This afternoon, my sweet husband left with our little guy to enjoy an overnight at Bible camp. This makes me thrilled beyond belief because they don’t get much time alone together. The experience of sleep-away camp is one I want for my littles, but I worried about this kid. I didn’t want him to be frightened and end up hating camp completely because it is so far outside of his comfort zone. A night at camp with Dad there too seems like a perfect fit. I also secretly hope that the time spent in nature with a specific Bible focus, will help both my husband and my son reconnect with God.
I realize this is a tall order for twenty-four hours worth of time.
As I went about my afternoon I noticed that I was doing things differently. It took a little while to figure out exactly what was going on, but as I look back over the day now I see how many things I modified simply because I only had a tiny to look after. Isn’t that strange? Normally I mother from about 5:45 A.M. until roughly 9:00 P.M., sure there are a few opportunities for quiet or for rest in there, but mostly it’s keeping little people alive and helping them grow into good people all day long. Today when I put my girl down for her nap I rested my head next to hers for a full thirty minutes. Then I snuck out the bedroom door to finish a little gardening that I really couldn’t overlook any longer.
I watered. I picked beans. I watched the bees bumble about. I read my book on the deck in the sunshine. The biggest difference from my normal was the silence. I didn’t talk to anyone for her entire two hour nap. As a momma to talkative children this quiet is extremely rare, so rare in fact that I seek it out and ask for opportunities to steal it. More than just the quiet though I found myself unconcerned. Of course I always pray over the safety and well-being of my people, but today I did not need worry over what I would feed them for dinner. I didn’t care at all what time it was all afternoon; I simply had no schedule. When the teeny woke, we had a scoop of ice cream and played ponies for quite some time. She took her silly self into the pool and I watched her dunk herself under for the first time. We read thirty-seven stories and she fed the dog.
Our oldest child -who is really an adult- came home at some point late in the day and I directed him to the leftovers in the fridge. And you know what? He ate them. He didn’t die because I made him warm up his dinner, he didn’t even complain! Who knew!? After books we went back outside with a pb&j to share. My tiny girl and I walked barefoot around the yard stopping to pick, and eat, all of the berries we found. We admired my hard work in the garden as well as the echinacea which is taller than my toddler this year. This took the better part of an hour and when we went back up the steps to the house she told me she was ready for bedtime.
Those words are rarely spoken in honesty.
After I finally got her settled, because, really, this girl still wasn’t easy to get to sleep, I was thinking about the pace of my afternoon and how I know this is what I am continually striving for. Everything simply flowed together from one activity to the next.
Normal-Me was jealous of Today-Me.
As I was thinking over what was different, I stopped, I mean; glaringly obvious; I only had one child to manage and give snuggles to. There was no fighting or attention seeking because this girl got nearly all of me. I also had no other adults to consider in my timeline for the day, no husband, no grown kids (nearly). I didn’t worry about what time I should have the house basically put back together or what random things from my fridge I’d throw together to make dinner last minute after secretly hoping dinner would just appear on the stove at 6:30. I didn’t rush through bedtime stories for the teeny to get her to bed so that I could then read aloud to the littles and then put them to bed with the hope that my hard-working husband might still be awake so that we could have eight minutes of uninterrupted, adult conversation before bed.
What I’m saying here is that the pace was totally different.
I’d love to know if there is a way to live this…steadily?… when all of the people that I love are home and doing their lives all around me. What would have to change? I’ve tried to do the casual dinner in the Summer, last year that worked pretty well. This year with a college football player and a ten-year-old girl who eats like a college football player in the house I can’t just put out a veggie tray and a plate of meat and cheese and call it good. They need a lot more food than that. I’ve done the meal planning and it has worked really well for me for, like, eight years. Not so much this Summer. It’s not that I’ve fallen off the planning wagon so much as that I don’t want to make, or really even eat, any of the things that I normally make. New recipes have helped a little, but not enough to motivate me to cook when the weather is hot and the sun is shining.
I realize, of course, that in having a large family I will have to look at more than just dinner time if I want to change the pace of our days. I have kids who want to be very busy, as well as kids who would happily stay home most days. We won’t be able to balance that out, what we need to do is find balance within the flux, peace within the chaos…I think. I don’t quite know how I’m going to do that, but I think that I must try. In knowing that the solution of loading life into the RV and driving away is not imminently on the horizon, I must find a way of balancing myself inside of the busy, not losing my sh*t when I’m pulled in several different directions at one time. This is going to take some work.
There are activities that I have loved, that I am considering tabling for the upcoming season. There are new opportunities that encompass more of a family learning environment that I am thinking about adding in. I have other ideas as well, I may assign each of my kids a night to cook, or I may entrust more of the household tasks to them. Something I have realized through camping, is that my ten and seven-year-olds are begging for more independence and opportunities to earn trust, this desire for a smoother day may be just the push we need to make those leaps.
I’ve also been reading and learning more about the value of independent, unstructured, outdoor play for my children. I think that more fully understanding this piece of the puzzle will, eventually, unlock windows of time for each of us to do the things that cause us joy. For now I trust that we are heading down the right path with this idea, I’ve made only small changes and have noticed fewer meltdowns from my tiny. Realistically, if that were the only benefit, I’d still be all-in. Going outside more often and more consciously, has helped me remember that I really want to be outside, why am inside anyway? It’s Summer!
Tomorrow will start early, and I fear it will be a full-of-emotion day. There will be more children, more activities, just more expected of and from me. I’m going to work on maintaining my natural rhythm though, not running ahead, or dragging along. I’m going to be more present in the moments that I am given to care for my family, and while that is an ofttimes exhausting place to be I really can trust that each moment can only hold so much. Letting go of some of the crazy is probably a good place to start.