Seize the Day

This adventure called parenting is one that is constantly challenging, changing and one that keeps us learning. The irony being that more often than not it is the children teaching us not only about where they need their boundaries or security to fall or what stimulation they require but they teach us about life too. And just when we think we have it all together once again they open our eyes to a whole new realm.

It is easy as a parent to become caught up in the discipline, parenting and ensuring that all our child’s educational needs are met that we do in fact lose out on the very marrow of parenthood. Parenting is a hard job and a huge responsibility. It is however just as important to take time out with our children. We need to laugh, to play, to dance and explore this amazing earth with them. It is so easy for us to become caught up in our “mature” adult world that we are no longer capable of drawing ourselves away to simply be with, and enjoy being with, our children. When last did we sit with our child and simply watch a dragon fly dance across the water? Have we recently squashed our toes in mud? Did we take the time to colour a picture? Or dance in the kitchen? Yes these are all interruptions within our busy schedule and they do draw us away from all we need to do. But I am learning day by day that they do instead draw us into the company of our children which draws us into their lives and as they grow into their confidence. We are then able to see the world through their eyes, their understanding, and their hearts.

Just this last week I was yet once again pulled back to the essence of being Mom. It had been a long day and I had asked the twins – aged 4 – to yet again get out the bath, dressed and tidy their room. After a period of time mother instinct kicked in and I knew nothing was happening. I threw down the peeler and marched to their room – ready to deal out the wrath of Tired Mommy. On reaching their room I could see no one, only a lump under one duvet. Pulling back the blanket, ready to reel out my list of consequences, I was greeted by two, barely clad, squirming cherubs. They held within their hands a torch and were giggling incessantly.  “You found us. We hid. The torch… Giggle, giggle.” Instantly my parenting wanted to discipline, wanted to see to it that I remained the one in control, that they learned they needed to obey. Yet a small voice inside me began to ring louder, a voice saying, “this is actually really funny and you too need a good laugh.” Digging deep I managed to push past all the serious parenting, discipline, and training roles and for that moment in time just be Giddy Mommy. We tickled and giggled and squirmed. With that the stress of the day melted away and I could return to peeling the carrots rejuvenated and refreshed. My children then too jumped to their tasks and were soon dressed and had a tidy room.

So yes we are called to a high, noble and difficult position of training and education these little beings. But we are also called to a humble place: a place of simply being, a place of learning to stop, and relish the simple moments that these wonderful little people bring into our lives.

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Mommy on Leave

reading

Image by madelinetosh via Flickr

It never occurred to me that Mommy could take leave. Well not till my hubby presented me with a gift of a trip to visit a friend for 5 days. I was to leave the next week and travel by bus and spend the weekend lazing on the beach and drinking red wine. It took me a while to absorb and accept this gift and then a bit longer to stop worrying about the logistics. Hubby had it all sorted.

With much trepidation and apprehension I set off on my first lone venture. The trip there was long and a 2 hour wait for a tire to be repaired didn’t help. But I read a novel – cover to cover! My mind however had still not truly left home. What were the children doing now? Was granny coping? Did they like the gifts I had left for them to open each morning? And the faces they were busy building: adding the hair one day, eyes the next and so on until they were to add the smile the day I would return – was this working? Did they understand how long I would be gone for? Was my sweet, gentle hearted, middle boy ok? I had left my stuffed hedgehog in his care. Hope that cuddly comfort would help him sleep at night….

However somewhere between arriving at my friend after 9pm and chatting till well after 1am I shed a few layers of Mommyhood. Just for a while I could stop thinking about other people and what we’d have for breakfast. Just for a while I could not worry about my 3yr old’s fever my hubby had reported earlier in the evening. Just for a while I could sit and think about nothing but me.

As the days faded into swimming pools, ice-cream, beaches, red wine and late nights, flickers of: “wish my boy could see this” or “the kids would so love this beach” flashed across my mind – on the whole however I was entirely self indulgent and self absorbed. One could therefore concluded that for the first time in a decade this Mommy was officially on leave.

“Party On Mommy”

It’s 1:25pm and the party starts at 2pm. I still need to find my children let alone get them dressed, ready and spick and span for a Bob the Builder party starting in 35 minutes. Why does this always happen? I’ve known for two weeks that today at 2pm we had to be there, yet once again here we are trying to get ready – no wait I still haven’t found anyone to get ready.

Right one childwas playing rugby, another picking flowers and the other two were in the mulberry tree. (During which time they seemed to have lost most of their clothing) Note to self: Find missing clothes in the garden before it gets dark….   Right the eldest is going to a friend he’s got a jersey, forget the shoes – check – he can start locking the house and garage and strapping the others in the car. Surely he should be able to take the car out by now. Oh yes he’s still only 9, but maybe we should measure his legs sometime soon… focus – Mommy –  focus we have a party to get to.

Ok the twins are also going to play at friends – “No you can’t wear my 30 year old ballet tu-tu to go climb trees!” After we’ve searched through the entire wardrobe for an item of clothing a 3 year old and I can agree on I give up and turn once more to the dress up box. Fine, she can wear the frilly red dress marked 18-24 months. No it doesn’t button up but it does cover her pants – well enough to be with girls for the afternoon.

The present aaah… yes I did buy it, I was really organised I bought it last week… but… where did I put it? hhmmm A card!!!!

Breath … in …. out…. “Right someone make a card PLEASE.”

Ok almost there! “Girls go get in the car – no wait let’s brush your hair and aaaah – look at me … mulberry everywhere.” After much protesting their faces are fine, maybe no one will look at their feet!

Suddenly my 5 year old appears – “Mom I need the loo.” Oh my I’d forgotten all about him – the one going to the party! What a joke. He’s covered in mulberry, his legs are so muddied that they are actually brown and here he sits like a lord on the loo whilst the clock ticks!

Slowly I take a cloth and wipe his grubby face – at least they’ll know who he is when he arrives. (Even if the don’t recognise his legs.)

At this point an image floats into my mind. One long forgotten – an image of arriving at a friends party when I was probably 5. The entire day had been spent sitting around waiting to go to the party. We had bathed and washed our hair. Our hair then was brushed and had pretty clips and bobbles adoring it.  I had my favourite dress on. It was long and pink and had a petticoat and when I spun it twirled. The gift was wrapped beautifully and the purchased card sat perfectly in place. As we arrived I felt like a princess floating into a royal ball. How our mommies did it I’ll never know.

As I finally herd my mottly crew into the car and lock the house I think that at least once we arrive I can sit down and enjoy my desperately deserved cup of tea.  It’s then that I notice that although the kids are dressed – albeit nothing like royalty – and are all strapped in the car, my 5 year old clutching his proudly home created card – that Mommy doesn’t have a clue as to whether she brushed her hair or looked in a mirror herself and she definitely has no shoes.

Everyday Mommying

When I was growing up and I spoke or thought about the future for some reason I assumed I’d have children but never thought of myself as a Mommy. For that reason I never gave much thought to what being a Mommy would entail. Many times being Mommy involves cuddling, reading books or discovering another natural beauty with our children.

On other days however  – or should I say on most days – it’s actually about food, clothes, cuts, tears, lost items, irritated siblings and stuff (everything from old toast to ballet tutus to my handbag contents) strewn from one end of the house to another. You feed the tribe, tidy the kitchen only to hear a little voice say, “Mom, what can I eat?” Once the kitchen is finally sorted you find that the teeth cleaning turned into washing the bath – and walls – with the toilet brush. An art activity results in the dining room table having glitter glued to it – on purpose or the paint brushes have all the bristles eaten off before they get to even start painting. Need I continue?

Today was one of these “normal” Mommy days. It was hard and I’m not proud to say that when the kitchen floor was flooded, everyone had wet their last dry tracksuit pants in the rain, I had tripped over yet another dress up item, someone asked for food and then I was faced with a toilet incident I wasn’t a very nice Mommy. BUT thank you God for the TV and especially for the creation of the movie Heffalump! Needless to say it was watched twice!

I realised that as long as I had this cozy picture of what the day could have been: sitting snuggling with books in front of the fire everything went from bad to worse. I hate using the TV to babysit but today that was good Mommying. I had to take stock of my capacity, where the day was heading and what I was becoming. Yes I did contemplate trying to sit down and read to everyone but they were all irritating each other and I knew it would just agitate. So I stopped trying to strive toward the fantastical and managed to eventually literally live minute by minute.

So even though I gave little thought to being Mommy when I was growing up – the pictures I had conjured didn’t look anything like today did but I got through it and at bedtime my almost 9yr old boy called me back 3 times saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong but I just need to hug you some more.” Hmmm – maybe he too had a hard day but I was too busy with the clutter to notice?

Why Do We Keep Doing This?

If we stop and take a look at what being Mommy is really all about and what financial payment we receive we should conclude that it’s totally ludicrous for us to keep this post.

However day in and day out we keep Mommying. Why when everything gets too tough, we haven’t slept in weeks, the demands keep getting higher and there is no sign of a break do we not just throw in the towel or just leaves? What is it that makes us stay and not throw in the towel as we would with any other job?

I’ve given this a great deal of thought and no I don’t have the perfect answer but I have a few thoughts.

The one being the idea of running as a hobby. I tried it once it and although I can never truly understand why people keep doing it – the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment of finishing well at the race end does make it all worth while. So I believe it is with being Mommy – we know deep down that if we just keep at it we’ll eventually finish well.

I daily watch my own little girls play baby with their toy rabbits and dolls as well as how they naturally nurture each other and any one slightly younger than them. This is not something they have only learned but rather something they were born with. Just as every human is born with a God shaped hole that only Christ can fill so girls are born with a Mommying hole. Society sometimes talks girls out of this role or maybe some are naturally more nurturing than others but as them to look deep inside and they will admit they too desire to be apart of a relationship committed to marriage and raising the next generation.

So even though the going can get tough we seem supremely programmed to love and nurture these little bundles.

Finally I’ve also found that I can never do this alone but need to rely on my heavenly father and his wisdom to deal with all that Mommying requires of me. As I daily lean on him and his guidance I know that he would never throw the towel in with me and walk away. He daily puts up with my humanness and still loves me – for no payment what so ever. Knowing this – even though it is often really hard – how could I ever give my children any less than my all?

Taking Forever Pictures

Today we attended Art in the Park. An event that gathers together the top artists in South Africa and they sell their art work in a park. As it’s autumn it’s the park is covered in leaves and it is a beautiful outing.

I always go home feeling inspired and uplifted. Today however I realised something else. I realised that the pictures that really pull at my heart are not the pictures painted by these wonderful artists. Instead it is the forever pictures painted within my mind. The pictures of my children playing in the leaves, my wonderful hubby reading Bible stories at bed time, my girls putting their dolls to bed and a family picnic at the dam.

So I didn’t come home with any paintings (which would have cost me a few thousand rands) instead I have a my own new personal gallery. It includes a picture of my son playing his violin beneath the autumn leaves and my 3 year olds grinning up at me squinting through their new sunglasses. All of which cost me nothing more than taking the time to notice.

The Missing Ingredient

Living out of town has made regular church fellowship a real difficulty in our lives. We just find the stress of trying to get there was ruining rather than building the family. So we decided for this season to have a break from formal meetings.  This was great in that it has taken away all the stress that was tearing at few precoius family ours together. However what I didn’t realise was how it would affect the rest of my week! This week  – for the first time in ages – I put on some worship music in the house and began to worship whilst doing my chores and aaahh the lightness of spirit and joy that began to return. It was then that I realised that inadvertently – whilst distressing our Sundays, by not attending church I had stopped worshiping!

“Unless the Lord builds the house – its builders labor in vain” says Psalm 127:1. As I’ve tried to mother alone I’ve realised now that it’s only through my Father’s strength and my leaning on Him that I can Mommy effectively and do all I have been called to do – with joy in my heart whilst doing it!

Rediscovering my Mommy Mission

Feeling a bit drained and challenged in my Mommying at present I’ve decided to reread the book that changed my view of parenting forever 8 years ago.

Having been trained as a teacher and brought up in a national school system I was an authoritative, behaviorist Mommy through and through. When our oldest son was about 1 yr old a friend gave me the book The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. This book changed my view of being parenting from one of being the Boss to being Mommy. I realised Mommies had grace, endurance, patience and above all their child’s heart and eternity in mind everyday. My parenting moved from the temporal to the eternal. Above all as Mommy I needed to win my child’s heart. By ordering them around and being the boss I may have cooperative, well-behaved children but that didn’t mean I would have their love or their hearts open to hearing about God’s love for them. So as I reopen this amazing book I am already reminded how Mommy is a child’s natural first post of call and need. As they grew in the womb they were wired to love and bond with Mommy as “Children automatically turn toward their mothers as their first source of protection, love and spiritual, emotional and mental support. This is a part of the design of mother,child and family as unfolded for us in the Bible – a design that from the very beginning, God pronounced as very good” and yet through our busy lives we often sever this bond rather than strengthen it.

It is my prayer today that I will work at being available to fulfil what God said was “very good.” As surely if I walk within His design I won’t only be blessing my family but I too should be able to live life to the full!

Taking Time Today to Be Mommy

Recently a friend of mine gave birth to a baby boy – Benjamin. Ben was born without an artery to carry oxygenated blood around his little body. The result being that they didn’t think he would survive birth and now every day is being considered a miracle. Whether it is possible for him to survive or not, I don’t know all I know is that their situation has thrown a new light onto being Mommy. They know that their time with Ben is probably short and so every single moment is savoured and enjoyed. Yet the rest of us so easily take our parenting with a blasé attitude and don’t also realise that our time with these precious little people living within our homes is short too. All too soon outside influences begin to break through our cosy nest and soon friends are dragging them off to their homes and before we know it, it is time for them to start their own lives out in the big world. Our son turns 9 this month – half way to 18! It feels as if only yesterday I held this precious babe in my arms. The same time again and independence calls his name! As I say the time is short. So above all, as we’ve cried to our heavenly father to spare Ben and comfort his family, I’ve begun to look at my little babes with fresh eyes. I’ve taken the time to sit down and look at them eye to eye, hold them when they cry and actually listen to their adventures, woes, sorrows and anticipations. I’ve taken time to watch them create, build tents and play soccer. Above I’ve taken time to snuggle with them in the mornings. These things are small and may seem insignificant but I feel they are helping me to realign my Mommy-mometer in that I feel more connected and in touch with them all. As unlike my friend I don’t know exactly how long it’ll be before our children grow their wings but all the same the time is short and I want enough memories – of spending time with them, not memories of cleaning the house – to last me a life time.

Just a day in the life of Mommy

Rain falling

As I look around my kitchen this morning I shudder to what any stranger walking in would think. As I turn around I see play dough, orange skins, dirty dishes, workbooks, my laptop balanced on a corner flickering information on making paper from a mulberry tree – hmm interesting info but don’t think we’ll get to do that today… or ever… I see pencils and magnets scattering the floor, papers strewn across the kitchen table and three of our 5 little people scrambling on and under the table.

As I tune into the noise I hear “Mom I need an orange, Mom my sister has my crayon, Mom she drew on my page, Mom this mulberry paper is so cool, Mom I need  you to help me do this work….”  It’s raining outside – has been for the last 3 days and it’s predicted to rain for the next two. Suddenly I’m feeling overwhelmed and as the rain falls outside “I can’t do this” soaks through my skin.

Yesterday I was sick in bed so today everyone really needs me! We tried reading books earlier but the energy levels were through the roof. We’ve done some book work, we’ve done our maths and I’m not up to doing crafts today – I don’t feel like being Mommy right now! No, I’m not Super Mom. I’m just a mommy and right now I just want to escape!

Pitter,patter, splash it’s still raining. I look outside and see my seedlings I bought at the garden show desperate to be planted. Pitter, patter, splash a good Mommy would never let her kids get soaked in the rain! Pitter, patter, splash they would all need to stay inside safe and warm.

Changing from my warm clothes into shorts I grab my raincoat, not taking time to find shoes I dash out into the garden. As an after thought I yell back, “It’s wet out here no one is to follow me!” As I work the soil with rain pelting down my back, my feet and hands covered in fresh, wet soil I hear the cries and chaos resonating inside the house. I see a face poke out into the rain and quickly send them trotting back indoors. Out here I am free to reconnect with the earth, my thoughts, God and life.

As the last tomatoes and peppers are planted I know with satisfaction I have at least one job well done today. As the rain continues to pour onto these new seedlings they are receiving better nourishment than any tap water will ever give them. Cold and ready to return indoors I take one quick trip around the house to see my son’s new baby pigeons – that hatched while I was sick in bed yesterday. I’m just in time to see the mommy rearrange her feathers and an ugly chick wiggle his way back under her warm protection. So special.

Wet and now freezing yet rejuvenated and revitalised I can return to my orange peels and “Mom, Mom,Mom…” knowing that even if we spend the rest of the day watching movies I have at least got one job done well and I am content to just be Mommy and let the day go on as it pleases.

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