Confession: There was a good-sized meltdown in the house today.
Facts: It wasn’t the pre-schooler. It wasn’t the tween. It wasn’t the dramatic 8-year old or the feisty 6-year old.
Conclusion: It was the Mother.
Yes. I had a meltdown this morning. There was really no justifiable cause for the meltdown. I’d been feeling it building for the last few days, and today the tears came like a flood. This actually happens fairly routinely in a cyclical pattern that most women (and their husbands) will understand. Approximately every four weeks there’s a day or two during which my unreasonable desire for recognition and appreciation for everything I do for our family gets out of control and causes me to fall apart. (To those reading this who think this is foolish – you're right. NOBODY gets thanked for everything they do. I know.) Thanks be to God I have a husband who treats me like a queen, listens to me, hugs me, then thanks me for everything, and responds sympathetically when I explain the hormonal influences at work.
Also after my meltdowns, my wise, loving husband usually encourages me to go for a run, knowing full well that’s where God speaks to me, the endorphins kick in, and my mind clears. Today was no different. In the midst of fresh air, exercise, and the most stunning fall morning possible, God gave me the reassurance He always does: “Rebecca, I see your hard work; it is not unnoticed, and I am audience enough.”
re there any other women out there who are nearly constantly second-guessing themselves? Wondering if they’ve made the right decision, from small and inconsequential things (like whether or not to pay for a waterslide pass at the pool) to significant things that actually matter (like discipline, finances, family life, and this maddening election)? The mind-games in my head of "ifs," "buts, "what-ifs," "should haves" and "could haves" have been exhausting this summer and need to stop. Last week one day I exclaimed, “Paul what is with me! I cannot make one decision without fretting about it all day!” I've experienced depression/anxiety in the past and I'm certain this is not that...so what then? Well, thankfully in the last week or so since I named this problem out loud and started taking note of this mental interference, the burden has lessened. I’m certain that the enemy of my soul has been whispering lies of doubt to me and is now aware that I’m on to him and his devious schemes. That’s a good thing. The enemy should always know that we are on to him and that we will not tolerate his deception.
We love parks. At our house, a new park discovery is a reason for a picnic celebration, complete with Doritos and fruit roll-ups. Apparently I post maybe a bit too much about our park days on Facebook, because I get asked frequently for suggestions of parks. So, I had my kids make a list of their top ten favorite parks in the city. Trust me, it was hard to narrow it down...so our "Top Ten" isn't actually limited to 10. There are just too many good ones.
We'd love to share our list with you. We don't actually know the names of most the parks we love, so my kids make up names. I'll do my best to let you know how to find them!
Ahhh Summer. The countdown is on and I am so giddy. Maybe even more than my kids. The sun, swimming, parks, biking, camping trips, lakes, and the not-getting-ready-for school – I love it all. (My husband calls me solar-powered.)
Yet I know that many moms anticipate summer with a little more panic and a little less sheer joy. I get it. I don't live in a fantasy land where summertime is all sunshine and roses every minute. Having the school-agers home all day with the younger children definitely creates a different dynamic that gets challenging. Certainly, the fighting and bickering increases as the school-agers get bored with their siblings and just want their friends back. Sometimes summer fun can bring added financial stress that makes Mom tense. With more people at home needing us all day and less structure to occupy everyone, we Moms tend to loose our sanity more quickly than normal. Just yesterday my oldest child told me that I frequently seem too overwhelmed to be approachable for questions. Ouch. I'm so grateful she could say that to me and that she did so before summer.
Truth be told, after the events of the last hour in my home, during which I came unglued on my boys due to the unfortunate events of a very bad bike ride, I feel totally disqualified from writing about savoring summer moments; but I’m pressing on in hopes that my very real life is exactly why I should. We live in a real world with real messes, real fights, real sin, real kids, and real mood swings.
The other day I had an accidental run-in at the park with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. I’d been thinking about her lately and hoping our paths would cross, and then there she was! We started to chat about her new adventure of being a stay-at-home mom and had just barely brushed the surface…just enough for her to tell me that she loves staying home but that it’s not at all what she thought it would be…when her youngest child had a diaper dilemma that required them to go home. As she apologetically loaded her girls in her car, I heard myself say, “No worries! I remember those days!” Then, realizing what had just come out of my mouth, I laughed. Remember those days? Umm, duh, they were like yesterday. Well, more like a year ago, but still, do I really have a right to say “I remember those days?” Yet maybe those words are encouraging to hear from someone who just made it through the baby and toddler years as opposed to someone who changed her last diaper decades ago.
Around Mother's Day there was a precious video popping up all over social media with a darling little girl dancing on the beach, which turned out to be a tear-jerker childhood montage with a song about needing time to slow down. It was precious and yes, I did choke up. But I also thought, “Goodness, as if the Mom of littles needs one more thing to make her feel guilty.” Because even though we wouldn’t trade the precious young years for the world, can we at least just admit that they are downright hard? Instead, parents of little children are told that they must "love every single second" and "pray for time to slow down." Really?? I mean, if what is glued in a person’s memory is only the pure bliss of rocking a sleeping baby or the heart-melting moments of a little boy picking you dandelions, then yes and amen. But those moments don’t last all day long…those are the moments that get us through the rest of the day. We need those moments and praise God for those moments. The truth is, as sweet as these moments are, there are also a whole lot of good and exciting things to come as kids get older. There are hikes and camping trips and deep conversations and great books and the ability to take road trips without constant crying. Good things are coming. It does get easier.
Tonight was big at our house. But I almost ruined it.
My girls and I finished Narnia. We started the series, which was a Christmas gift to my kids, on December 26 and we plowed through them because we could.not.stop. And tonight we closed the book on the Last Battle. It was breathtaking. From start to finish, the series was epic.
But tonight, which we had been giddy for all day, started out really crummy; and it was my fault. All day long I knew that tonight we would finish Narnia...a night much awaited and anticipated. But it was also "Art Night" at our elementary school and a solo-parenting night for me, which meant crabby Mom trying to keep an eye on four kids (one of whom is a 3-year-old boy) in an overcrowded school building filled with families, art stations and a hundred third graders putting on a recorder concert (Oh my!). After listening to all ten recorder songs with a three-year-old clinging to my neck and then crawling under the chairs (because it's 7pm and all his behaving powers are gone for the day), while simultaneously trying not to drop all the clay creations my kids had just created, by the time I got home and tucked in half of my children, I was done. Exhausted.
When I finally plopped down on the couch to finish Narnia, I instead heard my own voice lecturing my girls on the decibel of the laughter coming from their bedrooms as I'd been trying to tuck in their brothers. Lecturing made me even more "done" than before. (To make matters worse, I don't even think that their decibel level was actually too high; pretty sure I was just so crabby and over-stimulated from the evening that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill). Their eyes pleaded, "Aren't we gonna finish? It's Narnia!"
I sighed deep sighs. My sinful nature was fighting hard against every single fruit of the Spirit within me. I told them my mood wasn't up to finishing the greatest book series of all time tonight. (Jerk!) They looked so sad. I sighed some more. My spirit fought some more. And then, only by the grace of God, I looked into their pleading eyes, pulled up my big girl panties, and started to read. Within a few pages, the wonder of Narnia worked its magic on my sour mood and we finished strong. It was breathtaking.
And as much as I wish I had gone into tonight with the right attitude, the way it all played out is really a perfect example of why we still read together. Because it is so very worth it. Because those last 20 or 30 (or 60) minutes of reading together can take a sour day and end it well. Because that time on the couch, when we are wrapped up in a story together, makes all the mother-daughter conflicts and sister rivalries of our day just fade away into the distance until we no longer remember them at all.
Have you been out digging for hidden treasures lately? My kids sure have. We like to collect sea shells on the lake shores in the summertime and then bury them in our sandbox. Now that all the snow has disappeared from the sandbox, my kids have been playing in it all week, finding many a hidden (and forgotten) sea shell. Each one is discovered with great excitement: “Mom! Look what I found!”
Yet oftentimes the treasure hunting at our house consists of things much less exciting: lifting up couches and crawling under tables in search of lost legos, puzzle pieces, library books, hair brushes, and shoes. For me, seeking lost treasure usually means scrambling to find my phone or my slippers.
Our days are often filled with the mindless scrambling and searching for things that are hopelessly mundane and humorously monotonous. Don’t we find ourselves searching for the exact same boring things every single day? Looking for all our crap is actually like the antithesis of treasure hunting; our near-sighted obsession with the mundane clouds our hearts from thinking that a true treasure could ever really be found. Young children are still able to hold onto the wonder of hidden treasure, but sadly most of us adults have lost our ability for wonder.
Yep, it’s true.
I actually get excited when my kids ask me questions about sex, love, and relationships. Giddy, in fact. I pray for the questions, in fact. I eagerly await and anticipate the questions, and I try to find the questions lingering underneath even before they’ve surfaced.
So…that’s pretty weird, right? I like talking about this stuff? Actually yes…I’ve been around the country and as far away as South Africa talking about God’s good design of sex for marriage. I can talk about this topic for hours. (At a seminar I was teaching a couple of years ago, one young adult chaperone started chuckling, and then explained, "I'm sorry...I've just never heard anyone say the word 'sex' so many times in one hour before.")
And friend…I think perhaps you might feel like the only one too. This is hard stuff to talk about for a few reasons. For one thing, we have to admit that we are struggling to do a very important part of parenting…discipline our children. None of us likes to admit our areas of weakness. For another thing, to talk about this, we have to be real about the fact that our kids disobey. In a world that likes to talk about our children as “little angels” we have to admit that, in fact, they are sinful humans. Awesome children of God that we love more than life, absolutely. But also, our kids are sinful humans that need our discipline and instruction. And sometimes a lot. And last, to talk about this issue well, we have to admit the weaknesses of our marriages…that we fight and argue and get mad at each other because of our discrepancies in how we should discipline. It’s hard for me to talk about this because I don’t want my friends to think my husband is unreasonably militant, and he doesn’t like to talk about it because he doesn’t want his friends to think his wife is a weak pushover.
So we just got home from church. It was pretty much pure chaos.
Paul's at the fire station, so it was a solo-parenting show from me during church today. You'd think I'd be good at it by now, but, I'm not. It's a circus, every time. Or maybe more like a jungle where the animals are un-contained.
Now...to be clear. I love church. I love hearing the Word of God preached in clarity and power. I love worshiping along with fellow believers. I love fellowship. I simply love church. And I love my kids more than life. (That's why I take them to church.) But I also struggle at discipline. (Actually, my discipline failures are my next "Confessions of a Mom" Blog...look for it in a few days!) Discipline and training my kids in obedience (specifically my boys) is one of my messes. And as hard as I try to get my act together, I bring this mess with me everywhere I go. Where I go, my struggle comes with me. Even to church. Or perhaps especially to church.