Back when Josiah was almost two and we had lived in Hawaii for all of four weeks…Jonah was born. And just about that minute, Dave began his residency program which meant he was working somewhere around ten thousand hours a week, give or take. Life was hard. (And my memory only adds to the drama. You’re welcome.)
We lived in a tiny little condo that seemed to get the rising and setting sun all in the one room that we spent our days in.
I had no friends on the island.
And to top it all off: Jonah cried all the live long day. Or at least from 3:00 PM on. Daily.
Self pity knocked on my door. A lot.
My firstborn had been an unusually easy baby, so this fussy thing was unexpected, and unwelcome.
So I did what I often do when I am struggling with something new: I called a friend.
And that friend listened well, and gave me a good moment of compassion. And then she made a little suggestion.
She said “I think you’d do a lot better if you start to see the fussy baby thing as your current thing. Like, your job. Anticipate it. Plan for it. Set time aside to literally hold and rock and love on that fussy baby. Otherwise you’ll just be frustrated and find yourself resenting him.”
I knew she had something there.
I was desperate and willing to try anything. I understood that this would mean getting less done each afternoon. Dinner might need to be simpler, and I might need to busy my two-year old with a little extra cartoon time or strolling with me in the park. But I agreed to try shifting my perspective.
And boom! It changed everything. EVERY. THING.
Every afternoon, I literally planned for a fussy baby. When he started to cry, I smiled understanding that at that moment–That was my greatest job. His crying was not an interruption in my day. It was my day. I looked at it as my calling for that season.
Immediately: Gone was my frustration. Gone was my bitterness
FAST FORWARD THIRTEEN YEARS.
And find me now surrounded by four boys…And a very busy life.
I am homeschooling and writing. I am managing the home, doing mountains of laundry, dehydrating bananas, and shuttling surfers. I love to be productive and efficient and we’re all moving in all kinds of directions. Really fast. This season with my older kids is quite honestly my favorite.
And then…there’s Little Levi: Four, and adorable…and not at all on board with my efficient productive plans. In fact sometimes I feel like Levi is on a mission to make sure I get as little done as possible.
Levi wants everyone’s attention, all of the time. Good attention or bad, he’ll take either.
Levi has plenty of redeeming qualities, it is true, and if he were my first-born, I would probably see things entirely differently. But in this season of life, Levi is a lot of work. He knows how to push my buttons.
So, I find myself pushing him aside…trying to busy him, and bribing the brothers to play with him just fifteen more minutes Puhleeeze.
I never dreamt I would try so hard to get a kid to just like cartoons. But no.
I’m ashamed to say it, but here’s the truth: I have struggled with resentment towards my little guy, and his big, bottomless love-tank. He gets in the way of the stuff I really want to/need to/should be doing. And though I wouldn’t trade him for the world: I’ve often seen him as a distraction to my otherwise productive life.
Levi and I sat on the kitchen floor. He had spilled a deck of memory cards all over, just for the reaction, and then he smiled the rascally “I got you” smile. I sighed my best exasperated mom-sigh as I looked at the clock and wondered how much longer I would have to endure this.
And then out of nowhere it happened: I heard the voice of my friend…or maybe it was God…I don’t know, but it was loud and clear. And it said:
“Hey–Remember that thing you learned a long time ago? That thing about perspective? Well maybe it’s time to try it again. Try looking at things a little differently around here.”
Then my whole world shook. The sky opened up, and angels sang. (at least in my head.) And all of the thoughts…They were suddenly so clear:
What if this–He–Levi!? IS my real job right now!? What if I looked at everything differently? What if I viewed this little one with all of his needs for love, attention, and discipline, not as an interruption, but as my greatest job for this season? What if I parented him, every day–not with a sigh, but with the same fresh enthusiasm that I was able to muster up for that colicky baby 13 years ago?
What if I embraced my current, most challenging role, as my very highest calling?
So here I am again: Working hard at this new-old approach. I am relearning, and rediscovering the beauty of choosing to love what I do…The stuff that comes natural…as well as the stuff that takes a little more work. Because with the right mindset–it can all be good.
Actually it can all be amazing.
I am learning to set more time aside for Levi–before he starts demanding it. I’m trying to cherish my role as his mom. To anticipate his needs, and give him the best of me, not my weary leftovers. And when I do, the results are incredible. In fact, a little effort on the front end seems to be lightening my load in the big picture. Which makes for a double blessing.
Now…I have to guess that this lesson isn’t just for me. Maybe someone else out there has struggled with resentment over something(s) in your life?
A fussy newborn? A demanding preschooler? Or maybe it’s homework hour, or the laundry, or giving your best self to your spouse. What is that thing that you most dread? It might be the job you have for this season, or the co-worker you foster resentment towards. (My husband is telling me it is his 13 hour night shifts in the hospital.)
But what if you too took a fresh look at things? What if you choose to label the thing that seems like drudgery as super meaningful. What if you embraced it as a calling…even if just for a season?
The dreaded bedtime routine? What if–instead of hitting exhaustion and just wanting to collapse just when it’s time to tuck those kids in–You decided (CHOSE, like–in your HEAD,) to instead flip a switch? What if the very best you turned on just at bedtime…and you dug down deep and pulled out the love and joy that you need to sweetly and swiftly give those kids the best tuck-in ever? How would that feel?
Because it’s really a matter of perspective. All of it.
Maybe this is a good time for some honest evaluation. To take a look at that one thing…The one that you dread the most, and do the worst at (because of a bad attitude.) And decide to change how you see it. Give it a name. Call it your job. Write it on a name tag and wear it. See how much you can shine at that thing. That person. That hour. That meal. Embrace it as your highest calling for this season.
And see what happens.