Something big happened last Sunday.
I was upstairs getting ready for church, hustling (and sweating) like always, knowing I had the solo job of getting myself and three young boys dressed (Where are your church shorts?) and presentable to the public (Whoa, let’s clip those eagle talons!) and making it to church on time to get them settled into kids’ class so I could lead my women’s group.
When I came downstairs after blow-drying my hair, I nearly fainted.
My oldest son was DRESSED. In a COLLARED SHIRT. With his SHOES ON.
As in, he got himself ready WITHOUT BEING ASKED.
As in, it was HIS OWN IDEA.
Mamas, I don’t know how this whole mornings-with-multiple children thing goes down at your house, but at my house, I feel like Sergeant LET’S-GO-LET’S-DO-THIS every single day.
But lately, my seven-year-old has been taking initiative. Knowing we aren’t going to leave behind a mess of toys and art supplies and run off to the next thing, he has actually been picking up his belongings before asking if he can go knock on his neighbor friend’s door.
This is huge.
I have often said the two most difficult parts of parenting for me are:
1) How frequently I (an introvert) must use my voice to instruct/encourage/reply on a given day.
2) The daily war on a mess of toys strewn through the house, books pulled from the shelves, and laundry left on the floor. Hours of my week are no doubt spent moving items from room to room.
So this shift that is happening with my oldest son, the shift toward responsibility and consideration and planning ahead, gives me great hope that the two hardest parts for me are subtly becoming a bit less hard.
The years of reminders that we are responsible for our things, our family is a team, and we plan ahead for our day are finally producing some fruit.
And it is delicious.
Yes, I still have a 5-year-old and 3-year-old and hopes to adopt one more, so there are probably a few million “gentle reminders” yet in my future, but I am thoroughly encouraged that those reminders can lead to positive behavior modification, even in the most wistful of boys.
Yesterday, I ran into a friend at the library who expressed that she was encouraged by my potty training advice after struggling to help her 4-year-old ingrain the toilet habit. Standing beside her smart, curious boy, I promised her again that it will click some day soon. It just takes time.
Last week, at a children’s event, my friend and her husband took turns chasing their delightful 4, 2, and 1-year-old children around the seating area. I remembered being in that exact place a few years ago when my own boys were those ages. Life with little ones is joyful without a doubt, but grueling, too in the regard that you must always be on your toes. Afterwards, I empathized for a moment, assuring them that it does get a bit easier in the coming years. It just takes time.
Mamas of little ones, sometimes it seems like your words, your reminders, your efforts don’t make one iota of impact.
You ask your kids to help you pick up, but by the time you’re done you’re thinking you may as well have done it yourself.
You read the potty books and sit with your child in the bathroom for an hour only to have him pee himself the second you go back to the living room.
You prep your children that church or the library or the doctor’s office is not a place to run and scream only to find yourself chasing and redirecting and hushing and pleading for the next hour.
I promise you, it’s not going to be that way forever.
Your words are heard. Your example is noted. Your motivation and encouragement are making a difference in shaping little humans, even if you don’t see results just yet.
Hang onto hope. Enjoy them while they’re little. And remember, it all just takes time.
Photo credit: Amy Vivio Photography