A couple weeks ago, one of my boys kept getting hurt repeatedly while riding a razor scooter. Now, getting hurt isn’t all that new for any of my kids, or something I even try to avoid much anymore. They’re all at the age where they can test physical boundaries (without the imminent risk of death), so I’ve reduced the consequences of possible stitches or broken bones as ones I can’t keep trying to avoid ( reducing my stress-level considerably).
But, every now and then, their reasoning doesn’t quite add up and their lack of self-control makes me have to be the one to push the brakes. That’s where we were a couple weeks ago when this child was limping through the school playground one day, and the next, unable to use an arm (conveniently unable to do write, though quite able to play basketball). These natural consequences don’t bother me too much when it only affects their play, but once it starts affecting school work and any other “work”, I will step in. (Isn’t it funny how we can endure a lot of pain doing something we want to do, but that same pain is unbearable when we’re up against something we don’t feel like doing.)
So, by day three I told my son I wanted his body to heal and asked him to stay off the scooter for the afternoon. My words were calm and gentle trying to emphasize making a wise choice rather than focusing on a consequence for doing something wrong. “BUT THERE”S NOTHING ELSE TO PLAY WITH!”, he shouted. “I CAN”T DO ANYTHING!”. I calmly looked at him square in the eye and listed at least five other activities he could do outside in addition to several options he had available inside. But, no matter what I suggested, he was fixated on the one thing I asked him not to play with. The scooter. And he ran off to his room crying like I had banished him from the outdoors for the rest of his life. (We have no shortage of drama around our house.)
This scenario is a typical exchange in our house these days, but I’ve learned (slowly and, sometimes, begrudgingly) from it and can now see it for what it is rather than take personal offense.
Because in reality, we all do this to some extent. We fixate on what we can’t get rather than focusing on what we can.
I know I’ve done this.
Being a stay-at-home mom I remember feeling “house bound” during naptime and getting so frustrated. It seemed that “everything” I wanted to do could only be done when I couldn’t. Now, was that true? Of course not. But for some reason my mind shifted to only the things I couldn’t do.
One of my favorite lessons I’ve learned and have come to fully embrace about being a full-time mom is that your season is constantly changing- that baby will start sleeping more, eating solids, walking, talking, going to school, even if you’re not ready for it. I’ve been doing this more than ten years now and I can still look back and see how about every six months or so there are both big and small changes happening that may result in a new way of doing things- whether that’s a schedule, activity, or new habit. And knowing this helps me not get frustrated by what my current limitations are and instead focus on what freedoms I have.
- Early bedtimes don’t give me the flexibility to stay out late, but Filipe and I have some good downtime together most nights which is great for our marriage in this season.
- Extracurricular activities are burdensome to our schedule right now, but having five kids close in age gives them a built-in basketball team (and a decent size soccer and football team) to play together regularly. Instead of shuttling them around town for practices, I kick them outside every afternoon and on weekends to play together. And this has been great for their relationship with one another.
- The emotional toll of daily parenting can feel like an extra 400lb. brick right now, but I have six hours in the middle of my days to refuel and replenish myself. This is great for my own emotional health & sanity.
Now, these are three of my current limitations and freedoms, but they could change in a couple of months as I’m constantly updating and rethinking how do we do what we can with where we are. That’s my constant question- and when I start whining and complaining and want to scream, “but I can’t do anything!”, it’s what I point myself back to.
The question is not: How can I do what I can’t do? or How can I change my season? (You can’t force a kid to be responsible any more than you can force them to walk.) But rather, what freedoms do I have in my current season within the limitations I have?
I have come to learn that focusing on what our freedoms are will help us make better choices day-to-day and live with more contentment about where we are. I don’t want to miss my kids childhood because I was so fixated on the freedoms I was trying to get back. I want to learn how to live within my current reality and focus on the freedom I currently have.
Where are you? What freedoms do you have that you may have forgotten?
Are you nursing a newborn throughout the day? Stuck at home because of sickness? Struggling through naptime? Enjoy the freedom of not having to get dressed and out the door early each morning. Embrace the flexibility of your time, savor an extra cup of coffee, and by all means, when you’re deliriously tired, there’s always Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
Do you have a great job you love but struggling with flexibility at home? Delegate birthday party planning, keep replenishing those lunch accounts, and enjoy the benefits of grocery and/or meal delivery services that give you more freedom to be with your kids when you get home rather than slaving over meal prep. Replace road rage with worship music and/or a podcast (or five!), take a co-worker to lunch, and when you’re tired at the end of the day, be grateful you have your needs met. (And go ahead, catch up on Gilmore Girls.)
No matter where you find yourself, no matter your season of life, find ways to shift your focus on what you have the freedom to do.
Be free, my friend.