I spent the first 8 years of my real adult life teaching in one way or another. Sometimes I was teaching and tutoring and doing in-home teaching, just to keep from going into debt while Matt pursued his graduate degree. In that time I ran across many kids who were taking zero period, playing a school sport and a club sport, highly involved in student government, playing the lead in the school play, taking vocal or instrumental lessons, trying to have a social life and be involved in church and let’s not forget maintaining their GPA with the hopes of graduating at the top of their class.
In my teaching years, I made a few decisions about me and my kids. First, I decided that as soon as we could afford to do so, I would need to invest far more time into my kids lives. Why? So that I can do everything in my power to ensure that my kids don’t become like some of the kids I taught. It’s not worth working just to put my kids in private school, if I can’t be super-involved in their daily life. I am the parent regardless of where my children are schooled. Second, I decided that even though I am an overachiever, I will only push my kids to do their personal best. That means that they may not get an A in every class. I will internally learn to be okay with this. Third, I will let my children have a childhood that so many kids do not get now-a-days. I want them to do the things they are good at and the things they want to do, once they have done the things they have to do.
As a child, I spent hours riding my bicycle, rollerskating (sometimes in our basement), playing with dolls well beyond the years that kids do now, gathering flowers to make (and sell) perfume. I made mud pies that once included packages left behind by my grandparents’ dog (I ashamedly allowed a willing neighbor to eat said pie). I fed ducks and caught minnows, frogs and caterpillars, which subsequently took over my mom’s family room. I tobogganed, skated, and sled until my cheeks were red and my hands and toes numb with cold. We played until we had to come in because the sun was setting, we were just about as dirty as we could get or the snow had melted through our layers of clothing. I want that for my children.
I have amazing memories from my childhood, and I’ve grown into this sometimes uptight adult that would stifle her own kids’ exploration and fun if I didn’t do a lot of self talk. When Lucas and Bethany were a little younger they got into mud for the first time and I freaked out. I realized they were having a brilliant time and decided then that I would not stop their fun, but would from then on come supplied with an abundance of wipes, extra clothes and sometimes pajamas so that they could have as much fun as they want, within the boundaries of safety of course.
All of these ideals and decisions do not stop me from occasionally having a Lindsey moment. The other night when the kids were playing outside, Bethany fell. There is something in a mother, that escapes a father, I think. That is, I feel the pain that they feel. I cry when they are sick, get shots, get hurt. I found myself saying in this particular situation “Now, we shouldn’t run.” As the words escaped my lips I looked at my husband and we both just started laughing. What a ridiculous thing to tell children who are outside playing in their yard. Even as I sit here, I’ve fought the temptation to place unneeded rules on their fun this afternoon. They are blowing bubbles, playing in the the garden and running through the sprinkler. Inevitably on these afternoons they make several trips inside, dripping dirty water on the floor and leaving wet footprints throughout the house. There is some self-talk going on and it sounds like this “Lindsey, your floor is dirty anyhow. What is a little extra dirt and some water? Let them get their water guns and bubble refills. What does the mess matter in the light of eternity?”
I will let my kids be kids for the little while that precious existence can remain. What a blessing childhood is. How profound that God knows we need a little humor and the ability to relive some of our own first years with our kids. We needn’t take life so seriously and I am reminded of that as I look at their drenched bodies, grassy feet and muddy faces.