My life feels busy—sometimes crazy busy. While homeschooling five kids who are in various activities, it feels like a lot of juggling to make it all work. And although I aspire to have a clean and organized home, the reality is that I am so not there. I can even feel the chaos creeping in—a few more dirty dishes in the sink, a few more books piled on the counter, a few more puzzle pieces left out. Then, if I’m not careful, it’s full on crazy-town house, where there is crusted play dough on the carpet, piles of dirty clothes, and don’t even ask about the kitchen. What happened? Why is it so chaotic? Because kids? Because I’m a bad house keeper? Because my hubby doesn’t pick up the slack?
It’s not really any of that. It’s that my surroundings begin to dictate my feelings, and I have let the chaos in. It enters through my perception of my circumstances. Because the truth really is that even if I had a perfect system and was on top of my schedule and my house was perfectly clean and my kids were actually tiny self-cleaning robots, these things would not guarantee my sanity—and I would not automatically have peace. Because there would always be something else. Because the enemy doesn’t play fair, and even if I had the best hand, he’d throw in the ace he’s hidden up his sleeve. He cheats by whispering: You aren’t good enough. You haven’t cleaned up enough. You are failing miserably, and it is your fault. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Because it’s not an equation. Because a clean house doesn’t equal success whereas a messy house equals failure. Because there are seven of us and we are all still learning how to live together. Because we all need grace Every. Single. Day. Grace says, I refuse to judge you for your sticky floor because I see your heart and know that making pancakes with your toddler says love so much more than a freshly mopped floor. Grace says, yes the space is cluttered but let’s work on this together as a team—without blaming or casting judgment on the sloppiest child (who also may be the most creative). Grace says, in the midst of the chaos—the whirling storm of judgment beating down on your soul—choose peace.
In the gospels, there is an account of Jesus calming a literal storm. Jesus was with his disciples late one night on a boat, and a “furious” storm broke out, where waves were actually crashing into the boat. The storm was so terrible that the disciples thought they were going to die. And in the middle of this awful storm, Jesus was sound asleep. He was at complete peace in the middle of complete chaos. The chaos was around but it was not within. “The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:38-39)
I am reminded of Jesus on that boat when I think about my daily struggles. When I choose to reject those critical voices within, the storm calms and there is peace. Because there will be seasons that things don’t look perfect on the outside. There will be sticky counters and messy projects and piles of laundry. And so the storms will rage. But looking past the outward, going deep within—that is the place to find rest. And this is a reminder to me, to choose peace in the middle of my mess.
Parenting children who say exactly what’s on their minds…
While in Walmart, I received assistance from a worker who was morbidly obese. As we were wrapping up, my daughter said he had a “big fat belly.” I missed the comment because he was still speaking, but my son announced loudly that his sister said the gentleman had a “big fat belly.” Of course, my eyebrows jumped into my hairline. I apologized profusely; he was incredibly gracious. I, however, was not. We had a lengthy discussion on kind words and how not to be rude when interacting with people who are different from us.
We recently visited a region where manners and social appropriateness are very prevalent. My children’s lack of social grace was highlighted and I felt the need to put more pressure on my children to conform to social norms. When visiting a pool in the area, our family met another family with a son near our son’s age. When we encouraged handshakes, my son said, “I don’t want to shake his hand. I don’t know what germs he has.” He was dead serious. After mentally face-palming, I made him shake the little boy’s hand and explained that his actions were rude. I didn’t give him a choice what to do with his body; I immediately regretted it. In that moment, I was the parent who refuses to make my children hug and kiss people in greeting (yes, even family members), but in a moment of embarrassment, made my son touch a stranger simply because I thought it would be rude not to.
A quiet voice in the back of my mind questioned me….Why is it rude? Why can’t he say no to shaking a stranger’s hand? I have been pondering this situation ever since, while reflecting on my life as someone who has always struggled socially and with having no filter.
I don’t enjoy many social situations, and have feelings of anxiety in settings where there are lots of people. My lack of filter is even more apparent when I’m feeling anxious. I often wonder if my son feels the same way causing him to say and act the way he does when he’s around unfamiliar people.
In the situations above, I realized that I reacted and parented out of embarrassment-not grace. I reacted negatively in order to avoid being uncomfortable and offending others. How much pressure should we put on our children to be “polite” and act socially acceptable? At what age does this filter develop?
I know what it is like to be alienated for having quirks and speaking my mind. For me, there is a feeling of embarrassment that comes with not adhering to social norms and a stigma of being “weird” for lack of a better word. As a result, I push in order to protect my children from perceived potential harm.
Where does the balance come in? How important is it for them to conform to ideals of social norms?
I haven’t figured it out yet, but it is my mission to find balance in teaching our children the ways of the world while conforming to God’s standards.