I have been enjoying summer and love being out with friends and doing things as a family. Beaches and parks and day trips and so much more. But there has been a lot of stressful moments and pinging feelings of failure as a mom.
This week so much has adjusted. Not just by itself like I hoped it might. No. It took conviction and thought and intention and planning and work. And it may not look like a big deal or anything, but it is movement in a better direction, and after 5 days, I see small progress.
We have slowly stumbled into some sort of a cadence for our daily life, and fine tuning happens each day, but everything has slowed down and become simpler, less rushed, better.
I have almost finished the book, “More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting” by Serena Miller. It has impacted me more than I thought, as I didn’t even expect to want to read the entire book. For the past few years, I have tried to embrace more of a simplistic lifestyle. We have come a far way, but we have also gone back to the way things were many times. With each new stage my children enter into, I see new needs – or old ones I have stopped paying attention to. I have noticed more of my ill modeled actions being echoed in these little mirrors, actions I chose in desperation to make things better when I had no idea of what to do.
Consistency failing because I never had the answers and my husband and I didn’t always see eye to eye on how we should respond.
One thing we have decided to do is put down our phones. We disconnected our internet at home and haven’t had it for almost a month now. While we can access it with hotspots on our phone, it is very slow and really only to do things like pay bills, check email, or to blog, etc., and it generally takes place in a condense period of time after the kids are in bed. Not only are we saving money, but so much time.
I started planning and using our days intentionally. I began to think of motherhood as a job – not because I feel like I need some sort of affirmation of the importance of what I do, but rather to raise more of an accountability for how my everyday goes. If I was at work, I would not be “checking out” on my phone, I would check it only on a break or for important calls. I wouldn’t leave what I was doing to answer a text or check my email. I realized how much time this adds up to and how belittling it must feel to my children when they are less interesting to me than a text. And how I limit their screen time, but not my own.
It has made our days so much better. I am learning to watch my children and enjoy them – they are young for so little. I have slowed down my words and looked them in the eye and I am seeing tones change and respect for everyone becoming greater. We are cooking together, creating together and playing wildly together. Shea loves racing on his bike against me on my longboard – today we did it for nearly an hour in an empty parking lot, and didn’t want to stop even then.
We are pursuing interests they have that I never had the energy to teach before, always giving the answer “not today”. Shea has been reading books to me every day. Small, short ones, but he is growing more confident and it has remained fun. I taught him how to use my sewing machine and he sat there and competently sewed a small dress for his sister’s plush duck with just a little guidance and practice. We find our way into the backyard or a local park and come up with as many variations of hide and seek as we can think of and I am joining instead of trying to read a book or catch up on articles and facebook posts. we are so happy to get in bed and sleep soundly at the end of the day.
We read and read and read.
And some times, I still grow tired and we do put in a short DVD, but it is treated as a reward now and often we just enjoy it as a family rather than as a babysitter.
There is so much joy to be had when we turn off and limit our access to the screens, because we don’t realize how much time we are wasting until we are sitting there in the void. We become more selective about the information we decide to read and what we do with our screen time and whether it will be a positive addition to our lives or not.
What for a while felt like a daily battle where at the end of the day, bedtime – which had never been hard for so long – began to feel like that last uphill climb at the end of a run that drains every last bit of reserved energy, has now changed so suddenly.
I wonder how children feel when after a day of spending time with them, mom collapses on the couch and of course they come wanting to cuddle and dad says, “mommy needs a break”. What message do they get from that? Yes, it IS tiring taking care of children. Yes, some days it feels like I am spending the entire day teaching them something I thought they already knew. Reminding them again and again. YES. Because this is parenting. And parenting means making a lot of sacrifices and realizing that many of the things we want to teach our children we never learned to do ourselves. Slowing down has brought peace back to our household.
It has been a tremendous amount of encouragement for me how one huge desire and a few small steps can create momentum and purpose.
And I write about all of this because I don’t know how many parents I have had to see do and say these things before I tried it. I don’t know how many days I have sat there thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t understand how my children could behave the way that they do and how that reflected on me and what an awful parent everyone must think I am and how my life had turned into just waiting for the “break” at the end of the day.
When so many of us are just figuring things out from the pieces we were given from our parents and experiences. It is so easy to judge from one moment.
And read into all the things that someone is doing or not doing and not really give any encouragement because we are too busy talking about it to others and justifying the good things we are doing and excusing the areas we are failing, because at least our children “don’t do that”. (And when I say “we” I am definitely talking about myself). Grace abounds and we can be transmitters of that grace to others.
These words are maybe a mess and spewed out from a jumbled heap of thoughts being processed late at night as my heart has ached and prayed desperately for my children and a change of my own heart. But. They are hope. And they are tangible and real ways I am seeing my prayers answered. Once change begins, it is hard to go back. It is a constant and moving process, but I no longer feel like a helpless bystander.
I have been given these beautiful children.
I have been given this assignment of raising them.
I am better for it.
And it is a beautiful place to be.