Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh, the places you'll go!

The thing about parenting is that there are frightfully few absolutes. What I mean to say is that no sooner has one drawn a proverbial line in the sand starting with the words, "I will never ... " than God picks up the reigns and reminds you that the control you thought you had was only an illusion.

I don't know about you, but I have eaten
my share of "nevers" in the past 13-ish years. From the length of time I breastfed Jo (longer than anticipated), to the fact that Oli is in public preschool (never even on my radar), all the way down to letting kids go to bed without brushing their teeth if it might wake up a sleeping baby (sloth!) ... I've recanted more than a few of those black and white assertions.

And I'm o.k. with that. Because while Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, my circumstances are changing all. the. time.

Toddlers only nap in their own beds, so as to preserve the "this is bedtime" feeling. Well, except when four boys share the same room and three of them need access to said room while said toddler is napping. In which case, a portacrib in the corner of my room will work just fine.

Don't jump down the stairs. Unless it's the last two or three steps, which I'm not going to bother legislating at this point.

Shopping carts are abandoned when little ones have fits, so that I can take the offender to the car and properly deal with the infraction. Except when I really just need four things, and the other four kids are doing great, but Oli just can't handle the lighting in the store so he's flipping out. When that happens, carrying him in the ergo with a coat draped over his head is good enough.

We finish read-alouds. Period. Except when no one is into it, and I pick up the book and feel my stomach lurch and start imagining all the other things I could be doing in that hour. In that case, the book heads back to the library without a thought, whether it teaches my kids to be quitters or not.

No eating in the living room. Unless it's apple slices, and I'm trying to steal fifteen minutes to make dinner. In which case, have at it.

No guns. But swords and lightsabers are perfectly fine.

No writing schoolwork in pen. But since you just got that really cool gel pen in your stocking, I'll give you a pass.

I used to look at families with what I saw as "flimsy" rules and roll my eyes. "You just wait," I'd think quietly, "When they're running all over the place, you'll be sorry you were such a sucker." Now I'm more apt to look at my own surrender and see it as grace. Funny how the shoe fits a little differently on your own foot, huh?

For the record, there are still quite a few Don't Even Question This rules around here. No food in the schoolroom or gameroom. (There were about 5,000 popcorn kernel-sized reasons for that one.) Yes, you have to wear a helmet. If you argue, you lose whatever it is you thought was important enough to argue over. No hitting. Address adults as "Mr." or "Miss."

So the rules are still there, they are just more likely to be met with an equal measure of grace alongside the justice I once was so eager to ensure.

Oh, the places you'll go ... Momma-style.


Sarah said...

But it is so dangerous to hang on to the outside of a shopping cart while it is moving...


obladi oblada said...

Ha! This is the story of my mother-hood life. I thought I had all the answers BEFORE. Now, I know I do not.

Melody said...

Oh SO true!!! I thought I had it all figured out before we started having kids. Now, with the addition of each child, I am learning that, that is FAR from the truth! But I am also learning what is really important, and that some stuff is really ok to let go : )

TexasHeather said...

Really great post, MG! I totally relate on that read-aloud rule. And the steps. And, well, you said it very well so I'll just nod and laugh along in agreement. 'Cause it is all so very, very true.

Mama JJ said...

This is a wonderful post, very heartwarming indeed.

One of mine? No jumping off the stairs...unless you have a pile of pillows at the bottom and as long as you don't go up more than seven steps. (Not an actual rule, but I HAVE allowed them that privilege...because they were having so much fun and I couldn't bear to interrupt. Am I a slacker? Very likely...)

Beth said...

Amen! It's funny how rules bend when it give us a bit of sanity in the day. I thought my 2 year old would be done with the paci, and now she is 3 and still clings to it... but she is a HAPPY 3 year old, and we don't take it out of the house.

And the guns... I thought I would have no toy guns, but now I prefer them to swords which usually result in some sort of minor injury. My son is obsessed with hunting, so he has his collection of toy riffles.

We had a rule of "no shooting at people or pets" but that changed to "no shooting people who don't want to be shot" b/c he and his friend love to play cowboys and Indians which include some great dramatics. Maybe I should consider it a "performance arts 101" course?

Anyhow, it's nice to know I'm not the only "rule bender".

ThyHandHathProvided said...

I love to hear other moms fess-up to rule-bending. Thank you:-).

Rachel said...

So very true, Mary Grace! I am a stickler for rules, but am learning as the mother of boys that my "rules" often infringe upon their God-given maleness. Trying to let go of that a little at a time!

Benny said...

I have to laugh at how true this is for me, and how universal it must be for mothers in general.

Oh what a wise and perfect mother I was destined to be... before I actually had kids, that is. In many ways I feel like I get better at motherhood with each child being added, but in many ways I just see God's hand in showing me just how much I have left to learn...

Humility. It is a beautiful thing, after all.


Laurel said...

GREAT post! Just found your blog from Anita's, and look forward to reading more.

Before I had kids ...

"I would NEVER take my kids to the grocery store without their hair combed, or in dirty clothes." Yea right! Sometimes I need milk or bread and don't have time to "properly" dress the 6 younger kids.

"I would never allow my boys to play with guns." That one worked for many years ... until big brother joined the army, and EVERYTHING became about guns.

My Parenting Motto:

Rules without Relationships equals Rebellion.

And ... true, loving relationships must have GRACE, just as Christ has grace for us, as we walk in relationship with Him.

mama of 13

Melanie at Finally Homeschooling said...

Ah...words heaven sent for me. A family on our swim team had to bury their 18 month old the day after Christmas. The little girl (who knew how to swim) drowned in their bathtub. The mom stepped away for a moment. The judgment on this mom from everyone is frightening. I'm just grateful my bad mom moments weren't so public, nor devastating!

I took comfort in your words and hope that as I repeat some of them in conversations poolside others will find their compassion for this mother.