Ephraim is learning to read. One of the things i've learned to be good at as a homeschool mama is consistency. Learning to read requires consistency, a daily habit of study and effort; and so we have diligently followed through.
It has been hard.
Many days, he leans his little blond head on my shoulder and almost persuades me with his charming, diverting conversation starters to abandon books and to cuddle and chat, but instead, i tap the thick black words printed in the book and we labour over letter sounds and blends. Week after week as our book got harder and harder, we worked - and he stumbled more and more, pausing, confused, guessing...
Softly, "Mama? This is really hard..."
"Yes. It's so very hard, Ephraim. Should we go back ten lessons and start there and work our way back up again?"
"Can we do that?"
The blue of his eyes is beyond description. It's light and vibrant - like the sky. It's impossible to gauge the depth of that colour. His skin is ivory and his white curls frame his sweet face as delicately as his thick lashes frame his eyes. He is looking at me earnestly, scanning my face for disappointment or disapproval.
i keep my voice light as i smile encouragement on him.
Of course i don't want to go back ten lessons. Of course i want all of our work to be easy, i have followed every instruction, we have been consistent, we put in our hours of work... we deserve to be moving along, swiftly... to go back now feels counter-intuitive.
i'm tired, i'm selfish. i want to be done.
But the reality blinks at me as i meet his tender gaze.
My goal is to hold his heart, my goal is to model patience, love, joy and peace to his sprightly spirit as i teach him to read. Ticking boxes, book completed, time recorded working - all of this has such a small role to play in fulfilling that goal. How many times have i lost focus of my true goals in motherhood as i impatiently shoved my little ones down paths they weren't ready for, through concepts they didn't understand, into expectations that i borrowed from whoever put them on me? Is it my goal to have a spotless house? Or is my goal to encourage thoughtfulness, consideration and etiquette? Is it my goal to have my kids clean their plates? Or is it my goal to teach them to listen to their bodies and learn to nourish them thoughtfully and carefully? Is it my goal to finish curriculum? Or is it my goal to create a desire to learn? Sometimes meeting those goals is messy, backwards, slow, plodding progress... Sometimes we pick relationship over rules, heart over success, our little person... over perfection.
We flipped the pages counting backwards, 68, 67, 66, 65... as though those hours of work had never been done... starting over again. 64, 63, 62, 61... the stories got shorter. The words were simpler. He scooted closer to me and we counted back together. 60, 59, 58... "K, buddy. That's ten lessons. Let's try to read this story and see how we do, ok?"
"i remember this one!" He offered quietly, his eyes still waiting, watching for me to sigh, frown, roll my eyes... i smiled genuine pleasure. i love him.
My mother's finger found itself attached to my hand and it tapped the first word.
His speech impediment burrows into my heart, softening, blessing, ministering.
The words flow. Murmured reminders escape through my barely parted lips as we read.
He's looking at me, and i look at him.
"You sure are, buddy. That's some fantastic reading right there..."
And we soak in our lessons... absorbing what we need, learning and growing... teaching each other.