I am imperfect. There, I wrote it! :) I am never 100% patient, compassionate, or confident in what I am doing to raise these kids of mine (and to top it off my house is only clean between the hours of 8pm-6am). I do know that Elise and Michael have remarkable souls and have been sent here to do extraordinary things, however. But I have no idea what I am doing! It's all guesswork, for the most part. I have had no example of being a stay-at-home Mom, but even if I did, no child is alike; it would be impossible to exactly follow someone else's approach. In some ways, I think we all experience a portion of what it was like for Eve, the mother of us all, whether or not we make the choice to stay home or work outside the home. Having no one beyond her husband to turn to, she turned heavenward and received inspiration from the One who knows us all and what we need.
As a Christian who feels the burden of doing my part to bring these children of mine back to the presence of their Heavenly Father, what is expected of me? I have struggled with this question since my first was born! Fresh from the presence of heaven, when they placed Elise in my arms, I just knew that she had a wise soul. She was there to teach me, and occasionally (by lucky accident), I would teach her. Throughout all my bumbling around trying to figure out everything from nursing at 2am, to holding her head up properly, I was taught by Elise how to love unconditionally. Everything she did was so precious to me. I absolutely loved when she cuddled with me against my shoulder. She smiled her first smile at me on my birthday! Rand and I were enthralled with her endearing giggles and wondering expressions. I'll never forget when she developed a greater ability to see further distances. As we strolled through the park, I removed the visor over her carseat. Elise looked up and we could see in her face that she was amazed at the leaves hanging over us. It was incredible to watch this tiny person drinking up the beauty of the world, trying to make sense of it all.
*No, she wasn't one when this happened, I just need to find Elise's baby pictures!*
Having children can be a challenge. We're struggling to motivate Michael to follow the directions we give him. It will take what seems like an hour for him to clean his room along with his sister, because he'll run out of the room or hang off his bunk bed ladder, mischievous smile in place, beckoning us to try to get him to work. I love that little guy, but he and his sister can be hard sometimes, despite the pure happiness they bring.
I pay attention a lot to the wrong things as a mom. Because I'm inexperienced and have made up this idea of what it is to be a mother, specifically one who stays at home, I demand a lot of myself. I expect my home to look perfect (I'm home, right?!), homemade bread to be on the table, intellectually and socially brilliant children (which they are in their own right - I am their mom, I can say that), and a structured routine that brings peace and order to our home. Our home should be that home pictured in magazines where you walk in and instantly feel "at home," warm, cheerful, and tangibly feel loved.
The problem is ... it's just not reality! My home is cheerful when there are toys and books all over the floor, laundry is backed up, there are a lot of dishes in the sink (because we had fun with a baking project), and there needs to be a little dusting. I am absolutely not cheerful, and this is a lot of the time, when I am striving to keep my home perfectly clean, picking up the toys my kids play with, while they are playing. I spend so many hours a day just cleaning. Forget making bread! I don't have time! Structured routine? Rarely. Children spontaneously come down with all sorts of nasty diseases and a two year-old who refuses to put his shoes on five minutes after we're supposed to leave for an appointment can throw a kink into anyone's day.
Instead of reading Shakespeare to Elise when she was an infant (Michael missed out on this one, ha!), I should have snuggled that tiny infant, soaking up all her sweetness. Though a clean home is important, sometimes I wish I'd just push aside any ideas of organizing my closet and jump on the bed with my kids (highly therapeutic) or pretend to be a reindeer as they're riding their "sleigh" (aka top bunk).
Elise will be in kindergarten next year, and though it's extremely exciting for me that she's growing up, it also saddens me - a lot. I wonder if I've provided the kind of childhood that I'd want to give her? Sometimes having a pressing deadline helps put things into perspective. Do I want my kids to remember that I was an anal mother who expected an entirely unrealistic standard of cleanliness? Or do I want them to have sweet memories of roaring laughter, when I ran from my hiding spot to tickle them? I'll take the latter.
Every once in awhile, I get foggy glimpses as to what I am supposed to do. The only reason they're foggy is because I'm sometimes not willing to listen. I'm so bent on what I want to do, that I'm not open to instruction from the Spirit. I want to do things the way society preaches is right, in some cases. I forget to turn to and trust the Father of our spirits, who knows me and my kids perfectly.
What really matters to a child? Unconditional love, acceptance, an understanding of the Gospel, and knowing that your Mom is there for you and cares. These things alone matter the most. So, I'll have to remind myself constantly, because I am in the throes of learning this important lesson, what truly matters, beyond a beautifully ordered home, children who can read Dickens/write essays/do multiplication facts, and the fact that sometimes two year-old's are obstinate about putting on their shoes. The kind of mother I want to be is one who shows love to my kids.