21 Sep

I can sum up all of the aspects of my life in the following sentence:

” _________ is not a linear process.”

Insert any one of the following:

Raising children
Fixing supper
Keeping dogs
Training for a race that is officially 3 times longer than any distance I have ever run
Trying to maintain some live greenery in a Texas drought
Redefining friendships
Getting out of the house by 7:55 a.m.
Establishing boundaries
Finding your routine for the new school year

Some of these processes are more than non-linear.  They are downright messy.

I have been shown in the last three weeks that the children and I need to be at home more and out of town and out on the town less.  On Friday Henry wore his own uniform to school that happens not to be the school’s uniform.  Henry’s uniform, as you know by now, is camouflage shorts, cowboy boots, a blue camo cape and a wide-brimmed camo hat.  (For the love of Pete, would someone please throw that ensemble in the washing machine?  Sure, just as soon as I can get him out of it.)  Ambleside’s uniform is a polo shirt, khaki shorts and brown shoes.  Except on Mondays, when it involves a button-down short and a tie and long pants.

So on Friday he wore his own personal uniform, and on Monday, someone who asked that she not be named, was able to get him into Friday’s uniform.  As he screamed and wrestled and fought against going to school at all.  Was that the morning after I referred to him as “ridiculously happy”?  As I was saying: the formation of disposition is not a linear process.

Yesterday Anna had a rough start because she couldn’t find the math homework that she was supposed to sign and turn in.  Today, she called from school because she had forgotten her violin – would I please bring it to her?  (I tried, but as it is apparently in my car that is in the shop having the transmission replaced, it was not possible).  She has ballet at 4 p.m.  Between school and ballet, we are squeezing in a cupcake party for the tiny tyrant’s birthday.  Then the children go with their dad for a few hours.

Which means that I can expect tomorrow morning to be exactly like the last two.  We won’t be ready on time, we won’t have what we need, and somebody (is it my turn yet?) will be crying.

I have had to just say no to three perfectly nice children’s activities lately.  3 things that my children really want to do.  Episcopal church choir and going out to supper after the boy scout meeting and the swim team.  Just saying no to those beneficial pursuits will give me back Monday and Wednesday evenings with my children.  Otherwise, the way the visitation schedule is, I would be without them on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  And while that could only benefit my running, my reading, and my mental health, it would not benefit my children as much as being home with me does.

I need to be more to them than the lady who tells them to get ready for bed.  I want to give them more than a comfortable place to sleep between school and activities.  I want to, and am actually charged with, raise them into decent human beings.  I have things to teach them.  How we do things in the kind of family I want them to have:  That in our family, we are kind to each other.  That we cooperate.  That we speak to each other with respect.  That we don’t yell and we don’t hit.  We apologize when we mess up.  We ask God’s blessing on our daily bread.  Sometimes we even sit down together at one table and share a meal.  Those lessons and actions don’t happen by accident.  At least at my house they don’t.  It takes some deliberateness.  Some planning.  Some prioritizing.

I have books to read to them, prayers from the 1928 prayerbook to acquaint them with, questions to answer, dreams to interpret on their behalf, lessons to impart on how to avoid nightmares (don’t think about scary or worrisome things before you drift off to sleep), lego creations to admire, as well as homework to review and spelling words to call out.  I need to hear about the latest best friend and what they are learning about in science, and to call out math flash cards.  They need their mom more than they need more music education, as much as I love the junior choir anthems.  They need to be start getting ready for bed before 8 p.m.  Especially the little one.  The mornings have been really tough around here as we try to get our school-year groove back.

I regret the activities I have had to decline.  Each of them is good and beneficial on its own, but we just can’t do everything without scarificing the most important thing we have: our time as a family.  I cannot abdicate my opportunity to be present for them and help them grow in whatever small way I am able.  I’m already painfully aware that I am going to look up one day and they will be gone.  And then, finally, I will have some time for myself.


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