Today, I’d like to remind you that there’s nothing wrong with a few cobwebs and some dust. Many things aren’t as necessary as we think they are at any given moment, and can be put off until a future, perhaps less stressful day.
You have the rest of your life to polish wood, clean baseboards, and organize closets. Some year, when toddlers are older, your clean laundry may all be folded and put away properly on the same day it exited the dryer — and this might happen for continuing weeks! What I’m telling you now, from experience, is that you have a far shorter time than you think to enjoy the childhood years of your children.
Reading to a little person, doing an art project with another, or playing a game with the big kids is a far more valuable use of parental time than making sure the cabinet doors are all non-sticky at the same time. Watching a Narnia or Pirates of the Caribbean (or other) movie marathon during an extremely hot summer day might put you to sleep. But your children will remember a special afternoon you spent with them instead of making them help you clean out the junk drawers.
If kids are “helping” in the kitchen and the flour or sugar is spilled — no need for an exasperated sigh… you can clean it up later, after they play in it, and you can finish mixing up your recipe in the meantime. For a tactile child, this might be a brilliant chance to trace whichever alphabet letters he’s had trouble learning.
If something important needs your attention, but your bored kids are getting crabbier the longer they wait for you– maybe there’s something you haven’t considered. Try thinking “outside your box,” or asking family or friends for help or ideas.
If a rainy day is “ruining” your picnic, change your plan and have fun anyway. Eat your food in the living room floor on a blanket instead, then go outside and play in the rain. When they are pleasantly tired and dry, the kids can have hot chocolate at the table while they draw or build with LEGOs… and then you can finish some paperwork.
I’m not suggesting that you neglect cleaning, etc. as much as possible. I’m proffering the idea that it may be time to reexamine your priorities. I’m not suggesting that you spend every waking moment with your kids. I’m asking that you look around for opportunities you may be missing.
If your mother/MIL has issues with your housekeeping, let her take care of the “problems” while she’s visiting you! (Note: my mother, and my mother-in-law, have always been noncritical and helpful on any visit to my home.)
The following poem is excellent advice for all of us, no matter the ages of our offspring. When my kids were all under the age of seven, I tried to keep these words in mind… and looking back, I see I still failed in many instances of acting vs. reacting and controlling my parental priorities instead of letting them control me.
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
– Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
Within the next few months, my children will be aged 17, 14 and 12. I can tell you that even if you take every opportunity you recognize to seize moments for quick instruction and cuddles and fun… it still won’t be enough. To my sorrow, though I’m proud of them, they have grown up much too quickly.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~ Jim Elliot
"Religion is 'I obey, therefore I'm accepted.' The gospel is 'I'm accepted, therefore I obey.'" ~ Tim Keller
"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." ~ C. S. Lewis