Posted in Friday Rambles

The Best of Times; The Worst of Times

This week, my son is attending overnight camp for the first time.  He packed his bag, and then I re-packed it for him (i.e. folded up the crumpled clothes that had been stuffed in).  I did a mock set-up of his camp bed with him on the basement floor, because I was worried he wouldn’t know what to do with his sleeping bag once he got there.  I reminded him about sunscreen, and to drink plenty of water.  He just finished another level of swimming lessons, so if he falls in the river by accident without a life jacket, he should know what to do.

As he boarded the bus, I wondered what had gotten into me: allowing a stranger to drive my child all that way.  Were there even seatbelts in there?

I followed him onto the bus to make sure he’d found a place and looked comfortable.  There he was, smiling and bright-eyed, sitting beside one of his cabin leaders (another stranger…he seems like a stand-up guy, but still).

Truth is, I do believe that he’ll be fine.  But there’s another question afoot, underneath all of the careful preparations, and the making-sure-he’s-ok’s: What about…me?

It has gotten me to thinking about an empty nest.  Somewhere down the road, the day is coming.  I do look forward to, hopefully, having more time for myself.  Pursuing ambitions and leisure activities.  Hanging out with my husband the way we used to (if we will still know how).  Maybe, I’ll even keep a clean house.

But, along with the sacrifices I made when I became a parent, I also received something that has been extremely fulfilling.  I became a little child’s favorite.  There’s just nothing like it!  Teachers, babysitters, and even grandparents don’t necessarily receive that distinguished place in a child’s heart.  I may not acknowledge it every day, but being a parent has given me a great sense of purpose.

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About a year ago, I remember walking back to our car after a day at the beach with my two boys.  I hung on to a circular floatation toy and fought the wind to keep it, while carrying life jackets and a bag of gear in my other hand.  My youngest, who was one, toddled away and I attempted to reign him back in.  My oldest, who was seven, cried and screamed to stay longer, and I tried to appease him by saying we could come back another time.

A middle-aged couple eyed me, chuckling, and the man commented, “Oh, I remember that.”

“Ah, yes,” I replied with a sigh, “I suppose, when it’s done, I’ll miss it.”  I was anticipating the usual “this is the best time of your life”/ “enjoy it while it lasts, they grow up so fast” commentary.  (Which is mildly guilt-provoking, no?  Because honestly, this doesn’t always feel like the best time of my life.)

To my surprise, the man shook his head and said assuredly, “No.”  And they went on to say something about their grandchildren, whom they obviously loved and enjoyed.  But there was no guilt-ridden speech.  They loved their kids, and remembered when they were little.  But on that particular day, they were quite simply enjoying the fact that they didn’t have to take care of anyone but themselves.

I found this encounter refreshing, and encouraging.  Because when I’m told that this is the best time of my life, and in the meantime I’m exhausted, frustrated, frazzled, living in a mess that doesn’t seem to stop, and can’t even remember who I was before this all started…it seems a hopeless thing to say that this is as good as it gets.

Every season, I suppose, has its joys and aggravations.  Thank God that the blessing of children is so indescribably beautiful to a human heart, because otherwise, how would we put up with the perpetual discomfort and inconvenience that they cause?  And when the season of raising them is over, we gain back some of our old freedoms and luxuries.  But we lose something, too.  Something that sparkles brighter, in our memories, than all of the things we gave up: We were their favorite.  Taking care of their needs, and sharing thousands of moments with them, infused our lives with greater meaning.

And perhaps that is why, when the season ends, empty nesters may watch frazzled young parents with a degree of envy.  And sigh, and say those ridiculous things.

Who knows?  Maybe, one day, I’ll say them too.

“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’  For it is not wise to ask such questions.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10

What’s your favorite thing about being a parent?  Are you an empty-nester?  (What’s that like?)  I would love to hear your perspective in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Friday Rambles

Mom Fail Number 99

How long would it take me to reach 99 failures as a mom?  Two weeks?  One week?  A day?

Sometimes, the reality that I’ve been entrusted with two young lives seems like a wild idea.

We all got sunburn today.  All my life, people have chirped in my ear about sunburn, sunscreen, and skin cancer.  My mom used to make me wear SPF 15 on my face every day, because I was ‘fair.’  You’d think I would have gotten the idea.

I suppose it would be rare to go through life never having had a sunburn.  But when my babies’ beautiful, plump, flawless, pristine skin gets scorched – at the hands of my own neglect, no less – it really, really bugs me.

My line of reasoning went something like this:

“I’ve forgotten the sunscreen.  I should go back and get it.  But no, I don’t want to.  We don’t have time, and I’m sure we’ll be fine.  We’ll be submerged in water.  It will all wash off anyway and contaminate the pool water.  We’ll take breaks in the shade.

Besides, look how nice other people’s kids look with their brown skin.  I’ve heard sunscreen is bad for you.  We should build up our skin’s natural resistance and get a nice, gradual tan.”

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that my skin is about as pasty, white, and prone to sunburn as it will come.  And my kids aren’t much different.

Failing, I suppose, is normal.  And yet, it always seems to catch me off-guard.

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Recently I witnessed a friend of mine in the midst of one of her self-described ‘mom fails.’  A group of us moms were getting together at my house.  Half an hour after everyone else had arrived, she was nowhere to be seen.  Because she was in her car.  In my driveway.

Fighting with her kids.

Trying to convince them to come inside, when they wanted absolutely nothing to do with the whole thing.

She gave up, took them home to their dad, and showed up at my house almost an hour late.  Her eyes looked wet, and her eyelids were a little puffy, like she’d been crying.

“I can handle 28 girls,” she said (she manages a hair salon), “but I can’t handle 2 boys?”

Although I understood her sentiment (having felt similarly obtuse, on several occasions, with my boys), I could not see what she was seeing.

Because when I look at her, I see a woman who is nearly perfect.  Who handles whatever life throws at her, with grace.  Who cares about others more than I thought was humanly possible.  Who never misses a great teachable moment with her children.  Who oozes peace, strength, humility, and servanthood.

What if, instead of only counting failures, we also took some notice of the things we are doing right?

So yes, we got sunburn.  But I had raced around the grocery store that morning and done the shopping in record time, so we would have time for fun in the afternoon.  I had beamed with pride as my 8 year-old swam all the way across the pool during his swimming lesson, without touching bottom.  I had held my 2 year-old up on the public toilet seat so he could go, wiped his little bottom, and then washed his brown-streaked shorts in the sink with my bare hands.  I had overcome my body insecurities to don a swimsuit in front of God and man, stayed within an arm’s reach of my toddler at all times, and kept a watchful eye on his brother (praying for safety) as he flailed around with his friends.  The two of them went to bed tonight content, and worn out from play and learning and stimulation and fun, with full tummies and clean clothes on their backs.

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I don’t think we should ignore failures.  I think that we should take note, learn, and do differently next time.  Personally, I pray a lot: for mercy; for grace.

But, for every one failure, there may be 99 ways that you have gotten it right.  (Or, at least, had your heart in the right place.)  I would be willing to bet.

What’s your latest mom fail?  I’d love to hear about it. 😁

Warm wishes,

Lisa