The other night as we dealt with the crazy, beautiful, occasionally maddening mess that is "bath night with four kids", Paul shouted out an observation from the nursery where he was getting Noah in jammies.
"You know, Jen, this time next year we aren't even going to have so many of these things. Diapers? Baby gates? A crib?"
My eyes got huge. I looked at my oldest, Philip, whom I was currently slathering with lotion in the boys' room.
"Oh my gosh, he's right!" I said to Phil, and started to shake my head.
"Yeah, Mommy!" Phil chimed in. "Or pacis. Or. . .(dun, dun, dun) Elllllmoooooooo?!" He looked at me with a little raise of the eyebrow, expectantly waiting for the tears that always come when I think about the boys growing. I was already lost in thought, trying to process the changes ahead. The baby things are going to be gone before I know it. Didn't we just get those back out?
Temporary, it's all so temporary.
And now that I can see the end of the baby and toddler and preschooler years in sight, I realize how short it all was. My first few years as a stay-at-home mom, I didn't live it like it was temporary. The days with the two babies stretched on for what felt like years, yet the years were flying by so quickly that by the time I finally started writing 2009 on my checks it was time to write 2010. I questioned myself so much at the beginning. . .am I doing this right? Am I a good mom? I worried about everything. . .what if I don't potty train now? What is that diaper rash? Why is he crying? When will he sleep through the night? What should I feed him? I had beautiful moments to be sure, but I definitely worried my way through most of those never-ending days as if they would truly never end.
Then, I received a gift in the form of a blog post. Glennon Melton's post, Don't Carpe Diem, went viral at just the right time in my life, in the middle of winter 2011 with three kids three and under. Isn't it amazing how someone can give you such freedom through a few words they write? In the day I read that blog post (and read it 10 times again and forwarded it to everyone I knew) I realized that I did not have to love every MINUTE of my life to love my life. I didn't have to be good at EVERYTHING to be doing a good job. It was the most liberating thought I could experience. From that moment forward, my perspective of what a "good life" meant shifted. I began experiencing an inner freedom I had never felt before. A freedom from self-judgement, a freedom to be me. Silly, sentimental, clumsy, goofy, outgoing, imperfect, messy ME, living a silly, messy, imperfect, heartfelt life.
With my eyes opened, I began to see the freedom each of my children was calling me to as well. Philip is so trusting. His favorite song for me to sing to him at bedtime is "The Lord is my Light and my Salvation" by David Haas. In the beginning of my parenthood, I was sooooo afraid of messing things up. But, of whom should I be afraid, really? When I fear, it's likely because I've started putting my trust in my own power, in doing things "right" as the key to life. Phil's trust and hope reminds me to put my trust in God's help, not mine. Phil, in simply being Phil, calls me to freedom from fear.
Daniel is so silly and tenderhearted. He has so many of my traits, like loving stuffed animals and puns and popcorn and puppets and crying when others are sad. He is also just as clumsy and absentminded as his mama. He'll be putting on a pair of fresh pajamas to go to school while I'm putting a bag of potato chips in the refrigerator and a stick of butter in the pantry. He always gets the biggest giggle out of himself when he realizes what he has done, and calls me to that freedom to laugh at my mistakes as well.
Josh is so funny. He is the Michael Scott to my Holly. We talk in Yoda voices or play Uno together using a language made mostly of the word "nerp." We go out in public wearing costumes and sing songs to each other through the little "telephone" things at the playground. Every time he looks at me with his big brown eyes squinting with love, gives me that priceless giggle and flashes his dimpled grin, he gives me the freedom to be silly.
And Noah, sweet Noah. He loves and hugs and laughs and grows so fast. He's the icing on the cake. He reminds me daily of the two sides of the coin of life.
One one side. . .it's temporary.
But on the other side. . .it's temporary.
In that message comes a freedom I never knew I needed. The freedom to slow down, the freedom to enjoy the present moment. If we know it will all be over to soon, we worry less, regret less, judge less. In the frame of "temporary", problems that seem so large become but a blip on the screen of an enormous life. Moments that seem so small, however, can expand to fill our minds and hearts and sustain us in the years to come. That feeling of "temporary" makes me want to live more kindly and gently, and calls me to the freedom to be my authentic self in any given moment.
The next moment isn't guaranteed.
So I'm going to accept their little invitations to freedom whenever I can take them.
Freedom from fear.
Freedom from criticism.
The freedom to be silly.
The freedom to be still.
My children have no idea that they have given me this freedom, but hopefully someday they will read this, and someday they will. Thank you, boys. Thank you for being free. Thank you for being you.
When you are interiorly free you call others to freedom, whether you know it or not. Freedom attracts wherever it appears. A free man or a free woman creates a space where others feel safe and want to dwell. Our world is so full of conditions, demands, requirements, and obligations that we often wonder what is expected of us. But when we meet a truly free person, there are no expectations, only an invitation to reach into ourselves and discover there our own freedom.
Where true inner freedom is, there is God. And where God is, there we want to be.