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I need a lot of personal space. A lot of quiet (especially in the mornings). A lot of introvert recovery time. A lot of sleep.
My body was built this way. And having four kids defies the physics of my "needs" every single day.
For example: I'm the type who likes to sit quietly in a Christmas Eve service, soaking in the music and scriptures, drawing zero attention to myself. My four kids are the type to act like they have a whole colony of ants up their pants (which requires random whining and crying in-between the wiggles) and setting their hair on fire during the soothing candlelit part of the service. (Spoiler alert: burning hair is not soothing).
I'm the type to want to spend Christmas break in clean, crisp jammies, sleeping in, getting stuff done around the house, quietly reading, taking naps, organizing new Christmas stuff, cleaning things I normally don't have time to get to, thinking through efficiency plans and checking all the things off my lists.
My kids are the type to want to spend Christmas break climbing the walls, sitting on my face to wake me up at 5 am, destroying all of my organizing 10 seconds after it's done, torturing each other, making extremely simple things extremely difficult and time consuming, randomly smearing sticky jelly all around the house, definitely not napping, and stubbornly wearing the same jammies so many days in a row the jammies start talking to me, begging to see some water and soap (and then said child sobs uncontrollably when "mean mom" takes the jammies to be washed).
I can't lie. There are moments where the thought flits across my mind, "Why? Why did I have four kids? This.is.hard."
Followed closely on the heels of that thought is, "Is it just me? My kids? Everyone else seems to get their kids to wear clean crisp jammies and sit quietly on the couch reading the entire Christmas break. Am I doing something wrong?"
Parenting is the most difficult thing I've ever done. But here's the thing.
I find it really easy to focus in on these "hard moment" things that my kids are doing...and make them into jokes. A sarcastic social media post. A meme. A "How much does my life stink?" pity party post.
No. Just. No.
These behaviors are not a joke or a "poor me" moment. These behaviors are very clear signs and direction of HOW I NEED TO TEACH THEM.
Not "Oh my kids are defective. Let's return them. Hahahaha." But rather, falling on my knees, crying out, and begging for help in grabbing their hearts. And then coming up with a plan to TEACH them that this is not the way that human beings act.
This is my job. This is motherhood.
And so as my mind rebelliously thinks, "Why? Why did I have four kids?" A quiet voice whispers back, "Because this is what you were called to do. Called to teach. Called to love. Called to give of yourself."
Are my needs and plans ruined on a daily basis? Yup. Welcome to Selfishness Bootcamp (aka motherhood). Are my kids a handful? Yup. Welcome to Relying On The Lord crash course.
As I've surveyed this past year and my goals for the new year, almost all of these goals include strategies for teaching my kids. Redirecting their energy. Being aware that how we spend today will shape the adults that I send out into the world in a few short years.
A 6-year-old struggling to sit still for a short Christmas Eve service? Guess who now gets to sit through every service. Practicing self control. Practicing listening. Practicing respecting the space around him. Is this easy? Nope. But so so important.
Climbing walls, smearing jelly, destroying my organizing? Guess who just earned themselves a bigger chore list? Expectations of household tasks they are responsible for. Taking out the trash. Storing their own toys in the appropriate bins. Making their beds. Keeping the clothes off the floor in their rooms. Guess who doesn't get to watch any show unless the entire Living Room is clean?
Guess who just added new singing time, verse memory time, and Bible story time to nightly reading? You're going to be a jerk to your brother? Let's read this interesting story about Joseph and his coat of many colors and his brothers that sold him into slavery and see how that turned out for them. (Btw, after having two boys this story is more believable to me than it's ever been.)
Addison struggling to sleep and stay in her room? Make her in charge of the BABY doing these things. Suddenly it is her responsibility and she has become quite strict. (seriously LOL)
I'll admit. Christmas break was hard. It almost broke me. But the thing is, I needed to have some of these behaviors blasted in my face so that I could concentrate on teaching. On loving. On being aware of my own selfishness. Christmas break held a mirror in front of my own heart, and it was not a pretty sight.
It is painful to grow. It is difficult to stretch one's faith. Motherhood is not an easy path because scaling a mountain is hard work.
But also, extremely rewarding. And not just in 20 years when they are all adults. Now. There are little bits of joy to be found in the midst of the frustrations.
Moments of sibling peace. A meaningful discussion. Helpful hands. Small arms wrapping around me. Gentle kisses. Christmas excitement. Snuggling on the couch to watch a Christmas movie together. Cookie-making helpers. Taking them to a new situation and watching themselves navigate the situation with control and good behavior. Watching them learn to ice skate (this has been so fun!). Hearing their sweet, clear voices join in to singing time. Seeing teaching strategies be successful in small ways. Seeing them be kind and helpful to each other.
Motherhood is like scaling Mt. Everest. And today I am taking large gulps from my oxygen tank. Three kids back in school. A step back from the mess of vacation. (when the kids are constantly on top of me I have a hard time forming full thoughts). An objective view.
Guess who is going to stay in clean, crisp jammies all day? (Until school pickup at least). Guess who is going to quietly read a book? (As soon as the floors are done). Guess who is going to finally organize her kitchen counters? Guess who is going to get some needed peace and quiet today?
Even mountain climbers need occasional breaks. Mostly. Coffee breaks. And in this break, gulping air and clearing my head, I acknowledge that I wouldn't trade having four kids for anything. Because even in the difficult moments, there is joy to be found. So much love. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be here. For the opportunity to grow.