Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary. It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way. A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding. A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday. If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.
There is an underlying belief about parenting nowadays: if we do everything right–build attachment, protect them from suffering, nurture self-esteem, buy organic mattresses and grass-fed beef–well, in the end, they’ll be okay. One day they’ll be healthy, well adjusted, contributing members of society who call home every Sunday night to check in with Mom and Dad.
It’s a belief I know personally, and I’m glad it’s begun to fade into my past. Too often it plants the seeds of perfectionism. Anxiety replaces trust, confidence becomes guilt, and none of it does much to foster satisfaction.
Now, I look back over our days, and watch as each player tosses a card from his hand into the center. I see how exhaustion transforms a broken puzzle into a wrestling match. How happiness bubbles over to joy when it’s shared. How not enough adult time equals a lost tempter. How two and a half year old exuberance collapses into tears and the-wrestling-opponents-turned-best-friends respond with big brother hugs. “We’re twins so that means we always love the same things and we do all the same things and we go everywhere together. You can be a twin with us!” Happiness. Joy. Wrestling match. Frustration. Lost temper. Forgiveness. Peace. Repeat. (Also an excellent single player game.)
Conceived of our imperfect parents, we were invited into the stream of imperfect earthly life. Here in this little red house, five imperfect people have come to know the ebb and flow of family life. Of human life. Just as it needs to be.
Nearly every morning last fall, Opal would fall in step with her brothers as they prepared for school, only to be shocked into tears as they drove away without her. After all, these three kiddos are a tightly knit pack.
Slowly, she got used to the routine of waving goodbye to them as they went on their way. But the sense of inequity never quite left her. We would bustled around the house getting ready for church, or hikes in the foothills–outings planned for the entire family–and she would look up at us, steeling herself for disappointment and ask, “Do I get to go?” “Yes, Opal. You are coming, or course.” Then she would raise across the house to another family member and exclaim, “I’m going to school too!” “To church, Opal. We’re going to church.” “Oh. I’m going to church too!”
Well here we are, a few short-long months later and Opal is finally off to kindergarten a couple of mornings a week.
It’s a moment that stirs up the first days of her life. The first wobbly steps. First attempts at language. I find myself wanting to go back in time, hold them each in my arms for just a few moments. Their new and fresh from heaven selves, who have passed into memory and become little people with successes and attempts, failures and mendings.
But this is the selfish part of me. Joyfully watching them from afar, the rest of me understands a little better what it is to be human–the interweaving of given and created, archetype and individual, connecting and separating. And it all starts with those few words, “I’m going to school too!”
Throughout our days with four and a half year old Lucien, we are just as likely to be redirecting a storm of aggressive limbs and biting teeth as we are to be swept up by his expansive joy in life and heartfelt regard for everyone around him. On the difficult days, it’s easy to fall into a kind of assembly-line-style-parenting: just get it done so we can start again tomorrow.
And then he tenderly asks if he can help (in the kitchen, always in the kitchen) and the word “No” flashes across the screen in my head. When I take a deep breath and say yes, the connection I find heals all the moments of mutual frustration. Not just yes to the spilled flour and egg shells in the batter, the pancake flipped halfway off the griddle, but yes to the path we are walking with him. Aggression and tenderness. Joy and teeth marks. Heart force and restlessness. Without judgement, only compassion, and saying yes to his little limitless life.