Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Fully Engaged Mothering
Today you get a re-run that I posted some time back. I've realized this week that my children need a little closer supervision, a little more focused guidance. Mothering isn't a passive activity. It requires strength and stamina to be fully engaged!
I find that my kids get into lots less mischief when I keep them busy. They play outside much of the day, in our big shady back yard where I can watch them from the kitchen or living room. They rarely get into trouble as long as they are running around, swinging, and riding their spring horse or cozy coupe. When they come inside it’s a different story, and their mischief-making is even more pronounced when I’m on the phone or the computer. Kids seem to have “preoccupation radar” and they can tell when my mind is busy with other things. Now my kids are sweethearts, don’t get me wrong, but when they know I’m not looking they will get into fun forbidden items (mom’s moisturizer, furniture polish, and spray starch are a few from this week). One of them will come running, “Silas pushed me!” “Elizabeth hit me!” and I have no idea exactly what happened. Or they disobey and each denies their involvement and blames the other. It’s human nature, and they are as likely to do it as any child.
I’ve found that I can let this happen and deal with it the best I can after the fact…When my moisturizer is all over the outside windows, when the carpet is well-starched, when one of them is crying and hurt and the other denies that they shoved and I have to try to sort it out. And this happens sometimes.
But by far the most peaceful way to mother has been to learn how to be a fully engaged mom. When I get too busy and preoccupied to notice what they are up to, it’s usually because I am selfishly insisting on “me time”. I think that as moms we need to have time to ourselves, but we also need to embrace our mothering role and be “all there” as much as possible when our kids are “all there”! I’m learning—slowly—to find my personal time when they are down for naps or before they get up in the morning. Do I do it perfectly? No way! (In fact, right now they are dancing to the stereo in the living room and I’m hoping everything stays as happy as it is right now.)
The best way I’ve discovered to do this is to keep my kids with me--in the same room--pretty much all the time (except when they are outside). I try to involve them as much as I can in what I’m doing. They help me put laundry in the dryer, empty the dishwasher, make a salad, and vacuum. They are learning vital skills and we enjoy each others’ company. And most importantly I can stop that mischievous behavior before it gets started in many cases. It’s a lot easier to say, “Silas, put the sharpie away,” than to have to discipline later for sharpie on the furniture. It’s more fun for him and me! Sometimes I think we can help our kids not get into bad habits by just dealing with them promptly and never really letting them get started. That’s not to say that their fallen nature won’t rear its ugly head at times, but even when it does, we can handle it before it gets out of control if they are with us. (I have to say that I didn't come up with this on my own. Wise mamas from many different places have shared the same general idea, and I've just benefited from it.)
I’ve been tempted to whine about having three tiny ones and no time for me. Then I have to remember a few things. One is that God says they are blessings. They are not just blessings when it is convenient or when they are big enough not to need me so much. They are blessings, period, human beings made in the image of God, and pretty darn cute too! I wouldn’t trade their smiles and snuggles—as well as their tears and dirty diapers—for anything in the world. I also have to realize that while they are gifts from God, I have chosen to receive those gifts. So in a sense having three small ones is my choice. I can gripe about the blessings I’ve chosen to receive, or I can embrace this role of mothering little ones. Third, I have to realize that we are all benefiting from being together. They are learning, and they are there for me to hug, kiss, pick up, talk to, and serve. We’ll be closer and more connected for chopping the salad or folding laundry together. I'm also more available to sit down and read a book to them, or drink a cup of tea, or play basketball or push them on the swing, when they don't have to hunt me down.
When I do, I have to consciously remind myself to be fully engaged. When they are all three underfoot, this means that I'm both answering questions and chatting with them about the details of their little-kid lives, and giving almost constant instruction. “Sarah, don’t touch, that’s hot. Silas, will you put the spoons on the table for me? Elizabeth, please put the breakable glass down.” On it goes. They are little, after all. I have to use an eagle eye and not let my mind wander to my next craft project or blog entry. At first, it’s mentally and physically exhausting, but that gets better with time. And when I realize how much better I know my little ones and how much happier they are when they feel productive and stay out of trouble, it’s all worth it.