I have been so encouraged by Rachel Jankovic’s new book “Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches“. It’s a short, easy-to-read, bite-sized book with BIG inspiration and practical how-to’s for a mom with lots of littles. You’re likely to hear a lot from what I’ve been reading over the next few days.
She brought up one of the most challenging thoughts I’ve had as a mother of many: Do I “blame” my children for our large family? Or do I parent them individually, treating them as children rather than “an organizational problem”? Rachel speaks of “knowing your sheep” and parenting our children with a “pastoral perspective”:
“…cleaning and sorting makes you look and maybe even feel like you have your act together, even if you seriously don’t. What you are doing is finding a way to contain your children, control them, and keep their sin from making you look bad….Look to each of their souls and their needs. If you are focused on upkeep of the house and the schedule, as long as your child is not interrupting that, you don’t worry about it. If you are being a parent who is pastorally minded, you will stop whatever it is that you are doing to go see how your daughter is up in her bedroom.”
She explains that it is so easy to place organization and order above their real needs as children. We can make things look orderly, but if there are emotional and spiritual issues being neglected, or character alerts being ignored, we will soon have a big, unmistakable mess on our hands.
“While your children are little, cultivate an attitude of sacrifice. Sacrifice your peace for their fun, your clean kitchen floor for their help cracking eggs, your quiet moment for their long retelling of a dream….Prioritize your children above the other work you need to get done. They are the only part of your work that really matters.”
(I think it’s worth clarifying, she was certainly not saying we shouldn’t strive for order and organization! But it was a warning that perfectly marching children doesn’t equal a successful home. Order is fine, but we cannot neglect the deeper needs of our children.)
She told a story that made me see her point clearly. When 4 or 5 little people drag chairs up to the kitchen counter to watch/help me cook, it can be overstimulating and easy to feel frustrated. It is certainly easier to make pancakes without 10 extra little helping hands in the bowl! But if it was just one child who wanted to help, I would be more likely to see it as a sweet, curious opportunity. Just because it’s 5 of them doesn’t make them, as individuals, any less sweet and curious, and that needs to be embraced. It is my JOB to figure out how to make it work. I need to adapt.
“It is not their problem. Individually they are being precious and curious and excited. As their mother, I am responsible to see them individually, even when they are presenting themselves to me en masse.”
Father, let me know my sheep–these sheep You have given me. Let me respond to them, with their individual needs, even among the numbers. Let me not love order and organization to the detriment of their little souls. Help me remember that the dirty floors are constant, but these children are ever changing, and I have but a few years to pour myself into them for the Kingdom’s sake. Amen.