"This is what gratitude does. It makes us spot and sing and shout our messy blessings for anyone to see." ~Jamie Sumner

Pay Attention to What You are Doing Right

I must have written the words long ago and on a really bad day, but I found them recently, scrawled on a page torn from a notebook and paper clipped into a pile of scribbled notes:  “Homeschooling is one more way for you to imagine you have failed your children.” Chances are pretty good that in that moment, I was remembering all the weeks I had forgotten to give the kids their Friday spelling tests; all the hurried bedtimes because I was just d-o-n-e; the impatient explanations, the science experiments that flopped, and the inconsistent enforcement of the chore chart and… (I could go on all day!)

Author and special needs parent Jamie Sumner compares this kind of self-recrimination to “rain that swells a river and finally breaks the dam.” (xii) Her words of encouragement to the special needs parent encourage all parents to flip our persective, to focus on the moments when we found grace to live with our children in determination, hope, resilience, patience, laughter, and thankfulness.

Sumner writes from experience as the mother to a son with cerebral palsy and, while she brings gritty stories of tongue reduction surgeries, suctioning trachea goop, and buckling a car seat around a G-tube, there is no despair in the room. Eat, Sleep, Save the World reminds the special needs parent that she is a superhero to her child. Jamie pulls in a cast of characters from Marvel comics just to make her point, and since she has a way with a narrative, she works her magic on biblical personalities from Lot to Lazarus, all with the goal of empowering mums and dads to persevere in the good work of showing up every single day with hope.

Optimism is contagious, so today I’m viewing that scribbled indictment of my homeschooling career through a new lens. Yes, I could imagine that I have failed my children as their teacher, but I could also observe that, somehow, miraculously, they are all in the process of becoming employable, articulate, and godly young men. And I did manage to remember those spelling tests… most of the time.

Many thanks to B&H Publishing for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Grace and peace to you,

michele signature[1]

It was a great privilege to review Jamie’s first book on finding freedom from the unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Click here to check out my review of Unbound. Jamie has also written two amazing books for kids, and she is a skilled and lyrical essayist, which you can verify for yourself with one quick visit to her website here.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Eat, Sleep, Save the World: Words of Encouragement for the Special Needs Parent or Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood, simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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58 thoughts on “Pay Attention to What You are Doing Right”

  1. Laughing at that scribbling you found, Michele. I could have written it in the heat of my homeschooling years as well. lol. But thankfully in the end it turned out better. 🙂 This sounds like an amazing book and Jamie sounds like an incredible person.

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    1. My heart goes out to all the parents who are homeschooling on the fly right now. I found it to be supremely challenging even with hundreds of dollars of curriculum and a fair amount of planning and preparation.

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  2. Even though I was paid to teach, I shared the sentiment you wrote on that scrap of paper for over 30 years. We do tend to magnify our faults and downplay our accomplishments, don’t we? I loved “Unbound” and did not realize Jamie wrote another book. Thank you for reviewing.

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  3. I had to smile at your note. I remember despairing in early motherhood because I kept messing up, and the one area I most did not want to mess up was in parenting. But then one day it hit me that there was no way I could avoid messing up. I’m human, I’m a sinner. God knew He was giving children to people who would fail. I just prayed my mistakes wouldn’t maim them for life spiritually. I pray even now that God would make up for my lacks and provide them with what they need to thrive.

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    1. Yes, by God’s sovereign assigment, we are the mothers our kids get to live with. Somehow, even our sin tendencies are part of what they “need” in order to become the people God has designed them to be. I find this to be hugely humbling.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michele, if anything can give us guilt or a sense of failure, it is mothering 🙂 I am so grateful for God’s grace and mercy that has covered my mothering flaws. He alone has produced two adult children who themselves are now raising their own. This sounds like such an enjoyable read!

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  5. Oh boy! Haven’t we all felt like that at times about homeschooling?! It’s only now that I’m starting to near the end of our journey (with my oldest anyway) and I see how it all played out do I really get how all those little moments add up. This sounds like a fabulous book with a great take away for (I would bet) any parent. We all feel like we fail at times and it seems like those are the moments so many of us focus on and fret over. Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

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  6. As a grandma of 2 special needs children, 1 already in heaven, your post reached out to me, Michele.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never said those words before. It gives me a sense of place just to see those words about our family in black and white.

    Wow.

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    1. I’m wow-ing alongside you, Linda, because that’s a loaded sentence–even though I’ve heard the stories singularly.
      I’m grateful for the connections we make in this blogging life where the comments section is often where the best writing happens.

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  7. Great point! And I love how you shifted. As a HS mom, it’s easy to take that criticism to heart but then we can look at the positive outcomes! Love that!!!!!!! It’s always great to find you in the Grace and Truth Link Up!

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  8. Hi Michele! This is my first time here but not my last! I am definitely going to order that book, not only for me but also my Sister. Have a good weekend and stay healthy!

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  9. Michele, the proof’s in the pudding, right? (Or, in your case, the thriving adult children.) This is definitely a good time to remember that our parenting “fails” aren’t the only thing that affect our kids. (And for that, I’m very grateful.) Hugs, friend.

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  10. Thanks Michele for your honesty, courage, and book review. I pinned this post and visiting from Friendship Friday Blog Hop 429 where I shared How to Use Chakra Colors to Renew Energy and Create Wellness. Stay safe, be well, and lead a colorful life! Nancy Andres @ Colors 4 Health

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  11. Please forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before. (You can even delete this if it’s a repeat!) Years ago, shortly after our three fledglings had left the nest, I stirred up the courage to asked Child #3 to rate his childhood on a scale of 1-10–one for absolutely horrible to ten for absolutely terrific. You see, I’d always felt he was short-changed as #3, especially since I returned to teaching when he was in second grade so we could start saving for their college educations and our retirement. My hope was he would give his childhood a score of six–maybe even seven–in spite of my failures, mistakes, inconsistencies, etc. But without hesitation he said, “Eleven!” I have a feeling many parents are much harder on themselves than their children would be. Kudos to Jamie Sumner for sharing her positive perspective and celebrating the victories!

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    1. No, you’ve never told that story here, Nancy, and I’m so glad you shared it. I’m going to have to screw up my courage to have that same conversation with my boys some day. And I have so much sympathy with those last-borns. My #4 is definitely growing up in a very different home than his oldest 2 brothers experienced.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This sounds like a great book, it is so important to focus on the positives, especially while we are struggling to get to grips with homeschooling. #DreamTeamLinky

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  13. Just like my messy marriage, my motherhood was (and is) messy too! I really appreciate your humble vulnerability about your homeschooling efforts, Michele. I can’t imagine that you ever failed your boys, since you never seem to fail us here at your blog! You are so stinkin’ (my Tennessee husband’s favorite word) smart and it shows. Rest assured you did an amazing job! Thanks for sharing your review of this book. I’ll be pinning it to my book reviews board that’s filled to the brim with your pins and Sarah Geringer’s! Two of my favorite book reviewers!

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  14. My mother worries about this sometimes. She tells me ‘oh, I made so many mistakes when you were small’. Yes, there are things that we both probably would do differently now, but I’ve grown up into a productive and mostly happy person, and when times are tough (such as right now with the quarantine), I look back fondly to my wonderful childhood in the countryside. I love the comment above about the son who said his childhood was an 11, I can totally empathise with him!
    #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh… thank you for sharing this story. Grace is a wonderful thing to witness between parent and child, and I do think God pours it into our memory banks if we let him.

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  15. Thank goodness our kids remember more of the positives than we do–so quick WE are to remember the toughest times. During our few years of elementary homeschooling, I recall some MAJOR MOMENTS. But my kids mostly remember the geometry projects in sidewalk chalk and the dragon bread we baked with gems for eyeballs. I’m grateful I took pictures during those years. Like your very real note you came across, it’s good to come across them as artifacts of heartfelt effort.

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  16. Lovely post. I’m very grateful not to have school-aged kids now. I hope that most parents decide that there’s a lot they can teach their kids other things than math and English.

    It’s great to see you at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

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  17. I really needed this after the stress of trying to engage the kids with home learning this week! It is so easy to focus on the negatives instead of celebrating the positives. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

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  18. This looks like a really good read for any parent – especially right now. I love books with a positive feel, I always find they have a great way of rubbing off on the reader. I think we all need a cheerleader on our side right now! Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeamLinky xx

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  19. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

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  20. We have had a relaxed bank holiday weekend and it is amazing how relaxed and confident we have all become as we focus on the positives. Not sure how we will cope with work and routine tomorrow… Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

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