Paul and I were out on the patio having some beverages as the summer days faded into Fall, chatting about our memories through the years. We were laughing about how carefree we were in our college days and young married-before-kids days, yet we didn't even realize how carefree we were!
"I wish I could go back and tell myself the things I was missing!" we both agreed.
I enjoyed our twenties immensely, but in hindsight I could have enjoyed it even more with all the benefits of the perspective I gained in my thirties! The same goes for our days of littles - we agreed that when the boys were small we often missed out on how cute they were when we were feeling tired and worrying about all of the "have-to's" of parenting. . .baths and feeding and developmental milestones and potty training and sibling squabbles. Now that I have the privilege of teaching preschool and I am so enamored with the cuties in my classroom, I realize that when my little guys were that age they were just as cute but I might have missed out on truly appreciating it while cleaning up the couch stuffing.
|Aren't we cute? ;)|
I don't look back with regret, but I do look back with wisdom gained the hard way. So, that had me wondering. . .
"OK, Paul. . ." I said. "What am I missing RIGHT now? RIGHT NOW- at 11, 10, 8 and 5. What am I going to look back in five years and say, I wish I would have known I was missing. . ."
Paul said, without skipping a beat, "Jen, you're missing how much they need you right now."
(insert imaginary mic drop and super long pause for this life-changing information)
Well, wouldn't you know it. Paul was right. That's exactly what I have been missing. I mean, I knew that. But I wasn't APPRECIATING it. I've been feeling burdened by how much they need me. I will admit, I have even complained that as they have gotten older I feel they need me MORE. They want to tell me everything. They want my advice on everything. They want to give me a recap of everything they played at recess, ate at lunch, talked about on the bus, built in Minecraft, read in their books. They all want me to read to them, listen to their story, say a prayer with them, sit next to them, take them on a special outing, be the first one they see in the morning when they wake up, comb their hair for them because I do it better, fix their covers in the night, make them scrambled eggs in the morning or a bowl of ice cream after school. And I, in my self-centered view, was only seeing how that was a little taxing on my mental space and personal time since there are FOUR of them. As my friend Alyssa always helps me remember, it's not their fault there are four of them! They didn't choose to have three brothers, they were born into this family. It's my vocation to see each of them as individuals, while helping them live and thrive in a family. It's my calling to be mindful and present to them NOW, so that in 5 years, or 10 years, or 20 years, everything we've laid in their hearts in our home will be with them as they go out into the world and create homes of their own. And, so that in 5 years, or 10 years, or 20 years, I'll be looking back knowing I left it all out here on the field and I didn't hold anything back.
I'm reading a book called The Four Agreements, and in the book it teaches about how our words (or the words of others) can become our perception of reality. I think enough people had told me "You have your hands full" or "Wow, that's a lot of boys" or "Just wait until they're teenagers" or "It must be crazy at your house" that I had really internalized those words. They became my reality- that what I was doing right now was hard. I was allowing my truth to be "I have four boys and my life is hectic and crazy."
In fact, it's just the other side of the same coin. I need to flip my words so I can flip that coin.
All of the little struggles (messes, fights, tears, endless dishes, people touching everything all the time and going every direction in every store. . ) are the other side of the coin of blessings I hold in my hand. . . four beautiful, healthy, sweet, ENERGETIC boys. Both sides are there, but I have to make the constant choice to look at the shiny side and not the messy one that makes me want to curl up in a ball.
The sentence, "All of my children are here with me" can be read in two tones of voice. Not everyone has the privilege of saying it at all, so I'm trying to choose the grateful one. There is so much good to be uncovered when I choose to be grateful. At the top of the trail of whining, there's a beautiful overlook. ;) And then, a downhill run! It takes all of it to make a life.
Every day, I fall short of my own expectation of what I think the best mom would do. But, every day that failure leaves room for growth and leaves room for grace. Not I, but the grace of God in me. If I made it look too easy, how would my children learn to handle their own struggles? If I try to do it all perfectly and do it all myself, how will I learn and show my children how to accept our role as limited humans walking on this earth who are most definitely not God but need God a whole lot?
God, you are good.
You are You, and I am not.
But I am here.
Just trying to do the best I can
To love you
And serve you
By loving and serving your people
(Starting with the ones in my four walls- I'm going to admit, God, sometimes that's a little harder.)
May the love we share here
spill out into the world.
May I teach my children by example
To be fully human
Accepting your grace
Trying our best to do your will
And walking each other home.