Am I going to fail him?

Today I feel like I just might be a colossal failure.

Due to my inflated ego and obnoxiously overconfident attitude about almost everything, I don’t think about failure much. Fear in general isn’t part of my chemical makeup and I’m not used to dealing with it.

But for the first time in my life I lay in bed at night and silently quake at the thought that not only am I possibly going to fail at something really big, but the people who will suffer most from my failure aren’t me. Me I can handle, it’s the thought of failing my child and how deeply that will affect his life that is so devastating.

I have four kids. Of my four kids three of them are demanding enough to ensure that they receive whatever it is they need most from me. Harrison (8) is constantly after hugs and lengthy conversations about the fine characteristics of Mario and why plumbers have the best jobs ever, June (4) forces me to take her with me any time I leave the house for “girls only” trips, and Georgia (1) spends all day on my lap/hip/bed begging me to read her a “booh.”

And then there’s Rex.

In case you don’t know about Rex, he’s six and is currently enrolled in the German schule here in our village. This has been…overwhelming. For all of us.

Rex is there and continues to remain there because when I ask God what to do about Rex’s schooling He repeatedly thumps me on the head and tells me to stop asking and give this time and attention.

The time bit I’m handling. But as far as extra attention, Rex comes home and slips right through the cracks. He’s so happy to be back with all his toys and animal friends and sisters and brother that I don’t have the heart to rip him away from his comfort zone and tutor him.

I am also lazy.

Put the two together and you get a kid who isn’t learning anything from his loser mother. How is he ever going to learn to read and write English if I don’t teach it to him? How is he supposed to move ahead and start speaking German (nothing yet, it’s been six months) if he’s not getting extra one on one help at home? He is almost seven and doesn’t even know any sight words. What am I doing???

Last night I spent the 30 minute car ride to the adult session of Stake Conference talking to our good friend and brilliant pediatrician, Eric. Eric usually takes a few minutes with Rex when he gets the chance to do quick spot evaulations and observations and then keeps us updated on his thoughts.

It was brutal.

In talking to him and assessing where Rex is at with school, it’s pretty clear that he has a bit of a language problem and not just with German. He spoke very late, his conversation and use of English is a year or two behind (as is his maturity level), and according to the professional he needs to be bombarded with language, both English and German, on a structured daily basis.

This means I have to nail his butt to the table and structure some kind of program for him. I’ve avoided it because he’s so tired after eight hours of German a day, but I think Eric is absolutely right. I’ve got to dig in my heels and get it done.

Sitting in Stake Conference last night was an emotional experience. Every talk seemed to enforce the thought that I was failing in the home, not doing enough for my children, being a passive member of the household. It’s great that I stay home and sew and cook, but homemade skirts and three (okay six) meals a day never got a kid through the German school system.

Finally toward the end of the meeting I put my head between my knees. You know when you feel too lame to pray so instead you kind of send your worthless thoughts up to Heaven, hoping that maybe they’ll be heard but not really willing to force the issue? I thought to myself, what am I doing? I suck at this job. I’m lazy and weak and not up to being the kind of mother my children need. I can’t do this, I’m not even worthy of it…

Those are the words that ran through my mind. And as I said them, the speaker (who I wasn’t really listening to at that point) read this quote from Elder Packer: “We need everyone. The tired or worn out or lazy and even those who are bound down with guilt…”

I felt like Heaven was speaking back to me and couldn’t help laughing through my tears, that Father in Heaven would be so generous and quick to answer my sorry little plea for help and strength. And as the speaker closed we sang “How Firm a Foundation,” and the third verse rang through my soul like some kind Heavenly balm:

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh be not dismayed

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand

Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.”

The word omnipotent is what really stuck. He knows. He knows how this can work, how it should work, how it will work. I don’t have to do this alone, help is out there and I’m going to find it.


  1. Oh I know those prayers. Lately all of my prayers feel like that.
    How wonderful that your prayer was answered so swiftly. And I love that hymn, it’s our ward hymn for the year. It goes along with our ward theme. Good luck working with Rex. I know you will do a fabulous job. Because everything about you is fabulous.

  2. Bless your humbled little heart! A friend of mine here that has done what you’re doing with Rex did a couple things that have really worked for her two boys. Two of the things might not apply for Rex or your schedule or both – but I’ll say them anyhow – she scheduled regular play dates with a class mate or two and then also had her boys play in local German sports leagues for soccer, tennis lessons, and ski school plus piano and art lessons. (She also does the extended afternoon program like you’re doing but some days they have these other activities instead). But I think the best thing she did for them was hiring a German high school student to come over for a structured play date. Each boy had their own hour with the big kid and loved having a special big kid friend. She found this godsend through the teachers at the school and he would pay board games, do flash cards (with fun incentives), and just play with her boys. I don’t know if this is helpful at all, but I thought it was genius for her boys. She worries that she’s messing them up all the time but from the outside, I’m so impressed with how quickly they’ve become bilingual and how confident they are in their German! They arrived when her boys were 4 and 6 two years ago. As for Rex’s English, have you ever heard of I’m using it for some of the “preschool” time with my 3 yr old and bought the $35 membership but I should be using it with my 5 yr old too. We do the daily calendar, letters, numbers, songs, math stuffs and what not – it’s pain free for me and in 20 minutes I’ve spent some quality time with my child “learning” together without having to plan or use my brain in any way! My two boys have been in bilingual schools for the past two years and my oldest JUST NOW is starting to voluntarily say a few words and phrases in German. I have not helped on this front at all I’m sad to say, there’s only so many hours in the day. But Rex is always absorbing even if it’s not coming out yet. I can’t wait to hear what inspiration leads you to try next!

  3. Love this Annie. The “right” kind of guilt is the kind that comes with the Lord saying, “I will help you.” He totally will.

  4. I really have no pertinent advice, but I love you.

  5. Small goals. Pick small goals you can’t fail at. A friend was talking to me about exercise goals and she said, “If you do nothing else but put your running shoes on and stand in your yard every day for a week, you’re at least getting your shoes on.” Small, progressive goals will give you confidence to realize you are reaching goals. Eventually, you’ll set harder and harder goals which will get you where you need to be.

  6. Okay Annie, if you’re going to make me cry every time I come to read….

    I’m sorry you felt that way but I LOVE the response you got. God is good, He loves you, He WILL help you. Every mother feels like they’re going to fail their kids, just the fact that you feel that way shows that you will do your best and you’re a good mother. Its the mother’s that don’t care and don’t think about it that are usually failing. I will keep you in my prayers if you keep me in yours! 😉

  7. I am SO in this same place. I don’t worry a whole lot about anything, least of all failing. And even if I DO fail, so what? Live and learn. But you can’t have that kind of attitude when it comes to your child. My oldest is struggling in school right now, too. He’s learning Chinese and taking to like like a fish to land. :o( And like you, I’m lazy. It’ll take one of my most precious commodities, TIME, to help him improve. It’s just a matter of me getting off my lazy butt and doing it.

    Thanks for sharing this. I hear so much of myself echoed in what you write, with the exception of one thing — constantly turning to God. So thank you for that humble reminder. Good luck, Annie. (I think Tracie’s suggestion of a high schooler play date is a GREAT idea.)

  8. All I’ve got is tons of warm thoughts & support headed your way. Each trial is ours alone & what to one is easy is obviously not for another. BIG hugs to you!

  9. Hi Annie–

    I love your blog and read all the time. It must be so frustrating to take thoughts from strangers, but I wanted to share a few things with you from our lives. I have a 6 1/2 year old with light Aspergers and we’ve worked with him on it from the time he was 3 (late language) up to now because he stutters (and whisper repeats what he says… it’s pretty cute!). Anyhow, one of the biggest things that has been consistent in the professional help we’ve received has been to PLAY, PLAY, PLAY (it is language skills based play, but they are playing and often rewarding). It seems to open up a more positive place in their mind to progress in, and they only have positive associations with classes titled “Speech” :). You are so creative, you’ll find a way to make this work for you (study a few sight words, then have them hidden around the house with a little treat attached which he gets to eat if he gets the word right, playing “Hot and Cold” to to locate matching German word to go with a picture– whatever!).

    If a reward was being given for an expected answer, behavior, or action– they were real sticklers on only giving it if my son did it right. At first I thought my son would flip out from that, but he adjusted (probably because it was someone else conducting the play and expectations, not me) and shocked me with what he was able to do.

    Anyhow, wishing you SO much luck and blessings as you wrap your brilliant mind around the answers for your sweet Rex. (Oh, and keep just thinking he’s the greatest thing in the world– Steven Covey talks about that realization and turn around with his own son that a child will thrive when we truly accept and appreciate them the way they are as we help them become their best).

    Sorry if that is an annoying note! You are a dear mother to be doing, and researching, and working so much for your kids. That kind of mother isn’t failing at all!

  10. Annie…….You ARE better than you think you are. Remember the little blue flower???? If you have forgotten link over to

    Your children are blessed to have you as their mother.

  11. Well, I’m here on the other side of the world and we had Stake Conference THIS WEEKEND, too!!! And well, from where I sit, I’M IN THE SAME BOAT as you. If we both start rowing we can meet somewhere in the middle, share some chocolate and have a good cry. Maybe we can haul our little boys with us. I’m sure if we did, way we will figure out along they way why Heavenly Father loves His children so much. And I’m not just talking about those darling little sons of ours. 🙂

  12. I often feel that way too. I just started homeschooling for various reasons and with 3 kids in school, a two year old, and a newborn, life has been kicking my trash lately. My motto for the new year is “Be Brilliant in the Basics”, from Sister Beck. It has really helped me to focus on what is a priority, and to do it well.

    I have decided that it is ok to have scrambled eggs for dinner, as long as school gets done. It is ok if my house is a wreck, as long as we have something clean to wear, and we did family scripture study. It is ok, because the important stuff is getting done. The Spirit will teach you what is important for your family and what is not. It is a lesson in humility, that’s for sure, because I often base my value on how I appear to others. Now, that is shot all to heck. But I know I am doing what God wants me to do for my family. I have to really evaluate how I spend my time. I know what I WANT to do, but sometimes it is not important. I have to put the extras aside. I still have so far to go, but I know it will all work out. Good luck. I know you can do whatever your family needs, and you will never regret doing it. And as you said, God will help you. You can’t go wrong. 🙂

    Rex will probably never realize what an amazing mother you are, or how much you sacrifice for him. But you know that he is worth it, and one day, when he has kids, everything you have done for him will smack him in the face and he will be so grateful. Expect a phone call. 🙂

  13. We just had stake conference also . . . . a time for reflection, that is for sure. We reflect at all stages in our parenting career! (yes career). One of the main themes of our stake conference was parenting and the lack of missionaries we have going out in this area. Neither of my two boys had or have gone on a mission . . . I was just trying to keep them out of jail, forget about the mission! But one thing I have learned is that I want to be able to say to myself “I did the best I could.” That is all. And You, Annie can do that. Life just doesn’t seem fair sometimes. We are fighting against satan, who has had many more years of experience doing what he does compared to what we have been doing. Yes, we have the Lord on our side . . . . . BUT sometimes it seems like the other side is winning . . . . . . for now anyway. Keep in the fight!

    You are WONDERFUL Annie!

  14. You can do it Annie, dig in those heels!

  15. yvonne stewart says:

    Hi Annie,
    Having been through the same (minus the German) with my son, I hope I can say a few words, feel free to ignore or use. These are totally my thoughts and only you and your husband know what will work for your children.
    I’m thinking of myself going to a job everyday where everyone else spoke Chinese and I knew not a word. I would hate it and everything that went with it. I would feel like a failure everyday and when I got home I too would head for my craft closet or a book or anything that would comfort me. Are you sure that the Lord is telling you that Rex needs to speak German this year? Maybe Rex will learn German this summer, or maybe not until it is taught at the MTC. Would it help Rex to have him in a school where English is spoken for a year or two, or to be home schooled for a year, until he adjusts to Germany and all the new stresses in his life?
    I think the important thing is for a chid to believe and find value in himself, can he do that if he fails each day?I guess some will say that changing schools would be like taking the easy way out, I don’t se it that way, I see it as loving parents doing everything they can to help him find his way. Use your best judgement and if you think that the best thing is for him to remain in this school, then I think that it’s time to immerse the whole family and everyone else who can help him, I loved the idea of the older boy teaching him, but I also think it couldn’t hurt to think of looking in a different direction. Where does he shine now? What are his biggest talents, maybe you can find a way to incorporate them into his school day.
    Thanks for writing your great blog, I picked it up from your column in the Ogden paper, I know that you guys will do the right thing, as I’ve said before, Rex won’t fail when he has so much love and help 🙂

  16. Well, my pretty Miss Annie. YOU are NOT a failure but the mere fact that you are even bothered by that possibility. It is because YOU CARE and Love so deeply, that you are burdened by the thought of this reponsibility. Mothering
    A failure would be the one who didn’t care and never gave it a moments consideration
    SO, in that I say lucky REX and the rest of your famiily.

    It is the basic worry of most mothers I think. My kids are all raised now and parents in their own rite, but still I wonder and frett….was I a failure. Did I miss something.
    I think of that OFTEN when it comes to my son Matthew who died.
    Did I miss something.
    and so I pray………..just like you

  17. I have been where you are more times than not. You can articulate my life in ways I can’t. I have been awakened by that very song more than once as an answer to my own, lame prayers as well. You (and I) are doing far more than we realize, just by showing up each day. Thanks for being YOU. Only You.

  18. Thanks for sharing, I needed this.
    Love you

  19. Jenny McDermott says:

    I loved that Elder Packer quote from Steak Conference. It really got me, too. Your conclusion is right on. I know the Lord answers prayers. He knows how it can work out. He knows your children and you and what can work for both of you. Where there is a will, there is a way.

    I think the Lord has a special spot in his heart for children, and our helping them is what humbles and blesses our lives. I count my blessings that when I turned to the Lord in prayer then worked and prayed and researched and prayed some more that I received the plead for inspiration.

    At one time I had big time mother guilt –3 of my children were struggling in a major way (all different from each other) and I had a two year old taking my constant attention. Just before everything came to a head the Lord prepared me. I was called a teacher in Relief Society. I taught the lessons on Faith and Repentance. Then I was released from teaching because the Relief Society President needed chorister. Just before I was released, it all came to a head. My 4th grader was reading and spelling at a first grade level, and as a result couldn’t get through her courses. My 2nd grader was not doing his work in school and was constantly seeking attention in all the wrong ways. My Kindergartner was still peeing the bed daily and having accidents during the day and I couldn’t for the life of me get a handle on all that was required of me. I was absolutely overwhelmed at what to do for my 3 children who were all failing at some life skill–each one non-negotiable. As I searched for answers, the lesson on Faith and President Monson’s quote kept coming back to me : “the future is as bright as your faith. ” It rang true to me and I knew if I put my trust in the Lord, and worked hard enough, it would be. The lesson on Repentance came back to me but in a way I had never applied it before–simply as a process of change. It was exactly the preparation I needed to get through the next several months! It was probably those two lessons that opened my eyes to my less than perfect situation. The beauty of the Lord’s Revelation, is that it comes when we seek it. He doesn’t force it on us, but waits until we seek it out. He doesn’t withhold from us when we have shown we are ready. Once I started working toward a better future for my kids, the Lord was there by my side to help me, and give me the strength to make it through. I was so grateful to not be teaching Relief Society once I started the WORK part of helping my kids. The Lord was watching out for me, helping me, teaching me, and preparing me, and then making it possible for me to help my little ones by giving me a less time-consuming calling. Today, all three have made leaps and bounds of progress. Emily is now in 5th grade reading at a 5th grade level and spelling has improved greatly. Joey is getting there for responsibility, and Mandy has been dry for almost a month. The Lord can do miracles. Ask, Seek, Knock.

    I wish you the best with everything.

    • Jenny McDermott says:

      I totally meant Stake Conference. I really didn’t go anywhere and eat steak!

  20. I hear you, loud and clear. I also have to be the English teacher for my kids and feel guilty that I’m not working to teach them more U.S. history and things like that. And I just wrote a post about my daughter who is missing out on Young Women and how I should be teaching her the lessons, not to mention Primary for my other three kids. They don’t get the Primary lessons and I’m too lazy to teach them. I feel so inadequate and underqualified and LAZY. But I’m starting to do better. My closing paragraph was very similar to yours here. You can do it, Annie. He’ll help you.