What Sleeplessness has Taught Me

I have struggled with sleep for over eleven years now. Multiple wakings in the night, falling asleep just to jerk back awake, far too many really early mornings. I know I’m not the only one. I know a lot of people get very little sleep. I do not have insomnia or night terrors, I simply have littles who struggle with sleep.

For me, I knew before I had children that sleep was precious. I have a distinct memory of a conversation worrying over the loss of sleep I would experience when I became a mother. At the time I did not realize the severity to which I would become sleep deprived though.

From my pregnancy with my first child all those years ago I became aware that the loss of sleep was just the first of many things that no one really prepared me for in mothering. When my second baby settled into a pattern of waking every morning at three AM for over a year I found that I was not the only momma who was waking in the night with a toddler, the solidarity helped. With my third teeny I reached a new level of mothering-with-insufficient-sleep.

That teeny is recently five and still has yet to sleep through the night for a full week straight…ever. I have decided that this girl will likely always have sleep issues, it is just who she is, at least for now. She is still too small to settle back in, can not yet self-soothe into a peaceful sleep, consistently struggles to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to return to it once she does wake. I feel like I have given her all of the tools, I let her listen to her body and sleep when she needs it. (She is actually pretty good at this, napping when she’s overtired regardless of time of day or where she is at the time.) A dear friend made her a weighted blanket, we’ve used the oils, we work on perfect tucking in and bring water bottles by the bed and the special stuffed animal gets all of the kisses. Still, interrupted sleep is her normal.

So what have I learned? Over the past seven or so years I have used the mid-night wakings to grow my faith and trust in a Savior who loves me. I have found that the rest is always enough to get through to the next time I can lay my head down. Sure, some days my expectations are pretty low, but I have also learned to rest in Him when I can’t physically rest. My prayer life has become deeper and richer. I have realized that as I lay awake after settling a child back to bed unable to find sleep myself, that talking to God and listening to His words are the perfect use of that time. I’ve heard some hard truths at two AM and I’ve been the prayer warrior that friends have needed me to be. I’ve begged forgiveness for old sins that I’d forgotten and felt the peace of that forgiveness wash over me as I lay quietly in my bed waiting for a tiny to call out for me again.

This has been the best thing to come of lack of sleep- giving in and giving that time to God. I now cherish the minutes I lay awake in the middle of the night, though I do dread them as well. Knowing that the day to follow will necessitate my morning coffee and beg for an afternoon nap, I lean into God all the more as I beg for sleep or if not sleep, then rest at the least.

I knew it somehow, before I ever had babies, that sleep would be the hardest part of mothering for me. I didn’t really understand why though. I didn’t see the depth of patience it would require of me.

I came to understand that it has never been that I didn’t have enough to give them when I was tired, but that I wasn’t enough ever. The lack of sleep has led to mornings with my Bible open in my lap well after they all wake for the day. It causes me to pray out loud, in front of my children {gasp} when I don’t have the words and I can’t figure how to get through some struggle my children find themselves in. The lack of sleep has posted scripture to my fridge where beginning readers have sounded out the words while grabbing a glass of milk. I am not enough for my children, but I can always point them to the One who is.

This ramble is typed as my baby girl is snoozing on the sofa after being awake for several hours last night. Which has caused plans to be altered and grace to be begged from people I’d rather not ask it of. Humility is something that lack of sleep has taught me as well. When you are overtired you are frequently late, often impatient, and usually a bit of a wreck. If you can be humble through those days (or months…or years) you will find more joy in this journey.

At a low point in my sleep story; a time where I really thought my girl should be sleeping and I was frustrated, exhausted, and angry, I talked about it all of the time. Everyone knew that my child didn’t sleep. Everyone had suggestions and sympathy. I was grateful for both, though the empathy from the exhausted mommas in my circle was what got me through. That “we are in this together” was something I hadn’t expected from lack of sleep and my friends. Coffee was shared over stories of zombie-like stretches of time from other mommas who were currently sleep-deprived by tiny humans. Knowing that other women were doing their personal best in consideration of their lack of sleep was, and is still, inspiring to me. It helps me to keep doing what I do all day…and many of the nights.

Not just that these friends were exhausted, but that they were willing to talk about it, to share the shitty sleep situations they found themselves in, as simple realities. This made a difference somehow. Through these conversations I learned that my kid wasn’t weird, well, wasn’t unusual in her sleep patterns at least. I mean, she’s my kid, she’s going to be weird. I saw that all manner of sleep or not is pretty common among littles. No one ever told me that pre-kid. I thought the baby would learn to sleep over the first year or so and we’d settle into a good pattern after that, maybe waking earlier than I’d like on the weekends, but otherwise enough sleep would be had by all. This is SO untrue.

I was thankful to have women in my circle who listened to me and heard that I could absolutely not do one more week of this! And then stood with me as I’ve done two more years of it. The kindness and grace of this village of mine has been astounding. I have never felt judged because I can’t get my child(ren) to sleep. I have simply felt held in the space we have created where it’s okay to not be able to do a thing.

Hear me also when I say my sweet husband has been there with me every single night. While he does not often get up to lull a sleepless little, he does hold me up on the days I can barely see through to the end. He makes meals, ensures I’m taking my vitamins, pours me water and wine, plays ball in the street in the afternoons to tucker them out…He cares well for me so that I can care for them. This is what I most need. Though, when he gets up for work at three in the morning and tucks a babe back in so that I dont have to get up with her again? That’s pretty amazing too.

Yes, the lack of quality sleep is hard. Yes, on the nights they all sleep through I do sort of brace myself for the next wave of poor sleep to hit us. Yes, I really do want my littles to be well rested.

But I live here.

Here in this space where sleep is highly valued and extremely appreciated when it does come. I have a feeling I’ve still got awhile in this place.

While I am tired this morning, and I will want a nap this afternoon, I’m thankful for all of the lessons that lack of sleep has brought me. They will serve me well this day, and maybe tonight will be the night that we will all sleep.

Beach Days

I’ve been practicing seeing the moments as they fly by me. The past couple of days are a good example of that. So many times I’ve thought about how grateful I am. Even though I had a bad attitude for most of this day and felt overall, in general “blech” there were so many times I felt supremely over-blessed.

First of all I get to wake up in my camper, on a beautiful piece of quiet land. I mean, who’s husband does that? Volunteers to help at a store that is failing, struggling, so that his girl can camp for six weeks?! I guess mine does and I can’t help but know how selfless that is.

Second I get to sit at the beach…in the sunshine…not really doing anything. Sure my kids were whiney and needy and the teeny did lose her cool more than once, but we were at the beach for crying out loud. Do I have any right to complain if I sat on the beach all afternoon? I’m thinking that’s a unanimous “NO!”, right? While I would’ve liked to read my book and take a nap, it was a gift of a day and I can not deny that.

If I typed out all of the small moments that have made these days NOT worth whining over this post would be crazy long. Here are just a couple; I made an amazing sandwich on focaccia (don’t judge my lack of carb restraint) from the local farmers market (yummm) and ate it at the picnic table in SILENCE! I grabbed a great Summer food book at the library, where my dog was not insane for twenty minutes. I sat outside after kids went to sleep with the man I love, I watched a hundred dragonflies dip and dive in the shade. Those are just a few highlights, but man I should not have been the moody, cranky person that I was yesterday.

Today I’ve been I smidge more present. I’ve seen the good and the not-so-good and I’ve not let one outweigh the other. As the rain has held off today we have done some workbook work outside, ran in for more good bread and to check out the local thrift store (where we scored Harry Potter Uno for two bucks!!). The tiny also melted down in epic fashion because her brother bumped her. One child refused to swim because there were people at the beach (wait…what??), and one of the children may be answering all of my requests with negativity bordering on anger (deep breath).

I’ve decided that I will take this trip one day at a time and enjoy all of the moments that I can without letting those annoyances get the best of me. We are settling into our new rhythm and finding the pace that we can sustain on the long hot days.

It is a pretty slow pace to be sure. This has me wondering if I should be doing more with the children, or if I should be working harder, or if I am taking advantage of my situation. All of that makes me think about the kind of childhood I’m trying to facilitate, the kind of life I’d like my whole family to be able to lead. That’s a post for another day though, we are off to the local library now…and then more sitting at the beach I think.

Living by the Moon

Have you been up early at all this Spring? I swing back and forth, as some of you know, from rising at 4:45 A.M. and sleeping until one of the children wakes me. I greatly prefer to have the quiet of the morning to myself, but if the teeny girl has been up three or more times in the night it’s really just too hard to wake up early and to be a good person. For the last ten days or so, I have been out of my bed before the children though. Waking in the silence and the dark of my house, sitting with a cuppa and my Bible or my journal tracking all of the goodness that fills my days. I love this. I have missed it.

The early morning has brought the moon back into focus for me as well. Have you seen the moon in this present cycle? It has been so clear in the early morning that it lights up our yard, Venus always following hard after. If I end up taking a drive East I can sometimes spot Mars, low and glowing a bit red above the horizon. The predawn hours are my favorite time to stargaze and moon-watch. Never is this more true than in early Spring when it is still dark until the littles wake up, and yet not too frigid to step outside in stocking feet. This morning I went out in my bare-feet onto the deck to breathe the cold air and watch the waning moon shine out over us all. It was so peaceful, even in town.

While I have never been one of those girls who believes that the moon controls the behaviors of school children or criminals, I can’t help but feel it’s pull on me. Since I dug my first garden in 2002 my daddy has sent me an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” for my birthday. I was always thankful for the inclusion of full moon dates and the guide to planting by the lunar cycle that this publication included. I have followed lunar cycles for planting for most of my gardening years, trusting the best time to plant based on not just warmer days, but the full moon. I have looked to the night sky, tracing the path of the moon as curiously as I have done many a thing in nature, to say this is just one more thing is possibly, yet not quite entirely, true.

This year in our homeschool is an Astronomy year. While we unschool pretty exclusively I do follow the trivium model of classical education if only in concept more so than practice. Are you familiar? The trivium divides the schooling years into three segments; Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The classical model then further breaks these groups down into four repeating themes; Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern which you explore once in each of the three phases. So each year our kids are free to learn what they please, knowing that mom will bring home all of the books about whatever stage we are in. That I will insist we take part in certain activities that tie in to the phase we are focusing on and that I will plan some activities to interrupt their free time but that fit with this more classical model. (For a jumping-off-point, please take a look here; https://welltrainedmind.com/a/classical-education/ if you’d like to know more about classical education as I am by no means anywhere close to an expert on this!)

I had always thought I’d classically homeschool my kids, until I tried to school Mady that way and realized I had birthed three stubborn driven babies who have their own ideas and interests. We got stuck on Greek mythology in the Grammar stage; I mean, we were knee deep in myths for most of that year, not just the Greeks; Egyptian, Norse, Roman. I didn’t want that learning or excitement to stop simply because we “should” be moving on. We are basically lost in mythology again now that my oldest little is in the beginning of the Logic stage. My kids just love it and I love it because: the moon. Ancient history ties in with the study of the night sky and makes perfect sense in how it does. It is easier for me to get my kids to study the sky because so much of what we see up there is linked to mythology. They have heard the names for the constellations, they are familiar with how different ancient people began knowing and understanding the stars and the planets. I guess I’m just saying that it works for us. Perhaps this is one of those homeschool momma ramblings where I am merely trying to convince myself that they are learning something…

The moon in Spring is easily my favorite, how can one not love the Spring full moons with names like; Worm Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon? Even pushing into June with the Strawberry Moon! This year the Worm Moon coincided with Spring solstice and was a Super Moon just to add to the fun. All of these things were added together in our homeschool as each of my children drew and created what they believed would burn this knowledge into their brains and deeper subconscious. They seem to enjoy it and the teeny loves it most of all. Honestly she loves that she is a part of these lessons, but the moon is something in her environment that she can see and interact with from afar. Being able to tell her daddy that the moon is waning shows her that she can know “bigger” things. Seeing the Super Moon fall on her birthday last year she has remembered how bright and big the moon was as it rose and she will carry that with her for as long as she chooses.

As an aside; don’t judge my lunar photography skills too harshly friends!

I was wondering recently if teaching the phases of the moon mattered anymore. If knowing the names of each of the full moons was even an important element for us to be considering. I’ve decided that it is. In our studies (and I use that term pretty loosely here friends) of ancient cultures we’ve seen how so many people have taken the time to label the moon and stars. How primitive societies have lived and learned by the cycles of the moon and it’s affect on the seasons and their activities. I feel like in giving my children this knowledge, it is a readying of the soil of their minds. They can add more information on top of this understanding as so many peoples have done before them, but that perhaps by skipping over this, some of the lessons we learn later won’t take root.

As the sky turns pink this morning and we begin another beautiful Spring day I will continue to lift my children’s eyes, my own eyes, to the sky. Contemplating the moon in all of it’s cycles and phases. Yearning to understand my connectedness to it, while also being grateful that I know I am connected to it at all. The final thought for this post is a reminder of sorts to myself. Once we know something we can’t un-know it. That knowledge will forever be deep inside of us. Perhaps mythology, perhaps the moon, perhaps a vague understanding of the how and why of the universe won’t inspire careers for my kids. It is enough for me to know that I have passed on some tiny piece of ancient wisdom to them. Some element that man has wondered over for millennia. That’s what schooling is for us really; the hope that we can inspire wonder.

The Seeking of Quiet in the Midst of Loud

Quiet is important to me. Having my own space to be alone so that I can think, holds value to me. I also really love being surrounded by my people. Having them near me, in the same room, while they do their own thing helps me feel the love we have for each other. As I was making dinner last night it struck me how independent my kids are, yet how much they want to be together. These three are still young. I know their desire for space and privacy will increase in the coming years, but I am very grateful for how much time we spend together.

The two of them, always right here.
Ignoring the world.
What we do while momma reads aloud.

If you’re new here you should know that we unschool our youngest three kids; this means that I spend every waking hour (and a lot of the ones when we should be sleeping too) with my kids. I read this stat recently that sort of blew my mind. In the article I’ve linked from the Washington Post they are discussing how quality time with your kids is better than the quantity of time spent with your kids. The fact that jumped out at me though was that the average mother spends 13.7 hours per week with her child. That’s not even two hours per day!

I know that some of you who read here don’t homeschool your kids and I know that the opinions I throw out here randomly have a tendency to irritate. This is just one chart after all, is there any truth behind it? A simple Google search will answer that question for you, probably in the exact way that you’d like the question answered too. The data field is filled with so much information that it is overwhelming. I am certain that there are a lot of parents who work outside of the home and who traditionally school their children who spend more than two hours per day with their kids. I’m not here judging any individual, rather America as a whole. Why is raising up children in the way they should go so seemingly, unimportant? Do we simply believe that someone else can do a better job growing our kids? Do we lack trust in ourselves? This is such a mystery to me.

The number got me wondering though. My kids are home, in my care all of the time. So I tried to add it all up and here’s my number of hours spent with at least one of my children per day: 13.5 . While I didn’t subtract out the occasional Sunday afternoon where I sneak out to write or read a book in complete,utter, and blessed silence. Or the hour I get on Monday mornings when I head over to pick up my girl. I also didn’t add in the multiple middle of the night wakings, the mornings when my teeny is awake at five AM or the evenings when I read to my kids until 9:30. So in case you didn’t see that number, I spend the average American mother’s weekly amount of time caring for her children in one day. That means I spend 94.5 hours with my kids every week.

As my boy used to say, Holy Maca-Roni!

I would argue that stat again here, stating that there is no way that the amount of time I spend with my kids does not influence them at least as much as the quality of our time together. When you give all of your waking hours to your little people there are going to be great, enriching, educational times. They are going to learn who they are and who they want to grow into. They will learn your values, morals, standards and decide if they want to internalize those same ideals or not simply because they are in your presence. They will also be bored. They will feel that things are not fair. They will always want more even when you believe you have poured out every, single last drop from your own pitcher.

Even now, before six AM, my teeny has come to snuggle in next to me. Stealing my time with her sweet little wants and needs. Of course, you’d be right in arguing that all of those 94 hours are not spent specifically on the caring-for of children. At least you’d not be entirely wrong. I have a friend who says; “It doesn’t matter that the kids are off playing on their own and I’m washing the dishes. I’m still “on”, still listening to them play, noticing the cues, realizing they’ll want a snack soon…”. I would describe my mothering as exactly this; giving my kids the freedom to seek God’s will for their lives while I am “on” at a distance. I’m here, all of the times they need or want me, but I send them out to be themselves as much as possible. It’s important to me to note that I have also spent a lot of hours guiding my kids in being independent, or, maybe, allowing independence to be the result of our activities, is a better way of putting it.

In this intense amount of time that I spend with my kids I have worked hard to teach them to be quiet. Not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. I feel like so many kids in this time really have no idea how to be alone with their own thoughts, how to sit with their own boredom and search out their own hearts. I spent a lot of mornings teaching my little boy that first thing in the morning we grab a blanket and a water bottle and snuggle into a chair with a good book. Now he does this throughout the day as he recognizes his own need for a little down time. I am grateful for the time I sacrificed to teach him this skill.

My oldest little frequently slips headphones over her ears and tears through the pages of a novel. She has discovered the need of silence on her own. Living in the middle of bigs and littles I suppose one should expect that. Now that my teeny is four I have been working to lead her to the want of quiet. She is currently resisting in a way only she can. She starts talking three minutes after she wakes and she is loud and opinionated for all of the minutes after that, right up until falls asleep next to me. If she is not vocally loud, she is desiring of all of my attention in other ways that cause me to be constantly aware of her presence. This is not a quiet child. Not yet.

I will continue to coax her toward her own space, her own time. I will invest in this because I see the value of it. When my older kids sit down alone with books or games or Legos in the afternoon, I know they are resetting for the rest of the day. They are giving themselves a bit of peace in a world that has devalued this. We try not to use the quiet time up with screens, though it does happen occasionally, because the nearly 100 awake hours in our week offer up plenty of time for that. I try to remind myself that in teaching them to be still and quiet I am giving them a gift to carry with them always. Because we practice this regularly, I trust that they will feel the value of silence even after they have followed their own paths away from me. They will seek it out, fight for it.

There are times I feel like my house is so loud. That I must escape the constant clamoring for my attention. When I am aware though, and not completely overwhelmed, I see each of them sit quietly for a few minutes throughout the day. I see the peace wash over them as they do this. I am able to soak a little of that peace up myself and I am glad. For them and for me. After all, let’s be honest here; Momma’s really do just need the quiet.

Peace to each of you this day. May you seek it out. May it make it’s home in you.

Snatches of Time

I put all of my people to bed early tonight. I had ambitious hopes of coming here and writing out the cries of my heart. Nearly an hour later I am still up and down the stairs with a child who feels less than wonderful. I am frustrated by this because I really needed the time. Instead of tapping away peacefully I am scribbling snatches of thought between whispered prayers and requests for essential oils. I see the selfishness in this rant. I really do.

I have been holding off on writing, feeling as though the time would come if I let life flow naturally. We aren’t so busy, the days are not over full, the time seems to skip happily away while I play Legos with a little or read endless chapters to fill their imaginations.

I know what you will say; this is a momma’s most precious work! Her most important job! Be grateful!

I am.

I agree.

I still want something more.

While this rambling will likely never support my family, how can I know that when I can’t even steal an hour at the end of the day to type out a coherent thought? When and where (and most of all how???) am I supposed to build an audience when I can’t build a proper paragraph for lack of focus?

I have my excuses it’s true.

I don’t mean to have quite so many.

I’ll admit to being distracted plenty of the time. With projects. With Facebook. With catching up on years of lost sleep. Still, it seems I should be allowed this time for me. This time to do something that makes me feel like I’m intelligent. Something that is meaningful to at least a few of you dedicated friends. Something that let’s me deal with the anxiety and fear and despair that creep in during the darkest months of the year.

What to do? I feel the call of the early mornings again. Though I despise waking before the sun or at least before six AM, I know that my house is quiet then. Children typically don’t stir early. Devices need to be charged. Tasks must be quiet so as not to wake sleeping babe’s. This frustrates me, I do not want to give in to that time of day. It seems that I must though. No other hours will relent their needs.

If you notice a few more posts in the coming weeks, you can assume that I have given in to the deepest cry of my heart -the desire to create something from myself, from who I’ve learned that I am- and that my heart has won over the logical side of me who really loves to snuggle back into the comforters every morning.

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t be too disappointed, there are lots of words out there. Trust that the right ones will come to you as you need them. I’ll keep etching out moments, minutes, corners of time that will continue to build my story, and make my own spilled out thoughts that less rambling once they meet the page.

Simple Beauty

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

There’s this Winnie the Pooh picture book about Winter. This is the copy that I read to my littlest child. In the story, Pooh believes that Winter is a snowman who comes to visit the Hundred Acre Wood, typical Pooh. Some of you might accuse me of overthinking, but my take-away from this story book was that I should look at things more simply. Because of how I’ve been feeling lately, it was easy for me to take this thought and make the jump to my health and personal care routine. Though it might be difficult for an outsider to see how I got there.

It was with an idea of simplicity in mind that I left the house the other day to purchase some nice things for myself. I don’t really shop for myself and when I do I usually hit up my favorite thrift stores. This day though I was going to buy skin and hair care products and so I went to the natural-care product section of the market and started reading labels. Let me mention here that I have not spent more than $3.95 on any personal care items in, like, I don’t even know, maybe ever. I’ve been mostly okay with that. I don’t mind my wrinkles as they show how many times my sweet husband has made me laugh and I don’t really mind the gray hair as it reminds me of all the learning I’ve done as I’ve grown and gone through some hard and holy stuff over the years. The reason I was standing in what I would call the “fancy” shampoo aisle was and is because I just don’t feel good.

A lot of how I’ve been feeling is due to too much consumption, while I am actively working to turn that around, some of it is because of how harsh Winter is on my skin as well as my mind, and some of it is just plain bad habits. I don’t wash my face every night, heck! I don’t even shower regularly. While my hair care routine mostly works for me, since I trimmed it this autumn I have been bummed by how “mother-y” it looks. I couldn’t help but feel that something needed to give. I had a gift card tucked away in my wallet and so I spent all of that money on goo for my hair and a bit of make up to make me feel like maybe I do care about myself a little. This was a simple thing, but a big change too.

Since I bought the new things I have remembered to wash my face every night. I have almost looked forward to brushing my teeth regardless of the toothpaste left in the sink by my littles. I have brushed my hair everyday…which is definitely overrated, but I’ve done it because I have felt better about myself for taking seven to ten minutes in the bathroom. It’s weird isn’t it? As mommas it is so easy to get to this place where it’s simply too much effort to put effort into ourselves. I often feel like it’s simply not worth it, but that silly Winter book got to me. Was I making the care of myself too big of a deal? Couldn’t it be simple and meaningful? I needed to understand that the way I’m feeling is at least partially due to the way I am treating myself. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to put in the effort.

By giving myself a few minutes -and a few products- I am reminding myself that I am worth more than what I was allowing. I’m reminded that while I don’t need to look good for other people or listen to societies words about women, I should feel good about me. Am I making any sense here? I didn’t need to make it complex, it only took a few boxes to help me feel worthy of the time and attention I was giving myself. I changed my routine in simple ways, it is no harder to do what I’m doing now than it was before and now I feel a little kinder toward myself when I look into the mirror. I still don’t feel good. I feel run down. My skin is irritated, red, angry. My nails are brittle. My joints ache. I know that to correct all of that I need to fix what I’m putting into my body, but I didn’t feel like I was worth it. No, I felt like it wasn’t worth the effort to take better care of myself. The effort is the thing that was lacking.

Knowing this has made a big difference. It has made me put on actual clothes, and not just walk around in my jammies all day. Okay, not every day, but a lot of them. Knowing that I can do all of my new morning routine in the time it takes my seven year old to make his bed reminds me that I’m not inconveniencing anyone or making us late, it just allows me to yell down the stairs fewer times because my toothbrush is in my mouth longer. Knowing that I can take a little time for myself to feel better on the outside reminds me that I can take a few minutes to make good food for myself, to drink more water, to take slow deep breaths in the still evening air. I can take time for me, I can feel better on the inside as well, the effort is worth it.

In hoping to create a more simple routine I did have to do a little more than I was before, but by looking at my problem with a simpler perspective it became so very clear that by allowing a small amount of time for the care of me, I would improve so many other pieces of my life. I’ve noticed some deeper things in these few days since my trip to the store, things that I probably make too complex. I’m trying to look at these things simply, to adjust each one with just the right amount of my time put in.

That simple childrens’ book…I’m sure the author had no idea that it would cause this kind of self-consideration in a momma’s heart. Perhaps I would have come to this place on my own anyway, I have been feeling pretty miserable. I am grateful for the random places I run across that I can draw inspiration from. When I feel like I’m worrying over the routine or the extra steps I’m taking, I can now offer myself the very simple reminder of the Winnie the Pooh book. Hopefully that will be enough to continue on with the slow process of finding myself.

While a simpler life doesn’t mean an easier life, the effort is worth it.

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

Trusting Their Choices

I’ve been thinking about how I will allow my children to be more independent in their decision making. Since they were small, we have allowed quite a bit of freedom. Letting them jump in the puddles and then dealing with cold, wet feet has always been the best way for them to learn not to jump in puddles with tennis-shoes on. My sweet husband calls this method the “experiential” manner of parenting. I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but while he teases me with it from time to time, I think it is the best way to describe my overall philosophy for life. How will we learn if we do not experience?

Still, my ten-year-old is getting to a point in life where learning through doing can cost her more than just wet feet. I wonder how to provide all of the right activities for her to live her bigger-girl life without overly harsh consequences? Too much freedom given in the teen years can lead to all sorts of unchangeable life situations, choices that will need to be lived through for years to come, not just an afternoon. Yet I know that this child learns best by living, by putting her truest self out there and trying it out in the real world. I have no answers for these questions this morning, we will walk along this path together, hopefully the puddles won’t be too deep for awhile yet and we figure out the necessary boundaries as we go.

I also have been watching my littler kids, my husband and I give them a lot of space to learn by trying things out, but these two youngest kids are around a lot of other peoples parents, how do I let them think for themselves when so many other mommas don’t give their own kids the freedoms we allow? How do I respect other parents’ boundaries, while still letting my kids respect their own? I know that I need to be more vocal, explaining to my mom-friends the “why” behind the seemingly crazy things I “permit” my children to choose. I forget that our way is what has worked best for our family and, while I don’t need to force it on anyone else, I do need to respect it even in situations where other kids might not be allowed to do the things my kids choose to do.

If I don’t respect the guidelines that I show my kids one on one when we are in a group situation, it sends a mixed message and my kid may start to question her body or brain. That is something that will come back to bite me when we are climbing or on an unfamiliar trail and they suddenly question themselves in a moment of fear. I know that by letting them climb out as far as they feel safe, by letting them jump off the highest wall they are comfortable on, by simply allowing them to choose to wear a coat or not, they are learning that their choices matter. More than that they are learning that they have power over their own choice. They also see that they are capable, sometimes they fall, sometimes they flail, sometimes they come down a step first, but because we are there to bandage the scrapes and encourage the efforts, they trust themselves.

I suppose that is how I’m hoping to make it through the teen years with grace this time. We have allowed, permitted, encouraged even, this child to listen to her body. To trust her gut, to choose what is best for her through all of her “little” years. Unconsciously, by supporting her in these small things we have encouraged her to do the same with the big things to come. Hopefully she has failed enough and dealt with unpleasant consequences enough times to have those lessons to draw from as she matures. Ideally, she will have so much faith in her own body and brain that she will not fall to pressures or fail to be true to herself.

And so we continue. This day I will allow my eight-year-old to wear shorts…in January…in Minnesota…because that is his choice and he has yet to regret it, though I can’t look at him some days without shivering. I will watch my tiny stomp out into the snow wearing dress shoes and be there holding the boots I suggested before we left the house if she chooses to admit that snow is cold when it melts into your shoes! (I know that she will not admit that, she is as stubborn as I am and she will deal with wet feet for as long as she is able, but next time? She’ll choose the boots from the start because she’ll remember.) I will explain myself better to the other moms that we interact with so that I don’t have kids who second guess themselves.

This is not always easy. I often try very hard to explain my “why” to my kids when I want them to do one thing and they are certain that their own way is best. It is hard to remember that cold fingers will not kill an otherwise healthy child when my own life experiences tell me to put on mittens. It is difficult to stop and see their independence growing when the way they want to be independent causes me to need to plan ahead more. I mean, you really can’t let kids be free to explore their world without remembering to pack a spare pair of clothes and a towel or two. I’m banking on this being best though, that as they grow up they will know themselves and have a wealth of their own experiences to draw from. Not just scary words that grown ups threatened them with.

While my confidence often lags behind what I know to be true in this area, I have decided to commit to advocating for them more vocally. If your family plans to meet up with mine on one of these mild winter days please be prepared. I will not be telling my kids they can’t eat snow because they’ll get too cold, that they can’t take their coat…and hoodie…and snow-pants off (insert eye-roll here). Because I trust that when they are cold they will put them back on. I will continue to let my kids climb the trees, stand on the ledges, and jump from the rocks. Whether we are with friends or not. Because I really, really do want them to hear their own inner voice whisper and they won’t be able to do that if I’m constantly screaming at them to “not”.

Join me won’t you? It takes only a few steps. Choose a day and pack the car with all of the things you might need, take the extra time to do this. Then let your kid choose. Shorts in winter? Sure, if you want (you can pack pants). Take a few steps out onto the thin ice at the bend in the creek? Yes (you can explain currents and how far is safe, you can have spare boots and socks in the backpack). Climb on the frozen, metal playground equipment? Yep. (Maybe put dry mittens on first though?) Life should be experienced friends, even at four-years-old.