Sunday, May 29, 2011

spring cleaning

It's the end of May.  Last weekend we attended Ryenne and Emmy's dance recital and a gymnastics meet for Kate.  The peas are growing and the rest of the garden is waiting to be planted.  The girls and I are anxiously awaiting a free evening that we can go pick out flowers together.  Sadly, I don't know when that will happen.  Baby boy is growing and continually reminds me of his presence (lest I forget him amidst the chaos), and I love it.  With only a few days of school to go, our schedule is full of field trips and school programs.  We are all feeling the itch to be free.

I can't wait 'til summer.

I guess I'm just a little weary of the routine, the structure, and the always-too-full calender.  I'm ready for days of our choosing.  Afternoons of bike riding and exploring in the backyard.  Popsicles and swim-suited little girls.

I'm ready for my kids to be kids again.

I feel this way every May, but this year our busy-ness seems to be running especially thin.  In fact, the other day as I sat packed into a gym watching a gymnastics meet with hundreds of other parents, I had to wonder what we were doing.  Here we all were, watching our seventy-five-plus daughters compete against one another.  For the most part, they are all fairly close in ability.  When I thought about the thousands of dollars and even more hours our families spend in this pursuit, I pondered the reason behind it all.  What is our goal?  I feel really lucky, in that Kate's coach is very cautious of family/kid time- therefore, Kate only (only!) spends six hours a week in the gym, compared to the sixteen hours many of the other teams spend.  Even still, six hours is a lot of time.  A lot of time spent away from home.  But it's just not gymnastics. . .

As I ran through our weekly calender in my mind, this is what I added up:
Monday:  Emmy, piano (1 1/2 hour)
Tuesday: Kate, gymnastics:  (3 hours)
                Emmy, ballet (1 hour + 1/2 hour drive each way)
Wednesday:  Ryenne, ballet (1 hour + 1/2 hour drive each way)
                      Kate, piano (1 1/2 hour)
Thursday:  Kate, gymnastics  (3 hours)

This doesn't count achievement day activities for church, meetings, homework, and time spent practicing piano (or feeling like we should be).  It also leaves out driving time for gymnastics and ballet, which adds 30 minutes or so, at least.  Or the combined sixty plus minutes I spend driving the girls to school in the morning, picking up Emmy from kindergarten, and then making sure I'm back to get the big girls at the end of school.  This also means that from the time I go get the girls from school, we are rushing, running, and coordinating carpools so everyone can make it where they need to be at any given time.  It explains why I never feel like I spend time doing fun time with the little girls because somewhere in the day I have to make time to do laundry, make meals, pay the bills, go grocery shopping, and keep the house in some kind of order.  When I look at the schedule we have created for ourselves, I can better understand why every time the girls (big and little) want to go to the park or on a bike ride, we can't seem to find the time to make it work.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Like I said, I ran all this through our mind and wondered what we are doing with our lives.  I don't think I'm alone, because as I talk to almost every other parent with school aged children, they all seem to be feeling the same thing.  I feel like I try to be careful at what we commit ourselves and the girls too.  We've tried to keep it simple, waiting until they are five to add activities (because really, I have no idea when I would fit dance lessons in for Claire!), and allowing only one sport and one music (the sporty activity because the girls love it, and the music because I do!)  However, with three girls (plus Claire who does music classes too) this "keeping it simple" suddenly seems not very simple. 

I remember those days before the girls were away from home and off to school all day.  The days before homework, piano, and running to and fro.  I realize our lives cannot stay that way forever, and that the girls wouldn't be happy if I kept them only to myself.  But I do wonder? 

Are we leaving any time for "keeping them to myself"?

Last night I was discussing this very thing with my wise sisters-in-law, when one of them said something that really struck me.  It was a comment she had read recently a quote which said something to the effect that we will know our children as adults for a long time, but we only have a short time to know them as children.  With both Ryenne and I struggling with the realization that she is beginning to be leaving her childhood years behind, this gave me a lot to think about. 

I want to do it right, but I'm not sure we are.

That said, we've (Courtney and I) spent a lot of time this past week pondering, reassessing, and discussing with the girls.  What matters the most to our family?  What do we do well?  (Which, by the way- the best answer the girls could come up with to this was "We eat really good.")  What can we improve?  When we talked about those things we wish we had more time to do as a family, there were several items on the list.  To make each one of these activities happen (and remain sane), we realize we need to cut a few things out.  We decided to spend the next few months making this a matter of prayer.  Basically, we need to simplify.

So.  I excitedly head into summer with very few calendered events.  No lessons.  No school.  No carpooling.  I'm hoping this much-needed break gives us all a little bit of time to rethink the way we want to live as a family.  While some days it feels as if this stage of "little people" will never end, I'm quickly realizing it's going to be gone before I know it.  Probably before I'm ready.  The one thing I am sure of is that I don't want to look back wishing I'd done it differently.  Knowing that I'd wanted to slow down and get off the treadmill of "we have to do it all", but I didn't dare- and then end up feeling like in doing it all, we really didn't do anything.  Anything that really mattered to us, anyway.  I think it's impossible to mother without regret (for an imperfect gal like me, anyway).  What I really want, though, is to know I mothered in a way that felt right to me.  I want to listen to my heart, and to be true to what it's telling me.

Right now it's telling me to slow down.  And you know what?  I'm hope I'm brave enough to listen.

Just as I am every May, I'm looking forward to summer.  I can't wait to have all of my little chicks back in my nest.  I'm excited to see them running through the fields, exploring.  We'll still spend a few days at the farm.  Lambs will need to be walked.  Hopefully we'll work on a few projects together (a few blue things for little brother, I hope!)  And I, of course, have a few slave-working ideas in mind.    But most of all?  All of those things the girls always want to do, but we never have enough time?  That's what I want on my calender.

As our family prepares to make a few changes in our schedule come next fall,  I will be reading and re-reading this talk, by Elder Uchtdorf, in which he counsels,
"My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize.”

This summer I hope to do just that.  Lift up my eyes, and truly see the things that matter the most.  To focus on the significant.
I want to get to know my little girls again.

While they still are. 

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