Can I make a really weird confession to you?
I love books. And sometimes I feel anxiety about them.
I was an English major, and I’m a writer.
My love of books is a huge part of why I started homeschooling. We check out dozens of books at a time from the library. We are awash in books.
So no one was more surprised to me to realize that they caused me shame.
If I got too few books, I felt guilty for not keeping my kids in reading material.
If I got too many, I worried that we didn’t read everything.
I fretted that I wasn’t getting the right books. When my kids weren’t interested in my selections, I lambasted myself for choosing poorly.
When they loved them, and wanted to read them AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN I felt selfish for getting bored.
When I saw other homeschool bloggers wax poetic about their favorite authors, and blithely recommend new titles that I’d never heard of before, and suggest season-specific ideas, and be conversant in trends in children’s literature, I hated my sense of incompetence.
Everyone else knows what they’re doing, I thought.
Everyone else does a better job at this.
The thought was so internal and quiet that I didn’t really examine it. I just pushed it down, and went to the library website and ordered more titles, hoping it would make me feel better.
Here’s the funny thing about shame: it doesn’t just magically go away. No, it tends to lurk like a toddler outside your bathroom door.
But a month ago, when shame started its whine of everyone else does better, I stopped. I examined my thought. (Are you surprised that I’ve been in therapy recently?)
Okay, then, I told myself. If everyone else knows what they’re doing, then maybe I should go ask for help.
I got on Facebook. In my post, I admitted my feeling of incompetence and asked for some recommendations. I wasn’t surprised to have two of my closest, book-loving mommy friends chime back graciously with suggestions.
Their graciousness made me feel a lot better.
My honesty made me feel a lot better.
But something flummoxed me.
Most of their book ideas? I’d already read them with my kids. I was bewildered. I’d been expecting a secret invitation to the Club of the Good Book Pickers. I’d been expecting them to blow me away.
Instead, I got a list I could have made myself. This frustrated me. I know that, I wanted to say. Give me better suggestions!
Instead, I turned over this information in my head for a few days, wondering what to make of it. Finally, I realized two things:
- I had grossly exaggerated my own incompetence.
- I had assumed that my friends came up with book ideas magically, without struggle, thought or hard work.
When I looked closely at the books on their lists, I saw that I indeed had things to learn. I didn’t often look for the backlists of authors we enjoyed. I didn’t subscribe to any blogs about books. And I also needed to relax.
This is the crux of how I drive myself crazy as a homeschooling mother. I stay quiet about my fears, shame, and anxiety because I am sure I’m alone.
Surely everyone else wheels along blissfully with their children, having one educational high-jink after another. They don’t have to work at it, because they just get it. And if I don’t just get it, magically, then I’m a failure.
Let’s stop for a moment here.
How did I end up defining success as achievement without trying?That’s about the worst interpretation ever.
I’m getting better about stopping and reframing these automatic thoughts. Every time I do, I feel freed.
Even so, it surprises me that shame can lurk in the areas of our life we most love. I love books. I love homeschooling. I didn’t want to admit I felt anxious about the intersection between them.
I’m trying to hold the books we read lightly in my hands. To see them as portals of delight again, instead of a yardstick of my success.
And to anticipate going with my kids into that delight on every single page.
Originally posted at Simple Homeschool.