Last week I read a blog entry from Shawni Pothier about hard work and independence, and about teaching children responsibility. From her entry and the many comments left by other mothers, I could tell that this topic is a worry to many parents who feel that our children are being spoilt and pampered.
It took me back to the time when we decided it was time that our children had chores. It started with tidying the toys away and progressed to setting the table, emptying the compost (which everybody hated doing), feeding the rabbits and then emptying the dishwasher. If I remember correctly Melissa took over the dishwasher job when she was in the 1st grade and has made her way up to the grand position of a "bathroom cleaner". It hasn't been an easy ride but we feel it is important that all families members contribute to cleaning up the "family mess".
While I was thinking about this topic it reminded me of two books that I read while the children were young, which were actually written by Shawni's mother, Linda Eyre. One was called "A joyful mother of children: The magic and mayhem of motherhood" and the other "I didn't plan to be a witch" These two books along with a couple of others were livesavers for me and I remember implementing some of her ideas on my little family. I decided to re-read these books and have enjoyed the funny, witty and wise "voice" of Linda Eyre re-confirming things that I had forgotten. I marked a few pages but there was one statement that particulary spoke to me:
"Contrary to what we may have heard, children are not like clay - which we can mold into whatever we want if we try hard enough. They are seedlings. The seed of what they are has already been planted from the moment they began their existence. Some may be orange trees and other might be lemons. It is our job, as the gardeners, to observe, water, expose to sun, weed, provide fertilizer, and nurture, in order to make the most beautiful plant possible from the seedlings we are given".
We have three teenagers in our home at the moment and we realise how much hard work it is to nurture them in the way that they need it. Each child is different and needs a different fertilizer than his or her sibling. All of them need rules and guidelines but we have noticed, for example that there is no one way to execute consequences. Even though all four children have grown up with the same parents in the same household not one of them acts the same way, which leads me to believe that the pre-existent spirit has much more influence on who we are than we realise. So, we have a lot fruit trees in our family making one very colourful fruit salad!
Another thing I noticed while I was re-reading these books is how quickly I forgot the trial and stressfulness of life with babies and toddlers. It was hard for me to remember what it felt like having 4 children under 8. I remember reading these books and feeling that they were like water to a parched plant. I "drank" them up and felt strength and hope. Remembering that there would be light at the end of my tunnel some day! I realise that our brains help us forget so that we can survive the next step or phase in motherhood. It's like childbirth - just when the birth pains get really strong you remember what it felt like last time but then it's far too late!! lol!
Time makes things seem not so hard. Things that were tragic at the time seem not to be so bad later on. You have to ask yourself, "which child was it that kept on throwing full toilet rolls into the toilet and blocking it up?" How can you forget something that was a reason to pull your hair out?
I wouldn't say that I'm out of the tunnel yet but that my eyes have adjusted to the lack of light and that I find that with a few tools I can "see" quite well. Books, friends, the gospel are some of the tools that I have found on my way.
There are days when I see the light getting lighter and I realise that it scares me - How will I react when my children have all left home? Will they want to come home and visit? Will they be balanced, happy people? Have I done a good job as their mother? Will there be regrets? I guess time will tell....
I am enjoying the ride of motherhood and although there are still days that my witches hat comes out of the closet I must also admit that I am learning to deal with my "witchiness" a lot better. I hope my family will agreee......