I came across this old picture today in a memory pop up alert. This was 2010 and I was 4 months pregnant with Brody. Elsie still wasn't even three yet and this might be the only picture I have of Callie at this age sitting still. She was (and still is) quite the mover and shaker. My glasses are on so you can't see Mae. She is the twinkle in my eye still yet to make her grand entrance into this world, so technically she's present in this picture too.
This day reminds me of the phase of child rearing that was physically challenging. Three under three and a half was tough. Four babes all under kindergarten was tougher. But the hardest part on most days were some of the low points of wondering if what I was doing was enough? I remember nights of trying to string together what I actually "accomplished" that day and finding little to show for my time at home when it was all said and done. I am not sure when I created this expectation I had somehow placed on myself that I was supposed to be doing something more than wiping noses, fixing booboos, managing time outs and trying to teach a please and thank you every once and a while.
Times are different now. Elementary school has brought more activity, more hustle and bustle, more driving, more social events and more discussions with my big girls that feel meaningful. It's easier for me to check off "accomplishments" at the end of the day because there are things like homework, discussions with my girls about friendship, or brainstorming show and tell projects that actually feel more significant.....in the last year, these interactions have balanced out my time with Brody or Mae doing a puzzle, reading the shape book for the 20th time or spending several minutes during the day on my hands and knees wiping up the food Mae has thrown she refuses to eat. My big girl interaction has given me tangible things to check off my imaginary list of accomplishing something more "worthy."
Are there any mamas out there that can relate to any of this?
I attend a Bible study on Thursdays and this morning, there was a local pastor who did our opening. He talked about his mother and the godly example she left as a legacy to him. I am pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye in the room, although there could have been a few that I couldn't see through my own tears. I was moved today and I know I won't ever be the same. Something in me shifted. For the first time in my 7 years of motherhood, I am free from the "expectation" cloud that has hovered over my head. A cloud that I self admittedly placed there myself and one that has been heavier in some phases than others. But it's always been there.
Whether we are cleaning food off floors, struggling with personal demons that have nothing to do with motherhood, making pretend food out of play-doh, packing lunches, managing our own extended families or balancing work on top of running a family; it's how we handle ourselves and the example we set that truly matters in the grand picture.
Do I choose to grumble and complain about a stressful situation or handle it with grace? Do I lean into my faith when my heart hurts or do I try to handle it on my own and allow those emotions to dictate my mood and the way I treat my family? Do I treat others who are rude or unkind to me the same way in return or do I choose to show them love with my response?
I have always been striving for legacy when it comes to my children. I think it's fair to say that most of us want our children to look back on us and use us as an example of how they want to play the role of mama, right? I wish I would have had more of this wisdom when I was the mama in this picture. I clearly remember thinking that this fun memory was a good day because I could check off the box of "fun activity" for that day. I had trucked the gang out of NYC to a farm in NJ and made a 6 hour home school field trip out of it. Surely a good mama day in my old way of thinking. But tonight with the light rain and no after school activities, I tried my best to show grace when the milk spilled from too much goofing off at the dinner table. I let Elsa stay up past her bedtime because she wanted to talk in detail about the story of Moses. I tried not to complain when I had to refold the clothes that Mae pulled out of drawers when we left the room for two seconds. I counted to 10 before I responded to a child who sneaked Halloween candy for the third time today.
No check list needed. No expectations set. Each and every encounter is teaching and showing examples to our children. I am not always going to get it right, but at the end of my time with these babes under my roof, I hope they will remember the fun activities we did and laugh at the goofiness in our home. But more importantly, I want them to say that I walked the walk and talked the talk.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.