Dear Mom of Three at Walmart yesterday,
I saw you. I had turned my cart into your aisle and I saw the busyness of your little family. The older two were being older siblings, provoking each other and moving constantly like a swirling cloud of bodies around you. My eye caught signs that you may be navigating the waters of a behavioral issue.
You were trying to complete your list, I know. I saw your frustration and recognized the feelings of “just let me finish this” on your face for a fleeting moment. Had I been in your shoes at that moment when the siblings began to grab each other, I’m sure my voice would have raised in decibel, yet you kept calm. You quietly reminded them in peaceful tones to leave each other alone and let you finish your shopping.
I think you might have felt like you needed to get out of my way and you quickly moved your brood around the corner. As the cart turned to the right, I saw you smoothly catch a hand before it grabbed an item off the shelf. You kept going.
I didn’t hear all your murmured words to your children, but I know there were admonitions of how we should act in a store and how we should act with siblings.
I must admit, I followed you a bit through the store. I was in awe. Your voice continued to calmly speak. When one would be out of line, a gentle touch from you brought order back for the moment. And even when I thought you couldn’t possibly have seen what your very active family was doing, you always seemed to know. You could stop a hand or body from doing something it shouldn’t, all the while taking care of your business.
You may feel embarrassed about the way your family was behaving. You may feel you didn’t have a productive trip to the store. I hope not. It was very productive in my eyes.
Your children feel safe with you. They know that when they misbehave, there will be consistent correction. That correction is not demeaning or humiliating in public. They are learning to respond in love and peace through your example.
Your children were obedient, even though with their difficulties or childish excitement they forgot once in a while. You didn’t encourage their behavior, and continued to calmly remind and direct how they should behave.
You have a full plate with your little family, Mom. That’s a fact. I don’t know if this is at all what you planned for as you thought about life as a parent. Probably not.
I hope you are able to continue walking with the peace and grace you showed that day. I hope you see this note and are encouraged. You are doing it well, Mom.
Traditions are very important to me. A long-standing tradition can bring families together in ways that not much else can. It warms my heart to hear my not-so-little children saying things like, “Remember when,” and “Aren’t we doing ________ like we’ve done before?” What I see is that whatever the season, something is made more memorable by a tradition. True, you can be overwhelmed by too many traditions. In fact, it could bog down a perfectly beautiful celebration if every moment had to include a tradition of some sort. But, to have a few special things for your family to look forward to each year can be a precious thing.
The “big holiday season” is coming soon. We are making grocery lists and shopping lists and to do lists and wish lists…oh, so many lists! That is already beginning for me, but the real start of the Christmas season for our home is the annual performance of “The Nutcracker.” When my Emilie was small, I was able to take her to enjoy the ballet. Now, our family goes together to watch Hayden perform.
In our community, “The Nutcracker” is a ballet performed by the Eugene Ballet Company along with quite a few talented locals. The dance students from our area audition in September and spend weekends through October and November rehearsing for the performance, where they join the Eugene company.
Throughout the years, we have watched our daughter dance as an adorable mouse, a beautiful angel, an energetic ladybug, and an excited party guest. Her age and experience have not allowed her to be a part of the flower corps yet.
Last year, an emergency caused Jerry and me to miss the first part of the performance. Our older children both called (separately) to assure us that they would represent us to their sister, asking if they should buy her flowers. It touched my heart as a mom that they would ask, and also showed me this is important to all of us. It has become a treasured tradition in the Smart home.
Each time we enter Jacoby Auditorium and find our seats to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, excitement builds. Smiles all around, as proud parents and local fine arts supporters wait expectantly for the lights to lower and the music to rise. Little girls, dressed in their very best, waiting to experience the magic for the first time and those of us who have had the pleasure of watching before, gather together to enjoy this community tradition.
It’s different than the everyday things we do. We dress up and sit properly in our seats, applauding where appropriate, holding bouquets to give to our little “stars.” It has become a special family activity for us, a tradition that none wants to part with. And once we leave the auditorium, I (at least) can say the season has started.
The title is a quote from Heraclitus. It sounds true. And I guess it should come as a comfort that while we are all doing this life thing together that everyone deals with change. I don’t deal with change well. It is out of my comfort zone. There’s an element of lost control when things change, at least for me.
Life is changing at the Smart house again. Two and a half years ago I wrote a blog talking about some changes then. Of course, things have been changing all along, but some pretty significant things are going on now. Emilie is well established in college now, with a year under her belt. Having another adult in the house is interesting. We don’t really make plans for her anymore, we just invite her to join us when she can (and she usually does!) Taylor will be starting his SENIOR year in high school. It’s been a wild ride with him, to say the least, but the finish line is in sight and we’re excited. Hayden (my baby!) is starting high school this year. This one is most difficult. She’s growing up and while I am so happy for her, a little bit of me wants to cuddle with that tiny blue-eyed girl who stole all our hearts.
Most significant (to me) is that I am going back to work. I have been hired at Umpqua Valley Christian as their 3rd grade teacher. With the church still needing to keep a smaller staff, our home budget has taken a hit again. This job will help make up the difference. That is such a blessing and I am so excited to be doing something in a classroom again. To be sure, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. (Have you seen the site teacherspayteachers? Love it, but oh man, there’s a lot of info there!) I had decided to step down from coaching the JV volleyball team this year, with all my new teaching duties. I was going to assist the Varsity coach. Now, she is stepping down and with that decision, I am also. Not really by my choice, but a good decision regardless.
There are some additional decisions I am currently praying about which mean change as well. I’m having a particularly difficult time coming to terms with one of them. In praying through this process, the Lord gave me a picture of myself holding my hands over my eyes while a tornado of things I am doing swirled and whirled around me. I was upset because I couldn’t catch a hold of things I thought should be staying with me, and I looked up to tell Him I didn’t like the changes happening. He said,
I am “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Come stand by me and I will give you what you need for this moment.
He led me to a conveyor belt and showed me how in my life He places things in front of me for a season for me to work on (like in a factory assembly line.) When my part is done, the belt moves that thing to the next person and a new task is in front of me. With Jesus by my side, I can do whatever task He places there. I won’t stay in my comfortable area doing the same thing forever, but He has a better plan for me. And me letting go means He can bless the person taking over as well as me as I start my new assignment.
So, Mr. Heraclitus, I beg to differ. The only constant in my life is Jesus. And there is no fear of change when I’m standing with Him.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV)
I don’t deserve this job as a mother
I think, as I stand at the sink washing
an entire household’s day of dishes
that no one else seems to see.
I don’t deserve this job as a mother
I think, as I organize the day,
with it’s challenges of who goes where
at what time and with whom.
I don’t deserve this job as mother
I think (early in the morning), as I stumble from my bed
to wake the masses
in time to complete forgotten chores before their days begin.
I don’t deserve this job as a mother
I think, as I sit with my baby
and cry over the disappointment
the day brought upon her.
I don’t deserve this job as a mother
I think (late at night), as I lay in my bed
agonizing over decisions I’ve made that day.
Did I handle everything correctly?
I don’t deserve this job as a mother
I think, as I receive forgiveness
for lashing out in frustration,
at the end of my rope.
The unexpected hug, the kiss,
the moment when I look into beautiful eyes
that understand what I am doing
and I hear “thank you” “I love you” “you are the best, mom”
No, I don’t deserve this job as a mother.
There is an old song by Steve and Annie Chapman called “Goodnight Kiss.” Some of the lyrics include:
“I count it as a privilege
I count it cause for praise
to kiss my children goodnight
at the close of everyday
for I know too soon they’re off and gone
and walkin’ out the door
and I’ll never have a child to kiss
tell the story read a book
wipe a nose or tie a shoe
they never ask me to rub their back
the way they used to do
once it was a bother
just a troublesome kind of chore
now I would give anything
to do it just once more”
When each of my babies was born, I heard over and over, “Savor each moment. They grow so fast.”
I’ve even said it to a few new mommies. It’s true. They do grow so quickly. And when they are young, you spend so much time with them, it’s difficult to imagine a life without little ones. You are making dinners, kissing hurts away, answering questions… the list of parenting duties is endless.
I remember being called to my son’s bedside at 2 in the morning when his little legs were cramping. I rescued my oldest (more than once) when she climbed something and couldn’t get down. My youngest hid… everywhere… Code Adam was used at WalMart…
As the kids grow up, they still need us as parents. They do not need us in the same way. We won’t be kissing a boo boo or reading a book at night. We will be having a date night and going on special shopping trips.
All these are precious stories to my husband and me now. Then, it was just doing the “parenting thing.”
There are lots of fun memory-making times, too. We purposefully made plans to do activities together. Granted, many had to be done together because of their ages and abilities. It was time spent together, though, and I treasure it now.
At present, we all tend to be going in different directions. School, work, dance and band practice (that’s just the kids!) expend most of the minutes we have in each day. It’s difficult to work in times of planned family activities. Having dinner together at the table is hard enough!
The point to be made, though, is that it is still important. As the kids grow up, they still need us as parents. They do not need us in the same way. We won’t be kissing a boo boo or reading a book at night. We will be having a date night and going on special shopping trips.
So remember, your kids are growing up fast. Make an effort to connect with them, whatever age they are. Keep making memories for yourself and them.
“Savor each moment. They grow so fast.”
Too soon, they will be out of your nest and building their own.
I think I’ll go hug someone special now.
Just for fun, Jerry and I are sharing our sides on different topics. The topics are chosen, we both write our own opinion (without reading the other’s first) and then post them to our respective blogs. You can visit Jerry’s blog here to read his side of the story.
I think my cooking style has changed over the years. As a newlywed, I only had a couple of recipes up my sleeve to pull out for my husband. I liked to “experiment,” which usually meant adding corn to Hamburger Helper.
…I was not very inspired…
After all the years we’ve been together, I wouldn’t say I am a particularly adventurous chef, but I have some family favorites. (Hamburger Helper has not been purchased for years!) My family loves the “Simple Bolognese” (taken from Giada De Laurentiis) and I make a couple of slow cooker meals which are popular. Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of complaints. I’ve learned the basics of what my family will and will not eat and when I try to new recipes, I can tailor them to those particulars.
I have, however, always been one to want to cook what sounds good today. I don’t mind making a weekly menu, but I use that more to know what to buy. Usually I just make a list of the dishes I intend to make during that particular week and choose each day what I want to serve. I have never really been interested in the idea of structured menu planning…i.e. Meatloaf Monday, Spaghetti Sunday, etc.
All this is out of Jerry’s comfort zone. He really wants to wake up each morning knowing exactly what is happening in regards to the kitchen table. I laugh because, I’m sorry Honey, it ain’t happening! The idea that you would have a total of seven dinners and every week eat the same thing on the same day…yawn. That seems so boring!
I like the freedom to change things up. I also like to find new recipes and throw them in the mix as well. I mean, how would we know about that wonderful “Crock Pot Indonesian Chicken” that we have decided is a new family favorite? Yes, there have been some recipes that we won’t try again, but how fun to switch it up a little and try new things.
So, I choose to live a free life, not dictated by the day of the week. Jerry, you can do it your way when I go out of town!
Check out Jerry’s side here. Any topics you would like to suggest?
It’s amazing to think how much time and energy goes into raising a family.
I had a rough few years after my oldest was born. Trying to figure out how best to handle each new step of her life was a challenge to me. I judged myself based on what I thought others thought of my child-rearing and there were some pretty miserable years in there.
I learned a few things along the way. Some by trial and error on my part, some from observing others. Some worked well for child number one but were totally ineffective for number three.
You are the mom. It is valuable to listen to others’ advice, but use your own judgement to make decisions for your children.
Yet, there are a few lessons that have always been constant in our home. So, humbly, here are my Top Six Parenting Tips:
1. You are the mom. It is valuable to listen to others’ advice, but use your own judgement to make decisions for your children. Don’t be bullied by friends or relatives into doing things their way. Some of the things spoken will be well worth the time you’ve taken to listen and some just won’t work. It’s your right to decide for your family. (Even if that means disregarding the rest of what I say here!)
2. Every child adds something to your home. The personality of the whole family changes. There are things you will not be able to do the same way with each child, maybe not even equally. And that’s OK.
3. Let your children navigate their friendships. It’s great to help them make wise decisions, but if you involve yourself in every conflict that arises, they will not learn to deal with what life throws at them.
4. Make your children responsible for their own actions. It is very easy to brush away a small complaint by someone who “ doesn’t know my child well enough to speak into her life,” but be honest with yourself about what your child should own up to.
5. Don’t be afraid to let your children try things. I’ve seen parents not letting their children run because they might fall or play in the mud because their clothes will get dirty. Let them explore and have those growing, learning experiences. Grab a box of Band-aids and some wet wipes!
6. Be yourself to your kids. Don’t hide your failures, but include them in your life. Show your children how to learn from mistakes. Be real, apologize and love big.
I am still learning with each step my children take. I make mistakes and have to rethink strategies, but I am confident of my love and commitment to my children. We’ll all make it through.