Today we decided to take the day “off” and go for a hike in our beautiful drakensberg mountains. It has been years since we went and we wondered how the little guys would possibly manage. Well little Maisy (aged 3.5yrs) walked all 3.5km! So I’d say they all managed pretty well!
As we reached a particularly difficult scramble up hill everyone else had already disappeared out of view and she looked up at me saying, “Mommy it’s too hard, I can’t do it.” Just then Neil’s voice wafted from some where ahead of us….
“Maaaaaisy. Maaaisy. Come on girl.”
She looked at me. I looked at her.
I asked ” did you hear your daddy’s voice. Did you hear him calling?” Neither of us knew which direction we were headed but as he called we climbed up toward his voice. Suddenly it didn’t seem so steep or scary but rather an exciting anticipation of when we’ll find him. We kept looking till suddenly there he was. What a rapture of joy as Maisy saw her daddy standing there waiting for her. That last scramble was one of pure delight and love.
Later as we descended upon a steep path I told her to hold my hand and we’d walk this part together. When she asked why I explained that sometimes Jesus will call us and we need to b follow his voice and other times we need to just hold his hand and let him do it together with us.
What a full heart I took home with me. I had learned so much about my father in heaven as well as being mom. This Being Mom thing is not just about school and clothes and food and sport. It’s about walking beside our children – training them to hear, see and recognise their heavenly father. And as mom I need to not be their saviour rescuing them from every hardship but rather walk beside… Had I picked her up and carried her on those hard paths neither of us would have seen what God wanted to tell us about him in struggling the difficult moments in life. Slowly, slowly this mommy is learning what Being Mom is really all about.
So I have tried to ensure that all 7 of our children not only have socks – without any holes – but that they actually have socks that match. So often I’ve been tempted to grab two pinkish socks and declare them a pair. But yet even in this I know the truth – that if anyone were to have a close look, they would see… odd socks.
We don’t just have a few odd socks lying around, we have an odd sock box! Oh I have tried it all. I have even tried pinning the socks together in the wash. This not only resulted in me spending my precious time now untangling pins from socks but we now had holes in the socks too.
Yet something keep welling up within – what will others think if they see that my kids socks don’t match? Will they not begin to question what else has unraveled within our home?
Odd socks today and rebellious teenagers tomorrow!
I have however just realised, that in the busyness of our present reality my diligence in the sock department has somewhat slacked in the last while. And to my horror I noticed one of my children at a church meeting with odd socks! But not just odd socks as in two blue socks that weren’t quite the same.
No these were odd socks!
As in one was maroon and the other white with some cartoon character upon it. I must have looked like a fish staring at her feet but when I finally yanked my stare away – oh my – I noticed that the 16 year old next to her also had on odd socks! Slowly the reality, the truth of the situation sank in. She was wearing odd socks and yet their home was not falling apart and these teenagers are some of the most awesome people I know.
It was as if scales had fallen from my eyes.
What else had I perceived as being reality and yet there had been placed over my eyes a warped hue of untruth. I see people’s clothes, homes, cars, holidays and Facebook realities and somehow feel like I know them and are able to contain them within some kind of box and yet the truth is that I cannot define anyone by the colour of their socks.
So as I’m learning to be gentle upon myself and not place my expectations beyond my reality I’m beginning to have grace with those around me too. So please don’t judge my effectiveness as Mommy on my children’s sock co-ordination. In the bigger scheme of life I’m choosing to lay down this battle for sock perfection and instead be real.
No I don’t have everything under control, no I don’t rush out to buy new clothes when a hole is torn climbing a tree, not I can’t stay up every night darning socks and warn knees….
But I can love my children beyond their wildest dreams, pray with them and tuck them in at night, I can chase and tickle them and run around the garden catching falling leaves or stand in awe of a butterfly. I can honestly say that odd socks are no longer able to define me! Instead they are able to free me to see that there is in fact more to this crazy life than being perceived to be a perfect mom. Instead I want to be real and revel in the freedom of odd socks!
What a privilege it is to be a Mommy and be able to daily watch our little people grow from scrunched bundles of pink to dirty toddlers into lanky teenagers and beyond….. As we navigate this uncharted territory with each individual child I repeatedly remember someone once telling me that, “We are not raising children but adults.” In our homes we don’t have before us a future Big Kid but instead a little Mommy or Daddy, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a farmer, a dancer, an artist, a friend, a home maker, a designer. All these things and so many more are all packaged up – often not so neatly – into these little bundles set before us. So as we discipline and train and mentor our children as much as it feel tedious and that I’m doing this to just have some quiet or order in my day today – we are in fact missing the whole point. All our hard work parenting isn’t about the here and now or today but rather about the “..ever after.” And yet what we do today can deeply impact that to become a “happy” or “disastrous” ever after story.
As I hear my son speak sharply, using harsh, barking commands with his sisters everything within me wants to give him a piece if my mind and send him into a timeout – till he can be nice! Yet what will this gain? How will he know “how to be nice” if I never equip him with the gentler tones to replace those bossy ones that come so naturally to a born leader? I once again gently draw him aside reminding him how you use your voice matters and how it effects people. We talk about what our home would be like if his daddy spoke to me like he spoke to his sisters. We talk about him being a Daddy and a business owner and how he thinks his family and employees would like to be spoken to. Because the reality is the way he talks to his siblings will overflow into the way he talks to his wife and those around him in his adult life.
Beyond just managing the way our children talk to one another we have an awesome opportunity to use our daily lives to equip them with business, family, home making, people, leadership and many, many more skills that they can draw from in their adult lives. I send an older child to fetch a younger sibling off the trampoline, ask a 8 year old to make biscuits, request an older sibling to bath, dress and make a bottle for the baby, I require one to call the library to renew the books or another to phone the take away to order dinner. By the age of 10 every child needs to know how to run the home for a day – do and hang the washing, cook 3 meals, look after the younger siblings and such. A challenge each of our children have risen too and been so proud to achieve.
So as I lie on the grass in the park and watch my 13 year old stroll off with his 2 baby sisters in tow – seeing him playing with them and taking such joy in them as well as taking the initiative to take their hands and care for them my heart swells with pride as I see not before my eyes a clumsy, lanky 13 year old but instead a little Daddy. A small man-child growing in his role of leader, provider, carer and protector of those placed within his care.
As I hear my 9 year old ensure that everyone is doing their part to clear and clean the kitchen after dinner I see before me growing a leader and CEO who understands a job well done. As I need to yet again remind an 8 year old to put her clothes in the washing or cupboard I am seeing to the training of a homemaker. As we discuss money spending and saving principles in an aisle in Spar I am witnessing the training of business men and women. When I once again train a tone or attitude used in jest or nastiness toward a sibling we are building good friends and citizens of the world. Don’t be fooled by their size – nothing is ever lost on these little people of ours.
Let us not underestimate these “little people” who right before our eyes have the capacity to change the future through the way they will one day love their families, run their businesses and share their talents with the world around them. So keep on keeping on. Your efforts will reap many a reward in the years to come.
As we draw yet again towards another celebration – namely Father’s Day – it is easy to become overwhelmed by the cost and complexities of yet another special day. In the chaos of it all we then loose sight of actually celebrating the person and what they mean to us. Besides where do we begin to thank and celebrate these special men that hold not only our children’s hearts but ours too!
I would like to offer you a few simple ideas of ways that you can enjoy the day together without it becoming overwhelming and you spending an arm and a leg.
Firstly we all love to get and give cards and gifts on Father’s day. Yet – I’m sorry – but Men are some of the hardest people to come up with ideas for! I have however noticed over the years that the handmade cards, handwritten notes are some of the things that my husband has treasured. For this reason we always make homemade gifts and cards. It can often be hard to think of new ideas so here are a few to help you out….
Having loads of little people’s art all over the house can become overwhelming so why not put up a hook for each child and for every Father’s Day or birthday or Christmas you present him with a new art work. Here are some great ideas of personalised artworks and cards your special little people can make for dad.
How about making some hot chocolate on a stick (place cooking chocolate in an ice tray and stick a sucker stick into it and then once set package it. Then you simply stir the chocolate stick into a mug of hot milk.) YOu could even turn this into an event of everyone having their hot chocolate on a stick while you look through old photos or watch old family videos.
Another idea is a snack bag for him to keep in the car or on his desk. This could have all sorts of little packets of chocolates, dried fruit and nuts. Then to make it more special you could ask your child to write little notes that they can intersperse with the goodies – so that each time dad opens a pack he gets a little note too. This works well with a jar of biscuits too. If you cut up little pieces of paper and write love notes on these, then roll them up and tie them with cotton. Put these in among the biscuits in a jar for Dad.
Instead of spending huge amounts on visiting crowded restaurants on Father’s day one of our treats is to have a picnic. This can either take place in our own garden or we go to a nature reserve or the botanical gardens. Then part of our gift to dad is the picnic basket packed with all his favourite treats. Living in South Africa the middle of winter can present us with an awesome picnic day or a freezing day. Don’t be discouraged however…. a picnic in the lounge (you could maybe string up a few blankets over some chairs as a make shift tent – is a day always remembered. Taking photos on a special day such as this can then contribute to his gift as you give him and I-Owe-You in the form of an empty photo frame that you can fill with pictures from that day. The photo frame can be a bought one or one of the homemade examples from the link above.
Above all Dad wants to know he is special and loved. This will look different for every family but I can guarantee that taking the time out to do something special as a family and presenting him with something made from his little person’s heart will let him know just how much he means to you all.
We would love to hear from you all about your father’s day creations.
So this last week has been one that I would not choose to repeat anytime soon and yet as difficult as it was we have been challenged, stretched and grown. Kadin has for a while been due to have corrective surgery on his ribcage. So this was the week.
Unfortunately it had to be done at a hospital an hour and a half from our home. After much deliberation we decided to leave the other kids with Neil at my folks house half an hour from the hospital while I boarded with Kadin at the hospital. A family split in 2 for 4 days and a child in ICU after having one of the most painful operations done stretched us to the core. Yet we had to find a way to survive.
Eventually we struck the silver lining by realising our only way to cope was to be thankful. Thankful for this horrid intrusion in our lives? Thankful that Kadin needed a metal bar inserted into his chest? Thankful that we were exhausted beyond imagination and thankful that everyone was being stressed in ways we had not known before?
Needless to say – we had to dig deep – really deep to see why we could possibly be thankful for this to be taking place. We began with thankfulness that Kadin and I could spend so much time together watching movies and just being together. He was thankful for the soccer he was able to watch on TV at the hospital, the awesome food he was given and the sweets visitors brought him. We then began to dig deeper and I realised that I was thankful that Kadin had this opportunity to grow his character. To learn about bravery in a non traumatic way and to really know what pain was so that he could grow his compassion for others in pain. I was also thankful that the other children had an amazing time with their grandparents that they will always remember, we managed to squeeze in a family trip to the sharks board and I too learned so much about patience and servanthood this week.
I realised that too often we focus on our difficulties and not on how they can actually bring such growth and give us new and different experiences that we would have otherwise missed. So in this crazy week I learned that if we take time to still ourselves long enough, choose to dig deep enough and open our eyes we can in fact find joy in all circumstances.
Pulsing forward, relentless, endless, foaming blue, climbing green. Reaching, pulling, tugging forming tide after tide, year after year waves pound and crash. Immediately ripped back from whence they came. Always reaching yet never arriving. Always trying, hoping yet never satisfied. Instead they pull and tug, shape and form the world below them. Churning sands, crushing shells, throwing creatures from their home upon desolate sands. Striving, striving, driving, driving, pulling, tugging, churning tide after tide, year after year forever restless achieving nothing yet altering everything.
Does this churning, relentless mass reflect parenting, my life, your story? Striving, pulling, churning, tugging. Always trying, trying whilst churning and crushing the world below… Trying to ensure the home is not only well kept but sanctuary to all, including the wandering, distant stranger. Crushing every imaginary fort, artistic pursuit or creative flair in the chase for a perfect home. Trying to ensure manners are blossoming without reaching the broken confused soul beneath the plastic grin? Trying to ensure a solid educational foundation ignoring, hence squelching the quest for true knowledge, curiosity and insight desperate to be heard? Trying to show little ones God, his love, miracles, mercy and grace all the while tugging and pulling their natural gaze from Him toward the parent instead? Trying to create aesthetically and nutritionally awesome meals at the cost of pushing aside little hands and hearts desperate to be involved…. Trying, trying, pulling, pushing, tugging yet achieving nothing. Depositing scraps of sand upon the shores of life only to have the next wave wash it away again.
Above the relentless ocean soars the gull on wing and wind. Instead of the relentless tugging, pulling, scraping, it glides. Free, soaring. It’s nest is tenderly, thoughtful woven together. Built of the strongest sticks lined with the softest down, tenderly, lovingly prepared. Built to just the right size and shape for that year, that season, those tiny birds dependant on Mamma this year.
As our year draws silently toward its close let’s assess where we have been and how we have done it. Tugging, nagging, dragging or tenderly building and weaving something eternally beautiful into the lives of our precious little people.
Then just breath in the sweet salt air – free to all who choose to stop and drink it deep into the well of their being.
As we sit and ponder the year behind and the one ahead let’s choose, not just for today but for the future of our children, let’s choose to soar. Instead of year after year tugging and pulling let us take this season to weave, with love, foreknowledge, instinct, care and compassion a nest designed just right in which your family can flourish. A nest that protects and provides warmth yet allows for individual growth and exploration. A nest safely tucked against the cliff, far above the crashing waves and sheltered from the howling storm. A nest keeping everyone safe within the protective boundary of love and acceptance. Then one no longer needs to keep striving, trying, pulling instead one can soar high upon the wings of creativity, free from a lifetime of bondage to this wearisome toil. Knowing for this season all are protected and safe within the boundaries of the nest. We can also rest assure that from this season, fledglings won’t be crushed and maimed but instead fed to flourish so that they too can soar!
In the trenches we don’t see or measure these things. We just keep the meals coming and washing folded. Yet truth reigns and another year slips under the radar – hard to measure yet easy to view as friendships deepened, clothes seem to have shrunk as legs have sprouted and confidences have grown.
This Mamma heart swelling with pride as our little troop joined in the Christmas service – violin poised and voices raised. Greeting adults with young manly handshakes and choosing to not take the biggest or be brave enough to say they don’t need yet another slice. Why yes I do see they have grown!
Small army of ours gathered outside on a chilly, windy, Christmas eve dressed as shepherds guarding their little toy flock. Bread poised above a shared pootjie pot of soup. Sparkling eyes, brother banter, voices rising to sing into the Silent Night.
I stand in awe as I survey this festivity our love has created. One Mamma’s heart swollen beyond this created realm.
Sleep evading me I crept out to greet a dark, wet Christmas morn. Enveloped in the predawn the presence of God wrapped around a deep worn heart. Candles flicking Hope into this new season as preparations for the day ahead are being born. One man child emerging from his slumber into the candle light to share his mother’s joy. Unrestrained exuberance digging into his stocking treasure. Full of awe I watch this teetering between unrestrained childishness and embracing the uncharted territory of adulthood as he digs in gleefully, then pauses – looks up grinning, “These were such good ideas for our stockings – Thanks Mom.” Slowly more little souls emerge clutching their loot come join us in the candle light.
Mamma’s heart filled with deep warm oozing love for these great beings from which I daily learn so much. Yet as I survey this my heart breaks. It breaks for my humanity that I carry – how I so easily crumple these precious ones with my careless words and harsh tones. If my Heavenly father spoke and instructed me in the ways I often allow to carelessly slip off my tongue would I want to call him Father? Yet these resilient children of mine look up with eyes brimful of love and endearment. Again my heart breaks. “Father fill me with your wisdom as I raise these souls of yours! Fill me with your thoughts and your words! Fill my well and capacity so deep that my patience expounds all reason and logic.”
As I gingerly reach for each of their gifts they have for me – from bookmarks to flowers to poems and chubby finger scribbling – each one personally thought of and made just for me, as I watch them thank a sibling for the grapes they have given them or share in the joy of another’s gift – my heart strings pull. Heaven is filled with my prayer – “Oh Father God how did you dare entrust me with these precious children of yours?”
So today as I stand and see the morn of yet another year sprinkling the horizon. As the rays peep over the closing of this chapter and the opening of another new year I cling to the request of Solomon,
“But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people…. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
“A Great People” – Yes who am I to be entrusted with such as these? Each day this week, month, year – till I begin to get it right – I pray Dear Father help me guard my words and give me wisdom to train these Great People in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it but will instead be ready to do the will of their Father.” So yes this year they have grown greatly, in all aspects – but above all that they are loved more fiercely by this mamma every day.
We do however all want the best for each and every one of our children and the reality is that to keep up in this fast paced lifestyle we lead we do sometimes have to give them a nudge to help them keep up with the pack. This is something we all see and acknowledge but what happens when the resources – time and finance – don’t stretch far enough? Is there still hope for our children who are struggling?
I do believe that there is and that you as their Mom or Dad play a vital role in assisting your child in reaching their full potential. Most of the common difficulties young children face at school are those of settling into sitting still and paying attention as well as fine motor difficulties. There are also a number of children who battle with their speech, which in turn hinders their ability to learn to read. Though interestingly I have often found that as a child learns to read this does in fact improve their speech.
However the point here is that if your child is facing these difficulties and you are unable to offer them the support they need there are many things that can be done by you at home to help improve their overall schooling experience.
Let’s look at the child battling to concentrate – again and again I see that children have never been taught the skill of paying attention. We live in such an instant, fast moving world that their thoughts skip and breeze from one topic to the next. As parents we can play a vital role in developing this skill simply by adjusting and tweaking a few of our expectations. Make a rule that you will only speak once and if they don’t listen there will be a consequence such as 10 minutes off any television show for every time you need to repeat yourself. Stop and look at each other in the eyes when you talk to one another. Ask them on the way home from a day out to recall fine details such as what the best joke was that they heard that afternoon or what the name of the ice-cream shop was. Read to them. By this I do not mean Disney books instead read the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Tom Sawyer or Anne of Green Gables. If you don’t have the books download the librivox app onto your phone and you can listen to all books in the public domain for free. This is especially fun if you have other activities such as house hold chores or art work you are wanting the children to do whilst you are all listening. After your stories ask your child to recount their favourite scene or the most surprising part of the story. Expect your children to remember many different things from poetry to reciting your shopping list. Slowly day by day train their mind to slow down, focus on the task at hand and to do it well.
The child suffering from fine motor difficulties is probably one of the easier ones to assist – simply because there are so many ideas online to aid you. This often involves the children needing to work on their finger activities and small hand-eye movements. So daily work together on a project involving their hands. You could play with playdough, knead bread, thread necklaces, do art, write letter to friends and family, sing songs using hand actions and so the endless list continues.
Working on a child’s speech is not always the easiest task to be done at home but it is something that one can attempt. I would suggest meeting with a speech therapist to obtain some idea where the difficulties lie and give you some guidelines on how to begin assisting your child.
So many people are in the same boat today – all desperately wanting to help their children but often not knowing how to possibly afford it. The truth is that your child’s teachers and the therapist are on your child’s side too – so team up. Maybe you can meet once a term to put together a program or plan that is worked on at home. Don’t loose hope, any input is better than nothing and honestly above all they will just love and thrive in that extra time you are going to spend with them.
A hundred years ago or should I say as little as 30 years ago no one had a problem with a 7 year old being a 7 year old. They spent their mornings at school and the occasional afternoon playing an hour of sport. After this they were free. Free from instruction, training and meeting another’s expectations. Free to simply be…. To dream, climb, think, run and simply play. No one thought anything of them spending hours on end in the sand pit or up a tree. A card board box became a car or sailing ship and an old sheet anything from a cape to a tent.
Looking about one today however we must admit that for these little ones we have created a life full of care! A life so stressful that 7 year olds are having panic attacks. One could understand this if they were living in a war raging era, concerned each day for their safety. Instead these panics are taking place in classrooms and homes throughout the country. Based not on a fear of death but rather in a fear of failure! Children simply lack the confidence to be themselves, as frankly presenting themselves for who they naturally are is seen as not being good enough! By simply arriving and just being themselves, we as a society, keep telling them that they not good enough. They are too loud, too busy or too dreamy, they work too slowly or too fast. Try as they may to get it right, we doctor them with medication and counselling, in their little eyes they are not able to meet our expectations they as a person are a failure!
For parents the race is on. From conception patents begin fretting about what classical music to play in utero and soon after birth – no matter what the disposition of the child will be in future years – the child is on a waiting list for the best day care, top preschool, most successful primary school and so it goes. Their days determined, the course plotted and at all costs the child needs to make this thing work. Like a monkey upon a leash dancing before his music box we have these tiny tots dancing to a tune way beyond their years.
We bemoan the fact that children cannot entertain themselves and throw the blame at technology. However from the day they could walk, or before, we have been entertaining them. If not with some form of extra mural tutoring then with play dates and television. These on their own are not a bad idea but a 3 year old spending each afternoon at swimming, music, ballet, karate, gymnastic or maths lessons does leave little time to “stand and stare.”
According to James Hall a survey conducted amongst 1500 children in Sainsbury between 5 and 11 years of age revealed that their favourite summer pass times were not computer games, going on trips or watching movies. Instead they included playing in the park or in the garden making mud pie-making, climbing trees and feeding the ducks.
It was upon a break from his studies, whilst relaxing under a tree in a contemplative mood, thinking on the notion of gravitation that Newton saw an apple fall and hence solidify his thoughts on the workings of gravity. At the age of 16, whilst Einstein was imagining catching a sunbeam that he laid the foundations for his study of special relativity. At the age of only 15, Louis Braille – whilst on school vacation – and fiddling with his father’s awl in his leather shop, he devised the braille system which is still used throughout the world today.
In our pursuit of educational excellence and perfection are we in fact depriving our children of the one pure ingredient that grows thinkers, dreamers, creative and ultimately great men and women of the future?
So I ask yet again, “what is this life full of care if we have no time to stand and stare…?”