By Cheri Fuller
I raced into the grocery store, eight-month-old in my arms and three-year-old in hand, to pick up Tylenol, a prescription, and a few groceries. I was on my way home from the pediatrician's office, and my To Do list was nowhere near done yet. There was dinner to cook, as well as housework and dirty diapers waiting for me at home, and a meeting to attend that night.
I gathered up the things we needed and hit the checkout counter, impatiently waiting to get my change so I could dash out the door, when all of a sudden, an older woman came up behind me. She stopped me and said, "Slow down and enjoy your boys while they're little. The time will go so fast! My two sons are grown and live on different coasts. How I miss them and wish I could see them and spend the day with them!"
The time didn't seem to be going fast. Those were the days when I could barely see over the stacks of dirty diapers, when I was couped up with my children's bouts of bronchitis or ear infections, spilled milk, and whines of "Mommy!" On those days, it seemed like I hadn't talked to an adult in what seemed like weeks. It didn't help that Holmes worked long hours and since we were newcomers to the city, I didn't know any other moms.
Yet I knew the woman was right. And when I went home that day and days afterward, I slowed down enough to make LEGO forts and castles with my boys and then stroll them to the park to play.
Perhaps you've received similar advice from an older mom too, but it bears pondering again. Because the truth is, your kids childhood will pass so quickly. As Dorothy Evslin said, "It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall will appear higher and higher, and then suddenly they disappear."
In the twinkling of an eye, they'll be taking off for college or career. Try this little exercise: Close your eyes and picture your child strolling down the aisle with his graduating class. Decked in cap and gown, he walks across the stage when his name is called and grasps his diploma. Then a few short months later, piles all his stuff in his car and heads across the country for college. Graduation photos on the piano; Little League baseball trophies and GI Joes stored in the attic. No music blaring from his room.
When that happens, you won't be thinking, I wish I'd spent more time at the office or polishing the floors.
Perhaps your home is still filled with the footsteps of little or big kids that run, skip, or jump but rarely walk. Lucky you! Or you're on the verge of your kids flying from the nest. Like my friend Melina told me one summer, "In two years Gib will be gone to college! I wish I could make time stop! It's moving too fast!"
While we can't make time stop as life proceeds and our children grow, what can we do to savor and enjoy the time we do have together? How can a mother make the most of those fleeting and sometimes exhausting yet sweet years of childrearing?
Don't put off joy. "When my little girl gets potty trained, when I lose the extra weight I gained in pregnancy, I'm going to be so much happier," a young mom told me recently. When our finances aren't so tight, if my husband's not so stressed, if I get my house redecorated, when my prodigal teen starts loving God and makes better choices. If we stake our joy on the whens and ifs, we'll miss out on the joys and blessings God has for us in each season of mothering, even those that are difficult and filled with unfinished projects, toddlers resisting potty training, or challenging teens.
Instead we can focus on living life fully today and realize there is something in every season to enjoy: picking strawberries and camping out in the backyard in summer, baking gingerbread cookies and drinking hot chocolate in winter, having a color walk in the spring as you walk around the block and have them name all the red (or green or yellow) things they see. You can even see sick days as a time to fill up your kids emotional tanks, a time to hug, sip hot apple juice, cuddle up and read books together. Every day there are miracles and things to celebrate: a purple and rose sunset, your child's first sentence, a sticky kiss, or even a goldfinch at your bird feeder.
Find your own "slowdown spots of time" together. As moms, we can get so focused on getting everything done that we begin to look at our children as interruptions instead of our priority. We get so busy and overcommitted, we, and our kids, continually rush from one place to another. When you take time to lay on a quilt and look up into the night sky at the stars, time slows down a little. And moments to sit on the edge of your child's bed to listen and pray for her, to fly a kite or blow bubbles in the spring breeze are precious.
Make time for what really matters. Whatever the most important things in your life: the love of husband, kids, friends, the joy of knowing God, helping a friend in the hospital, opening your door in hospitality, or teaching your kids about Jesus, ask yourself, Am I using my time to do these things? Talk with your family about the one thing you don't want to miss doing this spring or summer, and then just do it.
Life is a gift. Our children are a gift, and each day together is a gift. As we give our time to God each day, don't put off joy, and keep in mind what's most important, like the girl in the fairy tale "Rumpelstelskin" who spun straw into gold, we can use this time and see those moments turn into gold.
Through engaging short stories, inspirational reflections, Scripture, creative ideas and thought-provoking questions, Cheri Fuller's new book The Mom You're Meant to Be: Loving Your Kids While Leaning on God encourages mothers to relax, embrace their kids individuality, rely on God for the wisdom they need, and enjoy the season of mothering they're in.
Copyright 2005 Cheri Fuller, adapted from When Children Pray (Multnomah Publishers) and The Mom You're Meant to Be: Loving Your Kids While Leaning on God (Focus on the Family)
(Use only with permission of author.)
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