Thursday, February 16, 2017

Multiplication is Hard

It’s getting real over here, y’all. Fourth grade just got tough.

We are learning the ropes to the South African education system four years later than the others, and we’ve got some catching up to do. (Click here to read that amazing story.) We’ve been ironing school uniforms, learning how to ask questions in class, checking backpacks, meeting teachers, tying ties, maneuvering morning commuters, talking about making the right kind of friends, learning how to use a library, trying out for choir, picking a sport, packing lunches, and learning what happens if you don’t clean your lunchbox. (i.e., Your mom screams and throws a lunchbox full of cockroaches at you, threatening to make you eat them for lunch. Please withhold your judgements. He did not have to eat the cockroaches.)

We hit the first bump in the excitement last week. It actually felt more like a HEAD-ON COLLISION than a speed bump. 

The 4th graders are preparing for their first national exams. No more reviewing; it’s time to move forward. Memorizing multiplication tables is hard. Really hard. And now there’s DIVISION. (Don’t even get me started on fractions.)

The division did it. Lifa’s could no longer secretly count on his fingers under his desk to try to hang in there with the other kids in class. His ten little fingers just wouldn’t do long division. He couldn’t grasp the new math concepts, and suddenly the bottom fell out on his ability to endure. He regressed rapidly and was unable to hold onto the basics. No counting. No adding. It was like he’d fallen and couldn’t get his legs back under him. He lost tests before he could turn them in, was easily distracted, and couldn’t listen or retain information. Lifa’s self-confidence tanked. His happy, go-lucky 9-year old world was permeated with confusion. He felt trapped inside himself, suddenly unable to communicate in complete sentences. It didn’t help that his mom hit a wall shortly after he did.

Frustration hit me like a freight train after spending another evening in front of homework books with his eyes glazed over. Why can’t he count by 5’s today when he could multiply last week? I couldn’t understand. I was tired. I felt wildly incapable as a mom. Honestly, I felt incompetent as a human.

I committed to raising this boy for God. Did I break him? Did I screw this deal up? My kid can’t count. Or complete sentences. And, for the love, no matter how many times we practice those note cards, he CANNOT remember 2x8=16.

After a solid wallowing in self-doubt and a downpour of failure’s tears, I knew I needed to get some perspective. My handsome husband stood in the kitchen with me while I stress-cooked. He spoke out God’s promises for Lifa today and in the future. He continuously turned me back to thankfulness that we get to be a part of the legwork for God’s glory.  Can you believe God would trust us in the daily grind, the mundane tasks that makes way for miracles? God even trusts us with multiplication tables.

I told Lifa’s teacher the promises God has spoken over Lifa as we rallied together for his good. The stories of struggles, setbacks, injustice and trauma in Lifa’s life were the testimonies that gave the greatest glory to God. It made multiplication look easy. And worth it.

That night I came to the dinner table with new perspective and new hope. I am not an incapable mother. I am not an incompetent human. What an amazing privilege to be called worthy to equip our child for purposes that will multiply God’s glory on the earth. (See what I did there with multiplication?)

Lifa came to the dinner table with a story about his new friend Xavier.
“Xavier’s mom won’t let him go to church. She throws away his Bibles because she said he’s not born to be a Christian. Can you believe it? She throws them away. Today I started telling Xavier stories from the Bible. He already knew Jesus died on the cross, so I told him about Jesus being born, God creating the earth, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. He wants to hear more tomorrow and asked if we could do that everyday.”

Lifa beamed. I exploded. Chris covered him in encouragement while I continued to gush and celebrate. THAT’S OUR KID!!!

Over bowls of soup, we talked about different kinds of families, the purpose of the church, and how cool it was that Lifa knew the Bible well enough to teach others. There was no reining in my proud mom ooze-fest.

With a spoon in his hand and soup on his chin, Lifa grinned across the table in agreement with our joy. Casually and purposefully, he looked at his parents, who’d been on knees in desperate prayer for him, and said, “Yeah. I was made to tell people about Jesus.”

Moral of the story:
Multiplication is hard, and it almost got us this week.
But a mom and a dad hit their knees to get back to God’s perspective. Lifa knows his purpose in life, and he’s already living in it. He’s equipped, excited and unstoppable.  

2x8: You will not win.
My kid knows what he was made for.

Being a mom is hard. Being a human is hard.
But we hit our knees. We tell stories of what God’s done and remember what He’s promised. We find our purpose, and live it unstoppably.

Multiplication and division are no longer a threat in the Ladd house, but a promise that there will always be more ground to gain.

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