I saw a bumper sticker on a 12-passenger van outside the homeschool conference convention center the other day that said:
I used to be cool.
It made me laugh.
In many ways, I can relate — but my bumper sticker lately would say: I used to be spontaneous.
I am, by nature, a bit of a Flower Child, always up for a last-minute adventure. In the past, I valued not being overly-bound by time and schedules (within reason) and enjoyed being flexible, fluid, and fun! [Insert bumper sticker: I used to be fun.]
When my oldest was an only, we’d take him out to restaurants and parties and let him stay up past “bedtime” if life suggested it.
And though that worked for awhile, slowly, child by child [and now, 4 children in 5 years], I’ve finally succumbed to the fact that the most important peace-keeper in my child-filled days is:
Keep a schedule.
Suddenly my text messages for play dates have gone from:
“We’d love to see you guys! Just let me know when is a good time and we’ll work it out!”
“I can do this Tuesday or Thursday between the strict windows of 10:15 and noon or 3:35 and 4:45. If the kids take naps too early or too late, it will throw off the incredibly sacred ritual of bed time and I’ll stay up too late and be grouchy tomorrow. Also, I should feed the kids at home because I spent a gazillion dollars on groceries this week. And if I take them to Chick-Fil-A, the 3-year-old will only eat fries and the 2-year-old will spill fruit all over her car seat. And at some point I’ll have to nurse the baby in a parking lot somewhere because inevitably she’ll be hungry in rush hour traffic.”
OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration (like I could type a text that long with toddlers at my feet) — but, it’s not too far off.
Being a mother to four has forced me to be more scheduled, focused and organized in life (which I find, in many ways, to be a good thing.) Sure, I am a bit less spontaneous for now — but Queen Schedule keeps the peace (and my sanity) and I sing her praises.
Sticking to a schedule has also helped me attain the second peace-keeper in my home:
Find time for silence.
I’ve heard it said recently that every mother to young children becomes an introvert. And though I am certainly an extrovert at heart, I have found myself basking in the beauty of a still, silent room.
It sounds like this: [................]
Ah, isn’t that nice?
This is also one reason I have taken a break from social media for a bit. [Though I still have this blog Facebook page.] I realized that true silence is more than just physical, it’s mental — free from the nonstop chatter of the world.
Opening my Facebook or Twitter feed often felt like popping in and out of a hundred conversations — and in those rare moments where I get the chance to just sit and be still (mostly nursing a baby), I’ve tried to use that time to read, answer an email or just watch the trees through the window.
But with more schedules and silence, life is far from rigid.
What I’ve found in trying to keep a better schedule and find more moments to be still is that the rest of the day can be just as chaotic, social, flexible and crazy as need be — without me breaking down into tears in the middle of the living room.
If the 5-year-old wants to build tents out of bedsheets or bake cookies — or if the little ones want to go outside and get covered in chalk and sand — or if we want to have friends over and scatter toys all over the house — or if we all just want to laze around and watch a movie in our pajamas — I am up for it.
Which is the third peace-keeper in my home:
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I laid in bed at night and sometimes felt guilty for not being present enough. For spending too much time doing chores or working on projects or looking at my smart phone or just generally surviving through the day. (Which with little ones, some days are like that!)
But schedules and silence have helped me be more present in those moments of sheer fun. I have a time to do laundry and a time to write and a time to focus on other things: so when I’m with the littles, I can focus on them.
It has been said that stress is caused by being in one situation when you’re wanting to do something else: i.e. instead of focusing on playing, I’m focused on how I could be doing something “more” productive [tending to those piles of dishes and laundry]. When, really, I have to remind myself: there is nothing more productive than being present with my kids.
I feel most peaceful at the end of the day when I have done my best to be present — and it’s easiest for me to be present when I have a schedule and moments of silence to support it.
Life around here is wild and wondrous. And through necessity, I am growing every day as these beautiful children grow around me.