Pardon the big gap in my blog. It’s taken me a while to decide to write. I can’t promise to write regularly, but I have a need right now to write, so here goes.
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Regrets can be debilitating, but they can also be freeing. I recently realized that I regret something in my life in a very different way from how I used to regret it. I guess you could say I now know what I would have done differently if I had known what I know now, and it is different from what I would have done if I had chosen not to do the thing I regret.
Let me explain. Or rather, let me shock you, and then explain.
I wish I had dropped out of high school at age 15 or 16.
There. Did I shock you? I meant that, every word of it. I wish I had dropped out of highschool. I really do. That’s what I would do differently if I knew what I know now.
What I did back then was cheat. Maybe I’ve written about this before, but I can’t remember. All I know is that I was so tired of boring textbooks that I decided I would give myself time to do things I enjoyed by not studying things I didn’t care to know, and cheat to pass the tests so that I could get on with my life.
I regret cheating a lot. I’m not ashamed of it anymore–I mean, it was a long time ago. But I wish I had done things differently. But I don’t wish I had studied harder and been honest on the tests. What I wish is that I had dropped out of high school and just gotten my GED (which probably would have taken only minimal study, mostly for math, which I enjoyed anyway, so studying for it would have been a pleasure).
While I was working on that, I would have started fundraising to go as a student missionary. Of course, this is in the ideal world where my mom would have let me go as a student missionary. She never would let me go, and the only reason I got to go to Peru for 2 weeks was that I had already left home and she had no part in the decision. But if I could have, I would have gone as a student missionary to some foreign country for a year or so and done something there. When I got back, I would have probably gotten a job and raised money to go to some Bible Worker training school. When I was done with that, I would have been hired as a Bible worker, and worked at that for a while.
At least, that is what I wish I had done. Instead of going to Bible Worker training school, I might have gone to a Christian College and done study there. Maybe I would have been a student at the college where I met my husband instead of the secretary.
What I do know is, if I had dropped out of high school, my teen years would not have been spent studying (or avoiding studying) things I would never remember or need anyway. They would have been spent having rich life experiences, growing in character instead of deforming my character by taking the easy way out (cheating on tests). I would be a very different person today if I had dropped out of high school and pursued my dreams, the dreams that the Lord had placed in my heart.
Of course, I can’t spend too much time on regrets. I can’t change the past. I can change the future, however, and the future of my children. I will never make my kids sit for several hours a day doing dry, boring school work. Not at all. I will make sure they have the opportunities they need to succeed, and that might mean real life experiences instead of textbooks and workbooks. I hated history in high school, but when I think of the textbooks I had, I can’t blame myself for hating it. History from living books (books written by people who experienced the events) is so much more interesting! So is learning history on location (like I did when I went to Italy–if only that trip could have counted for a semester of history!).
What made me realize all this? What was it that made me wish I had dropped out of high school and moved on with my life? It was a book called Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally, by Chris Davis. Not that the author promotes dropping out of high school! But he discussed a group of honor students who he caught taking down the answers to a math test (he was the substitute teacher), and when he asked them why they thought it was okay, they said, “Hey, we’re not going to use this stuff in our future. She’s good at math, so she’s helping us out. We study all the time; we don’t have a life. Math isn’t important for most of us. But good grades are important. So we do what we have to.” What he proposes is giving children the chance to do things that are important, to learn what will help them in the path they see themselves going.
I have three children and might have more someday. So how can I take what I know now that I wish I had known and apply it to their futures? First, I will not force them to do anything that they find boring–not now, not ever. There will be time enough for that in college if they decide to go. Now, I will clarify, I am referring to schoolwork, not chores! But if a child finds it boring to color the pictures that match the sound, then why not just circle them and move on? Or even just point to them? If they want to color them because they enjoy coloring, then color away. But if they don’t like coloring, why force them to? If I’m reading a book and my daughter says, “Mom, that’s boring,” I’ll drop the book and either skip the material or find another way of presenting it.
Now, I don’t mean I won’t teach persistence. Once a child starts a project, I will encourage them to finish it under most circumstances. But to make them do something they find boring is just going to stifle creativity and love of learning.
There is another book that I am reading now that has a similar message to Gifted, and that is The Brainy Bunch by the Harding family. You might have heard of the family that had several kids in college by age 12, and the only ones who hadn’t started college by 12 were still under the age of 12. The book talks about what they did. They focused on the kids’ strengths, in much more detail than normal school would allow. They didn’t do every problem in the workbook, nor every page either. They made sure their children mastered concepts before moving on, but if the kid was proficient in something, they skipped the review. Now, I don’t think every kid should go to college, but these kids had dreams that required a college education, so they got it. They missed all the drama of high school, as well, and by the time most kids are trying to figure out what they want to study in college, they had already had a degree and some work experience to go with it.
Right now my daughter wants to be “a nurse and an artist.” She draws and colors incessantly, and she has skills at the age of 8 that I didn’t develop until years later. I’m still better at drawing than she is, but give her a few years, and I am sure she will pass me up. About the nurse part, I’m not so sure. She says she wants to be a nurse, but she almost never plays nurse or asks about what nurses do or anything. I think maybe we need to go on a field trip to a hospital and let her see firsthand. In the mean time, she also has an eye for decorating, and I let her go help a friend of ours who decorates part time. That’s a skill she could turn into a career, and she loves it.
My first son is into electronics. And Legos. He doesn’t have any yet, but shhhh, he’s getting some for his birthday next month. For now, he plays with duplos, and really gets upset when his toddler brother messes up his creations. But the electronics… every time I read a story book, he wants to know if they had electricity back then. It got to the point where I told him to listen to the story and look at the pictures and tell me at the end of the book. So we look for clues in the story to determine if they had electricity or not. For Christmas, he is getting a screwdriver. With two sizes each of straight and philips bits, he will be able to take apart most things. Then he can have my defunct waffle iron and popcorn popper, as well as any broken electronics I can scare up at the local thrift store for free, to take apart and study and attempt to fix if he wants. That should keep him busy for a while! And who knows? Maybe he will go into electronics or engineering or something?
The toddler, at age 2, is still too young to figure out what he might be, but he is already trying to learn the alphabet (he knows the letter S by sight and sound, and he loves “my wetter A”. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he teaches himself to read by the age of 4. He also has a larger-than-average vocabulary for his age, and he talks incessantly. For now, I try to keep him out of trouble–no easy task, to be sure!
All I know is, I am happy being a mom. Sometimes, I will admit, I have not always been so happy. Sometimes almost depressed. Mostly as a result of intemperance. But I realize that I need to have some purpose beyond just caring for the kids. I have decided to take voice lessons and to start singing more regularly at church, and offering to sing at other churches. And speak. I got to teach a Sabbath School class last week, and I enjoyed it so much! I wanted to preach when I was young, and I had some ability, but my mom wouldn’t let me. Now, though, I am going to let go of the inhibitions that were imposed on me by others. I cannot define my life’s purpose by what my mom thought I should or shouldn’t do. I need to do what God wants me to do, with my husband’s blessing. I have his blessing, so I will move forward.
And turn those regrets into something beautiful.