Thursday, June 4, 2015

Measuring Up

It's morning and my kids are up. The girls made breakfast for everyone, serving eggs to toddlers when I came down the stairs with the baby. Then they move on to bathing toddlers while I talk to my older son about the goals of our day, my expectations, and getting that lawn mowed.

Seven kids is a full house. We have three children under four and I'm realizing that I do need a little more help right now. This makes me take a look at how everyone is spending their time, and how we can coordinate free play times a little better to match up with naps so that our days are as balanced as possible, allowing for fun and for getting the things done we need to.

It makes me take a long hard look at my goals in parenting. Revisiting the question of what matters most to me gives me so much freedom. It helps me sort through the yes's and the no's and live life with more intention.

Honestly, 99% of my parenting can feel reactive. Survival mode. Just getting us through the day. I try to be intentional but the days slip on by with the normal flow of putting out fires, cleaning up messes and breaking up arguments that sometimes I wonder if I'm really teaching these kids anything at all. Communicating what life is all about, preparing them for anything real outside these four walls. When I examine my true goals, however, I can see that what I want to model and who I want to be can be found in living life just as we have been - knee deep in the work of keeping this thing going.

Over the past year or so, I've been struggling with insecurity in various areas of my life. Fear, really, of change, of failure, of stepping outside my comfort zone only to be kicked right back in. Worries about my older children as they grow - how is their character coming along? How can I be a better example? I've always been someone who has shied away from change and, often, challenge. I have confidence in what comes easily to me, but I've always been someone afraid to try if it's likely I'll fail. Still, I know sticking your head in the sand, fingers in your ears and ignoring the inevitable is a surefire way to let your life pass on by with a load of regrets.

There are no guarantees in parenting.  I know that I'm not the be all-end all in my kids' lives. I do know that the foundation I'm laying now will inform who they are as adults, that they will weigh where they come from and what they've learned from me when making decisions going forward, for better or for worse. They will choose what they will choose, but I hope they always know where I stand.

When I think of the kind of mother I want to be, so much of my self-imposed standards just fall by the wayside. Boiling it all down to the main thing, I can see my central motivations and build from there onward. I want to be a mother who is defined by nurturing compassion, someone who points to Christ by her example. Those are the things that matter to me the very most. Whether or not my baby wears cloth diapers or my kids get the latest and greatest toys r us Toy of the Year or have personalized goodie bags at their birthday parties - those things matter little. When I hold them up against my true standards, I can relax a little bit. Smile more. Remember what I'm doing here because it's so easy to be distracted, isn't it?

Sure, I'd like to be the Mom that makes homemade jam and hangs laundry on the line and grows vegatables and beautiful flowers and somehow manages to do it all while looking amazing. Those are preferences, and, if I'm honest, kind of luxuries. The hard hitting, end of the day necessities to this parenting journey can be found in the virtues I pray to exhibit. Everything else is secondary.

And virtue? Virtue is displayed in how life is lived authentically. Not just when I get it right, but when I get it wrong and struggle to correct, refusing to be distracted by the things that do not matter. It's how my kids are learning from me. One day at a time. Just doing what we do.

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