don’t take the full summer “off”.  Maybe next year <sigh>.  To date, I have never felt caught up enough to take it off.  But, it seems we don’t make much progress anyway as we all feel the weight of the never-ending school work that remains undone as we trudge through the days with enough activities to completely fill our days.

Additionally, a summer without a family vacation of some kind does not seem like summer at all. That has been the case this summer for us.  However, my family only had two vacations during my entire childhood, and every summer still felt very much like summer.  I think it’s mostly the school thing.

I’m learning we need some down time….some time to do nothing….to soak in the summer and sun and carefreeness of these days.  We need time to rejuvenate and just be.  Personally, I’ve been enjoying my own definition of the dog days of summer since my children have been at theater practice every day this month.  Most of the days I’ve managed to squander away this valuable get-stuff-done time sitting and snuggling with the dog — my very own dog days of summer!  But I think my children might need a little of that R & R, too.

So, even though the school supplies are on display….even though the public-schooled kids will be heading back to the classrooms earlier this year…..even though we aren’t (or never will be) caught up, I do think we will take some time off before beginning a “new” year.  It may not be much time, but a little time is all we need.  Of course, I’ll still be participating fully in the back-to-school sales.  I just won’t be needing many of the supplies right away.  They will wait, neatly packaged, until we are ready to begin again.

It seems I’ve reached a crossroads.  It’s not like I have to make an important decision, like when you need to choose whether to attend college or backpack across Asia….or choose to move across the country or stay put but wonder how you will pay your mortgage and feed your family.  It’s not a major decision I need to consider.  What I need to decide is what to do with the Chore Chart.

I think it was about twelve years ago or so that I created a well-thought out array displaying chores for boys old enough to participate.  The chores were assigned according to their age and ability….I believe the first chore chart included three boys.  And they were thrilled to have the guidelines and responsibility.  It was fun and adventuresome for them.  For a while, they dutifully performed their assigned chores with pride and eagerness.  You would almost think we were one of those magazine-cover-perfect-homeschooling families….almost.

Each year on January 1st, they looked forward to seeing a revised Chore Chart assigning them different chores for the year.  What new chores would they have for the year ahead?  Exciting stuff!  As other children grew to an age where they too could help, they would be integrated into the Chore Chart based on their abilities.  Everyone was eager to reach the age of inclusion.

It worked well for a while….or so I thought.  What eventually became the norm was for one or two of the boys to dutifully do their chores, while the others were content to let their assigned chores slide. Ultimately, those still working became frustrated and also gave up.  What began as a fun adventure where they all pitched in and did their part evolved into me checking the Chore Chart when some task absolutely needed to be done and then finding the respective kid and reminding him to do it….often reminding over and over again.  Exhausting!

That describes the latest product of the once-respected Chore Chart.  A few years ago when my oldest began college, I had to begin switching the chores on the Chore Chart in August because I took him off the chore chart.  Why?  It was because I remembered hearing one well-respected homeschooling mom of ten kids tell me that’s what she did when her first went to college….so being the follower I am, that’s what I did.  Of course, the next few boys didn’t think it was fair at all.  But, it didn’t really matter because we were already well into operating on nobody-does-their-chores-until-Mom-tells-yells-for-them-to-do-them anyway.  Well, everyone except the youngest.  She was finally happy to have made it to an age where her name was on the Chore Chart.  Actually…yes, she was happy to see her name added, but she doesn’t really do her chores either.  She was simply happy to be included on the chart.

So, this leads me to my current conundrum.  August is only a few weeks away.  It’s time to update and change the chart.  But, is it really worth my time and effort to create something nobody is going to adhere to anyway?  To be fair, son number two will be taken off the chart for he will be heading to college in the fall.  The college boys are never really home enough to keep up with the daily chores, so it really does make sense.  Although they could and should help out when they are home.  The four remaining children should be able to help me keep the house moving along…..if they would actually do their chores.

But, it’s not happening.  I’m growing weary from being the constant drill sergeant, and I’m beginning to wonder if there is a better way.  Maybe I need a Help Your Mom Out Because It Is The Right Thing To Do Chart…..or a Pick Up After Yourself Chart.…or a Character Development Chart.  Or maybe I just need to let it go and only assign the chores that absolutely have to get done like trash on trash day, bathrooms and dishes.  Although….on the dishes…it turns out boys are perfectly fine with leaving the dirty dishes undone all day or all night.  They don’t share my desire to keep the kitchen island clutter-free or dish-free.  Some people….a lot of people…hire maids or cleaning ladies.  I don’t see that happening here.  And, there’s no reason it should have to happen.  There are enough able-bodied people who eat here, sleep here, live here, and make messes here that I’m pretty sure there has to be a way to get them to help out around here.  I just haven’t figure out the best way to make that happen yet.  I’m at a crossroads.

I began writing this blog back in 2012, stopped writing as quickly as I started, and then returned to it in January of this year, 2014.  With that first post for this year, I wrote about trying to keep my kitchen island clutter-free.  I figure it’s about time to for update on how that is going.

It took me thirty minutes to completely clear my kitchen island.  That about sums up how it’s going.  Everyone still dumps everything in their arms onto the island as they enter the house from the garage.  They don’t dump it in the mudroom because there is no giant flat space begging to collect clutter in there.  Oh, how I wish there was!  No.  They bypass the room designed to hold all messes and deposit their stuff on the island.  I’d like to say I’ve cleared it every night before bed, but I’m still working on that.  However, I did clear it yesterday, and this is what it looked like.  I forgot to take a before shot.

7:9:14 kitchen island

And, then, I realized I still need much help with decor.   I have a lot of challenges….decorating is one of them.  This island is too big and overwhelming for me.  While I understand that nobody is going to cry for me that my kitchen island is the size of Rhode Island…t’s not a third world crisis, a health scare, or an emergency of any kind; I still would like to try to make my house into a home and learn to add few touches here and there….despite my inability to make a decision about decor.  Interior design comes as naturally to me as horticulture.  Neither are on my resume, by the way.  I’m capable of googling and looking at pretty magazine pictures; but then when I get to a store, I second guess anything I’ve decided or thought I had decided.  All of a sudden, everything becomes blurry…I become disoriented.  I spend precious time looking, but never deciding or buying.  So, I put the word out to my Facebook friends to help me.

And, help me, they did.  Thank you, friends.  They commented with several great ideas which I have tried to process.  Then, today I went into Hobby Lobby, which I almost never do because craftiness is not my forte either.  But, I do know they have lots of fun stuff and lots of marked-down stuff.

As usual, I got into the store and slipped into a sort of trance as my eyes surveyed all the options and the room started spinning.  I kept walking in circles with my two littles trailing behind wondering what in the heck I was doing.  I eventually told them they could go look at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas….yes it’s all out….I know it happens ever stinking season.  But, really?  Does it have to go that fast?  I’m not even done with school from last year.  Slow down, world!  I need to catch up!

Anyway, I walked in circles by myself for a while, considering several objects for my island.  But, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t make a decision….even at 66% off. It seems I have a fear of commitment when it comes to home decor.  I left empty-handed, and I thought I might go back to the store later with my 19 year old artist son.  I call him my “Franck Banks” (pronounced: Fronck Bonks).  Franck Eggelhoffer (Martin Short) is the wedding planner character from Father of The Bride with Steve Martin.  In the sequel, George Banks (Steve Martin) jokes about naming their baby Franck Banks.  So, when I call him Franck Banks, he knows I’m needing his artistic, natural-flair-for-decorating help

But, then, between leaving the store and actually getting to talk with my very own Franck Banks, I began thinking that I don’t want to invest in just “anything”.  I don’t want to spend money on stuff I don’t truly love.  To me, I would simply be adding to the clutter, except it would be costly clutter bought on purpose instead of random clutter abandoned out of laziness.

So, my newest plan is to seek out antiques and only things I love for this space….with my Franck Banks, of course.   I do appreciate antiques, and I would rather purchase antiques for this space than buy something to solely take up space.

However, being the frugal person I am, I can’t simply walk into an antique store and pay any price.  I need to be patient until I find what I love at a price I can live with.  This should be easy enough with garage sales and thrift stores aplenty.   Ahhhh….another dilemma.  I’m not one of those people who can garage sale, dumpster dive, or thrift shop and emerge with the most fabulous decor.  Not me.  Give me a shoe box, some old baskets, and some various-sized jars; and all I’m going to make out of them is a linear display of a shoe box, some old baskets, and some various-sized jars.  I can’t do it.  I can’t make treasure out of trash.  But I also can’t bring myself to spend money on decor that may or may not work in this space….or any space for that matter.

So, in the end, or at least at the time of this writing, there really is no update on the kitchen island…. other than the fact that I’m still managing the clutter.  I suppose, in a way, all I’ve really done is transfer the island clutter to the blog….blog clutter….simply taking up time and space on the blog.

“Hey, Mom!  The strangest thing happened to me today!  They told me to sing quieter!” exclaimed my little girl full of natural exuberance and zest for life.

I smiled.

I smiled because she wasn’t the least bit fazed by their request.  I smiled because my guess is they asked her to sing more quietly so her possible off-key singing wouldn’t be heard.  I could be wrong.  Her singing may be fine, but her natural loudness may be overwhelming.  But, she is my daughter….and I was once told, in a more direct manner, that my voice “clashed” with all the other girls’ voices.  This news delivered to me in front of my entire sixth grade class did affect me.  I was at a pivotal age of self-consciousness.  It caused me embarrassment, altered my confidence level, and caused me to avoid trying out for choir and taking many other chances in the years to come.  Had that one incident not occurred, I may have actually learned to sing.  I may have even been able to come up with some sort of talent when I later discovered pageants.  But, that’s a whole ‘nother  story.

As I looked down into her big, brown, innocent eyes; I smiled.  And I wished I could bottle up the wonder of that eight-year-old exuberance to keep forever.  I love that she is still young enough that their suggestion did not leave her feeling less than or even questioning that she may be out of tune.  I love her innocence.  I love her infectious joy for life.  I love that she is still carefree and uninhibited.  I love that she is joyful and confident in being herself…that she is brave and doesn’t worry what anyone else thinks or says.  She is a cheerful, carefree, animated, bright, entertaining, refreshing, spirited little girl.  Life has not chipped away at her hopes and dreams and self-esteem, yet.  Her spirit has not been crushed.  Her self-confidence is still healthy.  Oh, what I would give to be able to keep it that way.

But I know better.  I know life can be brutal even when it is beautiful.  I know it only takes a couple of unkind words or an unfair judgement or even an unintentional carelessly crafted criticism to begin breaking down the self-confidence, courage, dreams and inner strength which was once unwavering.

And it often happens so gradually that one day that child who is courageous enough to try anything all of a sudden finds himself timid, shy and guarded.  Children don’t even know it’s happening, so they don’t share with their parents when someone may have said or done something which tears them down.  So, obviously, unsuspecting parents are unable to know when their child may need building up.  Before long, the negative incidents stack up and ultimately attack a child’s self-image leaving them scarred, scared, uncertain, and searching for identity.

Homeschooling obviously allows me to protect them some….for a while.  But, inevitably, we are all exposed to all that is out there….both positive and negative.  As a parent, I obviously wish I could shield my children from any hurts, any disappointments, any rejections.  But, I can’t.  What I can do is try to give them a healthy foundation so when they step out into the sometimes cruel world, that  they will know who they are, what they are, and that they can reach for their goals and dreams no matter what obstacles lay in their paths.  Additionally, I can teach them to always treat others with respect and kindness…..teach them to build others up rather than tear them down.

No matter what life has in store for all my children…..no matter who they may meet in life….young or old, rich or poor, kind or unkind, fair or unfair….what I hope is that my children will look at others and remember that each person they come in contact with has has a story and a purpose….a dream and a soul.  Life may or may not have taken a toll on the aspirations and desires of the people they will encounter.  But we all have hurts; and somewhere underneath the layers of hurt, each of us still has an eight-year-old child full of wonder and excitement, hopes and dreams, confidence and courage wanting to live life uninhibited.

So remember to greet people with a smile, be kind, build them up today.  It may make all the difference in the direction of their life!




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