"Young boys and girls don't really want their mothers and fathers all to themselves all of the time, but they do long for the feeling of being best-loved and most beautiful and specially prized at least some of the time."
- Fred Rogers
For the first 10 years of my life, I was an only child. I had all of the attention and love of the grown-ups on my life. . .all to myself. It was awesome. Then, when my sister was born, I was old enough to not feel jealous at all and just think, once again, it was awesome. . .because now I had a cute little kid sister to show off everywhere I went. Shoot, I am STILL showing off my kid sister and bragging about her everywhere I go!
Look at me!! Look how specially prized I am. . .I AM IN A BUBBLE!!! OVER MY PARENTS' HEADS!!
So, of course, when I had kids of my own I had the expectation that I would be giving them lots of attention and one-on-one time. However, as baby boy after baby boy arrived in a span of a few short years, I was faced with a challenge I was not really prepared for. It wasn't the extra laundry or extra time spent cleaning up bodily fluids or the extra dishes to try to artfully arrange in my dishwasher so I never actually have to actually touch them with a sponge. The greatest challenge has been one within myself. . .and that is how, in the busy, hectic, rushing-ahead whirlwind of time and things to do and people to see and lists to check and noses to wipe and meals to plan and shop and prepare and serve and clean-
to SEE my children
really SEE them
instead of as "the boys".
When we found out we were expecting a fourth boy, I was actually relieved! Another BOY!! They are still 'the boys'- WHEW! Sometimes it is easy for me to feel like a mother duck, herding my little ducklings from one place to another. If Noah could walk I think I really would look like one (especially since I have a small problem with dressing my kids in matching outfits).
But here's the thing. . .God gave me four UNIQUE SPECIAL SOULS to love and guide and cherish. They have their own thoughts and feelings and passions and interests. They are truly little presents waiting to be unwrapped. I have so much to learn about each of them! But at times it can be more convenient for me to see them as a mass of kids. . .a group of boys needing an activity to keep them busy, an assembly line to bathe and dress and toothbrush and read and kiss and send to bed. . .a line of plates to fill and then have emptied into waiting bellies, scraped in the trash and brought to the dishwasher. Sometimes I can get more concerned with the end result. . .quiet kids, sleeping kids, fed kids. . .that I forget about the fact that God didn't give me these kids to manage or organize. He gave them to me to nurture. And the end result has less to do with the efficiency of bedtime and more to do with who they become as adults. If one is more quiet, or dragging behind, or having a hard time falling asleep, or has a tummy ache, or can't get their shirt on, or is bursting to tell me a story, or needs an extra cuddle, who am I to deny them my attention just because I have three others to attend to as well? What teachable moment will I miss out on, what chance to build relationship will I allow to pass me by, what opportunity to serve and love will I deny if I simply brush them off or snap at them because they have stepped out of our routine or are keeping me from executing my previously envisioned plan (or they happened to be the unlucky one who spilled the thing that pushed me over the edge or woke me up for the fifth time in three hours?)
So, friends, this has become my challenge to myself. God in His perfect vision sees my boys as the individuals He created them to be. They see themselves as individuals every moment of every day. They have one Mommy, and that's me. . .even though I have four of them. Now, I can't forgo all of our household routines and expectations and procedures and rhythms of our life, because those are an important part of our sanity and our stability as a family. I also recognize that I can't heap unreasonable expectations on myself and my time, that fair doesn't necessarily mean the same for everyone. . .and that they have the added benefit of attention from each other every second of the day, not to mention amazing grandparents, caring neighbors and friends, and wonderful teachers and playmates to shower them with love.
There is no way to give them all of my attention all of the time, however. . .
I WILL be more careful to listen when they are talking to me either with their behavior or their facial expressions or their words. I am going to stop and listen more, to REALLY listen, when one of my little buddies seems to be struggling to have his best day.
I WILL carve out those moments where each one gets to feel the most "specially prized." I will verbalize the things I notice about them, ask them questions, take just one to the grocery store with me and be present to them.
I WILL take notice when I am starting to fray a bit around the edges and try not to snap at the one little guy who just happens to be the unlucky one who pulls the last thread. :)
I WILL be more aware that they are Philip, Daniel, Joshua and Noah as well as "The Boys". Their place in our family is an important part of who they are, but it is not all of who they are. It is my job to recognize both.
Everyone deserves to feel seen, heard and loved. I will give that to my own children, so that as a family we can give it to the world.
"We need to try to show our children that we love and value them. By doing so, we can help them learn that there is much in the world to love and value as well. . .and that goes for the people in it, too."