The Self Doubt Express
- Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Have you ever taken a ride on that old train, the Self Doubt Express? Its passengers buy one-way tickets to Despair and Hopelessness. If you suddenly find yourself going at light speed on that train, remember that a little prayer and a few friends can make it stop.
We all have a few moms we hold in total respect and assume, "They know everything. They have this down pat and probably get through 5 subjects with 6 children in 2 hours. Then their children cheerfully clean the house, do the laundry, and fix dinner. Then they do sports - and music - and who knows what else. They never break a fingernail and certainly not a sweat."
Then the Self Doubt Express rolls screaming into the train station. "I can never do that. How do they do this with so much self confidence and never question themselves?"
The best way to stay on the Self Doubt Express is to isolate yourself. Don't tell anyone - not even your husband - and certainly not your friends. Or instead of telling them what your real concern is, lash out at them in anger. This is especially easy to do if you grew up in a stoic family where the 11th commandment was, "Thou shalt not complain or talk to anyone about your doubts or fears."
Getting off that train doesn't mean going on Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Jerry Springer to broadcast our laundry and insecurities to the world. It does mean finding a couple of close friends and confiding in a trusted spouse.
Recently, one of the moms on my short list for Homeschool Mom Hall of Fame candidates - who always have it together - confided some concerns to me. It was a shocker. SHE has concerns too? Her kids are wonderful, articulate, and well-schooled.
We are all just parents, doing our best by our kids, and the best thing we can do to support each other is to nurture that bond of friendship and hold one another in prayer. We all earn our living by the sweat of our brow. It's easy for any of us to fall onto the Self Doubt Express.
Then, almost as soon as I realized that, I fell onto the same train myself. It started at a swim team banquet - 1/3 of the team is homeschooled. All the kids stood up and said one thing they were thankful for in their lives. Most of the answers were the same. Then it was my son's turn. I thought he said, "I'm thankful for my guns." He had played with toy guns all afternoon.
Immediately I had visions of the traditional school parents thinking, "There goes another homeschool extremist. They teach the 3 G's - God, guns, and glory - instead of the 3 R's." Then I realized I had misunderstood him. Instead of saying "guns," he had said "grandparents." He had just said it softly because it was a crowded room, with several people he didn't know!
The Express train went into warp speed the next day. Pile on some convention business, a minor church crisis, work issues, family illness, helping friends, and a dash of hormones. On a busy day recently, both kids had a bad math day. They missed 16-18 problems each on the same math lesson - half of the assignment. Most of the mistakes were careless blunders. It was one of THOSE mornings - with church, piano lessons, and whatever school I could fit in before leaving for work at noon.
As I thought about the problems and what they had missed, the train wheels started chugging. Am I shortchanging my kids? Am I capable of teaching them? What should I do better? I would fix this right now but I don't have time. Is it better to shelve school when the schedule is tight or do we keep going? What if the kids grow up and still make mistakes when they borrow in subtraction? And what if they get their decimal places wrong in division? Am I leaving too many gaps in their education?
God gently led me through answers. That morning, at a meeting, I met a lady who prayed that God would help us do what was needed and fill in the gaps for what we missed. One friend gave me a pep talk on what my kids can do. Another complimented their behavior. Another reached out and helped with a meal.
One wise mother observed, "The day you don't have those doubts is the day you get lazy and quit trying. You need the questions to keep working and getting your kids educated."
Suddenly, I remembered something from last week. In the middle of last week which was one of those "good weeks" when the children are happy, the house is clean, and life is above average, I kept getting hit with a message to "Press." I told Richard that "Press" kept coming at me. It almost worried me. If I were to "Press" through something, what was coming, and why was I being given a pep talk in advance? The next morning, I turned on the car radio. Selah's song, "Press On" was playing. I thought at the time, "OK, God. I get the message. What am I supposed to do with it?"
In the rush and press of a busy weekend, I forgot that message. Slowly, yesterday, when I needed it most, it came to me again...
The lyrics to the song "Press On" include, "When the valley is deep, when the mountain is steep, when the body is weary, when we stumble and fall. When the choices are hard, when we're battered and scarred, when we've spent our resources...in Jesus' name we'll press on. In Jesus name, we'll press on."
As always, God had given me the answer and the ticket off the Self Doubt Express. I just had to realize it - with a little help from my friends.
Mary Biever, a homeschool mother of two, serves as the secretary for Southwestern Indiana Home Educators. Check out http://www.swihe.org
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