So. I thought life spun out of control after I had our third child in three years.
Pardon me while I wipe away a tear from laughing so hard. If only I had known what life would be like 10 years later! Actually, it's probably best I didn't know...although I'm so thankful that none of this caught God by surprise.
(Seriously...when did 3, 4, or 5 kids become "only" 3, 4, or 5 kids?!)
I'd like to think that I've grown and matured at least a little during our parenting journey. And one thing I've learned is not to wait around for the next stage of life...in other words, telling myself it will be better/easier/more delightful after X, Y, or Z happens (potty training, sleeping through the night, independent walking, whatever). My current mantra often has me wandering the house in a daze, muttering under my breath that I can sleep when I'm dead, or at least when the kids go to college.
But the truth is, I don't have time to wait around until we have an empty nest! I'm desperately trying to squeeze the life out of the fleeting moments we have every day. With perspective that comes only after the 7th child is born, I find myself constantly reminding the Type A part of my increasingly schizo personality that someday, SOMEDAY, I will look back on these days and remember when my babies were young and wish that I could cuddle them as wee ones again.
Oh, I've heard that sentiment since I was pregnant with our first child. And I would nod and try to assume a manner of wisdom by association rather than experience, knowing it was true in my head but not yet in my heart. And then Charis arrived, and suddenly I blinked and she celebrated her 13th birthday.
Wait. Did that just happen?!
Why, yes. Yes, it did. On October 18, 2013, my baby girl turned 13. And I see her gangling arms and legs as her body is growing, listen to her mature wisdom as she counsels younger siblings, hug her close and kiss the top of her head, no longer stooping over to do so. Knowing she is watching me closely, I strive harder to display a patient, gentle spirit that certainly didn't appear very often in my early days of motherhood. (Prayerfully, she will not remember the days when Mommy turned--and still sometimes turns--into a raging, hormonal maniac!) I hope Charis sees me leaning on the Lord for strength and peace in the midst of seeming chaos. I hope she sees me smiling more than frowning, encouraging more than lecturing.
As a more seasoned mom, it's slightly (EVER so slightly) easier to close my eyes, take a big breath, and then smile...when the 2-year-old is drawing with marker on the wall...when the 11-year-old is telling the same old jokes instead of clearing the table...when the baby has awakened halfway through his nap (yet again interrupting our homeschool)...when the independent 6-year-old is "helping" in the kitchen...when the 2-year-old is still screaming and shaking with rage because Mom took the marker away...when the 4-year-old is melting down because his Lego creation is now in pieces in the hands of his little brother...
Many days, it is true, all of this happens and I am utterly, completely overwhelmed. Many days I'm physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Spent. Done. Even when I'm plagued with feelings of doubt and guilt, though, it's JUST a bit easier than it was in the earlier days of parenting to remind myself there is meaning and purpose in all of my activities, even ones that involve slogging through piles of laundry and dirty diapers.
It's JUST a bit easier to tell myself...
In the scheme of eternity, this doesn't matter.
A messy house.
A ruined dinner.
Piles of laundry.
In the scheme of eternity, this matters!
Time in God's Word.
Acceptance (of self and those around me.)
Time with loved ones.
These days, I feel the pull more than ever, the struggle between what IS and what I want it to be. But I'm still learning. I'm trying to take the advice other moms told me 13 years ago when I carried my baby girl. "Enjoy these days! They go by so fast."
It's cliche, perhaps, but it's true: The days are long but the years are short. Oh, so short. I had a sobering conversation recently with my older three children centered around the fact that they have fewer years left under our roof as minors than they have already spent with us. Eeeep! Oh, let my little--and big--children come to me! Let me bless them and remind them that the kingdom of God is made of such as themselves! Let them come and ask--demand, even--the gift of my presence. And let me be fully there with them in that moment.
Yes, baby Seanin, I'll snuggle your sweet self a little longer when you wake me up at night for an unexpected feeding.
Yes, sweet Zaden, I'll read you that story one more time, even though we just read it 5 minutes ago. And 10 minutes before that. And half an hour before that.
Yes, little Lucan, I'll hold you like a baby and chant our little saying, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always..."
Yes, dear Kenna, I'll let you help me make the muffins, even though you slow me down and clouds of flour will puff all over the counter and floor.
Yes, Arden, I will clear the table and play a game of Dutch Blitz with you, even though part of me was hoping for a few minutes to read.
Yes, Tobin, I'll listen to your saga of the latest computer game conquest. I may not have a clue what is happening in that world, but I'll listen.
Yes, Charis, we can snuggle under the blankets and read "our" book together and talk about girl stuff. Life. Love.
And yes, dear husband Ted, I will ALWAYS make time for you. If being a mom is a hard job, so is being the dad who works hard to allow Mom to stay home with the kids. And you, dear daddy of our 7, make it such a joy and honor to be these kids' mommy. You never complain when dinner is late or consists of leftovers. You don't mind stepping over shoes and toys (although you are so good about making sure the children clean up after themselves!) and don't blame me when the laundry has piled up so high you must launch rescue efforts to help us dig our way to the bottom. You teach the kids to appreciate what we give them and to honor me as their mother. (You'll be pleased to know Lucan presented me with a Lego flower he made yesterday morning!) You encourage me when I'm struggling and shower me with sincere words of appreciation. You act as though my stretch marks are in fact beauty marks, and you delight in who I am, not what I sometimes wish I could look like. You, my lover, are a gift.
Our life with 7 kids? Chaotic. Noisy. Messy. And yes, overwhelming. Seanin has been with us 4 months and we are STILL adjusting. I think we will always be "adjusting," no matter what phase of life we are in. But I hope, I pray, that we are learning that the adjustment process IS life. We don't, CAN'T, put life on hold until we "feel organized." Feelings and circumstances change. I must set my mind on things above, realizing that so much of what makes up this life is temporary, yet understanding that God uses the temporal to shape us for eternity.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18