Jonny took four of our kids camping in a remote part of western Virginia over the weekend, their first real camping trip. He hardly slept. The kids claim they could hear some creature “crunching bones” outside their tent. They arrived home Sunday evening and Jonny had to go straight to work. He worked all night and all of Monday without stop. I was up through the night with Job, whom I suspect has an ear infection after playing in the river on Saturday.
Monday quickly became one of those days when the messes were growing far more quickly than I could contain them. Just trying to do the bare minimum to stay afloat, I became discouraged and started down the mental, “I am doing a terrible job” path. If you measure my worth as a mother by the state of our house, well, I just don’t cut it.
Because most days, we have a messy house. And, some of our children fight, a lot. The majority of them don’t go to bed as early as they ought to. I have one child that I can’t for the life of me keep on task. Sometimes I forget about lunch. Last night I brushed Beatrix’s hair for the first time in three days.
When it comes to raising children, there are so many things that we aren’t doing well. I could continue to list them, but then I’d start to feel panicky.
But, I would wager that dwelling on all the ways you feel like you are failing rarely brings about positive change.
Instead, maybe start by focusing on what you are getting right?
With seven kids, we are often asked how we give them all enough attention. In a sea of mistakes and flawed parenting, this is what I hope we are getting right. Jonny and I work hard to nurture our relationships with our kids. I don’t typically worry about whether or not our children are getting enough quality time with us, either together, or individually, because we truly pay attention to each of them. I try to genuinely listen when they talk to me (most of the time). Don’t underestimate the profound impact of simply looking into a child’s eyes and listening when they speak to you. Really, it’s the little things that matter most. Not the dates alone with one child, though those happen naturally here and there, but the way you close the book, set the knitting down, or turn off the computer screen when a child addresses you. This goes for housework as well. I could easily clean all day. But I would neglect my kids in the process.
I try to remind myself of these things when I start to panic over everything that seems to be falling through the cracks.
You are getting something right. You are actually probably doing a lot right! And that is where you start. Then choose the next thing. An area that you feel needs work, something to be deliberate about. Standing on the solid ground of what you do well, begin to work on the area that needs to change. But most of all, make your relationships your priority. And lunch. Don’t forget about lunch!
(Dominion Back Creek Recreational Area and Campground, Bath County, VA)