Remember the Promises (to You)

I don’t usually write about my husband in these posts. But I saw something last night that I thought was worth sharing.

My oldest had spent the day with Dad at the track racing their remote control trucks. After getting home, my son started tinkering with one of his out-of-commission models. He was having trouble with a screw to the engine.

When he approached my husband for help, he was questioned about removing the engine and was discouraged in doing it at all.

You see, my son likes to take things apart. He just doesn’t always put them back together. This drives my hubby nuts, because he is one of those people who refuses to start a project unless he intends to finish it…all at once. It’s also why my painting projects in the living room – for days at a time – get to him. 🙂

My son explained that he wanted to see the engine outside of the truck, to look at it in more detail. But my husband really didn’t want to work on anything anymore. He was worn out.

Despite my hesitation, I intervened.

I said to my husband, “As frustrated as you are right now, he’s just being like you. Rather than discouraging this, could you teach him instead?”

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I’m pretty sure he didn’t like me just then.

It meant his back was going to hurt a little more from bending over.

It meant he was still tinkering with machines when all he wanted was to rest his hands.

It meant extending the early bedtime he so desired.

But it also meant he was fulfilling a promise to himself. One I knew was important to him.

My husband is very detailed, organized, and mechanical-minded. He just knows how things work. Except the laundry basket, but that’s a whole different thing. 🙂

This is something he had in common with his father. His father could fix anything just by looking at it with his detailed mind. As a young boy, my husband already had the same tendencies, but his father would usually work alone. Regardless, my husband was tenacious, so even if he wasn’t included, he would sit and watch.

He gained much from watching his father, but he also shared with me his desire to be different with his kids. To teach them, to include them, to sit side-by-side, to welcome their small hands working together on things.

Because he had mentioned this to me more than once, I knew how important it was to him. And I recognized the opportunity even when he didn’t. That’s why I pushed this particular night.

And despite his grumblings, I could tell he saw the value in it. Not because he openly thanked me for pointing out the opportunity. I mean, come on, he was not going to admit I was right – not even a little bit. But after 18 years, you pick up on subtle messages from the man you know so well. I knew what he was really saying when I rolled into bed that night and he immediately whispered, “I love you.” Now, I could be totally wrong. He could have just been saying good night. But I prefer to believe he was saying, “I appreciate what you did.”

     Fathers, do not exasperate your children,
so that they will not lose heart.
                                       Colossians 3:21

Are there things your child does that could be an invitation to keep a promise you made to yourself?

Maybe your daughter keeps doing flips into the pillows, and you remember doing the same as a child because your family had no means to get you to a gymnastics class. So you vowed to sign her up.

Maybe the plastic trucks redecorated with markers is a call for more creative outlets, similar to when you got in trouble for using crayons on your walls. And weekends at the art gallery fill your free time.

Are there parenting promises you made that you’ve forgotten? Like never raising your voice, having the patience of a saint, teaching your kids right and wrong by being the perfect role model. I know I have failed some of those promises. I think we all do.

It’s easy to forget the parent you envisioned yourself to be after years of sleep deprivation. After losing some hearing from the middle-of-the-night crying. After trying to reason with a 2-year old about pooping on the potty.

We will fall. We will forget. We will fail.

But we keep trying. We keep remembering.

After a long, noisy day at the track, my husband was no longer in a teaching mode. But a simple reminder helped him fulfill a promise to himself.

Let us remember to be encouraging. Let us remember our kids soak up everything they see, hear, and feel from us.

Let us remember the parents we dreamed of being.

Each time we remember, we get a little closer to reaching our dreams.

And helping our kids reach theirs.

Date With My 8-Year-Old

Some days I’m desperate for some ME time. Are you?

Last weekend, I had reached my limit. I had two full days of a power struggle with my toddler. No, I don’t want to pick up my cars. No, I’m not going to take a nap. No, that’s not the way it works, Mama.

He knew better than I did about…everything. He sought control with his brother, too.

Here was my text to hubby that afternoon.

| If it’s raining and you can’t do the lawn tomorrow, I need to get away. |

His answer was simply,

| Sure. I work in the AM. |

He must have sensed my desperation.

I started to plan my afternoon, with a bit of glee, I’ll admit. What should I do? Get a pedicure, a massage, peruse the B&N aisles for a new book, go shopping. So many options – and only one afternoon! Who knew when I’d get this chance again?

And that’s when the guilt started to set in.

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Does that happen to you? As much as I want – and need – some time to myself, I feel bad about ditching the kids. I love them so much, so why don’t I want to be with them? Why am I focused on myself? I don’t do near enough fun stuff with them. So often it’s just Mom doing chores and crossing off the To-Do list. No wonder they get as cranky as I do.

But I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by – it was too rare.

So I thought, How could I get some time away without the guilt? How could I still make the best use of this free afternoon?

I had a quick answer. I gave up my chance at reconnecting with myself and chose to reconnect with someone else. Someone who probably needed some ME time as much as I did.

My oldest son.

He gets the short end of the stick, too. In terms of my attention. A toddler has different, more immediate needs. For example, part of every day is ruled by his naptime, which doesn’t always go smoothly. Older brother has to roll with it.

I couldn’t remember the last time my oldest and I just hung out together. That was bad. Because he’s awesome to hang out with, and I realized I missed one-on-one time with him.

So my free afternoon turned into a “date night.” First, we went to the mall – a place we seldom go. We had our favorite grilled chicken at Charlie’s, a yummy Orange Julius, and miracle of all miracles, I had the chance to shop for clothes. You may think this would be torture for my son, but he actually used to be my best shopping buddy. Plus, he has a love for shoes. 🙂

He was the most pleasant and patient I’ve seen in months. He gave me honest advice on outfits, encouraged me when he could tell I liked something, and never complained about “just one more store.” This could have something to do with his getting a new pair of shoes, but honestly, I got more out of the deal than he did.

After shopping success (and running low on funds), I decided to get him off his feet and suggested a movie. We went to see Pan, and it was the perfect way to end our day. Popcorn and chocolate. Hugh Jackman and flying fairies.

And…he was a great date. Didn’t even fall asleep during the movie. Unlike some dates I’ve had over the last 18 years. 🙂

It was exactly what WE needed. To relax together – no deadlines, no piles of chores, no extra opinions, no naptime or frequent potty stops. We could just enjoy each other’s company and have some fun. And yes, he swore he enjoyed it. I kept asking.

My husband had a great “date” with our toddler, too. They played games, read stories, watched a movie, and giggled. Of course, my little devil would switch to his normal, sweet self for Dad. Now Dad thinks I’m nuts.

When you give a little, you gain a whole lot more. Giving up my free night alone was the best decision. I gained so much more enjoying quality time with my older son.

Speaking of gaining more, I heard my husband thanking our toddler for such a great night together. But my ears perked up when he added, “Should we do that every Saturday night, just you and me?”

Wait, what? Did you seriously just offer one night a week?

YES! Date nights rock!

Can I Just Take a Shower?

How long have you gone without a shower? Go ahead, admit it. It’s safe here.

Okay, I see you need a little encouragement. I’m not accusing you of being unclean, nor am I confessing to a life of grime.

And some of you may be saying, What? I shower every day. Yes, I shower regularly, too. But I’m NOT talking about a 5 to 10-minute hop-in with a dash of soap and sprinkle of water. I’m talking something more.

I’m talking a decent shower.

The one where I get to shave – everything that needs shaving – and tenderly glide the razor for a smooth finish rather than slap it down like a potato peeler.

Where I use shampoo AND conditioner, and the conditioner sits long enough to actually do its job.

Where I have enough time to sigh at the warm, watery massage at my back.

Where the mirror fogs up even with the fan turned on.

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Honestly, I thought this would no longer be an issue once the baby stage was over. But it’s still here. And I’m not sure why, except that there’s too much to do in too little time. And before I know it, I’ve fallen asleep again during storytime.

I used to even take a bath now and then.

Oh, sorry. Do you know what a bath is? No, it’s not the thing you give your kids where half the water is dispersed by rubber toys. Or the washcloth serves more as a boat launch than a cleaning tool. Unless they’re cleaning the sides of the tub, of course.

I mean something quite different – a bath for YOU. I remember days where I could take a bubble bath. Sometimes I even lit candles. Jeesh, that’s just a fire hazard now. I’m not sure I even own real candles.

Funny thing. I found this poem I wrote years ago – ironically, even before I had kids.

Is the second door on the right
of the upstairs hallway
A slab of wood
keeps the world locked out

Work and home
yanking me in two directions
so I run the water
to pull me aside

A dripping faucet
drowns my children’s whining
Raspberry bubbles
replace the litter box stench

A flick of my finger
sends a ripple across the tub
and I wish my life’s course
were so easy to change

I can be free
in this warm cocoon
I can restore my soul
with the rise of the steam

I bless the woman
who invented the bathtub
Escape will always be
the second door on the right
of the upstairs hallway

With wishful thinking, we included a whirlpool bathtub in our newly remodeled master bath last year. Needless to say, my kids have used it more than I have.

Let’s face it. We get the short end of the stick at times. Everyone else’s needs come first. Then mine, if there’s something left. Like enough hot water for a decent shower.

Here’s something to consider.

How well can we take care of our family if we don’t take care of ourselves?

A friend shared this with me when I was sick, still going to work, still trying to do all I normally do. She reminded me that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors taking poor care of my family because I was in poor health myself.

So even though a shower is a small thing, small things can make a difference.

And then there’s a big thing. Taking care of ourselves includes letting God in so he can help care for us.

To be honest, God ends up at the bottom of the list, too. How often do I put His needs first? Like His need to connect with me.

I should be reading a passage from the Book instead of checking Facebook. I should be finding quiet moments long enough to give him my thoughts, my fears, my thanks.

I do pray often, but it’s usually in passing. Like when I’ve avoided a car accident with quick reflexes – thank you God for looking out for me. Or when we hear an ambulance siren – please God, help them get there in time. It’s during mealtime or bedtime, interspersed with my kids’ innocent words about having a good day at school or work.

The times I do focus on prayer on my own, random thoughts distract me – a bill I forgot to pay, a button that needs sewing on my coat, a birthday card I need to get – and steal my attention, like a dog seeing, Squirrel!

     He is a rewarder of them
that diligently seek Him.
                                       Hebrews 11:6

We should be seeking him, because he can meet our needs. He will take care of us…but we need to let him in.

Now that I think about it, who’s to say the shower can’t be my time of prayer?

Aha! The next time I want that decent shower, I think I’ll announce to the family:  “I’m pretty sure God needs me to come clean. I’ll be unavailable for the next 25 minutes.”

Dare I say…I’ll be taking a bath. 🙂

Finding My Turtle

Dear neighbors, please forgive me.

I drove 35 mph on our street.

Reason? Real underwear and the need to pee.

Not me! My 3-year old. Yes, I visit the bathroom each night after having two kids, but not quite to the Depends yet, people! 🙂

That morning my toddler gave real underwear his first try. I stressed the need to tell me when he felt he had to “go.” Otherwise, we would have a mess. He smiled at how warm and comfy the underwear were compared to Pull-ups.

He was quick to tell me in the car, so we could rush home. And yes, we made it.

But it reminded me that we are constantly rushing.

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Rush to get ready for work/school, rush to make that conference call, rush to pick up my child, rush through a drive-thru for food before swimming, rush to relieve the childcare provider, rush to swim lessons, rush to a convenience store for milk, rush home to shower, do homework, read, and get decent sleep, rush to knock at least one thing of my To-Do list before bed.

Then WISH myself to sleep because I now have insomnia from being on constant overdrive. Ugh!

Time is not my friend. And this is only one day.

I hear other parents commiserate that they have only one free night a week – some not even that. I can’t even imagine. Kids are doing homework in the car going from place to place. McDonalds is making too much money off our busy schedules. Kids are falling asleep on the way home.

I don’t want this to be our life.

Wasn’t it the tortoise that won the race in The Tortoise and the Hare? The point of the story was to be slow and steady, keeping your eyes on the goal, right? I think it’s time to revisit this age-old fable.

Slow and steady – To me, this means we make time for the important things, and we don’t miss the journey along the way. The hare’s speed prevented him from seeing what was around him. How can we appreciate things that matter most if we’re constantly moving? What kind of quality attention can we give our family if we are “on the go” non-stop?

Eyes on the goal – The hare’s arrogance at thinking he could nap prevented him from winning the race. We are not superbeings who can keep up life at this speed forever. How often have we thought our juggling act is going well, only to have life throw us a flame-lit missile to add to it? Might slowing things down help us handle those missiles a bit better? Rather than have my eyes on the objects I’m juggling, I want my eyes on my family.

I’m not saying that busy people are unable to achieve these things. Some people are energized with constant activity. It’s what makes them tick. Nothing wrong with that.

But I don’t see it working for us, and we don’t need to be like the rest of the world.

Sometimes for short durations, we need to be the hare, sprinting to accomplish something important. I get that. But in the long run, I’d like to focus on the slow and steady progress of the turtle. In fact, when life throws rocks my way (and there have been some lately), I need to remember to simply take one step forward each day.

So for us, there will be swim lessons to ensure a life-long, survival knowledge. There will be soccer because it’s the sport my son loves best. There will be church for obvious reasons.

The rest of the nights with the precious little time between school and bedtime will be busy enough with dinner, school functions, social occasions, errands, chores, homework, reading – with as many smiles, laughter, and play as we can fit.

And here are my replacements for other scheduled activities.

  • I want those homemade meals at the table – on a regular basis, to emphasize the need for our family to reconnect after a busy day (not to mention eat healthier) and remember what matters most – each other.
  • I want time to look each child in the eyes – to devote my full attention to what’s on his mind and in his heart, so that he remembers I am always here for him and always listening, and we will make the time for it because each of them is so incredibly valuable to me. The same for hubby.
  • I want my entire family to know what to do with quiet – to have the opportunity to recharge, to discover new things they’re passionate about, to think of others, to pray.
  • I want my kids to cherish the gift of slowing down – and to, hopefully, remember this gift when life throws too much business at them, especially later when they enter the complicated life of adulthood. Why put so much into their schedules now when we have the chance to control it?

And though I don’t know how yet, I will be praying for ways to slow down even further.

     The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. 
                                       Proverbs 16:9

I want to be that turtle – not missing life as it passes me by like it does the hare who’s racing through. I want my kids to value the journey and not just the finish line. I want to receive a gold medal from my kids for the parent I am. This race of life is the one I want to win at, not the sprints along the way.

Slow and steady it is!

How does your family slow things down? And what are your important things that never slip from the schedule?


For those who regularly read my posts…first, thank you! Second, you may have noticed I skipped a post last week – for the very reason of this week’s post – TIME. When I run into significant time constraints, it may well happen again. I’m sharing my sincerest apologies now for any disappointment if you look forward to the weekly connection and I fail to deliver. But if the blog were to take needed time away from my family, it works against the very reason I started it. I hope you understand. 🙂

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

Butterfly Heart

life in progress

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