Confession: I am the worst, WORST parent when it comes to keeping squeaky clean children. I think Josie washes her hair once a week. Maybe twice. And Carter…well he’s perpetual stinky feet because socks are annoying (I have to admit I feel him there) and now that summer is upon us, I don’t quite know how tan is little legs are getting because they are just covered in dirt. And if you follow us on Instagram, you know that I am more prone to evening couch tickle sessions than bath sessions. I also forget that my children have toenails that need to be clipped until I am inadvertently scratched by one, and quite frankly if it weren’t for one of my sisters watching Josie every Wednesday when she was an infant then her fingernails would have never been cut. I was a) far too tired to notice and b) too scared I’d cut her when I did. I am good at lots of things, but the nitty gritty, day in day out stuff, not so much. Sometimes I get a little angsty about my parental shortcomings. My inner monologue sounds a bit like, “am I lazy? Should I be more on top of vitamins and flossing and hair washing? Am I teaching them negligence? Are bad habits forming? What about their snacking…do I let them snack too much? How are they going to learn to regulate their own diets? Do I just keep modeling it myself so they will learn from my example, or do I restrict it more for them?” And so on, and so forth. And that’s where I am learning to stop it. Once I get that far into negative mommy space I shut it down, because you and I both know that spirals are bad unless they are sending us up. I am far from perfect, but I believe that striving daily to do better with the things that I can control and with the things that I believe matter are what I need to spend my energy on. Some days a bath and a nail trim are high on that priority list. But when I start to feel the stress of comparison, or when I get concerned about how my son’s grimy feet might look to someone else, that’s when I push hard on my own “abort” button and take a step back. If how I am spending the hours with my children is being dictated by a list of should and should nots that feel more like anxiety than freedom, that’s when I know I need to realign myself with the things that I have decided are my musts. A few years ago, when I realized that I actually could not do all the things without losing my mind, I sat down with Joel and Josie (Carter was too busy nursing and crawling to have an input) and we made a list of family rules that reflected our values. And I decided from then on that I’m going to spend the greatest amount of my time and heart in the things that made that list. I’m going to keep trying to be better and do better every single day because that is what I believe God call us to, but I’m going to strive out of passion and conviction and not by someone else’s standards. And I am not going to allow the anxiety that says “you should” rule me. I do not listen to the lies that begin with “you should” and I want you to be free from them too. The second we own our deepest convictions and shape a life out of THAT is the second our life becomes our own. And I don’t know about you, but I want to honor the life God gave me by investing focus and discipline and joy into the things He created me to be passionate about. Just because we refuse to accept society’s lie that we have to be good at everything and keep all the balls in the air does NOT mean that we are not still called to be diligent and intentional. What matters is that we are heart and soul invested in the things we are intentional about and that we do not let anything other than Holy calling decide for us.
So yes, when you come to my house you will often find kids shoes strewn about the house, Josie’s socks on the windowsill above the couch, paperwork in random piles, hairspray in the kitchen, and dishes in the sink. Oh, and Carter’s feet will likely stink. But I am not a total glutton, nor am I a sloth. So here are the things I am consistent about and put great stock in. We read every evening before bed. We pray together, focusing every day on all we have to be grateful for and on the situations and the people who need our love. We never leaving an argument hanging or feelings hurt, no matter how long that takes and how many frustrated words and tears have to be shared to find a place of understanding and compassion. We share meals together. They are not always home-cooked or even super healthy, but we come together all the same and place the same importance on takeout as we do pot roast because the point is that we are enjoying food together. We take care of our animals and respect them as members of our family. And last but not least, we worship and serve together in our church and in our community. When I bring my focus back to our family rules and our values and I gauge how I’m doing in those areas, then I feel grace being ushered back into my heart. I see our family more clearly and the people in it. I feel the conviction behind the tenants we feel most strongly about and the stories behind our why. And when its an hour before bedtime and my suggestion of baths/showers is met by “but we’re playing!” then often times I let it wait for the next day. I kiss dirty hair splayed against a purple pillowcase and tuck dusty toes under blankets and remember that we read a bedtime story and said our prayers. It’s OK. I can rest. Not perfect, not even great, but trying. Living and loving my people good and hard because they’re worth it, and giving myself freedom because I deserve it. All is well.roses