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The Waiting Bench

In the afternoons, we try to spend as much time outside soaking up the sun and Vitamin D, creating pirate ships, and practicing climbing fences. This time is one of my favorite times of the day because it reminds me of the creativity and spontaneity that children just naturally carry with them.

At times there are things that both kids want to do at the same time, especially the spiderweb swing. Enter the waiting bench. Really it’s just the picnic table bench but renamed for the purpose of keeping one child a safe distance from the swing until it’s their turn. If we get to a point where they both want to swing, I’ll remind them that they have to take turns and then send one to the waiting bench and one to the swing. After a few swings, they switch. Watching them wait and then run and laugh as they switch makes my heart smile.

I have to admit, I am not all that great at waiting on the waiting bench. There are so many parts of life right now that are filled with waiting. Waiting for the grocery pick up. Waiting for test results. Waiting for communication from schools to see if things are open or if you are in quarantine. Waiting to see if you show symptoms. Waiting for hope. Waiting for change.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

May this waiting strengthen our faith and our hope for the coming Christ Child.

Puddle Walks

The past few days have provided the setting for our favorite kinds of walks: puddle walks. As we walk through the neighborhood, we try to ride through every single puddle. The cyclist goes first and we watch the water ripple before the stroller takes a turn.

It’s little small things like this that draw us in reminding us to take notice and to see what the world looks like this morning because the world doesn’t look exactly the same each day. Even in the midst of this life that can feel repetitive, there are things changing all around us.

Watching the ripples always makes me think about the way what we say and what we do leaves tracks. When we pretend that our choices don’t impact others, we try to ignore the ripples. We splash through worried only about where we are going rather than who we might douse in our hurry.

Slow down, look around, and watch the water ripple by.

Optics and Opportunity

While watching the debate, I was overwhelmed with the optics of three old white men debating the future of our country. For years, I have been the voice in worship planning that asks the question, “But does it look like we welcome and affirm women?” when the platform or worship participants are only males. Nothing about tonight’s debate looks like we value voices of females, voices of Black people, voices of Latinos, voices of LGTBQIA+.

“But the vice-presidential debate and the post-debate analysis will be different!” Yes, it will be, but there is still tonight and tonight it feels heavy to watch and listen to voices who have always been watched and listened to.

The New York Times reported this week that the pandemic will push working women, particularly working moms, 10 years back in the workplace:

Before the pandemic, many American mothers were effectively forced to stop working for some period of time because they could not afford paid child care. And research shows that the longer a woman is out of the work force, the more severe the long-term effects on her earnings will be.

This reporting comes after the reporting in May that women were disproportionally feeling the financial impact of the pandemic:

“Last month’s shattering job losses make clear that women are in the bullseye of this pandemic,” Emily Martin, VP for education and workplace justice at NWLC, said in a statement. “In leisure, hospitality, education, health care and retail — the sectors that are getting hit the hardest — women are the ones who are falling victim to the first massive waves of this economic crisis.”

I have talked to so many working moms who are getting up before the sunrise hoping to get some work done while juggling childcare options for kids who are quarantined, waiting to be tested, were possibly exposed, and whose childcare option simply disappeared with little to no warning. They spend their days caring for their children while desperately trying to keep the foot in the door at work in naptimes or rest times or after the children go to sleep only to do the whole thing over the next day. They are exhausted.

And then tonight, their voices are not heard and not represented.

Optics matter. Optics signal opportunities. And it’s clear tonight who has the opportunity and who doesn’t.

Getting Off Track

This week our morning bike ride/walk has hit a snag. As our four and half-year-old has become more adventuresome riding over bumps and stumps, he popped the chain off its track. After repairing this twice on our long Saturday path, we had to call in reinforcements. The ride in the back of Dad’s truck after he came to rescue us was worth it!

This morning while he was trying to go down and around an obstacle in the road, he ran full force into the wheel of the stroller and popped the chain again. Because we were on a path that had a bit more traffic, we couldn’t stop and repair the chain. And so he had to push the bike back home. As we were walking, we were talking about what happens when things don’t go as we planned.

“We get frustrated!” he responded.

“Yes, it is frustrating, but is it a big deal or a little deal?”

He paused for a moment thinking. “It’s a little deal.”

“That’s right. We are safe and we are together and we’ll be home a little bit later than we thought, but not so much later.”

This language of big deal and little deal is language we have used with all of our children. It’s language that asks them to think about what’s really important and what really matters.

It’s language that I’ve started to internalize too, especially during this time of homeschooling and balancing more roles and responsibilities. It’s centered me and sobered me as I reflect on the number of people who are fighting a virus that there is no known cure for and who are grieving losing someone they love who has died from this virus.

Even as it started raining on our heads, we talked about the fact that we had dry clothes and towels at home that we could change when we made it there,.

But first, we had to keep walking and keep pushing the bike.

New Days and New Starts

I love seeing all the first day of school pictures. This is a tradition I remember from my childhood. I can remember looking through the photo album that had each of us lined up in age order and trying to remember what it felt like to start each new year.

This year looks different because we are starting the school year with both kids at home. Sam and I have enjoyed using our teachers’ brains again and working on a daily schedule, units of study, and weekly activities that would be engaging and fun. (The two pups are going to work on not stealing snacks during snack time 🙂 This might take all fall!)

I have to admit the whole concept of homeschooling was overwhelming. This Spring during virtual school, I found myself stretched thin as we tried to keep our four-year-old connected to teachers and classmates as well as figure out the online learning system.

Today, I was just excited. We took our first day of school pictures like we have the past two school years. We took a morning walk, which serves as “our commute” to school, and then we started our school day. At this age, kids really need to learn to play and explore and discover but having things like calendar, circle time, and specials is grounding. It’s grounding for me as a parent because it distinguishes school day and school times from other times of the day and from other days of the week.

It also creates space to ask questions, to read new books, and to learn new things. For me as a parent/teacher, this is what I am most excited about. I am most excited to ignite my creativity, research crafts, and find books about each area of study. I am excited to learn alongside my kids and to play the role of facilitator and interst sparker rather than a disciplinarian.

It really amazing what we have learned about each other over this time at home. I am so thankful for a partner I get to teach alongside again and for the flexibility to try new things.

A Helping Hand

One of the aspects I’ve heard many parents reflect is good and so hopeful to witness during this time at home is the relationship that has developed between siblings. This is true for us too. The way that we are watching our four and half-year-old learn to be a big brother to a toddler is so sweet and encouraging. After our morning walks and bike rides, while I fold up the stroller, I see him reach out his hand and our eighteen-month-old and help her walk up the stairs.

He waits patiently and says, “You can do it. There you go. Just one more step.”

I never taught him this. I never taught him to slow down to her pace and to look down at her feet as she was walking up the stairs to make sure her foot was planted before he moved on to the next step. I never taught him to encourage her along the way.

Maybe helping each other comes naturally to us. Maybe when we see someone learning something new it is actually our natural instinct to reach out a hand and say, “You’re doing great. Keep going.”

Maybe it’s our consumerist, capitalist culture that subverts this natural helping and teaches us that in order to survive and thrive we have to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps not worrying who we are stepping on. Maybe this isn’t natural at all and when we are still and quiet we feel disconnected and unhappy not because we don’t have enough but because we are stepping on other people rather than giving them a helping hand.

There’s something about this time at home and this stillness that is teaching me to watch and learn from our children what is good and right and important rather than believe the messaging that supports greed and inequity.

Thanks be to God for little hands reaching out and waiting while step by step we return to who we are.

What if…

I found this on Instagram posted by a teacher friend and immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me. I quickly posted it to my stories and followed @miles_of_pe who shared it. (If you know who created it originally, I’d love to give credit!)

After I posted it, I received so many comments and responses from fellow parents. Parents who have been worried about sending their children anywhere because they aren’t sure that it is safe. Parents who don’t have a teaching background wondering if they are engaging their children enough or whether they are falling behind. Parents who have made the decision to keep their kids home for the fall. Parents who are planning to send their kids to school in the fall and are worried that the stint of e-learning last Spring caused them to fall behind.

What if…it’s enough?

What if…our very concern over the well-being of our children is enough to help them know that they are loved and seen? What if…our sleepless nights and early mornings fitting in work before they get up and after they go to sleep is enough for them to understand that we are doing whatever we can to make sure they have time with us? What if…all those walks and outside time and playing in blow-up pools in the backyard is actually they’re absolutely favorite thing to do even though they have done it every afternoon?

What if, dear parent, you are not just enough…but more than enough?

On Figuring It Out

This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.

Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.

Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.

Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.

I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.