I posted a picture of the kids and I on the last week of summer. It looked fun and like I love to play with my kids. Which is true, to a certain extent. But I have to tell you that it took me a good long while to get to that point.
The last weeks of summer were a struggle for me. We had so much fun and did lots of great things, but I just ran out of energy at the end. As an introvert, it gets really hard for me to have noise all day, both in the forms of talking (so. much. talking.) and the inevitable mess that three active kids bring. And while I love my kids beyond words, I find it difficult when I don’t have some margin to my days. So we got to the end and we were just all needing a little structure and space.
A man had come to give a quote on cleaning our carpet a few days earlier and his visit was a surprise to me (Read as: I hadn’t vacuumed for a reeeally long time. I mean, is there a point?). I did my best to hold on to my dignity and pretend the state of my house didn’t bother me… but at the end I asked what they would need when they came to clean. In my mind, I was thinking he would tell me what furniture I would need to move. Instead he said, “Well, it would help if you’d vacuum first.” Oops.
So that little encounter plus the fact guests were coming put a little fire under me and soon I was lecturing the kids on how we needed to CLEAN THE HOUSE NOW! I was very clear and very passionate. Everyone made eye contact and I banned the use of any electronics. I was not messing around.
I finished my amazing speech, turned and went to take a shower. Twenty minutes later, I emerged, ready to tackle every surface with their help…. and I found the kids had taken over the entire living room.
There were fortresses made of furniture, pillows and blankets. Sounds of nerf guns and the whizzing of bullets past my head made me quickly realize that perhaps my speech on cleaning hadn’t been as effective as I thought.
At that moment I knew I had a decision to make. There are a million moments I make the wrong decision and I’m slowly learning from them. I want to be proactive in my parenting instead of reactive. My goal is to be invested and connected, not just reacting to what irks me.
So I stepped back. I went back to the bathroom and dried my hair; put on makeup. It gave me a few minutes to evaluate what I knew I’d see when I walked back out to the war zone. Often I react to the situation in ways that don’t show my thankfulness for my kids. I treat them like they’re a nuisance, selfishly. It’s not my intent, it’s not what I desire, but it’s something I just do out of instinct.
Often in the Old Testament, God expresses his angst over the Israelites. In fact, in Ezekiel 20:22, He says, “I seriously considered dumping my anger on them, right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out.” (The Message)
Oh, let me tell you just how much I can relate to dumping my anger. Just the normal, dailyness of being a parent can bring me to my end faster than you could believe. As I add more years on to my life, though, I’m realizing I need to react out of who I am, not by what I feel. There’s such a difference and I can’t do it on my own. I need my Savior to help me navigate the deep trenches of parenting, because I get to the end of myself justlikethat.
When I walked out of the bathroom, the kids had cleaned up their forts. The guns were put away and only a few stray bullets were scattered around. “Get everything back out,” I said. I had to repeat it several times to get them to understand. They screamed and jumped and asked if I was serious. We set up our zones on either end of the room– Eliza and me on one side, Will and Kate on the other.
And then the war commenced. We laughed, we tried to come up with the best strategy. We discussed how many “lives” we could have and argued if our darts counted. At the end, I was losing my voice from yelling and laughing.
It was my best decision and I wish I’d make it more often. Because the house eventually got cleaned and all was well… but we also made a great memory.
You know what? I like who I am when I’m the fun mom. So do they.
May you act on who you are today, not by what you feel. May you realize that this journey of parenting is as much about you as it about them. May you give yourself grace when you get it wrong— and celebrate when you get it right. And above all, may you realize that your strength as a parent comes from Christ, who blessed you with these precious lives in the first place.
Recommended resource: Intentional Parenting by Sissy Goff