Monday, May 7, 2012

Stripping and Slowing

If you want to see what children can DO, you must stop giving them THINGS.

― Norman Douglas

I used to be a perfect mother. But that was before I actually had children. Long before marriage and motherhood, I dreamed long about how things would be. Boss would go to work, and I would stay home. Traditional roles for traditional people. We would live in a quaint (yet fabulous) little home surrounded by land. There would be lots of children. Lots and lots of children. And we would live a wonderful, but simple life together. I dreamed of gardens and flowers, swingsets and picnics. I dreamed of reading aloud to the children under the branches of a shade tree and finger painting the afternoons away. I dreamed of tea parties and traditions. I never dreamed of televisions or video games. I never dreamed of thousands of toys, each coming with thousands of pieces. I never dreamed of clutter, or excess, or wasted days. In my dreams life was perfect. I had perfect children, and they had a perfect mother. Our days were well spent. That was the plan.

But then life happened, as it always does, and after (almost) nine short years of our family doing life together, I look around and sometimes don't recognise what our life has become. The television is always on. Always. Little eyes are fixed on the screen too many hours a day. Eyes glossing over, minds numbing. And the toys? There are too many to count. This week alone I have hauled off six large bags to donations. Six bags! And I still can't find the floor of my children's room. Clutter and excess abound in our home. I keep it well hidden, but it is still there mocking me. Mocking my dreams of a simple and meaningful life. And I don't want to talk about wasted days. Too many 'going through the motion' days have gone by. And sometimes I wonder what happened to my dream of living deeply and living well. I am afraid it got burried somewhere underneath all of the clutter. But I have begun the project of slowly digging out my dream of a life well lived once more.

In a few (very few!) short weeks our family will be making some big changes. I can't wait to share with you here what some of those changes are! But they involve stripping away and slowing down. Stripping away of things for sure (that process has already begun!), but also stripping away of responsibilities and commitments that have carried us far from who we desire to be as a family. And it's funny, because the more responsibilities and commitments that Boss and I aquired over the years, the more things our children seemed to aquire. If Mama felt guilty for her hectic schedule, surely a new movie for the girls would help. Perhaps if they were distracted they would not notice Mama running in circles around them?

And without meaning to, I slowly, oh so slowly, began replacing my presence in their lives with things.

Because we do have a swingset in our backyard, but it rarely gets used. My girls are always waiting for Mama to come out and swing with them. (I do believe they have waited long enough.) We also own a picnic blanket and a really nice basket! But I think we have only used them twice (maybe) in all of these years. And there has been no time for afternoon read alouds or finger painting masterpieces. Because Boss and Mama were too busy. Too busy doing good things, even great things, for others. We have been too busy to celebrate life with our children on a daily basis. And I am ashamed to admit that we actually thought giving them things would take away the sting of our choices. But it didn't, and I didn't like the Mama that I was becoming. The Mama who was too busy serving others to meet the needs of the ones she loves the very most. The Mama that justified her actions, because her girls could now afford dance lessons, and soccer, and over the top birthday parties. The Mama who used the television as a babysitter so that she had time to get just one more thing on her list accomplished. And I didn't like who my children were becoming either. Somewhat greedy with a strong sense of entitlement.

So things are about to change. It is our goal to begin living life in slow motion. Less of things, more of us. We want our lives to reflect that we value people over posessions, just as God does. We are more than ready to strip away and slow down. We are ready to see what our children can DO. And we are ready to see what we can DO, too. And I do think that it's about time.

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