Homework time is an humbling time at our house. My son drops to his knees, wailing in sorrow and frustration. I reach for my hair, pulling out one chunk for the teacher half of me who knows the benefits of at-home practice and another chunk for the parent half of me who dreads this lengthy battle each evening.
It’s the math…the regrouping, the carrying over, the letters and numbers mixed together…that baffles my son. He wants to know it all, know it quickly, and move on. He’s capable…he’s just impatient. He can do the work; he just wants to be done with the work. (He is his mother’s child…I recognize these traits all too familiarly.) Alas, math homework is not so easily vanquished. I’ve coached, corrected, calmed, caressed, and cajoled to get the job done…as quickly and as painlessly as possible. But it still takes an hour and a half. Nearly 100 minutes…nearly every night. It’s exhausting.
Tonight, I’d had enough. Eight problems took thirty minutes. Little D was waiting so patiently for her turn with my attention. I was spent. When B dramatically buried his head in his paper and lamented, ‘I just can’t do it! I just. Can’t. Do. It!!’, the rotten ol’ middle school teacher in me came out of hiding and snarked, ‘You’re right. You can’t. You can’t do it.’
The living room was eerily quiet as the two large brown eyes rose from the depths of the multiplication paper and ogled me.The edges of the paper still curled around his mouth, safely hiding him from the cruel woman who would speak such curses. She’d already held his feet to the algebraic fire for thirty minutes and now she was heaping coals of burning spite on his head…he was safer buried in associative properties. She said what?
I succinctly picked up the markers that D had been coloring with and, without making eye contact with the disbelieving eyes beside me, I stated, ‘You can’t do that math. It’s too hard. You’ve been saying it for a half an hour, and I think you’re right. You can’t do it.’ B sat up and looked at his paper and tapped his pencil and looked at me, ‘So I’m finished? I don’t have to do anymore of it?’ Despair turned to hope. ‘No, I didn’t say that,’ I clarified. ‘I said you can’t do it. You can’t do the math if you’re using all your energy making excuses. You can’t do it if you’d rather waste time wailing and moaning. And you can’t do it if you’d rather let that brainless piece of paper be smarter than you. Nope, you can’t do it.’
I wasn’t busting out reverse psychology on purpose. I was just an exhausted mom who was trying to point out to her son that more time was passing without homework being accomplished than vice versa.
And then, I went to clean the bathtub and left him alone with his paper, his pencil and his thoughts.
While I was scrubbing the ridiculously thick soap scum from the bathtub walls, I realized that God gets that frustrated with me sometimes too. ‘But, Father, I’m working as hard as I can…I’m being as nice as possible… I’m being as good a steward as I know how to be…but I just can’t do it all. I just can’t!’
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
It’s not about how hard the work is; it’s about being faithful to do it. And trusting the one who is within us to help us each step of them way…or through each step of each equation. I was right in my schoolmarm approach with my son…we can’t do it. But with his guidance, grace, and goodness, we can.
When the bathtub shone as brightly as I hoped my son’s attitude had become, I returned to his side to see his progress. He had made none…on paper…but the light of challenge was now shining in his eyes. We finished the rest of the page, 14 more problems, in 12 minutes…a world record, no doubt!! B learned what I learned, no we can’t when we say that we can’t. (But we can when He says that we can.)
Need more words of encouragement? Here you go!
23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
I Chronicles 28:20
20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.