The Day Mary Poppins Showed Up on my Front Porch
|My parents at Andrew and Kara's Purdue graduation, 2007|
My mom has been in the hospital since Easter, and she is very ill and may not survive long. So of course I've been thinking about my sweet mother most of this week. Here's one of my favorite memories.
About eight years ago our youngest child, the one who was our high needs kid, was a year old. You'd have thought that life would have settled down and we would be breezing through daily activities. But no, things were still difficult. Son #1 was in his second year at Purdue and daughter #1 had just left to join him at that northern university. Kara had been my right arm, and her loss was enormous. I still had seven children at home from 1 to 14, and their needs varied widely. This is what I wrote at the time:
The past few weeks have been kind of rough ones in our homeschool. There’s just been too much to do, and not enough of me to go around. If I give someone enough attention, then someone or something else slips through the cracks. I’m already using all the tricks I know – pairing up kids to work on some subjects, teaching in groups, using the computer, etc. The older ones are very independent workers, but there are so many young ones. One day early this week I called Tim and said, “Something has to change. I don’t know what, but something! I think I need a teacher’s aide!”
Mornings are the real crunch time around here. Last year, second semester, our oldest daughter gave up an hour each morning to help as needed, usually teaching language arts to one sibling or another. (The first semester, when we were in crisis mode with a preemie baby, she gave not just an hour a day, but her life for our family.) Kristen, next in line, goes a long way in making up for Kara’s absence, especially in caring for Benjamin, but there’s still a huge hole. (Jan. 29, 2005)
Some serious reevaluation was in order. Usually when that is necessary, I take an evening off and head to the library to think, pray, and reconsider how to accomplish what the Lord wants for us. Maybe something needs to be dropped. Maybe I need to coordinate the children better with one another. Maybe…
Before I even had a chance to do that, the Lord brought the solution to my doorstep. One Friday morning standing there like Mary Poppins on the front porch was my mom. She announced that she had quit her volunteer work playing piano at a nursing home, and our homeschool was her new volunteer job. I was flabbergasted, but delighted. You see, I had never breathed a word about my frustrations to my mom, so she was not there because I had asked or she knew. She was there as a beautiful gift of herself and as a gracious provision from the Lord.
For the rest of that year my mom came twice a week to help out during morning school times. The following year she came once a week. She would listen to a young reader read out loud, play math or phonics games with a preschooler, or drill another one in math facts. Sometimes she read history and discussed events from her life. A former teacher, my mom happily jumped in and did whatever I asked her to do, and never tried to tell me how to do it better. The children loved her visits so much. Order (without exhaustion) returned to our school and home. And sweet memories were formed.
One of the greatest gifts my mom gave me was in her example as a mom who gave herself to her children. From the time I was very young, I remember my mom being involved and present. She continued her unselfish giving even as she was aging and wearing out. I'm very thankful for the dear mother I have had.