I came across a blog post today that struck a nerve: How I Stopped Waiting for Naptime and Started Enjoying My Kids. The title and Facebook blurb was enough of a grab that I clicked on the link. The fact that I found such a short piece there pushed me to read it through. I am glad I did.
It's a subtle thing -- constantly waiting for your work to be over and done. I tend to complain and sigh. I do it so naturally that I don't notice it, but all of a sudden I realized I only wanted the easy parts of child-rearing and grew to dread all of the hard work. As soon as trouble arose, as soon as someone refused to pick up their dirty underwear or wipe Nutella off of the door handle, I was ready to give up. "Woe is me. My life is so hard." I'd be going along with my day, and as soon as I heard someone screaming about getting hit with a sword, I'd let out a ridiculous sigh and consider calling my husband home.
I was obviously wrong, but it took time to see that work is good. Hard work is good. The hard work of loving my children and caring for them day to day is very good.
I've had to relearn this revelation multiple times; I fall away from it so naturally. I still bear the weight of times years ago when I yelled at Chris to stay quiet after Charlotte had been sleeping for hours in the afternoon -- losing all track of the time and just wishing for the artificial quiet to continue indefinitely.
Laziness prefers being idle to being worthwhile.
Our Creator takes joy in work -- in hard, painful work. Not only does he build and create physical things however he chooses, but he also takes pleasure in the slow and difficult work of relationship. By his own horrible death he redeemed us and provided a way of reconciliation between us and him for his own pleasure. And we are like him. Good, purposeful work is pleasing. It is what we want.
It is truly what I want -- to work hard at something worth my life. When I don't feel this, when idleness seems preferable, it's just how it appears. It is a lie. I have to remember not to believe it. The heart, you know, is not always to be trusted.
So, some practicals...
Having a family nap time/quiet time worked very well for our us for several years. At 2PM we would all settle down and rest for an hour or two, depending on the time of life. Having that set time, both to look forward to when tired and to keep nap time from going on for hours, was helpful.
Giving up nap time when we no longer needed it as a family was a natural progression. Since I wasn't living for nap time any longer, when it was time for it to go, I wasn't devastated. I hardly noticed until well-after it fell out of our routine.
Another thing that helped was being prepared ahead of time with certain responses to common issues that would likely come up throughout our day. I still have to be deliberate about that. Someone getting hurt after a play-wrestling session goes awry should not catch me off-guard. I should expect that. In the same way the slightest sign of rebellion should not be met with exasperation. I'm a mom. I'm not made of glass.
One thing that is currently a struggle but has been significant in the past is a solid, peaceful bedtime routine. I have to be selfless at bedtime, and it is one of the most difficult times to do it because I'm usually so tired. We've played games after dinner; not surprisingly, TV doesn't usually help. We've read. We've cleaned up together. Sang. Whatever it is, anything other than me yelling "go to bed" thirty times in a row or ignoring everybody while they whine about every excuse they can gather, has worked well. It is important to make the bedtime transition -- that is, the unique time together -- something we all love and look forward to, more so than my (relative) lack of responsibility when everyone is in bed.
Along the same lines, having work to do, that I always do with consistency, after the kids are in bed or while they are going to bed has been a good marker for me. I know that my work is not ended at bedtime. It simply changes. I am not hoping the kids quickly go to their rooms so I can become a potato for a couple of hours each night. On the surface this is a powerful draw -- the prospect of doing nothing for as long as I want, but it is neither true rest nor what I desire.
My husband does figure in, but that's for another day and another post.
featured photo by MARK.C via nappy.co