For a while I really thought I was in my groove taking care of four kids. Of course the summer was made easier by the fact that much of it was spent with family, where extra hands and playmates are plentiful. But even on my own, I felt like I had a routine going. Last week threw me for a total loop. It was Lila's first week back in school which meant my summertime backup plan of staying in jammies and hanging out at home all day if anything went majorly wrong in the morning was out the window. You can't let your first grader skip school just because the baby was up all night nursing so you couldn't get yourself out of bed until after 7, the kids refuse to eat breakfast, a huge glass of milk spilled all over toys and books, your daughter won't stop crying because her hair and/or outfit aren't right, and there's poop on your toy room floor. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I had the genius idea to start potty training last week too. And the little ones' naps are now on the "she naps, he naps, she naps" someone is napping round the clock schedule. Good luck getting out of the house!
I absolutely love being a mother and I cherish the blessing it is to have our four kids in such close succession. I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, the only real down side is that because I (ahem, I mean "we,"... but yes, mostly "I") chose to have four kids very quickly, I often feel I can't complain about or even simply discuss or bring up the difficulties that come with having so many very young children. I'm afraid that doing so would somehow send the message that having our kids the way we have was somehow the wrong choice or one that I regret, which is simply not the case. Just because something is the right choice doesn't mean it is an easy one. In fact in my experience, the opposite is often true. During these past six years motherhood has stretched me thinner than I could have imagined, but that stretching has resulted in far more growth than I could have experienced in any other way. I know our life is just as God intended.
In saying that I try to avoid complaining about the craziness of being a stay at home mom to four kids six and under, I should clarify that there is one poor soul who singlehandedly shoulders the burden of fielding those complaints: my poor husband. He is truly a brave soul. He even told me the other day that he had a spiritual prompting that we should indeed have more children, an idea he was starting to grow leery of (I wonder why? Our home is nothing but peaceful obedience and order), but that I already knew intuitively. I'm certain that fielding my complaints causes him more stress than the actual situations I complain about bring me. I can't imagine going through life without this gentle, kind, selfless, hilarious man at my side. Goal: Complain less. Or find a new person to complain to. Give the poor guy a break.
Lila has been very emotional lately. She is the type of girl who tries so hard to do things right that when things don't go how she anticipates or desires, she totally loses it. Her meltdowns can easily make my blood boil and the volume of my voice rise. I hate it. "It" being my immature reaction. I came across a little saying on Facebook the other day (the omniscient source of parenting wisdom) that really struck home. It said something like, "Don't be so busy trying to raise your children to be good people that you don't realize that they already are." I make that mistake a lot. I try to be consistent about recognizing the things my kids do right, to compliment their achievements and good choices to daddy when he comes home, to tell them the reasons they are so wonderful. But sometimes I find myself getting caught up in analyzing what I can do to help them overcome what I perceive as their weaknesses or imperfections instead of marveling at the well-intentioned, big hearted, amazing kids they are. My quest to become a "good" parent is sometimes at the expense of being an unconditionally loving one. Goal: Focus more on how great my kids are and less what I can do to "improve" them.
I tell Lila she gets her clumsiness and temper from me. She certainly didn't get them from her athletic, borderline saint father. Those qualities are of course the two things about her that drive me the craziest. Tonight, as we usually do before family prayer, we talked about what we were thankful for and what we should ask for. I asked her to pray for mommy that she'll have more patience and won't lose her temper. Without skipping a beat she said, "and pray for me that I won't lose my temper too. I get that from you." It might not sound like a Hallmark moment, but for me it really was. I felt a flood of love wash over both of us as together we recognized our shared weakness but also our desire and ability to become better through God's grace. I am so grateful to have the gospel of Jesus Christ to guide me as I raise these beautiful little ones. I thank God for them all day, every day, even on the hard days. There is no greater joy I can imagine than raising these precious children with the love of my life. I love being a mother, during the good times and the bad. There are so many more good times than bad. And if you need a sounding board for tales of your chaotic life as a mom, feel free to hit me up. Trust me, we can definitely swap stories.
It's getting late and I need to spend a few minutes of alone time with my much better half before we go to bed, but for anyone who's read this far, here's a beautiful poem I found several months ago in the Duggar's book "A Love that Multiplies." I wrote it out and put it up on the refrigerator as a reminder of what's really important. I love that insanely huge family; they're so great.
If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place but have not love--I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love--my children learn of cleanliness, not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
As a mother there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is ... LOVE.
(Too lazy to look up who wrote it- I can find the author in the book if anyone is interested.)