Last year, a friend of mine asked if she could come and observe a day in our life as a homeschooling family. This friend was a hopeful wanna-be-homeschool-mom of four young children, and she drove several hours just to spend the day at my home. I wanted her time with us to be worth the effort, and I dearly wanted to give her a good impression of homeschooling…this was important, right?
Since I had plenty of time to clean and prep the house, I felt pretty relaxed when she showed up. Clutter was stashed away out-of-sight, shoes were hauled upstairs to the closets, the floors were swept and mopped, the kitchen counters were cleared and the catch-all dining room table was nicely staged.
I even managed to throw together a simple but tasty lunch, complete with pretty serving bowls.
Oh yes. Come on over, honey. Come and behold the veteran homeschooling mom as she performs in fine, relaxed fashion.
Our kids (nine of them in all!) played well together.
We perused curriculum, I answered questions.
All was well. Until-
She asked if I had a closet or room in the house where I stored all our homeschooling books and supplies.
“Um- yeah. I do- I mean-“
I heard myself hedging around a panicky smile. On the inside I was screaming Not the closet! NOT THE CLOSET!
You see, I do have this “special place.”
A special pigsty, safely tucked away in one of the large, nearly walk-in closets in our living room.
I do clean that closet. Really, I do. Religiously, it seems.
But it’s always a mess. Always disheveled from constant use.
And it never crossed my mind to organize it before she came.
A million thoughts crashed through my brain in a buzz, even while I reached for the sliding closet door and folded it back.
“I do have a really big closet right here,” I said even as the sliding door revealed the dreaded scene. I resisted the urge to shut my eyes.
“As you can see, we use it a lot and it usually stays pretty messy.” My voice trailed off at the end.
My friend’s eyes took in the floor-to-ceiling shelves, piled with tubs of DVD’s, games, craft supplies, school bags and crooked stacks of books. I wanted to cry, but I just stood their like a trooper and answered questions as she examined my collection of Melissa and Doug puzzles and Lauri educational games.
A few weeks later, I was chatting with my friend on the phone and helping her navigate through the early weeks of their family’s first homeschool year. After a nice long chat, we both decided it was time to get the kids in bed and call it a day.
As she prepared to get off the phone, my friend suddenly told me, almost in a rush, “Kristy thank you so much for showing me your homeschool closet the other day when I was at your house. You have no idea how much that meant to me.”
A guilty remnant of my pride followed me to bed that night as I lay awake in the darkness, thinking. So often, the image I want to give my peers – especially my fellow homeschooling moms – is that I have it all together.
I want them to be impressed.
To ask me how to do things, how to be a really great homeschooling parent.
And my silly pride often gets in the way of my giving the best gift I can ever give my homeschooling mom friends: A glimpse of my humanity. Permission to be imperfect.
The glimpses of the messy closets.
Those things that remind us that life is an imperfectly beautiful mess.
And there’s really nothing to hide.