We had to make a tough parenting decision last week and emotions were high. This week there's the annoyance/inconvenience of a sprained ankle (mine). And did I mention my husband is traveling today? What mode do you go into when you're stressed? I go into organizational mode. I think (mistakenly) that by organizing away my problems, they will be sorted and handled for me. I have been known to, when against the ropes, throw out anything in my path, including perfectly good shoes and toys.
Yesterday I was reading one of my all-time favorite mothering books, Loving the Little Years, and I needed to hear every word of the chapter I read. Here are some excerpts, in case you're like me and need to hear these words, too.
"Dry erase boards and chore charts are all well and good, but they do not change the fact that what you have on your hands is children, not an organizational problem...This is a very easy trap to fall in, because the more children you have the more difficult it is to keep them clean and clothed and well-fed. Just the basics of life are a full-time job.
It is also easy for parents to fall into this sort of lifestyle because cleaning and sorting makes you look and maybe even feel like you have your act together, even if you seriously don't. What you are doing is finding a way to contain your children, control them, and keep their sin from making you look bad. But you are not actually dealing with anything...
Christian childrearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge. The more children you have, the more you need to be pastorally minded. Look to their souls and their needs. If you are focused on upkeep of the house and the schedule, as long as your child is not interrupting that, you don't worry about it....
Be a pastor to your children. Study them. Seek them out. Sacrifice the thing you were doing to work through minor emotional issues... Sacrifice your peace for their fun, your clean kitchen floor for their help cracking eggs, your quiet moment for their long retelling of a dream that a friend of theirs allegedly had. Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters."
Of course there are times when things just need to get done! It would be impractical to suggest otherwise. It's certainly not always a kumbaya session over here. But I should be seeking out my children and seeing them as individuals with individual preferences and needs, rather than trying to counter their bulk effect by organizing them away.
Here's a photo from over the weekend, when I mostly just wanted to put everyone to bed on time and relax with my husband before doing it all over again the next day. But we made a fire, had the girls gather sticks for marshmallow roasting, and made a family affair of s'more making. I don't remember what time we got everyone to bed, or whether I was tired the next day, but I do remember their big smiles, Eloise's surprised expression when Mimi's marshmallow lit on fire, and the feeling of summer magic hanging in the air.
Today I'm still gimpy with my busted ankle, I'm solo-momming with three kids aged four and under, and I could probably feel a little sorry for myself like I have been the past couple of days. But I'm going to remind myself to be pastorally minded, and I think that will help my daily duties feel a lot less like herding cats and more like raising up the sweet little souls that they are.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.” ― C.S. Lewis