If I could do it over…

While the kids were playing in the bath this morning, I read a pretty interesting article in The Ladies Home Journal entitled “Still the One” from the Mar 11 issue.  I don’t usually read magazine articles.  I don’t usually have the time, and I hate paying for them. (Thanks Mom, for the surprise subscription.)  As life is getting a little bit less hectic and the girls are learning to play together better, I decided to indulge.

Anyway, back to the article.  It is entitled “Still the One.”  It’s an article by a woman who’s been married 23 years–what she thinks about marriage now and a little bit of what she’s gone through in the past few years getting through and rehabilitating an injured husband.  Though her point of view is definitely not Christian, she gives a down-to-earth perspective on what marriage is like 23 years after all the glitter has settled down, and how it is definitely worth it.  I love hearing the perspective of those who have weathered so many years of marriage, the stories they have to tell and the victories they have to celebrate.  Anyway, this post isn’t about marriage, at least I don’t think it’s going to be.  Here’s the quote that prompted me to start thinking.

I often revisit a conversation I had a couple of years ago with an old family friend.  At 72 she was dying of ovarian cancer and her acknowledgment of this fact allowed me to be totally candid.  I asked what advice she would give me about marriage, standing as I was, hopefully, in the middle of a long run.

“If I could do it over,” she said, “I would leave more dishes in the sink.  I would worry less about the to-do lists and having my kitchen perfect for the next day.  I’d spend more time sitting on my husband’s lap.”

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the ‘to-do lists.’ It’s hard not to constantly worry that things are straightened, the kitchen is spotless, the dinner is gourmet and on time.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in how seamlessly other moms seem to keep order.  It’s hard not to compare my chaotic house to others’ magazine page life.  When I pause and contemplate how I’d like to run my house, though, I don’t see myself as this super-organized mom with a plan every day…. I do often imagine that life would be better if I had a spotless house.  If I could just get a cleaning schedule going, or if I could just get a schedule down that worked for our lifestyle, I would be better at this housewifery: I would worry less and be happier.  Actually, it turns me into MONSTER MOMMY.  I’m on edge.  I yell at the girls for the tiniest mistakes, for interrupting my desire to control, for not measuring up… Keeping order is exhausting!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what grace I’m able to receive each day.  The little things that keep me centered and allow me to step away from the exhausting role of always being ON.  Here’s a few of them:

1) I try to always carve out a chunk of the day that is FOR ME. I try to get the girls’ naps to overlap to some degree so that I can have some time to recharge, so that I have something to give at 5:00 when there is nothing left.  Sometimes I spend this time reading, watching a show, writing a blog post… whatever the BLEEP I want to!  Sometimes I feel guilty about this time.  I worry that there might be something more productive for me to be doing.  I look at the state of disarray in our house, and I feel pressure to right it.  Have we not learned that this is never-ending?  That striving for perfection is a goal with no end. So, I sit back down to recharge.

2) I have begun to understand that I am in control of my day, not my children.  This is one example of how it translates:  I’ve started bathing myself while my girls are AWAKE.  Yup.  Baths I find to be a necessary evil.  We must get clean, and we must spend 30 minutes getting clean and fixing up.  You may worry that this is an example of neglect and you’re going to call and report me, but it’s really not.  I’ve been experimenting this last week taking my every-3rd-day bath while the kids are awake.  Abby just stands at the side of the tub tossing toys in and out, and Sophia runs around playing.  I have just learned after 2 1/2 years of parenting, if there is something I want to do, then I can quit worrying about who may think it’s wrong and just tell the kids that this is how it is.  Mommy’s going to take a bath now.

3) I dance. I bump my favorite pandora radio station (Sufjan Stevens) at a super loud volume, and I dance it out.  It’s amazing how much more whining and leg pulling I can tolerate when my body is filled with the rhythm and music happiness of my choosing.

4) A middle of the afternoon Americano made with a pot of stove-top espresso and hot water. Ah. Add sugar, half-n-half, and maybe whipped cream and you couldn’t make me yell at you.

So, where was I? Ah, yes.  If I could do it all over… I don’t think about this a lot, but I do think about this:  What do I want for my girls? What do I want them to remember about our house?  I know that I don’t want them to remember that I was always worried about keeping it clean.  I don’t want them to remember that I was always on edge–one moment from blowing up.  I do not want to raise perfectionists.  I want my girls to feel free to create, play, dance, and live.  I want love and life to be their story.

So, if I could do it all over… I would forgo the dishes in the sink and I would sit in the lap of my husband, gazing into his eyes.

If I could do it all over… I would stop what I’m doing, no matter what it is, and play with my girls.

If I could do it all over… I’d say “yes” more often to Will’s offering to take us out for dinner.

I can do it all over.  Right now.