My dear, sweet children, you are truly the zest of life! You add more excitement to the days than I could ever anticipate, and you make certain the tips of these parenting toes are in top shape. The dishes would have been done hours ago, but attending to bug spray in the eye kind of came first. Same thing with the laundry. The piles of clean clothes overflowing from their baskets half-way made it into their respective drawers, but due to mud cakes left behind from your outdoor battle, that came to a halt. Oh, but what a fun mud war it was! And you know what? Who cares that all the clothes aren’t in the drawers—they are clean! And let’s be honest, that’s huge given how many clothes there are in relation to how few people wear them. Laundry time is great, though, because you are incredibly skilled at sorting colors and getting your things from the washer to the dryer. I’m trying my best to remember and document the clever things you say during these daily happenings, but I will never be a scrapbooking mommy who saves every little thing. I do write in a journal for each of you, though, and keep up with them as time allows. Turns out, just like the dishes and the laundry, time doesn’t really allow for much. Or it does—it’s all a matter of how you use the time you’re given. I’m choosing to use it to focus on you while I have you. No pile of laundry is going to change the world, but the people I help raise just might. So, know that your house looks lived in because it is a home where life abounds and your lives matter!
I manage to see lots of pretty looking homes and tidy children with starched collars and pleated pants. Then again, most of those children don’t have stay-at-home parents, and most of the things shown are in pictures—pictures chosen to be shared with others. I’m not against starched collars and pleated pants, mind you—I just haven’t used starch in a dozen or so years. Turns out, when you live in the place you work 24/7, it can be a stretch to get everything in that you would like to see done in those pictures. That’s because you never leave. You don’t turn it off, shut the door, and return after the weekend. You stay. You play. You do what you can when you can, and you do it in that order.
Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. ~Chuck Swindoll
I have much respect for parents who seemingly have spotless homes and children, and I would love to experience that one day. But as long as I have children under my roof, it seems rather laughable. And you know what? I love the laughter. I know plenty of stressed-out parents who want every little thing in place and to get their grown up chores done like clockwork—I know because, ultimately, I’m one of those parents. But I am also determined to make the best choice I can, because I am always choosing something—or someone—over another. If our homes look perfect, but our children are pleading for attention, remember what matters during your current two minutes may or may not matter in twenty years. The dishes can wait. The stories about the fun mud fight will not. It’s so easy to keep pressing pause on our kids because the neighbors are coming over and we need every toy in its place—and its place, oddly enough, is not where the children left it.
I get it—I really do! If I didn’t have this struggle between tending to my responsibilities versus tending to my children, I wouldn’t think to write these words. But conviction rears its trustworthy head, reminding me that my children are my greatest responsibility. While having the daily housekeeping tasks done is important, that will never be the most important. We can’t eat off dirty dishes or invite critters in because of clutter, but we can’t leave our children wondering if they matter as much as the stuff we’re busily tending to around them. Children, as they say, only have one childhood. We need to be present—not just physically, but emotionally. These days will not last forever. Be the apple of gold in the setting of silver, and while you’re at it, use plastic forks instead of silver. Your kids will thank you. You will thank you. Your mother may not thank you.
Remember: your kids don’t care whether or not your hair is a mess or your mirrors aren’t sparkling. Your kids care that you saw them, you talked to them, you lived life with them, and you showed them through your choices that you loved and chose them.
Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4)
The laundry will keep. The kids won’t.
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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