When my son turned three I remember feeling like I’d missed much of his two year old year. Despite the willpower battles, I think two is a fun age. The world is new, there’s so much to discover, and every day has a fresh adventure for a two year old. Yet I spent most of my son’s second year being pregnant and nursing. For me that meant several months of nausea, mood swings, and exhaustion. As his third birthday rolled around, part of me mourned over not stopping more to enjoy him in all his two year old splendor.
Lest I sound too hard on myself, let me say that I think pregnant/nursing mamas everywhere should get a round of applause for just getting out of bed and surviving the day. There are seasons in life when we need to give ourselves some grace. The seasons of growing and feeding a new baby are the top of that list. Still, I sometimes find myself missing moments today for less legitimate reasons. We live in a noisy world. Phones buzz, the T.V. blares, and Twitter chirps. There’s a book to read, a lesson to prepare, a post to write, a bathroom to clean, a diaper to change, and a level of Candy Crush to conquer. The urgent shouts in my ear, pulling me away from the important.
Here’s what matters: I want to be present with my children.
How do we drown out the noise and fight back against the tyranny of the urgent? I’m still learning, but I’ve found a few things that help:
- Nurturing my inner world. I am an introvert by nature. I crave solitude. Unfortunately, silence and solitude can be hard to come by when you live with the ankle-biter brigade. That’s one reason I make rest time a priority, even though the children are all past the need for an afternoon nap. Although they fight it, I know that one day they’ll come to realize that being alone in a room for an hour with nothing to do but read or sleep is something to savor. I do think they all need the down time and a break from each other, but I need it too. Having that hour to myself to rest and re-center myself makes me a better mommy. Right now that’s my best window for time with the Lord. When I can draw aside for that hour, I re-emerge ready to engage with my children.
- Unplugging. This is a work in progress, but I find that I have to put boundaries around my online world. It’s easy to think that I need a break and I just want to sit down and check in on Facebook, but often five minutes turns to ten and ten to fifteen before I know it. I function better when I limit my computer exposure. This goes for the kids too. We have a T.V. ticket system that helps them ration their media consumption. When the screens are off, we’re all more likely to engage meaningfully with one another.
- Organizing Outer Space. I do not live in the house that cleans itself. I have accepted that my home is never going to look like the Pottery Barn catalog. I’m not sure who these people are who put pictures on Pinterest of neatly organized pantries with five different types of flour in pretty glass jars, but none of them live here. Yet I’ve also found that basic neatness matters. If I can see the floor I’m less tempted to mentally check out in an attempt to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Simple things like having my kitchen in order, being somewhat on top of laundry, and having toys more or less picked up frees me to focus.
- Intentionality. Placing a prayerful focus on nurturing my children helps me remember where my priorities lie. Sometimes as I go through my day I hear the Lord reminding me to simply stop. He reminds me to pause and build the train track, color the picture, read the book, answer the question, play the game, do the puzzle. Those are the moments that matter, that help me send a message to my children. You are important. I value you. You are powerful. You are loved.
Life happens now, and I don’t want to miss it. What helps you live in the present?