When I was expecting my first child, I worked in a children’s clothing store. In my oblivion about the realities of parenting, I often looked at the parents shopping with their small children and thought, “I’ll never be like that.” There were quite a few parenting decisions I disagreed with, but worst of all, in my mind, was laughing at children’s misbehavior. The store had a few little plastic rocking chairs that sat in front of a television set and, at least once a week, some child would pick up one of the chairs and head out the door of the store with it. Most parents would react by laughing at their child’s antics. Now, I would stand there and smile along with them as if I got it, but inside, I was wondering what was so funny about a child stealing a chair? Their child had not done something cute or funny, or even original, and did they know they were only encouraging the behavior by laughing about it as though swiping a chair was a good thing? I vowed when my child was born, I would never smile at stealing, or saying bad words, or hitting, or any misbehavior my child might attempt (of course, I was still under the delusion that I would be a perfect parent and my child would be perfect as well but if it came up, I would not laugh).
Of course, the first time my adorable little one decided to take something of her father’s or mine and run out of the room with it in an attempt to make it hers, what did I do? I laughed! The first time she muttered a swear word (that she certainly had never heard from me), what did I do? I laughed! Even with my fifth child, after years of seeing each of my older children make those first connections and try to get away with those minor infractions of toddler-hood, I still laugh at her misbehavior at times. It is not that bad behavior is funny, it is that watching your own precious child discover the many choices of life and watching them try out new things, good and bad, is exciting and joyful and, well, sometimes funny. I would never have understood that before I had children of my own though.
You'd think I had learned my lesson about saying things like, “I’ll never….” But alas, I had not…..
When my first son was in pre-school I went to a talk at his school by a wise and wonderful deacon. He spoke about family life and about not over-scheduling children. He talked about the importance of down time and family dinners and a slower paced life for kids and parents alike. I sat there thinking again, “I would never over schedule!” You see, at that time our life was still quite simple. We had four young children but did not have them signed up for sports or classes or any extra-curricular activities. We did not have a full calendar but instead spent our time with each other at home most days. I patted myself on the back for keeping things simple and went home feeling great about myself.
Now, somehow I find myself eating my words again. Though, we still do not have the kids signed up for any sports and we keep the extra-curricular activities to a minimum, somehow our calendar has filled up nonetheless. Somehow, each day seems filled to capacity and each week is scheduled out way ahead of time. We are so busy at times, my mind cannot settle and I feel perpetually rushed and overwhelmed. I wonder how this has happened but I am pretty sure it is just life with 5 kids. I honestly don’t feel I’ve over-scheduled things, the calendar is actually clear on quite a few days this month, but somehow, our life has ended up in overdrive anyway!
The good news is despite our busyness, we do still have dinner together almost every night. And, I have finally learned to be VERY careful about saying, “I’ll never do that!”