Yall. It’s everywhere. I feel guilty every time I take the big boys to the dentist, knowing that the toothpaste rarely got on their teeth as evidenced on the walls of our house. There isn’t a light switch that isn’t streaked blue. There isn’t a cabinet that isn’t sticky to the touch. And there isn’t a room in our house that doesn’t have a lost tooth brush floating around.
After a full day. You know the ones……my morning “plan” was bombarded by stubborn little boys just wanting to be at a park. So I pray towards lunch time because in the working world the lunch break used to pull me through…..open my head a little. But lunch is more like watching a slow train wreck on this particular kind of day. I relent to just suck slowly on chocolate chips. One, it keeps my mouth shut and any harsh words in the moment to slip out, and, two, it keeps my mind off the mess of the day. I work like a mad woman towards a refreshing nap period, to no avail. And all of that above just makes those witching hours, the b*%6ing hours, if I were to curse. Sorry.
We had one of those kind of days last week. Usually on these days all the boys are in the bathtub at 4:20pm because bed time is not long after. As I sat on the floor, the bottom of my jeans wet and clinging to my thighs, and my eyes burning seemingly just to remind me that it had been hard, I noticed the sticky blue in even more places than I had thought possible. Inside the empty bath room counter. In between the white tiles of the floor. Awesome. And then sliding down the trash can as if painted there on purpose. Maybe I should have been thinking, “these kids need a mamma who can actually show them how to brush their teeth and use tooth paste,” but as the Lord always does He gave me a moment that will stick to my soul endlessly.
I had this picture of me in maybe 20 years. I was in the same bathroom. I noticed the aging around my eyes in the mirror and the tone in my arms from carrying sandbags for children for so many years was barely noticeable. This 20 year older self was looking for the toothpaste to wipe up yet again. And then the me-forgotten-in-the-floor and the me-2-decades-later began to sob. There was so much in this picture that I was given. The desire to even make it to that day with even the slightest satisfaction that I did a job decently done. That I had made the most of the days in the bathroom where no one else sees us and hears our conversations. There was tiredness and heaviness thinking about all of the teeth brushing sessions that would need to occur to even make it to that lonely day. But mostly this was a picture of revolution. God has put a revolution in my heart over the last year to slow. it. down. And to literally not sweat the toothpaste that is everywhere. Or the fact that the toothpaste is on a 1950’s countertop, certainly not granite. This revolution in a culture of parenting that induces stress in my own experience, is freeing like nothing you have ever known.
Posts like these can seem ethereal. I read many like this one all the time….a pretty candid writer uses a seemingly small illustration to get on the same page with the reader and then ties it all up in a bow leaving me thinking, “Well, that’s nice.” That writer must have some weird gene that I just didn’t get having to do with patience and joy. She must have had a sweeter childhood or something. But I am here to tell you the genuine magic secret behind that authors apparent peace or aloofness, rather. I believe it’s three fold for our generation.
First, it is going against the grain of society. Many of yall are much smarter than me so thankfully you got this a long time ago but up until I became a mom I was a consumer of everything. I just did what everyone else seemed to do. I’m not talking about drinking in high school or those type of things but in the real world…..I was driven to achieve the next thing just like we all are. When we had a family we raced out and spent oodles of silly money on a nursery. There is nothing wrong with that but it really isnt me. And then before that baby could even stand in his crib I had him enrolled in preschool because that is what people do. Somewhere in the middle of it all I finally, like 3o years finally, realized I could be an active part in the outcome of my life. Crazy! Last night somehow my husband and I were watching a documentary about our food supply in the country and how it has changed so much from decades past. The documentary was totally disturbing and has me looking at the grass in my back yard as a great dinner for tonight but I heard something that will stick with me more. The author was talking about how as Americans we have become consumers of everything. We don’t realize that we can make choices for ourselves and that we have a voice.
Parenting was harder for me a few seasons ago. You wouldn't have known it on the outside but on the inside there was nasty inner turmoil over how well I was or was not doing especially in light of what the other moms around me were doing. I actually didn't worry so much as to how I was doing - I just wanted them to tell me what to do. Do you know what I mean? Would you please tell me when my child should be in school 2 days? 4 days? All day? Oh, hey. Will you tell me if my 3 year old son is going to lack confidence his whole life if he hasn't already started an organized sport? Will they ever swim if I don't pay a small mortgage to put them through swim lessons? Should we only be clean eating? Just tell me, someone. Oh, and when I am home alone and actually with my kids….could you tell me how to discipline them, love them, and enjoy them because I don't think I know how unless you tell me. Thank you very much. This is real, yall, and if most of us are honest, we spend so much of our precious awake time wondering about how everyone else is doing it and wanting someone to tell us what they did. Our mothers didn't have that. I often ask my mom if she knew what the other moms in our huge neighborhood were cooking for dinner. Did she know how many school choices they considered? And of course, she laughs. We have information being pushed to us and available at all hours. A month ago I felt quite stupid when it came to the situation in the Ukraine so I put the Foxnews App on my iphone. Well, goodness, I get up to potty between 2 and 3 every night and then I can’t go back to sleep from the images in my head after viewing the quick little push notification on my phone. We have so many choices and so much information that it has literally stifled our generation and caused what I think is harmful self-doubt. Where is the best answer for any of my questions anyway???
So the Lord and a dear student of the bible and precious teacher taught me how to sit before the Lord and ask Him for these answers from the only source. She says to sit in my chair and to not move until I have seen what the Lord wants to show me for that day. It could be a small thing. Recently we have been under the weight of a decision for our oldest son. One day last month, words jumped off the pages of the Psalms and I knew that is what she meant. There are no answers in even those around us that we adore. Only the Maker of our children, and my Creator, truly know me and my children and what He has in store for our family. Have yall experienced those moments too? The ones people talk about and we inherently think, “Oh, you don’t know me. The Lord doesn’t speak to me….” Those moments when something you are asking for about your children becomes so clear. And usually the answer is not as obvious as it looks. I have found that the answer is usually pretty counter cultural. As in…if everyone else is doing it or wearing it or getting one - usually the answer is the opposite. Don’t go on that trip. Don’t think that this seemingly small thing about my child is just that….small. Don’t buy the movie everyone else is singing to. Don't let this one pass. It’ll change us when we do just as He said, “ask…seek….knock.”
And number two. Turn off instagram. Just for two days to begin. I was a slave to social media all the while saying I never got on it. Its the same thing for me when I say that I am not a snacker but I just don't consider eating peanut butter cups while doing the dishes as snacking. So if social media hurts your heart even in the slightest. Turn it off. It doesn’t own you. You can decide what goes in your head. The first time I did this - I remember thinking how light my head felt. It felt so good to start to think the thoughts I used to think in the white space of the day. I wasn’t thinking about what so-and-so had for lunch or if that family was back from their cruise. And I wasn't bombarded with blogs just like this one telling me just one more thing to do or to consider. I was just doing those things and I was putting those things in to practice. But lets say "all or nothing" scares you - designate a time. For instance, from 1:30 - 2pm is my internet time. Today I used it writing. Tomorrow I may read something someone sent me. But it feels much more intentional if it isn't something just done all day, while in the car or on the toilet. It’s like my snacking….it doesn't seem real if I don't actually sit down with a plate and eat something. I’m working on this one…..as I just spit out my cashew!
And lastly, don't give in to the system. Don’t be a consumer. Baseball doesn't have to be 3 practices a week. Homework doesn’t have to consume YOUR day. Goldfish aren’t the only “healthy” snack. Most people (not in over privileged Atlanta) don't go on vacation every Spring Break. Once upon a time a child didn't have an ipad to entertain them every time they ate dinner. I can only write this because this is me. I am you. And many of the seemingly innocent choices we have made have held alot more at stake than just making the baseball team or enjoying a quiet dinner at a restaurant. The toothpaste doesn't just represent a hassle for me to clean. It represents a soul gifted to me to help shape, and ultimately, if you believe the bible, a soul entrusted tome to grow to be a light for God in a heavy world where most people don’t even know that light and freedom exist. Especially in parenting.