Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Surrendering"

Ok, on to what I've been trying to get a second to write about forever:

My biggest epiphany from Women's Conference.

It was interestingly the same thing I think about all the time...except a little bit re-worked. It is to "Be There" and to "slow down on the multitasking." Let me explain.

Iris Krasnow is one of my favorite authors about things to do with mothering.

She wrote an article called, “Surrendering to Motherhood” that was published in the Washington Post years ago. And I always refer to it. I think about it all the time. Really, ALL the time.

Maybe it's because that's what I want to do: surrender.

No, not in the bad way of surrendering. Not in the way that I just give up and crawl into my corner and go to sleep for about a month to catch up. (Although that does sound really, really appealing a lot of the time.)

I'm talking about surrendering to all the "extras" keeping me so occupied, and being just that: A Mother. A real, live Mother who is "there" for her kids when they need her. A Mother who knows her kids...really knows them because she's willing to put in the time.

Iris says, "Being There [is] an emotional and spiritual shift, of succumbing to Being Where You Are When You Are, and Being There as much as possible. Its about crouching on the floor and getting delirious over the praying mantis your son just caught instead of perusing a fax or filling the dishwasher while he is yelling for your attention and you distractedly say over your shoulder: 'Oh , honey, isn’t that a pretty bug.' It’s about being attuned enough to notice when your kid’s eyes shine so you can make your eyes shine back.”

There was this speaker at Women's Conference who gave some tips about dealing with teenagers. Sure, I don't have any yet, but man, this speech was just what I needed to hear. The speaker's tip that hit me the most was when she said "Do your homework." We need to know what our kids are interested in. We need to know their friends, their friends' parents, their favorite sports teams, what they think about when they're bored, what they dream of becoming some day...IF they dream of becoming anything, etc.

And right then and there, sitting on those totally uncomfortable bleachers amidst a sea of women, it hit me: my job is to be a Mother. Plain and simple. And "being there" for these precious spirits entrusted in my care is no piece of cake. I have a bunch of extracurricular interests that take me in forty-seven different directions. That can be fine with a balance. But right here and right now I need to "be there" for my kids. I need to "do my homework."

Now, "doing my homework" is not something I can just pull off one afternoon by turning off my computer and baking my kids cookies so we can talk over the day when they get home all hot and flushed from walking home from school. No. To really KNOW my kids and really do my homework. I need to be willing to turn off the phone, turn off the internet, (at least more than I do now) and really TALK to my kids.

Sure, I do that. We go on "mommy dates." We rarely answer our phone (sorry if that's rude, but we have to put our family first). We have family movie nights each Friday night. I try my darnedest to start the bedtime routine early enough so that we can talk for a little bit before we have to turn out the lights (because all us mothers know THAT'S the time when kids really want to talk). I ask questions that can't be answered with "yes" or "no." We have all kinds of concoctions of traditions and the works.

But sometimes I'm multitasking like the dickens while I'm "in the moment" with my kids. And I don't want to do that. I want to just sit down with my kids one by one and let my love for them spill out of me. I want to look into their eyes as they tell me about their day. I want to lay in bed with them each night and stroke their hair while they tell me their worries and glories in minute detail. I want each of those five completely different personalities to feel that they are the best thing in the world to me.

But wait! That all sounds fine and good, but we are MOTHERS, which means we can't always "be there," right? I mean, how in the world do we drive three carpools, make the dinner (healthy and nutritious of course), mop the floor, teach our kids values, distract a tantrum-throwing two-year-old in mid wail, find family service projects, magnify our church callings, get kids to forty-five different doctor appointments, make dinner for the family who just moved in, get some exercise in, and stock the pantry without multitasking??

There are so many things that pull mothers in different directions. There are so many good options. But I have to keep coming back to my epiphany: I am a Mother. And I want to be the kind of Mother who knows that to "be there" while her children need her is more important than anything else. I want to take out time enough to really "do my homework," and do it well.

A couple other quotes from Iris Krasnow:

“I used to think I could do everything, that my babies would be fine squeezed into the rest of my To Do list. Today I know that children must rise to the top of the list, and that list must dwindle considerably.”

and,

“Ask yourself: What is the most important thing in my life? And if the answer is your children, then live like that. Make them your center. There is nowhere higher to go. This is the Consummate Job.” *Iris Krasnow

I totally agree with that one except that in my opinion the real center needs to be your husband...then the kids. But that's a whole different post.

The point is, as mothers we are the experts for our kids. Not our parents, or the person who gave that parenting seminar we really liked or the person who wrote that parenting book we may love. Sure, those sources give us great ideas of how to parent, but when it comes right down to it, there's no one better qualified for our jobs than we are. We know our kids better than anyone else on the planet. But we need to "do our homework" and "surrender" so we can shine and help our kids shine back. I think it's all in the attitude. And in making that "to do" list dwindle like Iris says. I have a few ideas I've been working on to help in this...I'll post more about them later.

In my mind there's no better job than to be Mother. These kids have captured my heart, hook, line and sinker. And I'm so glad I get to be theirs.

23 comments:

  1. thank you for your wonderful posts and all your insights into motherhood. i asked for your book for mother's day and am loving it:) i love all the new ideas i get from reading this blog...the priesthood hike(love it!) the summer goals! and thank you for this post, i needed it!

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  2. such a good reminder Shawni! You help us all keep on track as mothers--or get back on track if we've fallen off :) Thank you!
    Darcy

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  3. Just wish I had had as much insight at your stage of life. You are right on! Mom

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  4. My sentiments exactly. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Love your blog and enjoy your posts. Mothering is truly the world's greatest profession, and you write about it so beautifully.

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  6. Wow. That sounds really good. Also hard. ;)

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  7. Thank you for your willingness to share your life and your wonderful insights about mothering with "the world". You have truly changed my point of view about mothering and I really appreciate that. I always look forward to reading your posts. Your book is so wonderful. I tell anyone I know who is a parent, to get it. Thanks again!

    Sarah

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  8. thanks for sharing all your thoughts. i just finished your book and loved it! thanks for being so real....i love reading about parenting but so many books are so idealistic that it boggles my mind! this is the concept i live for! be there each day! i'm trying...

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  9. WOW! Very inspiring.

    Do you have a link to that talk and the article you referenced?

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  10. I have been wondering lately how to best structure my time during the day to "be there" for my kids. Some of that time (for me) has to be scheduled into my day, but much of "being there" is just when my kids need me, on their time tables. All of my thinking about this led me to believe that I cannot possibly add one more thing into my life right now. Then the Stake President called. And now I find myself teaching early morning seminary this fall. The thing that is keeping me sane right now is a quote I heard in the MTC " Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies". I believe no where is this more true then the calling of mother.

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  11. That was wonderful. I really needed to read this today as I'm feeling very overwhelmed with all the other things. It reminds of Elder Scott when he said, "don't let good things crowd out the ESSENTIAL things", which is being there in the moment and giving 100% to our kids. God trusts us to do that. He always gives us 100% of His time.

    Thanks for your always inspiring posts.

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  12. I love this post and I love you!

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  13. What a great post. I was at that same talk about teenagers and my oldest is 9 - but I felt the same urgency and really have been looking at this thing called "motherhood" a whole different way. Thanks for once again being such an inspiration!!!

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  14. Shawni - Thanks for all your wonderful insights. I've been following your blog for several months now and it's something I savor reading every time. I think we are kindred spirits. :) You speak straight to my heart every time. You are such an inspiration! I loved your book also. It was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing part of your life and world with me. It means so much.
    Thanks, Megan Stewart

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  15. You can always make me cry like a baby. Miss you. Cant wait to see you this summer. You're totally awesome. Love you. Linds

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  16. I have kids ranging age 8 to almost 20 (yikes!). I was so busy during the first half of parenting that I hardly remember it. :( It breaks my heart, the things I missed out on with my first three. And their hearts too, I think. There are a few things I missed that some (one child in particular) may never forgive me of.

    But I am SOOOO grateful that I finally got a clue, and can really be a mother to my youngest two, while they are still young.

    I could preach this from the pulpit with all my heart and might, but sadly, it seems to be one of those things that we must realize on our own.

    But really.... surrendering to motherhood has been THE most fullfilling things I've ever done and I am SO very happy I did!

    We really only get one chance at raising these children we are blessed with.

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  17. Just wanted to let you know that I've "stolen and posted" your summer goals idea. Hope you're okay with that -- thanks for inspiring me!!:)

    see: meegzncheez.blogspot.com :)

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  18. found your blog while I was spending too much time on the computer. My sisters have read your parents' books and loved them, and your pictures are so beautiful so I keep coming back.

    I'm a mother of 2 little ones. Thanks for your words of wisdom...

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  19. Great post. I'd really love to hear your insights/ideas on how to make your husband your "center." Maybe a special Father's Day post? :)

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  20. Do you know what kept coming to my mind as I read your post? I want to be my mother, AKA My daughter's grandmother. She gets to do and does exactly what you described with my daughter. I watch how they interact and it kills me! I try to do that with my daughter but she sees me as the mommy who has rules and who is her protector and safety net. She sees my mom and dad as her playmates her special confidants. I envy that. Thank you for this honest and very heartfelt post. I hope I can do more to be the mommy I want to be for my daughter and will keep all that you said and quoted in mind.

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