We stood in the steamy shower spray, and as my middle daughter looked into my eyes with pure glee I felt a mixture of emotions. It was that kind of speedy onslaught of thoughts that cascades all at once. Things like, how did I get so blessed? How is this my life? Did I really make this? She’s really mine! She’s amazing.
At that moment her beauty was unsurpassed, and as she excitedly proclaimed, “lift me up in the water,” childhood memories of my own flitted through my mind.
My first childhood memory, the first memory I can recall anyway, was of taking a shower with my mother. It’s vivid. I recall the way the warm water felt on my skin, the exhilaration of it pounding from above, but mostly the total trust and adoration I felt when I looked into the eyes of my wet, happy mother. Even to this day, a hot shower is my most favorite thing. You see, the memories that are worthy of holding on to, the ones that remain through the vast passage of years, those are the ones that shape you for the rest of your life. Anyone who has experienced great hurt, or triumphant love can attest to this. The things we remember are often who we become.
Yesterday I stood still, bent down in an attentive posture, and I listened to the wandering, whispered storytelling of my five-year-old. You know the ones I mean. The “hey mom, do you remember that time” ones. We were trying to get from Point A to Point B in the museum we were visiting, but at that moment my attention was on her. Her and her honestly, mostly pointless story. But not pointless to her. It wasn’t so much the story she told I wanted to hear, but her understanding that it all mattered to me. I wanted her to know mom was listening. Always.
Last night as I lay in bed thinking about our fun-filled day I realized that in a not-too-distant past I had not always been so patient and attentive. In fact, as I sadly recalled I realized much of my time over the past two and half years had been spent in some sort of harried race, and the weirdest part was I was the one judging the winner. No one was forcing me to rush about; certainly not my kids. No, I was mostly on a time clock of my own making. And sure we had responsibilities and activities that required us to be at a certain place at a certain time, but in all reality, much of the rush was my design. It’s like you get in a habit of hurrying, and you end up knowing no other way.
I found that I was the one placing more activities on the agenda. And for what? Were dance class and gymnastics really required for a fully rounded four-year-old? Did I really need to commit myself to as much as I did, or pick up the extra jobs I just knew I needed to complete? Were the additional field trips and travel for five minutes of fun worthwhile? And while the memories in the making are always fantastic, isn’t it null and void if Mom is in a bad mood? Then for us, of course, Dad was far too busy working every single day to join his family in it all. Where would Dad exist in the memories?
Next thing I knew, in my hurried existence, I found myself rushing to the grocery store, rushing through homeschool lessons, and rushing to the library, like picking up a fun book to read was an added chore. It was as if even the supposed fun stuff became another labored task, and though the girls said they had fun I wondered if they noticed. Could it be better than it was? I thought so.
Life as a parent is hard, no matter how you slice it, but it gets to a point where you’re tired of trying to keep your head above water. I’m not sure when in this world we stopped living the dream and instead measuring it against some societal standard of perfect parenting. We think if we walk the walk, dress our kids in the right clothes, send them to the right schools, or have them on the perfect sports team then things will get better. We’ll still be rushing, but we’ll have a trophy and picture to share on Facebook, so it will be worth it, right? Turns out the short-lived “like” isn’t all it was cracked up to be. We lose sight of satisfaction in the everyday mundane, and joy over the little things is overshadowed by this made-up responsibility we place on ourselves. We run and run, and run. For what? We’re stressed out in a time when our life should be the fullest. Our hearts and home should be full of peace and love, not anxiety and self-expectation.
I’m, as always, a work in progress, but I am headed in the right direction. I’m getting there by doing less. In this world, we think the more we do the better things will be. The harder we work, the easier it will get. The more we put into a project, and the better it turns out, the happier we will be. I call this Pinterest Syndrome. It seems, though, that most of us normal folks just end up feeling The Pinterest Fail instead (#momfail). I hate that term.
So I decided something had to give, and it turned out it was me giving up a lot. Giving up the false idea of what mattered in life. It wasn’t more stuff, more name brands, or a bigger house. It wasn’t a bigger name for myself. It wasn’t more success for my children in multiple activities. It wasn’t what my small town thought, my small group thought, or my own small mind thought. It was what the Lord wanted for our family. Isn’t that the most important part? How do we all so easily miss that? I’m asking myself too, you understand.
If it’s the memories that make our children the adults they will become, then that’s what I want to focus on. I want to focus on family, time together, and God’s will for our life. I want to be calm in the carrying out of motherhood and not be rushing to make memories happen (like we all tend to do). I just want them to happen, and then I want to be present enough that I can enjoy them too. They notice that you know. They notice genuine smiles from mom and dad, they notice when you listen, for real listen, and they notice when you take pleasure in them. It’s so easy to get distracted from enjoying your family by the demands of life. But if my daughters remember anything from their childhood, I want them to remember that I enjoyed it too. I want them to know they can enjoy life to the fullest as they grow older, even when life is full.