So, last night I was at a dance event for Jaylee. As I sat there listening to the chatter of excited moms around me, I was overcome with a feeling of being disconnected. Not from Jaylee. Not from her at that dance activity. But, I felt this weird sort of, I don’t know, question mark rise up inside me. Does that make any sense? Here, let me explain more…
There’s always excitement at these events, just like there’s excitement at all kid-related stuff. The parents are all worked up, worried, excited, happy, whatever. I sat and listened to the frenzied conversations about the girls’ clothing, about their hair and make-up. I saw cameras flashing and girls smiling nervously, posing for their parents. I had this sort of epiphany, like, is this the right thing to be doing as a parent?
I mean, Mother’s Day is just behind us, and I enjoyed being pampered for a day. But, really, for me, it’s also a day to celebrate having children. What an amazing blessing that is, and what an unbelievable gift from God—kids! But, along with all the joy and amazement we experience as moms (especially new moms, when you have that first baby…it’s emotionally and physically overwhelming), I have a wish for all moms. What’s that wish? Well, it’s that we put the lives of our kids in perspective.
We all want to raise kids who are happy, healthy, respectful and successful! But I think we’re all guilty, at least once or twice, of getting swept away in this tsunami of “wants.” Whether it’s put on us by society (keeping up with the Joneses) or by our kids (But, I want this! I have to have this!), we get busy, we get scattered, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be washed away in this tide of unimportant stuff. We spend an inordinate amount of time and money on things that, in the end, may not matter. There’s no purpose in all the activity, we do it because, well, we’re supposed to, right?
Now, I’m not saying all this to say that nothing our kids do matters. Not at all. But, when I look at God’s greatest gift, I want my girls to succeed and be happy, but I want a lot more. I want them to be respectful, happy, caring and I want them to be able to care for themselves. I want them to know how to clean a house, make a bed, wash their clothes and cook a meal. Those are things that will count.
I also want them to remember the times we spent together, as a family, doing things that really didn’t cost any money: watching a movie on TV, taking walks, shooting baskets, taking a slow, easy horseback ride, just for fun (OK, yes, there’ s money involved there, but, the actual ride itself is free!). Those are the times I, as a mom, cherish. I hope my girls will, too.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing a cute little girl in a dance outfit all dolled up, I love it! And, I think it’s great for kids to get out in front of people and be gently pushed a little bit beyond their comfort zones—that builds character and confidence.
But, I marvel at some parents who have their kids in an event every single evening, and sometimes Saturdays and Sundays. Wow! That must be exhausting, and does it leave down time for anybody? Time to just lie in the grass and watch clouds blow by. Time to sit on the porch, watch a sunset, then wait for the lightning bugs to begin their tiny, slow fireworks display. Time to crawl in bed and read a book just because. Time to paint toenails, soak in a tub, try out a new, silly hairdo?
Being involved is an important part of growing up, but there is such a thing as over-scheduling. Learning how to take care of yourself and others is also part of growing up. I’m working hard to raise two independent girls! As a mom, I’d feel that I somehow failed them if they couldn’t look after themselves. So, yes, my girls wash their own clothes, they make their own lunches and feed their own animals. They participate in some activities here and there, as well. But I never want that to overtake our lives, where there’s never a minute of freedom.
Because freedom also teaches kids how to manage their time. So, in addition to chores and activities this summer, I will also make sure my girlies chase fireflies, swim in a river or lake or pond, stay up past their bedtime, watch at least four or five movies with me, whether it’s at home or the theatre. We’ll collect freckles and natural highlights in our tangled hair, we’ll have as many fires in our outdoor fire pit as we can.
Because I want to remember, and I want them to remember, the good, old-fashioned family time we spent together when they were girls. Because, at the end of this crazy, busy, hectic time in my life, that’s what will really matter.