We live in Bennington.
And if you’ve ever been out here, you most likely took one of two ways: Highway 36 or 168th Street. We take both. But this particular day, I was driving home with our five kids and headed north on 168th Street. The speed limit sign said 45 mph–this sign also lets you know if you’re going too fast. If so, this sign will blink “TOO FAST. TOO FAST. SLOW DOWN. SLOW DOWN.”
Now please don’t get this confused. I may have been going 50 in a 45, but the point I hope you realize and that struck me that day was this,
“TOO FAST. TOO FAST. SLOW DOWN. SLOW DOWN.”
You see, I am a stay-at-home mom who also works. My first and primary role is a wife, followed by mother. It’s hard and it’s messy. Most days, it’s me and our five children—ages 4 to 4 months. As you can imagine, it’s difficult. We have moments of complete madness! The three oldest boys are wrestling, one hits his head on the others, both lose it, and begin cursing one another. While I can’t let that go on, it does because, just at the same moment I’m comforting and correcting, I simultaneously look across the room and baby girl is eating lipstick! As I run to take away the lipstick because who let’s their kid eat lipstick, she loses her mind. Oh, and the baby just exploded his diaper—like up the back and on the furniture explosion. He is also losing his mind, not because of the diarrhea he’s lying in, but because he needs to eat. It’s a day of putting out fires and fighting not to continually hit my head against the dry wall because sometimes I’m tempted to do that rather than hear all the whining, crying, and complaining. Not to mention we haven’t gotten a full night’s rest in 5 years and the sleep deprivation is hitting hard. Are you sweating even imagining it?
Joy in the Slow Down
We also have moments of pure joy. These moments come when we are driving home from a full day out of the house, I look back in our van, and all five kids are sleeping. They look like quintuplets. I was recently told, “All your kids look the same, just different stages of life.” But those moments where it is quiet in the car, all passed out because we just spent morning to night together as a family. Oh, how I cherish these moments! My husband and I counted the cost, made the effort to get out of the house with our five children, and chose to be intentional in spending time together. Making memories for them, for us. You know what days I’m talking about: zoo days, Mahoney State park days, pool days, trips down to Lincoln to run around the stadium. I know it may sound like an oxymoron that our moments of joy are when all the little ones are sleeping, but it is the truth. Having that sense of accomplishment, “We did it. We made it out alive.”
On my side of our family, there are 18 grand-babies. The oldest turns 14 this month. His mama, my older sister who has 6 kids, reminded me of this,
“I say this as gently as I can—you guys are going to blink and your kids will be teenagers. Everyone always told me how fast it goes, and I honestly did try to savor every milestone, find the laughter in the chaos, laugh instead of cry, not lose my mind, etc… but man, the thought of Jones [her son] only having 4 more birthdays before he is an adult… it’s killing my heart!!”
We are in the “messy middle” of life. While we don’t wish this time away, we are also in the thick of it. But with these continual reminders, I hope to “SLOW DOWN” because we may be going “TOO FAST.” Summer can be just as busy if not busier than the school year, but can I just encourage you today? You may be going “TOO FAST. TOO FAST.” Not even in the sense of running kids around town, because that may happen when our sons and daughter have coinciding competitions at different locations and a family gathering to rush to when all commitments are finished.
But taking the moments before the chaos and during the chaos to remind yourself to slow down!
In the chaos, find a moment to regain composure by reminding yourself of reality: “You’re a blessed woman who’s been given children. They’re more influenced by you than the activity you’re taking them to.” So, please, be intentional and “SLOW DOWN. SLOW DOWN.” Fight for the mundane in life. Fight for your schedule NOT to be filled with this appointment and that, this meeting, and that practice. Look for the reminders to appreciate what season of life you are in. Embrace and cherish those dirty hand prints all over everything and lipstick-stained carpet. Create space for you and your family to just be. Find delight in hearing “Mama. Mama! MAMA!!” over and over and over again.