4-6pm is the most challenging part of the day for us, as is the case with 90% of my other friends who are mothers of young children. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky and also consider keeping that information to yourself. Haha!)
Yesterday as we waited for our knight to ride in on a white horse (otherwise known as Daddy in a silver Honda) we did the following:
*grocery shopped in the driveway (they were out of EVERYTHING but sidewalk chalk and gravel but my tiny shopper didn't seem to mind)
*tried on our backpack for preschool and took it for a test drive around the front yard
*mommy secretly shed a tear over how quickly this little guy is growing up
*entertained the baby using the reverse camera in my phone. She is really into her own reflection, watching herself move and make different expressions, and is captivated by still photographs as well. So we took a few.
*then my favorite - we went for a walk and stopped by our neighbor's house. As I think back on it (and this is among the many reasons I blog), I see more of God in the moments that unfolded in retrospect than I did as I experienced them. Kathy and Bruce, our neighbors, are probably around my parents' age. They didn't have any children. They are incredibly sweet and kind to our little family, and we love to stop by their house and say hi whenever we go on walks. Kathy was pulling in just as we were leaving their front step, so we stayed and talked for a while. Eventually Robbie and Ellie disappeared around the side of her house and we found them watering her walk with the watering cans she keeps near her plants. After apologizing to her ("Unnecessary!" she insisted), Kathy encouraged the kids to water her beautiful tomato plants, helping them lift the heavy watering cans. She further spoiled them when she told them they could pick the vine-ripened cherry tomatoes (I couldn't believe her generosity - she only had 4 or 5 plants, and you KNOW a 2 and 3 year old have zero capacity to appreciate the effort it takes to grow your own food and therefore savor it upon consumption). We filled every cup holder and tiny well in the wagon with the fruit of her labor, and we parted ways with hearts filled to the brim with thankfulness. (In case you didn't know, the quickest way to a woman's heart is by loving her children.)
Before we headed home, the kids got a little wild in her driveway (translation: Ellie got knocked to her diaper-padded-bum by her overly-excited brother) and I had to have a brief but firm conversation with Robbie. I apologized to Kathy for the interruption when I returned to our conversation, but she responded with praise and encouragement for my hands on approach to the situation and asked more about our parenting. If you haven't been able to tell by the tenor of our blog, I have felt very humbled as of late. I was never afraid to become a mother, never feared that I wouldn't know what to do or how to do it (or that I wouldn't be able to figure it out if I didn't!)... and yet this phase of life has been particularly challenging for me as I stay home with our sweet ones and try to mother them in the unique way that God calls me to, for His glory.
It's hard. I fail every day. Sometimes I don't know what to do next. Most of the time I can't piece together 5 quiet minutes to refer to the parenting book we base our practices on. So you can imagine how I explained to Kathy what our parenting approach is! (With a lot of humility and emphasis on the Lord.) Rob and I don't have this down pat. We are learning every day. Our heart's desire is to see our children as the people God has given to us to make into disciples of Jesus Christ, not just kids to feed and raise and send out into the world with fingers crossed that they'll be positive contributors to society. It can get heavy fast, when parenting is viewed through this lens. Lately I'm feeling the weight of the responsibility as if it is real, pressing down on me. But I'm thankful for the question Kathy asked me, because in a way it allowed me to reaffirm out loud, to another person who cares for our family, what our commitment is to our kids.
Oh, how much easier it would be to succumb to behavior-modification as a parenting style.
But oh, how much would be missed - by our children and by us as their parents - in avoiding the call to train their little eyes and ears to recognize the God of the universe who is their Father, Savior, and Creator. To ignore our responsibility to shepherd their hearts, frustrating and time consuming as that long term approach might be. To miss the opportunity to teach them to love God, give their lives back to Him, and seek His purpose for their numbered days.
I was thankful for the sweetness that God allowed us to have with our neighbor as He reminded me that He is able to invert anything in my life. Even the witching hour. (He is a pretty big God, and He loves us so much. I needed the reminder.)
If He can do that much with 2 little hours, how much more He must be able to do with the phases of life that challenge us the most. Surely He's up to something...