Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dreams Unfulfilled-Reality Misunderstood

Dreams unfulfilled.  Our lives are full of them. As a single person I dreamt of my perfect spouse, job, and home. As spouses we dream of our life and how to build our future. How do we fit God, family, saving, retirement into our lives. As parents we start our families with many dreams for the futures of our children. You know them all: a healthy life, marriage, education, a family of their own.  I am sure we could make a long list, but as time passes we realize that there are empty hopes, many disappointments.  For some of us the reality of life is not what we thought.  I call it, reality misunderstood.  

What shapes our dreams.  What influences our reality? For me, it is several things.  As I grew older and matured, my spousal dreams changed and my family dreams evolved.  My Christianity affected my dreams, then my home school relationships affected my dreams.  Every person, every relationship, every job, every church involvement, and yes, even my views of our government affected my dreams.  
Now, as I have pondered my experiences , I actually realize the great importance of every mental, physical, and spiritual influence that fell into my life.  One of the things I have learned is that I should have been more discerning about which of these experiences I should have allowed as part of my dreams. Although I am a great proponent of homeschooling, I have grave misgivings about some of the fringe groups of home schooling and some of the “gospel” they teach that we have “believed or bought” for a time.  Although I am a firm believer in Christianity and Jesus Christ, I am extremely leery of the “church” and its structure.  Although I believe in a small government, I also realize that there has to be “rules or laws” for the common good of the residents of this country. Although I believe that God’s laws should rule our hearts, I also believe we can’t legislate everyone’s morality.  In the end, we will all stand before God and give account for our lives.

I have four children.  Three boys and one girl.  Their birth order is boy, girl, boy, boy. Our homeschooling journey was 12 years long. The reason for stopping was that my husband became ill and I had to work to provide good insurance.  I tried homeschooling while working and no matter how I arranged my schedule, I just couldn’t do both and do justice to the education and life my children needed.  
My oldest son, who is now 28 years old, was always a challenge from the day he was born. He wasn’t happy unless he was moving or watching something moving.  At 3 months old he would sit in front of the TV and watch tennis.  I could see his head moving side to side watching the ball go from court to court.  I knew he was going to need lots of structure and a very disciplined life.  My other children were easy babies and just followed along with the program.  

So how would I implement my dreams for my children to be successful in their adult life.   Being a perfectionist I wanted to do it the “right” way.  I just figured there was a formula that would work.  What better formula than “God’s” formula.  My husband and I were very involved in a home Christian ministry that was very much a cult. At the time we were unaware. We decided that we would use the Word of God to raise our children.  Instead of reading God’s word and asking God for guidance, we listened to other Christians in our ministry and their way of implementing God’s word.  God’s word was very true, but the practical implementation of His truth was so wrong, but we were very naive. We were following a ministry’s idea of what God’s word said, and missing what God would really have us do.  I am sure this contributed to some of the issues we have with our children.  I also tended to be like my mom, I was going to yell you into obedience.  Good gravy, my how I have changed since then.  We got rid of the cult part of our life and moved on with God.

My two youngest started in public school. As time passed I realized this wasn’t working for us.  I tried working through issues with the system, but they just would help educationally.  Our adventure in homeschooling didn’t start for religious reasons.  It started because I wanted my children to have an excellent and safe education. I took the opportunity to give them God’s word in their schooling hoping this would help them as they grew older.  

Our homeschooling years were wonderful while we lived in a large metropolitan area.  There was diversity in the homeschool community.  We had a plethora of activities and organizations to help keep us active int he community.  We did AWANA, sports, and all the usual things families did with their children.  Sure, I was at wits end some days. We’ve all been there, but mostly, we were a happy crew.  Then one day, our lives would change forever.  My husband lost his job, and we moved to a small town.

It was a drastic change for our family, because even though they had a homeschool group locally, we lost all of the opportunities we had in large town USA for our children to be active.  We did have co-op day and for a season we could play sports at the Christian school, but things were different and I felt like we didn’t fit.  The only children my kids new were the local homeschool kids and some of them just didn’t like the way we lived our lives: TV, the books we read, computer games, you know it all.  

Doubt again crept into my mind about how were were bringing our children up.  By now, we had gotten rid of every Disney movie we owned, remember the fad that Disney was evil?  No offense if you still think it is, it just wasn’t right for our family. So I started reading things by the P's, B's, L's, and the likes.  I should have seen the red flag right away.  Very drastic parenting!!!  Very cold parenting done under the guise that doing it God’s way was loving.  Doing it God’s way is loving but their ways were far from loving. They were harsh.

I do want to clarify something. All these people did have something good to say about parenting, but not all of the practical application was wise.  I would buy all their wares at conventions and see them speak and start implementing their ideas as soon as I got home.  My poor children. I had them involved in a cult again.  I’m sorry if you find “cult” offensive, but that is truly what my heart believes.   I had bought into if you do A, B, and C your children will go from obeying you at home, and into their adulthood without rebelling.  That was truly “Reality Misunderstood.”

This was a critical time in the lives of my older children.  They were becoming teenagers and young adults and all my experimenting and being so rigid did a number on them.  Before I go on, I do not blame myself for everything that happened in my children’s lives.  At some point they need to take responsibility for their poor choices and move on.  I have apologized to all my children for my mistakes.  That said, the teen years and early adulthood in my two oldest were extremely tumultuous. 

One of the contributing factors to my children and their rebellion, was peer pressure from the “perfect”  homeschool family in our support group.  Everyone looked to them and their children were to be emulated. I felt pressure to live up to their standards.  What I failed to realize, was the their standards were right for them and our standards were right for us.  My children were ridiculed for games they played, books they read; you name it.  Foolishly, I tried to make my children conform.  I would get tired of the phone calls after overnight trips with the church telling me my son was reading a book they found in appropriate.  Mind you, no one in church leadership was complaining, just this one family, I will call the the “Smiths”. 

The dream of a well educated, godly family was a worthy goal, but the reality of guiding my family in the best direction for us was really misunderstood.  There are so many things I could tell you.  I spent years trying to be like the Smiths while my son was being arrested and in jail for various things, and my daughter was sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night.  We have fought, drugs, promiscuity, pregnancy, alternative lifestyles, rape, alcohol addiction; you name it we have seen it.  

We eventually left that small town and moved back to the large metropolitan lifestyle.  By then my hubby was ill and I was sending my two youngest to public school.  Also, by then, I had realized that I had made a drastic mistake of buying into the “cult” side of homeschooling.  I was reformed from the rigid side of things, but things got much worse for us.  My oldest became a meth addict, my daughter became a felon, drug addict, and an alcoholic, and my youngest became a juvenile felon along with dabbling in drugs.  Child number three had his issues, but nothing like the other three.  

We do have some praises to give.  My oldest son spent 6 years in the Airforce and is now attending college full time.  Praise God.  My third child finally decided to go to college and we are helping him.  Child number four, who is 20 is still dangling a bit, but I do see hope.  My daughter struggles horribly! My kids have chosen the scenic route in life.

If you have one child who does not seem to be able to come out from their addictions and behaviors, you may find there is something else you do not know about.  After many years my daughter finally told me she was molested as a four or five year old by my best friend’s husband that we lived next door to.  I had no clue or we could have gotten help.  By the time we found out she would not do anything the counselor would say and is still now falling down a slippery slope.

I do not want to give a total  story of what we have been through as it reads like a soap opera. What I want to say is God has a plan for your family, and if you follow that, no matter what paths your children take, you can rest assured you did your best.  As adults your children are responsible for their own choices.  The “dream” is not to “follow the formula” and have a June Cleaver family.  The promise is the rewards you will get for being obedient to God. The reality is you can only bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”.  You can’t force them to do what is right.  It is their choice.  Our job is to love them, nurture them, guide them, help them pick up the pieces when it all falls, and to support them when they want to come back to God and their family. What I am learning is forgiveness, mercy, longsuffering, patience, meekness, and showing the love of Jesus above all. 

Reality is not a perfect family as a result of following God.  Reality is resting in his peace that you have done your best and will stand before him having been forgiven for the mistakes and rewarded for the godly changes you made in the life of your family. Let us all have dreams to pursue, but understand the true reality that God doesn’t make our children perfect, but he forgives us and them for mistake when we repent and move forward with Him being first.

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