What I Like Best

Today, Alex and I met with the school counselor at Alliance Academy International, the Christian missionary school here in Quito. When Hansei first asked us to consider having Alex tested for ADD/ADHD, the main challenge was finding somewhere that would do the testing in English. My sister (who works part-time at Alliance) made some inquiries, and they graciously agreed to allow him to be tested there, even though he is not one of their students. We were there about 2 hours, but I was not in the room while the counselor was administering the tests, so until we have our follow-up appointment in two weeks, I won’t really have any answers. But my initial impression, just from the few words I exchanged with her after the tests, is that he performed well, but had a hard time concentrating and staying focused. Which is fairly consistent with what I have observed and experienced as his mother/teacher.

While Alex was doing his tests, I was given a bunch of forms to fill out in the lobby. Forms that ask questions about your child’s behavior, academic performance, social skills, etc. Most were answered simply by circling a number, but there was one that had a few open-ended questions with lines for writing your response. About halfway into this form, I encountered the question, “What concerns you most about your child?” followed by, “What do you like best about your child?” That second question brought me up short because I wasn’t expecting it, given the context. I mean, wasn’t I there because of my child’s problems, whatever those are perceived or determined to be? I wasn’t there to talk about his good characteristics or skills; I was there to get some answers for how to deal with those things society deems unacceptable!

And then I realized, I have been so focused on problematic behaviors over the last several weeks — ever since he started attending Hansei — that I have failed to recognize all the things about Alex that are wonderful and special and endearing. I have allowed the notes being sent home by his teachers describing the ways he is acting out to stress me out to the point where I am struggling to see and praise him for the things he is doing well. Several hours later, as I sit here reflecting on the events of the day, I am so grateful for that question! I’m grateful because it forced me to stop thinking about all the things that are “wrong” with my child and look, really look, for all that’s right and good, unique and precious. I’m a perfectionist, as I’ve mentioned before, and I think I’ve realized that I need to be careful not to let my perfectionism extend to my children, holding them to an unattainable standard and causing them endless frustration in the process.

Here, then, is my answer to the question of “what I like best about my child.” I tried to remember everything I wrote down on the questionnaire. I have also added a few additional thoughts and explanations:

  • He is smart and inquisitive. He knew all the capital letters of the alphabet by the time he was 2; he’s learned not one but 2 foreign languages well enough to communicate with other kids his age (and he’s only 7!); he has an amazing memory and vocabulary; and he soaks up knowledge and information like a sponge. He figures things out so quickly, sometimes it is hard to keep one step ahead of him!
  • He is tender-hearted and compassionate — when he wants to be. He generally plays well and is careful with children who are younger and smaller than him (he has been used to being “bigger” and “older” most of his life). He loves giving gifts, and he is very affectionate. Already, at 7 years old, he understands that there are many poor and disadvantaged people in the world and that he has a responsibility as a person of privilege, to do what he can to help them.  For his sixth birthday, he agreed to collect money for needy children instead of receive presents of his own, and every time he goes out to Kumanii, he takes a backpack filled with little toys to give away to the children he meets on the river.
  • He is outgoing, friendly, and social. He makes new friends easily and loves to be around people. (He gets all this from his father, I know, because this is not my way AT ALL!)
  • He leaps into new situations with confidence and enthusiasm. He is not usually fearful or timid — in fact, sometimes, I wish he was just slightly more cautious so he wasn’t getting hurt so often! He tries new foods without complaining and has a pretty varied palate for a 7-year old (he likes snails, green tea, and Indian curry, for example). We have traveled the world with him since he was a tiny baby, moved many times, enrolled him in school in 2 foreign countries now, and he just takes it all in stride. He handles change better than many adults I know, including myself!

Perspective is so important, and I’m thankful to have regained a little of it today. No matter what happens in 2 weeks, no matter what the results show, no matter how we decide to proceed, I want my son to know that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and that I am so very proud of him, so grateful that he is a part of our family, and so blessed to be his mama!

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Why do I DO this to myself?

One of the problems with being a detail-oriented person is that you get stuck with all the jobs that require attention to detail. Most of the time, I don’t mind. In fact, I quite enjoy sorting, organizing, bringing order to chaos, making lists, cataloging things, editing and proofreading, etc. But I absolutely HATE any task related to keeping track of our family / ministry finances. And let’s face it — financial tasks require a lot of attention to detail, whether that be paying bills, balancing a checkbook (okay, I don’t really do this anymore, I just keep track of it all online), creating a budget, doing your taxes, or expense reporting. I hate it all!

And I hate the vicious cycle I get caught in over and over. I put off doing financial tasks, not necessarily because of my dislike for them, but because I am a perfectionist. Did you know that perfectionists tend toward procrastination? A perfectionist wants to do something perfectly, and if she can’t do it perfectly, she’ll put it off until the day she can… only that day never comes. Meanwhile, she gets further and further behind, until it (whatever IT is) becomes this huge and daunting task that she can’t possibly ever find the time to do perfectly. Kind of like leaving the dishes to pile up and pile up until it takes you a couple of hours to wash them all. I don’t do this… I wash as I go, and certainly after every meal. I don’t understand why I can’t be more this way with financial tasks.

I am attempting to be real on this blog, so I’ll just go ahead and confess: I am now almost 7 months behind on our expense reports. And the deadline for filing our taxes is looming in front of us and causing me a lot of stress because of how far behind I am. I am not organized AT ALL in this area right now. I haven’t established the systems to get and keep myself organized and on top of things.

Why do I DO this to myself?

This is not an excuse, but I don’t feel like I have the know-how or the right tools to do this well and efficiently. When we went through all our missions training (which was fairly extensive), we received almost no training related to finances. There was a little advice on fundraising and setting a budget, but nothing on accounting for your expenditures on the field, making financial reports to your sponsoring church, etc. I sometimes feel as though I’m bumbling around in the dark. I try out different programs, apps, websites. I design my own templates for things like expense reports and then I wonder if I’m trying to reinvent the wheel. Mission organizations, please, please, give your people practical training in finances, not just in how they raise their money, but in how they spend and account for it! This is probably just as important as training in cultural awareness, language learning, and spiritual preparedness.

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So, the other day, I just got mad. There were piles of receipts stashed in about five different places all over the house, and I was so tired of looking at them, and so angry with myself for letting it come to this. I gathered them up and sorted them by month and filed them in this little box. And then I sat down and made a “financial to-do list” — all the tasks related to finances that I need to do to be truly “caught up. Breaking the ginormous task down into smaller, more manageable ones. It’s a long list, but if I can manage to do at least one thing per day over the next two weeks, I should be caught up.

And when I’m caught up, I’m going to celebrate by drinking my last Dr. Pepper!