Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mothering Chronicles 3: Take Back Your Time

Time. Moments into seconds into minutes into hours into days into lifetimes. Into lifetimes. Lord, "teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Our first child came as an unexpected gift, and we wondered if we could afford to have a baby. We wondered the wrong thing. We should have asked ourselves if we were willing to give up enough time. In the early days of Nathan's life I remember thinking it mattered that the floor was clean. I remember thinking I should be involved in ministry, should serve my neighbors and community, should learn to quilt, and cook from scratch. I recall days when I watched the clock for his next nap time because I had more things to do, more to accomplish. I'm a doer. My mother used to tell me, "Sarah, nap when he naps." It is true, I probably wouldn't have slept, but how I wish now, that I had lay beside that sparkly eyed, button-nosed bubba to watch as he drifted into soft slumber. How I wish. Almost twelve years have passed since he needed two naps a day. Today as I sorted knitted scarves and winter's bloated jackets, I discovered it will be Cort wearing Nate's camo coat from last season. Nate has out grown it; yet again he hurries beyond my reach. Bigger. Faster. Older. And I can't get any of it back. Do I dare ask myself how many times it was my senseless mouth that parted to utter those poisonous words, "In a minute, baby. I'll be with you in a minute." I don't dare. I can't. Or do I attempt to count the times it was my pointer that stood straight up signaling my red-cheeked-just-in-from-outside-with-a-discovery-in-hand boys to wait while I finished a phone conversation? Was that my finger? Oh that I could cut it off now. I can't get their questions back. I can't get their curiosity back. I can't get their discoveries back. If there was only one thing I could say to a mother while her waist stretches to hold the tender life within her cocoon, it would be this: Take back your time; your wee one will need it. Harvey MacKay, author of bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive said, "Decide what your priorities are and how much time you will spend on them. If you don't, someone else will." Selah. (Am I allowed to say Selah after a non-verse quote? I think I will. It bares repeating.) If you don't claim your moments, they will be eaten--scratch that--devoured by the world in which you live. That's a fact. I know. There is just no way around this fact. Children need our time. Practically speaking, children are needy. They need to be fed, they need to be changed, they need help with their homework, they need their laundry washed, they need new clothes, they need boo boos kissed, and they need bedtime stories. Later, they need help with learning to drive and college applications. But more important than their practical needs is their deep desire for connection. Every human being on earth longs to matter to someone, longs to be heard, longs to be enjoyed for who they are. This need, THIS NEED, oh yes, this need is the challenge. Unlike our children's physical needs, this illusive need will take our time when offered, but will rarely demand it. It is this need that is most easily ignored. But mothers, this is the reality: If we as parents don't meet this need, someone or something else will. Period. Albert Einstein said, "What counts can't always be counted; what can be counted doesn't always count." In my kitchen sits a bucketful of peppers, a table spread with green beans, and a mess of other miscellaneous vegetables we pulled from the garden after the second hard frost. They're waiting to be put up for the winter. My youngest son too was waiting today. He never said it out loud, but as he diligently pushed through his cursive lesson and attentively answered his Greek and Latin questions with eyes wandering in opposite directions--one to the clock, the other to the window--I knew what he was longing to do. Like the Pied Piper, his chartreuse (don't tell him that's the color) birthday bike was beckoning him to climb the autumn mountains. Do you know what his face looked like when I said, "Let's go for a run--you can ride your bike." Do you know? Of course you do, because you've seen it on your own little one. His heart sang in harmony with mine and we needed no words. The peppers and beans can wait. Take back your time, moms. Take it back so that you can strategically release it on those precious souls that matter more than the telephone, more than the ladies luncheon at the church, more than your job, more than facebook, more than television. I can give you a count of some things. At least eight loads of laundry in a week--sometimes eight in a day. Two trips to the grocery store a week, minimum. The floor gets swept at least fourteen times in a week. (I don't really know how many times it gets swept. I have a dog and two boys. Our floor needs to be swept 14 times a day!) There are 21 meals and ten to fifteen snacks per child each week. There are the dishes that are washed. The dog that needs to be fed. The garden. The home projects. But the truth is, one could never measure my days--not the parts that count. There's no way to account for the extra three chapters of Huck Finn read to boys hungry for adventure when the moon is high, and their minds are free to run. There's no way to tally the bounce tag bruises that tar my shins from trampoline tumbling. No one will know, when my floors are dirty, I spent that time learning how to run a post with my boys on the greatest football field in the world--our yard. But those are the moments that will last. Plan now, young mothers, to give your children your time. It will lay a foundation that later you will wish you had. If your children are not accustomed to interacting with you, talking with you, sharing their interests with you, sharing their discoveries, their fears, their hopes, their crazy ideas with you, then when they are old, and you feel their ideas and opinions matter, they will have long ago learned to share them with someone else. Someone who knew they mattered all along. Don't offer them the entertainment of a TV show when you can offer them the comfort of your voice and a vivid book. Don't crowd your life with appointments, and social engagements every weekend when you could give them a hike to the nearest waterfall to drink in the creativity of their Creator. They need you. They need you to point them to their Creator, and that takes hours and hours of time laying the foundation for a connective relationship that will someday leave their hearts open to receive the greatest wisdom from you. And for us moms who have perhaps missed a few opportunities along the way; it is never too late. Never. Our heavenly Father hungers to redeem all things, longs to restore years the locusts ate, invites us to allow him to bring from the ashes of time burned away a beauty that reflects Him. His mercies are new every morning. So receive them afresh. Begin again today. Take back your time, and then, give it to those that matter. Pray with Me Lord, how undeserving I am of these sweet children. How careless I can be with their hearts. Teach me to number our days together that I may not miss a moment. Restore those times when I've forgotten what is truly countable. Open their hearts to me that I may reflect you to them. Help me to release my calendar, my plans, my to do lists and grasp this gift of their lives instead. May they see in me a reflection of your desire to be with them always. Amen. Read with Me Psalm 90: 1-6, 12 Ecc. 3:1-14 My Personal Top FIVE Time Takers (There are a lot of other things, but these seem to be the most pressing on my life recently. Please don't feel I think any of these things are inherently wrong. That's not the case. They can just sometimes start to monopolize my life.) 1. Responding to emails and facebook messages throughout the day instead of at one set time per day. I hate a full inbox/can't stand to leave something unreplied to. (My hubby told me research says that for every email you respond to, it takes you five minutes to get back on task. I've implemented a new plan for my inbox!) 2. Telephone. I've learned to set specific times in the day when I talk on the phone or respond to phone calls. I always check my messages in case of emergencies, but as a homeschool mom, I have to realize the kids need me to be present mentally as well as physically while they learn. 3. Television (Get rid of it if you can bare the thought. If not, get DVR so you choose when you watch, and fast forward through the commercials) Think of all the incredible novels you could read with the time you spend vegging out watching cooking shows or I love Raymond re-runs. 4. Guilt based commitments. I hate saying no. Hate it. But people will never stop asking. Learn to say, not this time. If that's too hard, learn to say, "Let me pray about it." 5. Overbooked Social Calendar. (Yours or your kids) In his book, Have A New Kid By Friday, Dr. Kevin Leman recommends one or two family social commitments per month. That may sound extreme, but here's the thing, God gave your kids to YOU, not your BFFs. And how low is your self esteem anyway that you believe your kids need a friend with them at all times in order to have fun? Put your big girl pants on and become relevant to your kids. YOU are a family--treasure time together. My Five Fave Ways to Connect 1. Jumping on the Trampoline, playing football, frisbee or other outside sport. The boys EAT.THIS.UP. They love it. 2. Games. Inside we love games--CLUE is our newest board game. UNO. Yahtzee. 3. Walks/Bike Rides/Hikes 4. In the summer, at the lake, the kids love it when I get in the water with them. I do too. In the winter, they love it when I go out in the snow with them. 5. Asking questions about their favorite activities as if they are the expert and I have NO clue. Ask question after question for a minimum of ten minutes. Sometimes my boys actually hug me when we're having this type of conversation b/c they are spontaneously overcome with joy that I'm just listening to them.