Every few minutes I hear a ball thunk against the roof. Kate got home from camp today and while she and William pretend they didn’t miss each other, their actions show otherwise. Right now they are constructing a rule-laden game that involves a sky ball being thrown on the roof, to be caught by a certain person after a certain number of bounces.
Eliza bounced out of the house and is playing in the hammock, chatting to herself and probably singing about sin… or grace. I’m telling you, the theology that comes out in her made up songs cracks me straight up. (One of my favorites: “My sister sinned. My sister sinned. But she can ask for forrrrgivenessss”)
The dishes from dinner are still on the table and the kitchen looks like a hot mess. Until you check the living room and then it suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
We’re on week two of summer around here. This summer, well, we hit the ground running and it feels like we haven’t had a moment to breathe. Sure, it’s been fun. Camping, a trip to the beach, a full freezer of fresh strawberry jam, a week of Vacation Bible School and lots of ice cream and baseball.
As Peter and I collapsed into bed last night reviewing yet another week of jam packed schedules with no end in sight, we decided we just couldn’t do it. So we cleared our schedules a bit. Not a lot… but a bit. And it’s amazing what a little breathing room can do.
The balance of summer is tricky. I love it when the kids are home for long days, but it exhausts me more than I want to admit. I miss my quiet afternoons to recharge. The pressure to entertain them with outings and treats sometimes feels overwhelming to me.
If there’s one thing I’m learning about being a good mom it’s that I need a good dose of margin in my days and weeks.
Margin. It’s the white space around the words on my blog. It’s the edges of the book you’re reading. Imagine if the words went all the way to the edge of the screen. You’d have a hard time training your eyes to jump to the next line. You’d end up jumbled and frustrated. Isn’t that the way it is with life? If I schedule and schedule and let my kids think they’re entitled to be entertained every moment of the summer, we end up with no white space in our lives. I have overtired and cranky kids, no chance to do something spontaneous and fun, and a messy house that leaves me feeling frazzled.
Building in margin may mean I say no to a few things in order to say yes to the most essential things. It means I’m looking at the big picture of our lives instead of letting the little things lead us into existing for today.
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if he has enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise he might complete only the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh!
“‘See that fellow there?’ they would mock. ‘He started that building and ran out of money before it was finished!’ (Luke 14:28-30)
I have eight summers left until William turns eighteen. Realistically, I realize those last few summers will be spent with friends, in and out, so the number is probably even less than that.
These years are the foundation of our kids’ lives. I’m reminded now, more than ever, in parenting I have to project out, to imagine the end, as we live out these days. And it’s hard. HARD. But above all, I want to be intentional with my kids and with my time. I don’t want to fill my time with so many mindless activities that I get to the end of their childhoods and realize that I didn’t count the cost of these years.
So we build in margin. We fight for blank space in our calendars. We teach them to be and not always do. We make mistakes and go to bed too late… but in the morning we get up and try all over again, striving to keep the end in sight.
Cheers to summer!