It's about 6am and I hear children giggling from both sides of my bed. I can tell they are crouched down and before I have time to think or move, I hear "GO!" and up they come both slapping tattoos on my arms at the same time and then unison counting to ten as they hold them down and in place before removing the backs to reveal their handiwork. Yes. . . donning 2 butterfly tattoos today and can't help but giggle every time I look at them.
Beyond the place of Joy. . . Have you ever had joy moments with your children that take you beyond the place of joy and contentment in motherhood (or fatherhood) where your heart is overflowing with love and joy that is beyond what you expected? My kids call it the overflowing heart. . . and it is so full of love that it flows out of your eyes too. I had one of those moments this week with my 4 year old son. I snuggle him down into his bed and he hugs me tight. I smile and smooth the hair off of his forehead. I start the memory verse tonight, “For God so loved. . . “ and he takes his turn, “the world (including me, Hudson Hunt)”, I pipe in, ”that He gave His only Son,” “Thaaaat (a yawn escapes him) whoever believes in Him”, and in unison we finish the verse, “will not perish, but have eternal life.” He grabs onto my neck and holds me tighter than what actually feels comfortable and yet his tight, little grip feels so familiar and I don’t even mind that he pulls me closer and kisses the entire side of my face 4 or 5 times. After bedtime prayers and I am on my way out the door I hear, "Mama, do you want to be a queen when you grow up?" . . . long pause as I think about why he thinks that I'm not grown up now (still pondering that part :) "Sure, bud, why do you ask?" "Because then you can live in my castle and I'll be the knight that protects you." I go back and give one more snuggle and thank him for his love and offer of protection. Then on my 2nd time out the door. . . I hear, "OH! And Daddy can be the king. "
Raising boys has not been the easiest task that I've been given in this lifetime. Don't get me wrong. . . I LOVE boys! I love the rough and tumble way that they live and breath and play and work. I love the way they make new friends by sharing their "stats"and comparing with how fast or smart they each are or just having a down and out 50 meter dash where there is a clear winner and loser - somehow this bonds them. I love how they play "I got you last" and this seals a friendship forever as they chase and prove their own ability while showing their commitment in the friendship is deep enough to chase each other. I love the way they are wired to make sound effects - even in their sleep and I (try to) love the way that the word "poop" makes itself into the conversation at least ten times a day- usually in the form of "I'll poop on your_____(fill in the blank). There are so many things that I love about boys but it is an extreme challenge for me to raise them! I grew up with 2 sisters and of course we fought at times. . .well, ok. . . a lot of the time (felt like I should be honest - my mom might be reading this), but our house was peaceful and quiet a lot of the time too. But, an unknown author once said that BOY - by definition is noise with dirt on it. This is my reality with 2 little boys 4 and under in my house- it is loud and noisy and I see no signs of this lessoning as they get older but the sounds and noises will change. I love it and am challenged by it both at the same time. I think I say things like, "Slow down, Be Careful, Watch out, Can you say that more softly, mommies ear is right here, No. . . you may not, you may NOT climb that!" so much that this is the primary message that they hear from me which could be equatable with, " No, please do not act like a boy. Act like a girl." I know this sounds a bit sexist because there are some boys who do not like the loud and dirty and active kinds of activities and there are some girls who do. I don't mean to generalize but I guess I sort of do. I think there is plenty of room for boys who don't and girls who do, but my boys do and this is the reality that I'm writing about tonight. How can I honor and celebrate the way they are hardwired while keeping them and anyone they are playing with "safe", and not give the message that the way they are inclined to be is "too much"? Counseling courses and programs are designed to ease the pain of this wound that begins first in childhood and I feel especially burdened that I need to "figure this out" because of the incredible responsibility of raising boys to grow into honorable men. I wish there was a clear cut "answer" but I'm convinced there is not. I am open to any and all wisdom you have on how to celebrate and honor "boy" in my boys. And, this is my current challenge to myself. . .I'm sure you will be hearing about it here on my blog or on my facebook posts in the weeks to come.
I feel his 4 year old little hands tugging at my pillow and as I squeak open my sleep ridden eyes, I am greeted by his, “Mom, is this rock beautiful?” I rub my eyes a bit and sit half way up to see what is 2 centimeters from my eyes, “Yes, buddy. It is beautiful.”
Yesterday we went with some friends to a new wilderness park and while the other kids played in a sand pile and raced on new trails, he had occupied himself with finding new rocks for his rock collection.
“No, Mom, I mean is it really, really beautiful?” I sit up and he hands me his prized rock from yesterday. . . the rock that has been washed and dried and washed and dried and polished until it shines to me. "It's special. . . for you." was his reply and he gave it to me with enough sparkle in his eyes to melt my heart into a puddle. Someday he will give some other girl a sparkly "rock" as a token of his love and the sparkle in his eyes will be enough to seal that special memory into her heart forever too and she'll wear that sparkly rock on her finger with love and devotion. . . but for today. . .my sparkly rock is proudly displayed on my dining room table and the memory of my little 4 year olds gift of love is enough for today.
So, here I sit in my 7th floor apartment on a 100 degree day trying to figure out how in the world do I parent from the 7th floor! I know that sounds strange to most people. . . you parent in the same way that you do from the 17th floor I have been told. But what I mean is that living in urban China high rise apartments has been a huge challenge for me coming from rural Minnesota. Summer has always been my favorite time of year and mainly because I LOVE being outside. I love playgrounds, and dandelions in the back yard and chasing bubbles and sprinklers and gardening and picnic tables used at least once a day in the summer. I LOVE being at the lake or at the pool and I LOVE all of those things with my kids in tow. Try translating that to my 7th floor apartment in busy urban China and you'll see that not much of it is transferable. I'm creative by nature so I find creative ways of bringing some of those things into our lives but not in a way that truly meets my needs and definitely does not meet my desires. So, hence, here I sit in my 7th floor apartment trying to figure out how in the world do I "parent" from the 7th floor? And praying that I don't have to for much longer. What I wouldn't give if God were to provide for us a different housing situation. There have been a few "possibilities" that have been sort of dangled in front of us in the last year that I thought would solve maybe half of our needs but none that would solve all of them and for various reasons they did not work out so I am still praying and still trusting that a place will open up for us that will close the gap between what we have and what we need. But until then also wanting to live in a place of contentment and joy. I don't know what is harder parenting from the 7th floor or being content to parent from the 7th floor. :) I guess both will require a huge dose of grace.