October 09, 2009
please excuse the mess... we're under construction
one of the greatest lessons i'm learning with parenting is... love the construction phase. my sweet michigan neighbor, Maria, and pro-mother of raising confidant, independent children, taught me this lesson... sydney, maria's daughter, got on the bus everyday with Jakob. Jakob was in kindergarten, and he looked perfect. My perfect. He didn't care. His hair was combed and gelled, he had the backpack that he bought because he asked me if i thought it was a good one, and he matched. everyday. i picked his clothes, tied his shoes, had him wear a white shirt and tie for his kindergarten pictures. he was adorable. my adorable. sydney. she was adorable too. and, completely her own person, at age 8. she wore flip flops every day, except when she was wearing high heels or boots. she had cute, trendy skirts and funky hair that she did herself. she bopped onto the bus everyday and was 100% sydney. i never looked at her and thought her mom dressed her... and, even then, i admired her mom for letting her be herself. i was so tight, i didn't think i could ever let go of the control that i LOVED and needed. maria coached me through my first few years of raising highly opinionated girls. she taught me the rules. --pick your battles. --stick sneakers in the backpack for gym so you don't have to fight that battle. --NEVER apologize for how your child looks. --at first you will inwardly cringe, but in time, you will come to LOVE your child's style and independence. it wasn't just clothes and hair... those were the outward symbols of AGENCY that i was fighting. HOPEFULLY, learning to allow my children to choose little things at age 3, will help us communicate at age 13... about big, eternal choices. as my kids are growing, i've grown. and, most of the time, i can look at them and enjoy their STYLE, enjoy their ability to CHOOSE and BE, and GROW. ellie can do a really good ponytail now. and oh the hairstyles she wore in the learning stages. my boys can cook a whole dinner. like a whole chicken and baked potatoes and homemade cookies. and when they were little, i let them crack the eggs. they're growing and learning and becoming... and, i'm ok with them in the construction phases of life. i think i have kids that show maria's skill... spunky, smart, creative, independent, individual kids. we talk well. they know my opinion and they choose. they learn and laugh and grow. and, some Sundays i put my foot down and fight and make them wear what i choose, but most of the time, i smile and try really hard not to make any apologies for their 'creative' attire, and life is good.behavior-- harder but the same lesson... smile, don't apologize, and teach principles later. let them be kids... remember they aren't perfect, they are under construction. everyone can see that they are young and that they are learning. people can see the cute hidden under the dust. in fact, most people prefer the kids that aren't perfect. they're real and endearing. in order to stay calm during the moments where i wanted to loose it, i started a mental and physical list "Things I Still Need to Teach my Kids..." When they do things that are horrible, I take their hand and guide them to a place of safety. I write down on my list what lesson they obviously missed amidst my years of teaching, and I plan our next family night together. Honesty, obedience, obedience, respect, personal hygiene, modesty, modesty, modesty, [our younger children were taught, "Modesty means we wear clothes." My mother-in-law thought we'd have to home-school them because they were always stripping down.] hard work, kindness, etc. This list reminds me that they aren't finished yet. I still have YEARS to teach them everything they need to know... and, we have Sunday afternoons, car rides, morning devotionals, family night, and bedtime cuddle time, to teach them. with kids, i'm ok with the construction phase.ok... here is the kicker. my house. i can't STAND it. i have spent the past 12 years trying to achieve some ideal that is just out of grasp. it makes me sick to my stomach and keeps me up at night. i'm constantly saying to myself... tomorrow, i'll clean the carpets, re-paint the walls, de-trash-ify my backyard, de-clutter my garage entry way, decorate better, organize more, get rid of the crap... and THEN, my life will be good. it's a constant, unreachable, overwhelming goal. and, i know. the truth is... i'm under construction. and, it's a long-term project. it's never going to be finished. at least not while my kids are young. and, it's ok. people can see the cute under the dust. people understand that we are busy and life is fast and my home isn't going to be on the parade of homes list this year. they understand. but it's so hard for me. it's all mental i just need to switch this button in my brain from "stress about it" to "enjoy it" i think it's the same button that i figured out with kids. you see, i gave them to god. but my house, i still feel responsible and powerful and "if i can just get this last closet cleaned then..." but, it's a lie. it's the forever trap of the grass is always greener on the other side. my children won't be "finished" tomorrow. and, neither will my home. it's a journey, not a destination.When the professor and i were married, with two little boys and a large, new home, we invited over his boss from work. This was pre-professor... it was just Todd who made good money and worked for Ford doing what he didn't love. Anyway, i planned a lovely dinner (eggplant Parmesan) and wanted to put the boys to bed early but Todd assured me that his boss LOVED children. (Who cooks eggplant for company? I mean who even cooks eggplant?) This couple showed up, the wife was wearing suede pants and when she picked up our chunky Drew, he really threw-up ALL over her pants. It was bad. And, it just got worse. When the wife asked me about my education and i told her that Jakob was born two months after I graduated from college, she gasped out loud, "What about your career!" When I brought out the pot of home-made sauce I made I tripped and spilled the whole pot of RED spaghetti sauce all of the table AND our carpeted dining room. And, after dinner when we brought them into our BEAUTIFUL and spacious family room that we had recently decorated for their visit, the wife said, "Oh, I see you must have great plans for this room." Hmmm. I smiled as I showed them out that night. They promised to invite us to their home sometime. And, I'm sorry to say, that was the last time we ever invited one of Todd's bosses to our home. I should have learned my lesson that day. I do have great plans for my family room. Just like I have great plans for my children, and great plans for my career. I didn't choose to go to work right out of college. I choose to have babies young. and, perhaps, I will choose to have a career later. I choose to fill my family room with labeled Tupperware of toys, plastic slides, and Train tables then... and, perhaps someday i will have the beautiful, white, clean, clutter-free, home i dream of. I have babies that poop and puke and write on the walls. I have backpacks that don't always land in the basket, and socks. Lots and lots of random socks on my floor. I have school papers and art projects and piles and piles of books that they are reading... i haven't given up yet. i'm still teaching, and cleaning, and planning, and building. but. i'm not done yet. and, i'm not sure that i'll ever be done. so. please excuse my mess. i'm under construction. and, i do have great plans for my home and my family. today, i'm going to enjoy the sawdust. i'm going to try REALLY hard to enjoy the construction phase of my home. and, although i might inwardly cringe when someone stops by, HOPEFULLY, i'll get to the point that i love the finger and nose and tongue prints on my glass door. This just reminded me of one of my FAVORITE quotes... by one of my favorite women... Sister Marjorie Hinckley.She said, "I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenk’s lawn. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived." Oh... I want to be more like her. So Jen, Remember!!-- ENJOY THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE!! with your family, with your husband, with your home, and with YOURSELF. today we're living and growing and becoming. and, there is a lot of good shining through the sawdust.