Parents, Lighten Up

“STOP, LUCY! STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”

My teeth were grated, my hands clenched her tiny little arms, my voice was loud. After telling her several times to stop tugging at the table cloth and her only response being laughing and proceeding to pull it off the table, I had had it. Beyond had it. So I lost it. Unfortunately, my point came across very loud and very clear. Instead of innocent laughter, her face now read hurt, sadness, and fear.

What had I done?

She was afraid of me – the one who’s supposed to comfort her, protect her, make her world feel safe.

I scooped her up and wept as I held her close and tried to remind her that it was still me. That she’s safe. That she’s loved and adored and far more important than a perfectly placed table cloth.

{To give you some context, we are currently in the process of moving, which means we have been living under a magnifying glass for the last two or so weeks. Moving is hard, but it’s life. It’s fun, nostalgic, sad, exciting.. all at the same time. We’ve been a bit scattered, to say the least. My point being I’m not that passionate about tablecloths; I just had a specific reason for caring if my table cloth was one inch more to the right: we needed to leave the house negative three minutes ago for a showing, and the potential home buyer’s decision would obviously hinge on a perfectly even table cloth.}

Why does this happen? How do we reach a point where we completely lose control and become the exact person we know we don’t want to be?

I can tell you it’s not because of crooked tablecloths. No, it’s much deeper.

The problem is that we fill our lives to the brim while simultaneously valuing perfection more than we value being present. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to choose between the two because they cannot coexist. Take it from a mom and wife who has spent more time than I am proud of ranting and nagging at the two people in my life who mean the most to me – certainly more than all of the things I’ve been ranting and nagging at them about. I get caught up. I go and do and overcommit and refuse to be seen as irresponsible or “less than.” And my family eats the cost.

Schedules build up. The house needs cleaning. The laundry needs washing. Meals need to be cooked. Sweet, tiny, grimy hands and faces need to be wiped {numerous times a day}.

Groceries.

Friends and family.

Volunteer work.

Play dates.

The list goes on.. but should it? How much space do we really have on our lists before we spread ourselves so thin that we aren’t able to love and connect genuinely anymore? I’m often pressured into thinking that efficiency and productivity are what define love.

But they don’t.

They are necessary; don’t hear me saying they aren’t.

But they are not more important than carving out time to be present. They are not more important than leaving wiggle room in your life to be more patient, loving, and tender, instead of short, edgy, and irritable. They are not more important than taking the time to listen and be observant of the well being of the people who mean the most to us.

So what’s the balance?

I don’t know that there is. There’s no formula, but I think that’s the point. Formulas sometimes rob us of the very presence I’m talking about. Maybe we should just practice being aware and reacting accordingly. Maybe we should lay down our need to produce and pick up the easy yoke of loving God and loving people, and take the rest one relationship at a time.

Yes – this “balance” consists of relationships. Not productivity, not success, not efficiency; at least not the full, to the brim, overflowing versions of all these things that we have made them out to be. We were created for connection and relationship; therefore, our measure of success should be love. Everything else – everything – is second to love.

This all hit home when Lucy and I went to the park yesterday. “Mommy, play!” She kept saying. So we rolled in the grass and ran up the hill and ran down the hill. We climbed up the slide and went down the slide. She laughed and laughed; she could have done it for hours, and so could I. I realized we don’t always get do-overs, especially as parents, but it is never too late to say “yes” to being present.

If there’s one thing I took away from my horrifying outburst, it is that life is too precious and beautiful a gift to waste being obsessed with to do lists and being too busy to notice the sweet in-between moments. Lucy wasn’t some disobedient inconvenience; she was trying to be like mommy and do as I was doing. Maybe if I hadn’t allowed my mind and schedule to be so overloaded, I would have been able to see that she was innocently trying to do the right thing, according to what she sees me doing on a daily basis.. or that she’s almost 2, and maybe she just doesn’t understand the big deal with table cloths anyway.