Three years ago, we ended our home-schooling journey and sent our three older kids to private school. I will always remember their first day. The two middles — in third and fourth grade — came home bursting with excitement. They were bubbling over with reports about their teachers, the kids they met, lunch and recess. Our oldest son — the 6th grader — was a different story. He was mad.
“Are you seriously going to make me go back there again tomorrow?!”
For about two hours, we hashed it over. There were tears and loud voices. I questioned our choice and then sadly delivered the bad news.
“Not only are you going back tomorrow, but you are going back for the entire school year.”
Thankfully, we can all laugh at that story now. As he’s about to finish 8th grade, it’s hard to imagine how much he hated that first day. We had some bumps those first few months, but since then, he has loved his junior high experience. While the middle school years seem to be a challenge for many kids, he has thrived. He has an amazing group of friends. He loves going to school and doesn’t want to miss a day, even if he’s sick. He has great teachers, and he has become self confident.
Now we are closing in on the end of junior high. Each month seems to bring one more “last” of this experience. Last basketball game. Last talent show. Last sports banquet. Soon we will have his last spring play. The 8th grade trip. Last day. Graduation.
Normally, when spring arrives we start anxiously anticipating the end of the school year and the freedom of summer. This year, we seem to be pulling back on the reins, begging time to slow down. Soon, his 8th grade class will go in different directions as the students head off to different high schools. We’re not scared anymore about high school. In fact, we are excited about new opportunities. But the ending of his experience at a small, private Christian school is going to be hard.
It seems to always be on my mind lately.
The ending isn’t only for him. It’s going to be a big change for me, too. I spend a lot of time at their school. I’ve grown to love the teachers and the parents of their friends. I love the safe environment and the special activities.
Our second son chose to go to public school for 6th grade, and I often compare their experience. He has made some good friends this year. We sometimes lives vicariously through him because he knows the names of all of the neighborhood kids. He rides the bus with them and hangs out with them at school. When he makes the transition to high school, it won’t be such a jolt. He will move right along with his group of friends.
I question which is better. Was it worth if for our older son to have had such an amazing experience only to have to live through the pain of seeing it come to an end? Our second son’s experience hasn’t been sky high. But it hasn’t been negative either.
Lately I’ve realized that I can’t compare. Our older son is more of an introvert. He’s a deep thinker, and a loyal friend. Being part of a class of 25 has been great for him. Our middle son thrives on new relationships. He loves knowing all the kids on the block and being able to walk home from school. He likes going to a bigger school and the opportunities that brings. I look at each of them and I know they have both taken a path that is working well for them.
Neither choice is perfect. Neither is all bad.
But the “lasts” aren’t easy.
Last fall, I went to a conference where we heard a speaker talk about how you can rewire your brain to change your thinking from negative to positive. For the past few days, I’ve been reading this speaker’s book, “Switch on Your Brain,” and pondering this idea of change.
I have mixed emotions about this book and the entire concept. I will be reading along, nodding my head, thinking about the things I want to change in my life. Then, a moment later, my mind drifts off into thoughts of, “Wow! That really sounds like a lot of work.” “I don’t know if I can do it.” “I don’t even know if I really WANT to change.”
The author’s premise is that our thoughts grow like trees through our brain. The negative thoughts are like dead trees with strong roots winding their way through our brains. She mixes science and faith to build a case that if we stop thinking about the negative things and focus on a positive replacement for 63 days, we can make small changes that can become big changes over the span of our life.
When I first heard her speak back in October, I immediately decided I needed to take control of one area of my life that was contributing to some negative thinking: Facebook. At that time, it seems like I was spending way too much time comparing myself to other people. I was often wishing my life was different. I cared way too much about what people thought about me. And I cared way too much about what other people were doing with their lives.
I went off FB for 45 days (other than posting for my job). I have to say that it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I often would check FB in the morning, but I started replacing that with something positive… reading the Bible app on my phone.
Because part of my job is to do social media, I needed to go back on FB for a specific purpose so I quit my FB fast before the end of the 63 days. But I do feel that I’m a lot more balanced in the way I think about it than I was before. I was getting to the point I was starting to believe Facebook was real life, rather than just the highlight reel that it truly is.
Anyway, I’ve tried making other changes since then. I like the idea of trying to do something new for 63 days, whether it’s changing a thought pattern or a habit. I’m usually great for about two weeks, maybe a month… even six weeks. But making a consistent change everyday for 63 days feels quite overwhelming. Even when I do manage to change a bad habit, it seems like it’s so easy to slide right back into my same routine even after months of doing things differently.
I started off the year trying to make my bed every morning. How hard could that be, right? I’m sure there are 12 year olds who do a better job making their beds than I do!
I made it for about one month. Then one day, I didn’t feel well. Or I was running late. As soon as I let myself slip one day, I started falling right back into my old pattern of leaving the house with a messy bed. Now, I make my bed as much as possible, but it still takes effort. I would love to get to the point that making my bed everyday was the norm, and leaving the house with it unmade felt like the exception.
I’ve been thinking about making a chart with 63 days on it and tracking some of the changes I want to make. I want to see if I consistently give up on the 14th day. At what point do I start to slip? How long can I stay strong in my resolve before it starts getting hard to stay focused? What can I do to break down the 63 days to celebrate more of my successes? Wouldn’t it be great to look back at an area of my life in 63 days and realize that I really made a change?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you have any areas of your life that you are trying to change? Or do you feel pretty good about things the way they are? Do you get discouraged when you try to create new habits? Or have you had success in this area?
Our oldest son is finishing up 8th grade this year, and with that, we are all going through the mixed emotions of many “lasts” of his final year at his school. One of the things we’ve looked forward to all year was the school talent show. The talent show is one of the main fundraisers for the 8th grade class trip to Washington, D.C., this spring, so it’s up to the 8th grade parents to organize the show.
A few months ago, I volunteered to help with promoting the show, as well as organizing the 8th graders to be involved in showing their talents. I was thinking we should come up with a name for the show, other than “The Talent Show,” and I was hoping to find something that we could reinforce through a closing act by the 8th grade class. For several days, I walked around jotting down words as they came to mind or that I heard in songs.
When I met with another mom who was the main coordinator for the show, one word jumped out at her: “Unstoppable.” We agreed to go for it, and the more I thought about it, the more I loved that message for the show. We used Phil. 4:13 as our theme verse: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” It’s such a great message, not only for using your talents to honor God, but also for a group of 8th graders about to leave the comfort of their private Christian school and head off to high school. You can be unstoppable, if you are using your life for God’s glory.
We came up with a plan that I would shoot video of the 8th graders doing the things they love to do, whether that meant playing a sport or a musical instrument, dancing, singing or just having fun. I loved the message of the TobyMac song, “Unstoppable” so that became our closing song.
The last few months, I spent many, many hours working on signs, banners and publicity, practicing acts with my son and daughter, and hanging out with 8th graders as we worked on the video. Through all of that time, I started reliving what it’s like to be in 8th grade. Many times, we would get together at the end of a long day at school. I realized that life at this age isn’t easy. You spend the day under pressure to listen in class or take tests. You get in trouble with teachers. You face drama with friendships and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. You struggle to communicate with parents. It’s generally a super awkward time full of insecurities and doubts. And it’s also a great time of growing up and being crazy and having fun.
Each time we got together, we talked about being UNSTOPPABLE. I really wanted them to believe the message. It wasn’t just a title for the talent show, it was real life. Many times, as I worked on editing their video, I choked back tears seeing what amazing people they were becoming.
I should have expected what came next. I was devoting all of my free moments to try to convince people to be UNSTOPPABLE. I guess it’s only natural then that I would feel completely… well… stoppable. During the last two months, I was feeling discouraged by some challenges in my life. Doubts and insecurities were hanging over my head. It can be scary to use your gifts and talents. Each time you do, you open yourself up to the world, raw and vulnerable. It really does seem easier not to try. To let someone else take the risk.
Talent show night finally came last Friday. After a last-minute flurry of practicing and decorating for the show, we were ready! With 32 acts signed up for the show, I will admit I was worried it could get long and boring. But from the first little kindergartner singing a worship song to the big finale by the 8th graders, it was an amazing show. Kids sang. They danced. They did karate and card tricks. Our 5th grader and her friends did a stomp routine. And our 8th grader and his friends did an amazing job with their act, which involved bouncing basketballs to music. I sat there feeling inspired by these kids of all ages who were willing to step up on stage before an audience and let people see their gifts and talents.
After it was all over, I was taking down a big 13-foot banner I had created to hang over the stage with the word “UNSTOPPABLE.” I loved seeing that word in bright yellow letters over each child’s head as he or she performed.
Finally, in that moment, it hit me. It wasn’t just a message for 8th graders or for kids singing or dancing on stage. That was a message I needed to believe again for me. It can be scary to use my talents, but it’s not really about me. I want to use the talents God has given me to bring glory to Him. I don’t want to hide, so afraid of criticism that I’m paralyzed from taking risks. I’m thinking I need to hang that big banner somewhere in my house as a daily reminder.
I want to be UNSTOPPABLE.
How about you? Do you ever feel like giving up? Or are you using your talents to be unstoppable.