This afternoon, I found my son curled up in a chair, in his mother’s office, twirling his new shield of faith necklace in a loop of discouragement. It was evident he had an issue, which of course I asked him about, and which brought me the usual denial – “it’s nothing” – and the normal follow-up from me. The kids had spent the day with me recovering from a late night church trip to Naples, FL the night before, so I expected them to be tired, especially since they then were treated to a field trip to the zoo by the church tutoring group they attend, but this was obviously more than just fatigue driven malaise. My follow-up questioning revealed the reasoning behind my son’s discouragement. Another child in the group had told him that homeschool was not “real school”.
Before I recount my response, I should preface this episode by explaining that we have always made sure the kids continued to interact with public school students. The church tutoring program serves two purposes for us – one, of keeping the kids in an educational setting while I work my hours at the church, and two, to help them maintain an understanding of how to work in groups where varying styles and learning abilities abound. Despite my belief in the strength of independent learning, I understand that much of the kids’ learning will take place in class settings, whether or not they remain in family learning. Both Marcus and Naomi are now old pros at redirecting those that level the dreaded “where do you go to school” questions, and they both seem to fit in well in any group of peers, homeschool or public schooled. But it seems this friend of Marcus’, who attends the magnet school down the street, has been a thorn in his side for a while. I can’t help but believe this boy is threatened by Marcus’ ability, and finds ways to deinergrate Marcus at every turn.
So how did I handle my son’s obvious pain at being singled out by this condescending remark? I wish I had been more loving, and more accepting of his feelings. But I was mostly concerned of the power he had given his friend by accepting his words. So my advice to him was to remember what he knew was true – that his homeschooling was very real, that he was able to individually determine his own learning, and that no ill-informed comment from another student could change that. I don’t know if it made him feel better right away, but by days end he was back to his normal self.
This episode closed off a day that reminded me of the power of words and how we can use them positively or negatively. I’ve been listening to Donald Lawrence’s new album “The Law of Confession” (Thanks Kelli), which focuses on the power of God’s Word and speaking what God has said. It made me evaluate our weekend conversations, and I realized that much of what I and my wife have been speaking had been negative. We’ve spoken in terms that imply our problems will not go away, or we’ve cast our own doubts on our goals. And the question came to me – “Why?” Why should we speak anything contrary to what we want to happen? This is not an Anthony Robbins type “positive thinking” lesson, but it does imply that there’s no reason for negative self-talk. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”, and if we are abundant in hope, hopeful words should emerge. If we have hearts full of fear, then fearful words emerge. Buoyed by this revelation, I turned to my wife this morning, and told her that as far as I’m concerned, we’re going to only speak hope, life, and great things concerning our plans and dreams, and then let God move how he will.
The same goes for our children. I’m repenting of all the times I’ve been slow to speak life into my children for fear of being too ‘rosy’. Life will give them enough chances to experience when their goals will have waiting periods attached. While I have them, I should speak the greatness that God put in them, and let God sort out the rest. I must admit I already failed in this respect – my 17 year old was on the trip with us to Naples, and was sitting shotgun. I should have encouraged him to be navigator, talked up his ability. But instead I let him slip into video game hypnosis, and then teased him into leaving the post. Bad move. I can only pray I get another chance to build him up in a situation like that, for I know not how many more chances I will get.
I encourage all dads, and moms as well, to speak great things this week. It’s not unrealistic or pie-in-the-sky thinking. It’s simply agreeing with God that His plans for us are for good and not evil, to bring us to a pleasant end (Jeremiah 29:11),and that His will for us is the same for our families. If the Word is enough to save us, it’s enough to secure us as well. Then our kids will be able to handle the negative words sent by others, because they’ll have a storage of positive ones that will fill up any space the negative words would occupy. It’s up to us.
Until next time,
speak those things….