Today in response to Missy at It's Almost Naptime I am reflecting on the preschool years.
In letter form, but actually more of a rambling...hey, I'm at the end of the precious, hair-raising preschool days. My baby climbed to the top of the pantry today to eat gummy bears for breakfast (before I awoke) so cut me a little slack! Here goes.
Dear self of last decade,
My kids are 9, 7, 5 and 3(as of next week). Yes, number 4 is technically a preschooler. However, last year I had a revelatory moment where one thing became clear to me. No matter how many more babies joined our family, the days of being at home with preschoolers were over for me. Over. **sniff, sniff**
Yes, I am one of "those"mothers. The ones who from the tender age of 8 decided I would be a mommy when I grew up and carry babies all the time. There was only one thing that rocking Baby Tender Love and feeding Baby Alive failed to prepare me for. Real babies grow into school aged children. Children with opinions and emotions and habits and character.
I loved the days of waking up, donning sweats and never looking in the mirror. I loved the feeling that came when a touch of my hand or the sound of my voice stilled their every cry. I rocked babies a lot, sang and danced in the kitchen and desperately wanted my babies to feel loved and nurtured. I made it a point on days that I consciously made choices to rock, hold or cuddle a baby over mopping the floor or scrubbing the sink to write it in my journal. I want to look back and have as few regrets as possible.
Even with the no regrets motto, I still did plenty wrong. Many, many days and weeks and months were spent in "survival mode" because I was tired. Very tired.
It has taken me years to learn that putting my husband before my children's needs is actually allowing my children's needs to take top priority. When my husband feels as if he's being respected by my words and actions and that his goals are my own goals, everyone flourishes in our home. Still, easier said than done. I wish I would've taken the rubberband out of my hair and worn that cute skirt to our dinner table a little more in those days. My man thinks it's important.
I wish I would've really, really listened to him. I wish I would've held the same views on extra activities, play groups, clothes, pictures and discipline. I tend to be indulgent while he's not home. Obeying his rules when he's gone has made a huge difference. I am slowly learning that whatever Daddy's standard is, that's what I am to train my children to become. (See any spiritual truths there?)
I made naptime a huge goal. Getting all two or three or four children to sleep at the same time was paramount. That was "me" time. Time I planned for each day. Time to wash clothes, do dishes, read, write, study the Bible, shower. When it didn't happen, I became angry and frustrated.
I made a commitment to God about my time just this year. If any of the five other people in this house are awake, it is their time, not mine. If that happens before 10:00 at night or after 6:30 in the morning, it's a bonus. I wish I would've been more flexible with that when they were at home all day. When three slept, why didn't I read to the one or create a pretty picture with the other? Well, again, I was tired. So very tired.
I constantly reasoned with myself that if I only had one at home there would be more quality time. The reality is that I now have one at home, the battles are the same. This is where the shift happened. School-aged children have a different set of needs. The time is even more limited and the car happens to be our home on most days. **wink, wink**
I remember the day that God spoke several blessings to my heart about having my kids so close together in age. They don't fight much. They play lots. They rely on each other, often more than they rely on me. They challenge each other in ways I could never challenge them with their different personalities and their birth order. Choose the blessings over the harder to live with things and don't sweat what you can't change.
I always had a week long plan for a spotless house (Anybody heard of Fly Lady?). After number three it became a biweekly plan. After number four, I burned the plan. I let a "dirty" house keep me from entertaining and practicing hospitality far more than I should have.
I let "the way I always dreamed it would be" rule decisions that I made instead of asking God to reveal the way He says it should be and change the way of my heart.
I have realized that I had stretches that were good, easy, enjoyable, all by the grace of God and many Godly older women, and then there were the growing phases. The months that I had no playgroup, the months a certain child cried everyday...all day and all night...every night, the months that I couldn't hear God's voice in the midst of the child-filled chaos that was my home. That goes back to the issue of my time. I have come to a point now where I want to hear His voice more than I desire a good night's sleep or any night's sleep at all. I sleep less, much less. Yet, I hear Him more and I hear him consistently. I wish I would've read the Bible when I nursed each baby instead of watching the television. (I started this with #4)
Practically, I wish I would've been prepared for all the stuff. Mountains of stuff invaded my house. Then in just a few short weeks or months the baby would outgrow it. How I just wanted to be rid of the stuff. How I wanted space. Nothing touching me. Open places in an already cramped house (Okay, I still long for this but am repenting by the minute). I wish I would've had a storage system, filing system, any system for that matter, in place for all the stuff. Seriously. I didn't. Still don't know exactly how I would fix it, I just wish I had. Example, I got rid of my daughter's Polly Pockets. She didn't play with them and I kept sucking up their cute, little stylish shoes with the vacuum. Why didn't I store them in a plastic container until she was a little older? Because sure enough, she asked for them. And, the mother guilt appeared.
Here's a list of other mother guilt regrets (however, I know in heaven my memory will be perfect and there will be no need for a scrapbook): far too few home videos, no scrapbooks of babies 2 or 3, no photos of baby 3, throwing away Polly Pockets and other momentarily unwanted objects of desire, being too tired to read, pray, sing or cuddle to sleep babies, letting my survival (or lack thereof) affect my loved ones in any way, and there are more. So many more. And, about the mother guilt, don't. waste. the. time. or. energy. going. there.
Despite my many shortcomings, I clung to my mantra during this time. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11
Through it all, we managed to talk with our kids about Jesus every time we got a chance. Still do. We weren't perfect but we did make it a priority. Still do. We have managed to pray for them daily giving them over God on a regular basis and trusting He will use us, even in our weaknesses, to fulfill His grand purposes in their little lives. We take time regularly to monitor our progress. God is so faithful!
Really, it does go by so quickly. I never thought it would end but time is marching forward and this newer season is just as exciting, thrilling and challenging!
And, Missy, I'm giddy just thinking of all the treasures I'll glean from this too. Thanks!