The Newest Question

It’s been awhile since I heard the question I used to dread. The all-American question women ask each other to make conversation. “So what do you do?” The answer to that question is complex whether one is a stay-at-home mom or a Fortune 500 CEO, so I’ll save that discussion for another time, preferably the past.

Now there seems to be a new question. At least I’ve heard it several times very recently. Someone meets my kids or finds out I have children and they ask it: “So what activities do your kids do?”

Exactly how this question hits me depends on my mood. On a day when I’ve agonized over listening to a kindergartener sounding out his letters and an eighth grader trying to arrange those same letters within a math problem? Those days I bite back a sarcastic response and try to fight the feeling of inadequacy.

The truth is we homeschool because we kind of like to be at home. My kids have never done organized sports. We feel like champions if we get organized enough to make it to church.

They only take music lessons on one instrument because the teacher lives close and is cheap. (Yeah, that would be me.)

The only wrestling they do is the kind that sets my nerves on edge when I’m cooking dinner. My daughter has never danced or ran track or joined 4-H. None of my kids know how to swim, and one of them refuses to even get into the water if the opportunity presents itself.

I know those are the kinds of things the questioner wants to know. Those are the kinds of things most kids do. But here’s what I really want to say to them:

My children do so very much for me every. single. day. They make me laugh, they bring tears to my eyes, they refine me, they challenge me, and they forgive me.

My daughter makes me so proud just to look at her and what she is becoming. She ran her own craft business for awhile and tithes and saves her money faithfully. She writes insightful stories and helps her friends mediate their disagreements. She does her own laundry and makes a delicious gallon of Northern iced tea. She listens a lot more than she talks, but when she speaks, she has some really important things to say.

My oldest son is full of energy and big words and ideas. He asks the really deep questions which challenges me to come up with answers. He might pick on his little brothers, but I’ve seen him stand up tall at the park if someone else dares to pick on them. He builds complex Lego creations and patiently tries to teach me new chess openings with foreign-sounding names. He is quickly surpassing my limited skills in tennis, and he gives the best bear hugs as long as his friends aren’t around.

My middle son is gentle and peaceable most of the time, taking his little brother under his wing every chance he gets to help him. He sings loud and feels deep and makes a delicious smoothie. He does his school work with his best penmanship and effort. He sympathizes with everyone unfortunate from Nemo looking for his father to Wilbur losing his best friend to his little brother scraping his knee.

And my youngest son. He jumps into life with both feet evidenced by the scar on his lip and the application of butterfly bandages to his scalp at least twice. If Daddy is changing a tire, mowing the lawn or cooking a specialty dish, he is right there in the middle of it, “helping”. He constantly makes us howl with laughter without even trying and makes it his personal mission to take care of his younger cousins like his big brother does for him.

All that might not sound very impressive to the mom whose kid is enrolled in 3 sports, 2 types of music lessons and multiple other activities every week. I’m very happy for them and their exuberance for trying a lot of new things.

But whether someone questions what I do or what my kids do, my heart says I’m not overly concerned with what we do. I am more excited to watch what we are going to be.

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