Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Narrative of Grace

A picture of a much younger Brady who fell asleep against his will when he was "not at all sleepy" and did NOT need a nap
Bedtime is not my favorite.  I had pictures in my head of how it should be before I had kids: starting with warm bubble baths for giggling, sweet-smelling children, followed by cozy pajamas and reading books snuggled in bed.  There would be kisses, and they would drift off to dreamland while John and I would have the time to catch up on our day and have some down time for ourselves.  Then we actually had children.  And these children, unlike their parents, HATE the thought of sleep.  Have I mentioned that we went four straight years without sleeping through the night, and it's been over four years since either of them took naps without being sick?  They will try any tactic to delay the inevitable (and in my mind, steal the few precious bits of "free time" we have).  I relate it to the "whack-a-mole game" that Glennon Melton of Momastery describes.  Instead of sweet dreams and sweet freedom, we take turns attending to shouted demands from the upstairs dictators ("I need water!"  "I need you to lie down with me!"  "I'm not sleepy!"  "I need a light!"  "NO!  I can't sleep with the light on."  "I'm too hot/cold/hungry.")  until one of us snaps.

Each night at bedtime, Brady declares he wants to hug me forever.  He's a very sweet and kindhearted boy whose love language is physical touch, but I know this is essentially a delay tactic.  The other night, when I was able to extract myself after a few minutes of snuggling, he stopped me by asking, "When did I hug you and daddy for the first time?"  I paused to think, but couldn't come up with an answer.  I can remember his first (open mouthed) kisses, and I faithfully wrote down most every milestone (first step, first tooth) in the baby book, but this is one I couldn't trace.  And not for the first time in my parenting journey, one of my children brought me to the realization that maybe I have it all wrong.  Perhaps the most important milestones are the ones we let slip by.

I'm a follow-the-rules type person.  I'm a planner that loves a checklist, and parenting has provided this in the form of developmental guidelines.  Since pregnancy, I've had the notion that if I followed the checklists and guidelines, my children would fall right into line and meet the expectations.  All this has truly done is set me up for disappointment.  Not because my children have failed, but because I have held them to standards that are more about me than about them.

I connected with a recent post written by Micha Boyett at A Deeper Story about how her book on Benedictine spirituality has impacted how she thinks of parenting and her spiritual life:

"It’s amazing how my spiritual life mirrored my mothering life. Complete the tasks. Don’t screw up. Serve the right way. Lay down hard lines. Fail. (I always felt like I was failing.)  I have a feeling that the kind of parent we are will always mirror how we believe God sees us. The gift of the past three years in my life has been the process of letting grace sink into me. Even though I believed in grace before, it always existed underneath my internal spiritual checklists. I was frantic to please God. Before I could loose the spiritual anxiety in my mind I had to first believe that God’s grace was real enough to matter. That God could really want me, whether I was impressive or not."
I want to write a new narrative, one of grace for me and my family.

I want to believe that we all enough, and all is well enough just as it is.

I want to see that when things don't go according to plan, it may not be a failure.  Or if it is, that's okay, too.  And I want to model for my children that making mistakes does not mean that they are failures.  I want to show them grace.

I want to mark the milestones that matter, the times they make a connection and something finally sinks in.  I want to remember the times they want to hang on and see it for love instead of clinginess.  I want to celebrate each picture drawn just for me and to savor the silly times of laughing until we can barely breathe.  I want to see the grace of God in these moments.

I want to celebrate the milestone of our creative boy, who instead of throwing a fit recently when a toy was taken away as a behavioral consequence, decided to write this note instead:

I want to remember that we are all in the process of becoming, and to be grateful for my children who show me the way to grace.