Living Life Unfinished

 

 

If I were organized, I’d be a killer list person.

Alas. If I manage to find a pen in my house (the child security locks on the office cupboard have long been hacked) and write out a few daily tasks, more often than not, I find myself staring at them at the end of the day, in all their bullet point glory, whole and uncrossed.

Let me tell you something. It’s tough to never, ever finish things.

The work ethic in my family is strong. My mom still wakes up at 5:00 am most days to exercise, shower, make breakfast, and tackle what needs to be done. My dad will run the combine at harvest time long into the cool fall nights. My husband will stick with a project for hours until it’s done, or he’s reached a finishing point.

Me, on the other hand? I move around my home in never-ending circles. Load more dishes in the dishwasher. Pick up the deflated socks that seem to be everywhere. Comb someone’s hair. Change the baby. Check the dryer.

Kitchen. Laundry room. Bathroom. Circle. Circle. Circle.

It’s work of the most frustrating kind. Things never, ever stay finished. As soon as the holy grail bottom of the laundry basket appears, someone throws another wrench in my Indiana Jones-like quest for clean clothes. Dishes get dirtied. Something spills and the floor has to be swept. The circle starts all over again.

I know it’s a phase, and that these days of my children being little are like the sunlight hours after daylight savings time: so very short. So I’ve been trying, trying to sit down in the middle of the chaos and be present. To be silly. To take *awesome* family pictures so I can remember life in this season. I’m learning to leave dishes in the sink. I don’t pick up toys every night. I can’t tell you the last time I deep cleaned anything

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But somehow, it’s still not working. I still find myself a little on edge most days, wanting to recount just what it is I’m doing besides endlessly picking up gently browning apple cores left out from morning snack, and supervising cleanup of whatever catastrophe happened while I was nursing the baby last.

Last night at a family birthday party, my sister in law recounted the wonderful stuff she’s been up to lately. Then the tables turned on me. My mind went blank. What have I been doing? Um. *Scramble scramble scramble* I’m…reading a manuscript for a friend! Painting a bedroom! Teaching Ellis not to use an entire bottle of shampoo in one sitting! Making a small attempt at national novel writing month (#nanowrimo y’all!) with the goal of two chapters!

See my exclamation points? Isn’t that big? And exciting? Have I convinced myself I’m worth something because I made a list? Yes? Yes? Yes?

Sigh.

As much as I’ve always wanted to be the serenely-listening Mary in the new testament story when Jesus visits two sisters, deep down, I’ve always know I’m the Martha clanking away in the kitchen, furiously working the dishrag, trying to do all the things.

The things that could have waited.

Because they were just that. Things.

Jesus didn’t care about a clean counter or a swept-up floor. He wanted to be with his friends, Mary and Martha. Likewise, when my daughters come tromping down the stairs in the morning, they aren’t looking around going, Wow. I sure feel safe and secure at home because the house is picked up. Not a chance.

They’re looking for me.

Which means maybe I need to figure out a new approach. Maybe I need to stop measuring the value of my work by the things I’ve accomplished, and starting looking for more places to be available.

Maybe I need to listen to more Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, because if home is wherever I’m with you, then the best things I can offer my family are my empty, waiting hands.

And maybe one of those creepy automatic vacuum robots.

Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To raise a person

IMG_0326 (800x533)In the unmapped wilderness of raising children, it’s easy to grow short-sighted. I’m guessing it’s the “can’t see the forest for the trees” mentality. Basic needs come first. Snacks, playtime, naps. These become the rhythmic wheel rolling through our days.

Sometimes I forget, in the warm darkness of the twins’ nursery, or the quiet moments before I tuck my toddler into bed, that I’m raising people.

That my children are not going to be babies forever.

That they will continue to tack words into their vocabulary, and memorize skills with their tender hands and feet.

That they will, inevitably, need more lessons than I can teach and will go out into the world, eager to learn more.

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I’m part of a Facebook group of twin mamas. This group posts their everyday questions, frustrations, and joys of raising twins so that by sharing our own experiences, we can create a collective of knowledge.

A week back, one of the mothers posted a story and prayer request. Her six-year-old son was involved in his first summer activity camp experience this week. Being the awesome mother that she is, she signed him in, pretended to leave, and then came back to observe how he did.

The story was hard. Her little boy bravely walked toward the group of kids already playing, and stood around the edges of the activity. After a while, he walked back over to the front gate and rested his chin on the top bar, waiting for the other three kids he knew to show up. Meanwhile, no one came up to him. No one invited him to play. After twenty minutes of knowing her son was unhappy, the mother quietly approached one of the group coordinators and asked him to introduce her son to some of the other kids his age. At that point her son saw her, so she knew she had to leave.

The mom ended her story with a brief reminder and plea. She told us that twins are special because they always have a built-in playmate – which means they have an extra measure of security in social situations. It also means we as parents should really encourage our twins to be inclusive, and to seek out kids on the outskirts and invite them in.

This all seems so far off. My main concerns of the day are whether or not my twins are ever going to learn how to drink from a sippy cup.

I forget the sippy cup is going to turn into a plastic cup, and eventually, a glass. I forget that the basic skill they need to learn now is going to inform their ability to move to the next.

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As a parent, baby and toddlerhood are strange stages to navigate. My children don’t yet have the developmental capabilities to remember my lessons. This is frustrating. More than frustrating. Maddening.

But it doesn’t mean I get to stop gently picking the cup back up off the floor, or repeating “wash your hands” after every bathroom session.

Sometimes I look into my daughter’s stubbornness, and see God looking back at me, wanting me to see the same lesson I’m trying to teach her. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrong.

It seems we are all sculptures in various stages of molding.

One day soon, something will click.  The cup will stay on the tray. The faucet will turn without anyone’s prompting. They will be ready for the next challenge, which after a few years, will move past physical skills and into social and emotional territory.

They will be faced with the playground. The classroom. The group setting. And I will be the parent behind the corner, observing my children not as children, but as the people they’ve become.

Does this mean drinking from a cup turns into eating from a plate? Does eating from a plate make one notice food, and does noticing food turn into helping in the kitchen, learning to cook, making meals, opening the door, feeding the family, serving the hungry, or understanding the complexity of the word nourishment?

I don’t know. But I’m willing to hope.