In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, I’d like to send some appreciation to my present-day teachers…my children.  I would say they are proving to be my greatest teachers, no offense to my school teachers, but they have definitely given me the hardest lessons in my life. Sometimes I’m not a very good student.

There is something about our children that can shine a spotlight on the best and worst of ourselves. Pride, insecurity and a love that I didn’t know I had. The tug of war between letting them be themselves with their own personality and purpose constantly gets pulled back by the desire to correct and guide them to become…well me. Sigh.

Lesson 1: BIGGEST STRUGGLE THUS FAR, let them be them.

My 4th grade daughter came home telling me about how she scored at a 7th grade level in math, my first thought was how proud of her I was and then I thought to say, “If you worked on your test scores in the other areas you could be recognized with honors.” LUCKILY, I DID NOT SAY THIS OUT LOUD. Why though, why did I want to say that? She was happy and proud of what she already accomplished. That’s what matters. The “more” that I wanted for her was for me. Was for my pride, so I could brag, so I could be recognized with her honors.

Then we have my son, who daily chooses to wear a dark blue sleeveless shirt with teal shorts, bright yellow socks past his knees (yes, PAST his knees), maroon color play shoes topped off with a red hat. I become annoyed that I even have to bring to his attention the fact that none of that matches. As if it doesn’t scream homeless child whose parents don’t pay enough attention to him to buy him clothes. What will people think about him… or what will people think about me as a mother? Something that I try really hard to be good at. Perfect at really, while constantly failing. Talk about perseverance. Motherhood is something that you don’t get to give up on. Although I have spent time in my closet giving up in some of the falling apart moments.

Is there anything else that we put so much effort and thought into on a daily basis while consistently feeling like we fail the test? Just to wake up and try again? Come on child, go this way, think like this, don’t do that, why are you crying, don’t be so hard on yourself, don’t make so many mistakes, it’s ok to make mistakes, be creative, your clothes don’t match. Ugh. Where is that “easy” button that I’ve seen in commercials?

A strong-willed daughter has made me question my ability to well…have low blood pressure? Survive motherhood without xanax? She is constantly challenging me to be persistent. Keeping my eye on the goal of directing her strong will toward her strengths and what matters in life. I have to reel in my perfectionism so she doesn’t become too hard on herself.

An adopted son, has been a different kind of test. The desire to connect, to help him feel connected all while having to correct and guide. The “you’re not my real mom” comment that hurts but is true if taken factually and not emotionally.  I happen to be an emotional thinker. Trying to hide the tears that start to well up, feeling like I have to approach it factually.  Challenging me to be engaged and connect where and when I can. He’s definitely trying to teach me to have fun sometimes and to not take things so serious.

I’m also a bonus mom, to step children. The struggles of being a step mother and getting close to a child that doesn’t exactly “need” you because they already have a mother. Not wanting to overstep my boundaries but still trying to get close and connect.  Still holding a love that wants to guide but not push them away. Teaching me that there’s a special gift in getting to share the life of a child that otherwise wouldn’t have been yours to share.

I hear my correction at times when I’m correcting them. What they don’t realize is that they are teaching me the most about myself.  I’ve always been a people pleaser and unfortunately a perfectionist, someone who doesn’t like to see other people struggle. God gave me children who all have different personalities, one that doesn’t care about what other people think, a few that care too much. Obviously none of them perfect, all with skills and purpose that are different from my own, and all who have and will continue to have struggles. Then, tied to this position as a mother, is so much love that stepping back and letting them be sometimes can be the HARDEST lesson we ever learn to do.  It’s like the process of raising them is slowly teaching me how to gradually let go. Because at some point years later, I’m going to have to.

I’m the one who is being prepared and taught.  I’m suppose to give them the environment that they need to thrive in who they are, so later they can go out into this world confident and at home in themselves.  No pressure. Hardest tests gives you the greatest reward, right? That “easy” button wouldn’t hurt from time to time though. Neither does a glass of wine.