The phrase "The days are long but the years are short" seems to be on repeat in my mind as the realization that our kids are growing older hits. It's been quite awhile since I've bought diapers or filled a bottle. I don't often wake in the middle of the night to a little one's needs.
Though I love the baby and toddler stages (like loooooooove them), I always figured I'd be excited to be out of it and onto the older years. And it is undoubtedly fun to be able to snuggle on the couch and read books side by side, have water balloon fights in the front yard, and cook dinner together...and yet, I'm realizing something.
The stage that I considered to be the most challenging of my life because I was tangled in a life of exhaustion and spit-up, has shifted into something else...another season more challenging than the one before.
Though I now have a few minutes to shower every morning (sometimes even without a kid interrupting!) and generally sleep through the night without someone needing me at 2 am, this stage is a hundred times more demanding.
Our kids have opinions and personalities and giftings and struggles. They have expectations and hurts and fears. There are days of tremendous elation and others with lots of tears.
I realize each and every day that I have no idea what I'm doing and pray that I don't screw them up...too much.
I pray deeply and fervently that Christ speaks to their little (and big) hearts as they begin making choices that will impact who they grow up to be. Our youngest may be four, but our oldest is seventeen. We're nearing the four-year mark with both these two and though it seems like we've had them forever, I also realize how fast time is going.
I think sometimes I stress out too much. Do you?
Sometimes I forget to celebrate the little things like I used to and see the weeds rather than the flowers.
Last night six-year-old Imani had her kindergarten performance. The spring weather was beautiful and warm and we smiled as we walked to and from the elementary school. We were all hungry afterward and as we fixed some snacks before putting on pj's, one of the little ones put on the La La Land soundtrack. The music is so fun and upbeat. I've played it so often that we all know the words to our favorite songs and the younger three and I danced around the kitchen, lip syncing and laughing.
But when I tried to bring one of the older kids into the fun, he got angry. Some of our kids have a lot of trauma from their past and unpredictable anger flares up now and then because of it. But this was not one of those kids.
The way he shunned our fun was surprising and unexpected. And it made me really sad. Like heartsick kind of sad.
I looked at him and wondered where his joy had gone.
I'm not saying he's a depressed kid. I'm in no way detecting a constant spirit of sadness or anger. But it does flash more often than I think it should and definitely more often than it had when he was young and every conversation had to do with superheroes, trucks, and legos. Now he talks about mean girls in class and struggling in math. He shares when he feels like he doesn't fit in and that he's not good enough, cool enough.
Ohhhh how that breaks my heart.
Motherhood is hard to maneuver, isn't it?
So my challenge for this summer is to bring more joy to the house.
To freak out less and laugh more.
I came upon Rachel Macy Stafford's post today titled, The Day My Child Lost Her Joy—and What I Did to Revive It and realized this isn't only hitting my family. Is it impacting yours?
I think it's partly my own fault. I've noticed as the number of children in our family expands, the more order I need in our home and when order is not there, I get tense and frustrated.
And as we know, mothers are the heartbeat of the home.
How does the saying go? "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Gosh, it's true.
Life is so chaotic and loud in a family of eight that I think it's my way to restore a little calm. The more kids in the house, the less I can handle mess and clutter. And my patience wanes as our old-enough-to-clean-up-after-themselves children either don't clean up...or they whine the entire time they do.
And because they see impatience in me, they're impatient. Because I'm stressed, they're stressed.
But if I ooze joy, they'll ooze joy.
And in all truthfulness...I yell. You guys, sometimes I yell at my kids for almost no reason at all. Sometimes it's simply because I'm stressed and they did something that broke the camel's back.
I've never been a person who yells. What is my problem??
I don't want them to remember me as a "Yelling Mom."
I want them to remember me as an affirming, goofy, fun mom.
Something has got to change. And I think joy is where I'm going to spend my time first.
How do you infuse joy and happiness into your home? How, as your kids enter elementary, middle school, and high school...do you help them brush off hurt in a healthy way and turn their faces toward the light of Christ?
How do you see the flowers and not the weeds in your day-to-day life? From one mama that often feels in over her head to another...I'm so glad we don't have to pretend everything is always ok and perfect. No facades here. Let's grasp authenticity.