Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breathe In, Breathe Out.

My Dad has the same response whenever I call stressed out by the "To-Do" list. "What do you have to do today?" He'll ask.

I'll start rattling off my list. And he'll say "No." interrupting my litany. "No, breathe in,(and he would take a deep breath), breathe out." and he'll exhale. If I protest "But this time..." he will keep saying it until I stop and begin breathing instead of being overwhelmed.

But there are times when I forget to do this, sometimes multiple times per day, per hour...okay, even per minute, because the tasks number can be in the double digits on any given day.

Having five daughters and four sons, I've started to think about how I can present this life I've chosen such that they aren't scared away from it (parenthood in general) by the level of labor involved on a daily basis. I don't want our children discouraged before they reach maturity (by the daunting prospects of what adulthood involves) from seeking to become the persons they should be. The moments when I've let the "Joyful mask" of parenthood drop, may not injure my children, but I do worry because I've heard many a grown child of a large family declare they saw how hard Mom and Dad worked and voted "No." to having even one child.

I have to hope more of their cumulative experience is laced with love than otherwise, and that the labor part is viewed as simply par for the course regardless of one's life vocation. Everyone has to clean their rooms, do laundry, wash dishes and make decisions about schedules. It's just a part of everything that is. Their father does all he does out of love for our family and so do I. This is what must be if we would love them well. This is the minimum, the baseline, the oxygen in the room.

If Love requires sacrifice and all service is joy then all of parenting, even the messy tedious frustrating repetitive parts are also service and therefore joy and sacrifice and therefore Love. It is love that turns the tedium into the washing of the feet. It is love that makes the fact that we are often the first up and last to bed, more like the last serving the first. Hopefully, the kids will feel saturated with the atmosphere of this home and not suffocated.

Sometimes, the air is too rich for me, like when I still am telling people go to bed at 10 when they've decided they want to come down and put a picture in their backpack and when we had to get up at 4 a.m. to turn off the lights my daughter turned on before going back to sleep because she didn't want to have a nightmare. (Three). But seeing all of them sleeping as I do the bed check or all sitting at the ice cream parlor eating cones or all cascading out of the car talking about whatever, is like a fresh cool spring breeze. Oxygen saturating me.

Even one less set of dishes to do at my table feels oddly empty. On days when my oldest stays late for play practice the dinner feels incomplete. The oxygen in the room is thinner.

Hopefully we will have poured enough love and presence into their experiences such that the home always feels like a place filled with fresh air, where they will want to breathe in deep.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Simple.

1 comment:

MightyMom said...

I pray my children look back on their childhood with love and joy. That the good times outweigh the hard ones and that, despite it all, they know they were loved. Deeply and truly.

But I'm afraid all they'll remember is that they went to Chuck E Cheese for thier birthday parties.....

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