In response to the post Tiny Dresses and Cowboy Pajamas about how childhood is fleeting and we should enjoy the years with children at home, a Mom of young children asked the following question:
“I always try to keep in mind the fact that it will, and does, go by so fast. I really do try to enjoy it, but sometimes I’m better at doing that in theory and thought than in practice. Do you have any tips on how to apply this thought in a practical way?”
First of all, be assured that no one does it perfectly. In the midst of three little kids with stomach flu or washing the underwear of a resistant potty-trainer, it’s normal to feel that mothering is less than enjoyable. Almost everyone has thought, at one time or another, “Are these kids ever going to grow up?”
The problem comes when that is the controlling thought of your life. A constant stream of self-pity and avoiding responsibility just makes for a miserable Mom, and it’s not going to make the children grow up any faster. Pining away for the life you used to have or wishing away the diaper-changing years is foolish.
In addition, those thoughts turn into words. It’s a sad thing for a child to overhear his mother complain about him to another person. When the child hears “he’s my wild one” his little mind accepts that label and sets about being just that. Can you imagine the rejection a little girl feels when she hears that her Mom can’t wait until the kids go back to school? Speak life-giving words, not words of death and rejection and disdain.
As part of the mystery of life, we love those whom we serve. Sometimes the answer when it’s hard is to actually go the second mile. Rather than just throw the cereal bowls on the table, lay a cloth and light a candle. Beauty feeds your own soul and your children’s as well.
Part of serving those whom we love is to make a commitment to avoid complaining, negative words and a pained expression when you are serving your children. I know that I failed at this many times over the years and it’s a painful regret. Think about how you feel when someone is doing something for you with sighs and rolling eyes. It’s not very nice, is it? Too often we get aggravated about tasks that we must do because of another’s inability to do it for themselves—and that’s not their fault.
To a great extent, our ability to enjoy our children’s season of childhood depends on how well we take thoughts captive.
Our reactions to our family can be affected when we get dragged out and exhausted on the journey because we’re not caring for ourselves. I spent a lot of years very overweight and that reflected my belief that I was being noble for putting everyone else ahead of my basic needs. I also felt that I didn’t deserve to be cared for, but that’s another post entirely. I’m not advocating an attitude of “I have my rights” but many of us need a gentle reminder that reasonably caring for ourselves helps us care better for others.
This care not only includes food, hydration and rest, but exercise and personal growth as well. Motherhood has stretched me to the uttermost as a person, and I somehow made time to invest in my own education and training. I read books about home organization, cooking, marriage, homeschooling, home decorating and more—whatever area of my home or life that I was working on at the time. The internet has now opened limitless opportunities for learning.
Just make sure that whatever resources you choose, they influence you for good. If a certain blog or magazine or person makes you feel discontent and annoyed with your circumstances, run, don’t walk, to remove it from your life. Choose uplifting, encouraging and challenging–not harsh or guilt-producing—input, training and mentoring. Take care who and what you allow to influence you. Check the fruit of their life and method. Beware the teacher who read a book and is now trying to tell you how to do it!
Finally, make it easier on yourself whenever you can. Paper plates and disposable diapers can be lifesavers during a rough season. Put up gates in the doorways and rest on the couch while little ones play nearby. Stay home and let the kids get their naps. Consistently discipline your children, for that will definitely make your life easier (and theirs, too).
Rather than trying to escape home, set about learning how to make it the best, most homey place on earth for your family. We get more of what we focus on. You can choose to focus on “these kids are driving me crazy” or “how can I make this situation better?”
I didn’t name this post “Surviving Your Kids’ Childhood” because I don’t want you to think that way. Sure, we joke about it sometimes, but when your child is thirty years old you’ll wistfully remember these years as good ones.
Dr. Herbert Ratner, longtime pediatrician and La Leche League consultant, once said this about parenting:
“The years between 40 and 60 are just as long as the years between 20 and 40. What you do in the first twenty years will determine how happy you are in the second twenty years.”
Chin up, Mom. Find ways to help you keep the right perspective when your courage is flagging. Years from now you won’t wish that you had ignored your kids and yanked their diapers and hated every minute of having little ones. You’ll be glad you did what it took to do the hard things and stay faithful and give your children a happy and secure childhood.