Mom Homework Fail and a Lent Lesson

Last week I found out that my middle child, my darling son, has been lying to me all year about his homework.  When he told me on a daily basis that he had finished his homework or had none, I believed him.  However, after a while, my tiny mind awoke from its slumber to ask . . . how could he NEVER have homework? FullSizeRender

My investigation turned up a huge problem. I had been schnookered by the browness of his eyes and the longness of his eyelashes. He was assigned daily homework following a specific schedule and a specific set of rules.  He had lists, notebooks, and emails to corroborate the assignments, but due to my lackadaisical parenting, him being 7, failing to write down the work, and truly terrible organization skills and handwriting, he didn’t do his homework. And then he lied about it. For six months.

Why couldn’t he just follow the rules!!? Why couldn’t he just ask for help if he needed it!?


I blame my oldest child, Addie, for this. She poorly trained me for parenting a rule avoider.

Addie, who is 9, is SUPER RESPONSIBLE.  (Read good girl post for more info.) She does her homework faithfully without prompting. She loves lists and rules and schedules and, I think, secretly takes pleasure in the enormity of good work that she does.  Even though she does not need my help much of them time, she checks with me, pursues my help, wants my signature. She wants all her work to be acknowledged and approved, so she knows that she has pleased me.

Sometimes, I think she avoids thinking for herself because she is SO INTENT on just doing what I say.  She’ll ask me to confirm EVERY SINGLE answer.  As a 1988 graduate of fourth grade, this drives me crazy. The other day, she was doing a reading response worksheet over a biography she had read.

She read the question to me. “Mom, what are some of the challenges that this person overcame?”

I said, “Addie, that is the stupidest question that you’ve ever asked!”

Before you judge me, let me tell you, she had just read the biography of Hellen Keller! I mean, people. HELLEN. KELLER! WHAT CHALLENGES DID SHE FACE? REALLY? I kind of stared at her for a minute with my duh-face. Then she cracked a little smile, as her mind dawned upon the obvious answer and the humor.

Why couldn’t she just use her own brain?!? Why is she so bound up in getting the perfect answer she doesn’t even feel FREE to write the answer??


IMG_9873I gotta be honest and tell ya’ I’m writing this post partially because I feel Anika is due for a post where she comes out looking golden.  As my dramatic, feisty youngest, she often gets the bad rap for, say . . . willfully pooping her pants, so this story will highlight one of her better moments.   She’s in Kindergarten and they recently have been assigned a challenging weekly reading response exercise.

They are supposed to read a book and then answer questions in complete sentences about the title, author, etc.  It’s pretty intense for a 5 year old, so to help her out, I wrote out the answers for her to copy, leaving blanks for her to fill in the relevant answers. RYDER-FAMILY - WIN_20150217_102828 The first week, I showed her how to do it, but since her training coincided with my wrathful punishment of her brother’s dastardly, delinquent homework malfeasance, she kind of had to do it on her own.

Yesterday, I saw to my delight, that ALL BY HERSELF, she had copied out the answers, filling in the title and author from her book. It was AMAZING! She had followed the pattern I set out AND taken initiative to trust her work.  RYDER-FAMILY - WIN_20150217_102848She was off playing happily, not bound to the kitchen table and the nagging homework-police-mom.

OBEDIENCE + FREEDOM! HOORAY! HOMEWORK! *************************************************************************************

This year I’m making yet another attempt at making it through the entire Bible (which I’ve NEVER accomplished), but this year I’m using the audio Bible feature with YouVersion app, using the Read Through the Bible February plan. While I’m cleaning up the kitchen, folding laundry, or exercising in the AM, I listen to the selection for the day.  It has been great for me because I do well with audio and it enables me to multi-task.

ANYWAY– this week has paired up the big long reading of the law from Exodus with Galatians, where it talks about how we aren’t bound to the law anymore.  Paradox much?

Hearing God hand down the law in Exodus followed by Paul’s explanation of how Christ’s death fulfilled the requirements of the law reminded me of why I appreciate Lent. I didn’t grow up celebrating Lent, but when I learned about it at my Methodist college (Go ASBURY!), I really appreciated the symbolism behind it, drawing my attention to the law vs. grace issue.  As I understand it, the Lenten 40 day fast before Easter isn’t meant as a chance to kick a bad habit.

It’s meant to show us how lousy we are at following rules and laws. The physical practice of giving up an indulgence isn’t about the thing itself any more than baptism is about the water. Lent is a chance for our hearts to long for the resurrection, for freedom, for a life unbound to legalism. But why do we still have the law at all? Why be obedient? Why do anything Scripture says?

Galatians 5:1 It is  for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Interestingly, I never though about the slavery part of that Galatians 5:1 verse in the context of the Israelites as Egyptian slaves. God frees them from slavery, gives them the law, and they almost IMMEDIATELY crave the foods and sinful lifestyle they had before. They want to go back to slavery.  In that case, the life of following God’s law WAS freedom–freedom from the sin of a godless lifestyle. 

So in Galatians, he is talking about freedom from the yoke of SIN and the LAW.  Later in Gal 5:13 Paul says, “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Lent reminds me that obeying the law DOES free me from sin, but I just stink at obeying the law.  I STINK at being free from sin. I need grace for that. Law and grace aren’t really paradoxical at all. They both point to love and how badly I need to receive it.


Okay, so like most of my kid-theology metaphors, there are gonna be some holes in logic here, but stay with me.

Dylan, is all about the grace, bout that grace, NO HOMEWORK. (Sorry, that just happened in my brain when I typed “all about that grace”.)

He KNEW there were laws floating around, but he wasn’t paying any attention to them. He felt free from law, but he was suffering the consequences of not growing in obedience or responsibility or maturity or ability.

Addie is all about those rules and following the words of the rule-giver. She’s SUPER RESPONSIBLE, but she’s not free. Even when she knows the answer, she can’t chose it because she’s still lacking the maturity to exercise her free will.

But then there’s Anika, my little strong-willed, free spirit.  She saw that the pattern I left made her work easier, so she followed it, used her free will to make good choices, and then she was done. She was free to play. **********************************************************************************************************

This year for LENT, I want to follow God’s pattern, filling in the blanks by choosing his grace and love.  I want to choose obedience AND freedom.  They aren’t enemies.  I’m going to use these 40 days to focus on all the ways I’m free to love others as a result of God’s good law and his good fulfillment of it in Christ, not me.

I’m thankful that his laws are about pointing me to its fulfillment, making my life easier and more abundant and more reliant upon HIM. Are you celebrating Lent?

4 thoughts on “Mom Homework Fail and a Lent Lesson

    1. Of course, I am totally in the Addie camp too. Rules are my jam. Although I am beginning to see that there is a difference between following a rule and following an example or pattern (like what Anika did). I think the reason that the Bible is SO long, with so many stories, is that God wants there to be lots of examples to follow and not follow. Jesus’ examples are patterns that enable us to see how to follow the law in LOVE, without become slaves to the rules–like healing on the Sabbath, etc.

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