There are just those times.
Times when I’m working on a project. And an overwhelming sense of ‘Hey. I should probably listen to what I’m writing/speaking about…’ comes over me.
I’ve been working on an upcoming speaking engagement about the importance of putting first things first. And I’m finding myself having to tutor myself on the topic all over again.
We have been in a whirlwind of activity as a family since….since…since as long as I can remember. It comes with having eight kids, I tell myself. It comes with having work I love. It comes with homeschooling. It comes with travel plans and therapy for the twins and work schedules for several of the older kids. It comes with having friends and family we love to spend time with. It comes with Mike’s schedule and activities. It comes with training for upcoming marathons and birthday parties and holidays.
It’s just life in a big household, right?
But it just seems more like a whirlwind than ever, for some reason.
And I don’t mean that in a whiny way. Not at all. We, the tribe of us, are gerbils, scurrying, running, staying up too late, laughing too loud, running, playing, working, schooling.
But lately, it feels like some things are falling through the cracks. They are subtle things. Little things.
But things that I believe have lasting impact.
When my oldest kids were younger, we used to read out loud almost every night before bed. We worked our way through many of the classics. We curled up, listened, discussed. We usually had family devotionals in the evening too, with Mike reading an article from Inc. Magazine (true, yes, true) and then a passage from the Bible with a talk on character and working hard and working with excellence and diligence. We had bedtime routines. We had chore routines. We had family dinners. That involved sitting at a table. With utensils.
We had time. Time to work on these little things. These little things with lasting impact.
Over the last couple of weeks, the kids have been watching home movies that I converted to DVD. They have delighted at watching 1 of 8 as a cerebral preschooler. They have loved seeing the sassy side of a toddler 2 of 8 as she chit chats on the screen. They’ve squealed at 3 of 8’s joyful chubbiness and 4 of 8’s firecracker sprouts of pigtails.
And I’ve been a bit transfixed by these videos at times.
Transfixed by my mothering of my older crew. My focus on them. The little routines and habits that made up our days. The little art projects I did with them. How clean the house was. And how fast they have grown up.
That’s not to say that everything was always picture-perfect when my oldests were my littles. There were career changes and financial stresses and house renovations. There were days that were tough and times that toddlers cried all day and times I wasn’t as patient as I wish I had been.
I was more protective of our time back then. I was better about time-blocking, so that school and work and social and extra-curricular didn’t overlap and blur so much. And I was better at making sure each child had my best effort at equal time. Not just the kids in therapy. Not just the kids struggling with math. Not just the kids in the middle of a tantrum-throwing season.
I was pretty good at taming the urgent and in teasing out the unnoticed.
That skill has been lacking in me lately.
So I’m making some steps. I’m stepping up. Kinda.
I have two opponents in myself when it comes to putting first things first. Okay, three. Or four. There’s my desire to make everyone happy. And there’s my challenge with uttering the word ‘no’. Because I genuinely like it when folks are happy with me. I genuinely don’t like it when they aren’t. And I like to sign up for just about everything. And those two traits don’t always meld well with borders and boundaries and doing a select few things with excellence, rather than trying to do everything with a broad brush. And I’m bad at delegation. And I can get a full head of steam going when it comes to creativity…and leave routines and chores and little things behind.
So maybe instead of saying I’m taking steps, I should say I’m proactively evaluating. I’m giving myself a good talking to. I’m pulling back on some activities and getting more deliberate about others.
Because one of these days, my littlest kids will be my big kids. And they’ll want to look back at home movies. And I want them to see, I want them to know, that I focused on them. That I made sure we did the little things. The little things that mean so much. I want them to remember more than just rattling commutes across town to the next activity and the next appointment and the next event. I want them to see that we practiced excellence, that we made time, that we focused.
And that ‘we’ has to start with ‘me’.