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.”
“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.