Home for Summer

Summer brings a new rhythm to our house.

My husband and I have four children aged 8 and under so it requires some creativity and a great deal of patience to have everyone under the same roof 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, as I write this, my four year old is standing beside me holding a Golden Book, “reading” it to me in her version of a British accent.

Do you know how difficult it is to focus on the task at hand with such cuteness in the room?

Not to mention the inevitable bickering, screaming, whining and rainy day cabin fever that makes everyone feel a bit stir crazy. Add in regular bursts of laughter and the sillies and it’s nearly impossible to concentrate.

They’re in holiday mode; my work still needs to get done.

So how do we do it? How do we coexist in the same space, with very different goals? My goals are to be productive and efficient at all my tasks. Their goals are to be on summer vacation.

Worlds collide.

Can I make room for the chaos that comes with welcoming my children into my plans?

Last week I announced that we’re going to have to be very patient with one another as we adjust to our “summer normal”. I talked about giving each other lots of grace.

I think the talk was more for me than it was for them. Even after years of being surrounded by my small children, they still stretch me beyond my limits and I find myself asking the Lord for great patience and courage to parent with kindness, compassion and intention.

I came across this story in Mark 10:13-16 (NIV) —

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Jesus was indignant when He saw how the disciples were treating those children. He told them to let the children come and not to stop them. This was a stark contrast to how children were viewed and treated in the culture of His day. In fact, instead of rebuking them like His disciples did, Jesus brought the children near and blessed them. He told His disciples that God’s Kingdom belongs to those who are like children, and we would do well to have a simple faith like children do.

Do we have the eyes to see? Do we have the ears to hear? Children view the world in a remarkable way; they are a gift.

This summer, I have another opportunity to learn from my kids, while also teaching them and building a unique relationship with each one.

But if I am consumed with my own narrow plans and goals, I will miss the opportunity altogether.

Being a mom isn’t easy, but the messages of culture aren’t making it any easier. Our culture communicates that “the kids are alright”. In other words, children turn out okay no matter what we do, so we are free to invest the best of ourselves in other places. God’s truth about kids is that they are precious treasures to be welcomed and learned from.

It happens every single time. Whenever I take all four kids to the grocery store, strangers ask “are they ALL yours?” or mention how I have my hands full. We are often the recipients of stares and even glares. Other parents often extend grace, but most of the time the air is thick with huffs of impatience.

Our entire culture is designed to make the kids “someone else’s problem”. We face enormous pressure to put them in daycare, then preschool. When they get to school age, we are told we are depriving them if we don’t enrol them in at least two extracurriculars, which take up most evenings and weekends. In summer, we are encouraged to ship them off to camps and then to grandma’s and then to hire the babysitter so we can accomplish our plans and goals. Mom-memes are filled with jokes about running out of the house as fast as possible when dad gets home or longing for the hour the kids finally go to bed.

It’s funny because it’s true. I really need regular breaks from my kids! I’m a work-from-home/work-away-from-home mama. Sometimes I just need to get. things. done.

But I fear that if we design our entire lives around trying to get away from them, we may give them the impression that we don’t actually want to be around them all that much. And you know what? That’s a really tough impression to get rid of.

When I was a teenager, I read a quote that has stuck with me over the years. It’s a simple prayer that I carry in my heart: “Lord, stamp eternity into my eyes”.

My perspective of parenting needs to be larger than my personal goals and dreams, even in summertime when they’re constantly invading my space.

Back to the living room, on a rainy summer afternoon.

“Mom! Even though Captain Hook has a bigger sword, Peter Pan always wins!” my four year old exclaimed. She held up an illustrated copy of Peter Pan, telling the story by looking at the pictures.

The culture may have a bigger sword, but God’s profound ways and wisdom always wins.

Peter and Hook

Image: a snapshot of Disney’s “Peter Pan” from an old Golden Book

I’m Typing With One Hand

Frozen mornings and warm afternoons.

March sunshine is powerful here. It melts away a landscape full of snow and cold, and brings the hope that one day soon it really will be a new season.

These sunny days are a balm for winter-weary souls. We are the hearty, the strong Canadian kind who look forward to snowstorms and can’t wait to play outside. But come March, even we long for the tradition of swatting mosquitoes around the campfire.

I am learning this simple truth: there is beauty in every season.

Winter’s frigid cold brings pastel skies and pale sunshine that makes the air sparkle with diamond dust.

Spring holds the beauty of birdsong and budding trees and flowers.

Summer’s heat grows our gardens and offers us long, warm evenings to play in.

Fall’s glorious colour is a second Spring of sorts, and its crisp air refreshes our senses.

Every year we receive these blessings without fail.

In my life I tend to see the glaring difficulties of the season I am in. And in my haste to focus on the negative, I sometimes miss the little lovely moments that really make this season beautiful. This morning, for the very first time in her seven years of life, our oldest daughter, our early riser, sleepily asked me to “wake her up in ten minutes”.  I got to kiss my husband and we laughed together before he left for work. I have a small silky-headed boy in my arms, gnawing on my shoulder, chattering away, slowly tuckering himself out for a nap. And the middle two girls are currently wrapped up in a world of their imaginings, creating a story out of thin air and random household objects.

I kiss my boy’s chubby little cheek, knowing that before long, he will be right in the middle of all if it, running to keep up with the big kids.

I’m typing with one hand. It is taking me three times as long this way, but I don’t mind.

This is the beauty in my season – all the ordinary moments that are extraordinary to me.

Bluebird sky

A Bluebird Sky in March – my view from the backyard.

The Sweetest Hour

I wrote this a few years ago when my second daughter was not quite two and I was expecting our third child. Tired did not begin to describe where I was at! But I treasure these sweet memories.

***

My head hit the pillow last night at about 10:30, and my aching body gave way to glorious sleep.  I don’t remember a thing.

Until about 3am.

A tiny little voice was just enough to jolt me awake.

“MAMA!  W’AR YOU?!”

Little one. Awake.  Again.  Thanks to some new teeth breaking through and a penchant for middle-of-the-night chatter, she stood at my door in her little striped purple footie jammies.

“Mama?  Cuddles?  Couch?”

I scooped her up in her white crocheted blanket, gave her Snoopy and Raffi (her stuffed giraffe), and held her on my lap.  She talked about the stars that were projected onto the ceiling from one of those ladybug lights.

I closed my eyes, and felt a little hand on my face.

“No, Mama.  No close eyes.  Open eyes.  Count the STARS!”

Oh my goodness, I thought she would wake her snoring big sister for sure.  (They’ve been sharing a room for a month and  a half.  We’re still working out the kinks.)

Nope.  The oldest sawed logs while the younger one chatted about how the pink stars are up there, and could she touch them or taste them, but no they’re not food.

“Stars not food Mama!”  she laughed.

“No, stars are not food.  Shh… go to sleep…” I tried.

Her blanket was freshly washed and dried with vanilla scented dryer sheet.

She smelled like a warm vanilla cookie.  What a delicious moment.

3am gave way to 4am, and I decided it was time to put her back in her bed.  I only had to bring her back about three or four times before she stayed until nearly 7am (what a miracle!).

Her big sister was up just before 6am, looking for a Berenstain Bears book to read.

The day officially began.  Even though it kind of already began at 3am, with an inquisitive “Mama, w’ar you?”

Although sleep-deprived today, I really wouldn’t have missed that hour for the world.

feet

Tiny toes