Heather + Smartphone: A Reflection for Our First Anniversary

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I was a flip phone lover from the start (and there’s still a very special place in my heart for that sturdy little beast). I loved the simplicity. I loved how cheap it was. I loved how long I could hang on to one flip phone while Smartphone screens shattered all around me. I could throw that guy across the room, and he still turned on.

And I was a little afraid to change my life by getting a Smartphone. People talked about all the negatives—how it sucked up their time and made them feel disconnected from the world. I didn’t want to be obsessed with my phone. Simultaneously, these people said they couldn’t live without their shiny rectangles.

But I finally broke down in 2016 and joined the Smartphone club. And looking back, I’m so glad I did. I’ve been thinking lately about this year and what I learned.

As a sidenote: I did have an iPad mini before the Smartphone (and before its screen shattered in an unfortunate incident). It stayed at home (I didn’t have a network for it or anything), but I did use it to keep up with blogs and Instagram, read, and take pictures at home. Still, it was a big deal that it stayed in my bedroom, as I’ll talk about later.

I am generally pro-technology. I grew up as improvements came out every year, and each improvement seemed to open up more possibilities, from a microscope connected to our computer to AIM to watching videos online.  So ultimately, I love technology and believe it can make our lives so much better and easier, allowing us to focus on important things. Technology is currency—better technology and the know-how to use it really can make our lives easier and better and make us more efficient.

I found this out this year.The Smartphone ultimately simplified my life.

 It’s so nice to not have to plan for every possibility. If I need a coupon when I’m out, I can just scan my phone (rather than printing a bunch out ahead of time). The same is true with directions and recipes. I do find that I still prefer a paper list I’ve written beforehand for grocery shopping. But there have been many times when I’ve been out and wanted to double check ideas for a recipe.

 Prior to the phone, I had to remember my iPad, camera, and phone on trips and all the requisite chargers. The Smartphone could take the place of all of those (and was only one thing to keep charged!). It is also only one thing to check. 

The Smartphone makes me feel so prepared on outings. It’s one device that meets many needs (including music). It syncs with my car and actually makes talking on the phone in the car easier.

I love how easy it is for me to listen to Podcasts or Audiobooks without having several devices. I can listen in the kitchen and then in the car and then when I’m cleaning. It allows me to feel inspired and use time better.

The biggest reason I got a Smartphone was for pictures. I love taking pictures, and since I make a family Adventure Book each year, I love having pictures of daily life. It was hard lugging my DSLR, and sometimes I wanted to be able to capture those every day moments (like a baby asleep in his carseat or a meal at a restaurant). I love this aspect. I did have to learn to reformat my book layouts to accommodate more portrait photos (and I learned to try to take more photos in landscape). I also have to remind myself that it’s still worthwhile to have the DSLR out from time to time. Still, you can’t beat a camera that you always have with you.

The Smartphone also makes it so much easier to keep up with friends. Texting was just challenging on the flip phone when everyone else had smartphones. At a certain point, I had a hard time due to the odd format or length of Smartphone texts. The Smartphone has made it much less cumbersome for me to respond to other people’s texts. I feel more connected, and I love how easy it is to respond.

The two biggest challenges for me are mindless surfing and the feeling of urgency.

I realize it became habitual so quickly to pick up my phone and just scroll through Instagram one more time. I didn’t have this problem with the iPad because it lived in the bedroom (and there’s something about size, too, that makes mindless surfing easier on a small device). I especially want to be careful about this mindless picking up of the phone around my kids.

The other challenge is the feeling of urgency. When your phone is always with you and often out, it is easy to feel like you have to check every notification and respond to every text. I don’t enable many notifications (what is it about that red bubble with a number that makes me feel so urgent?!). I try to be really careful about this in the car, but I do need to be more careful around my boys. I hate that phrase, “Let me just check one more thing,” but I utter it far too often.

Going forward, here are two things I’m trying to let my phone be more of a tool for me (which it really can be!) and less of a distraction.

First, I read somewhere this year that we need to design technology that allows us to accomplish needful tasks and then lets us go. Typically our phones suck us in (or at least this happens to me—see, “check one more thing” above). There’s always something to check, something to alleviate boredom, something to make us feel that flicker of excitement.

When I get tired, especially, I can just surf mindlessly (that little magnifying glass button on Instagram is a trap for me!). So the first thing for me was realizing that when I’m tired, I need to put down my phone (or limit myself to reading).

Another thing I’ve been trying  is giving myself something worthwhile to do on the phone. When I’m nursing Walt, I love to check Instagram. So I let myself check it. Then I stop. I found that I need a BIG goal on my phone. So I set out to read through the Bible in 90 days. The plan is on the Youversion App, so all I have to do is click on it, and there my reading is. It’s a big goal because I need that to force me to stop wasting time.

I found early on that I spend less time scrolling mindlessly when I have an engaging book, so I do this too. But the Bible goal has been the best use of my phone so far. I’m loving that it’s lofty enough to keep me from mindless surfing while not feeling like some kind of self-imposed punishment.

The second thing I’m trying to do is keep my phone out of our daily lives. I try to have paper books I’m reading too (so I can pick up a book in a spare minute), I leave my journal out for jotting down ideas, and I try to leave kids’ books lying around. I want to experiment with keeping my phone in the bedroom or on the counter more.

There are so many good things about Smartphones, so many things that can truly simplify our lives! My goal this year is to continue to find out how I can integrate the Smartphone into a simple life.

I would love to hear your ideas for helping our phones simplify our lives! 

On Becoming More Decisive

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We live in a world surrounded by choices. Though this seems to be a positive thing, we tend to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and discouraged due to so many options.

I think of the times I’ve tried to host something. Instead of getting a clear “yes” or “no,” it seems like people are more likely to say, “Maybe” or add a caveat to their “yes.” The day of the event, I get multiple cancellations via text. The event ends up being much smaller. I was happy to have people who were trying to make it work, but for planning purposes, a simple “no” might have been easier.

Then I’ve also been on the other end—the one trying to decide if she can come. So often it really is true that those of us who grew up in the texting generation say “maybe” just in case something better comes along or (as I’ve found) because we’re afraid of all the things that could happen—kids getting sick, trying to find a babysitter, whether a complicated work schedule will work out.

But usually I feel so much lighter if I just give an answer—a committed “yes” or “no.” Then it frees me to begin planning either way.

I’ve noticed that I tend to want reassurance from someone else for making a decision. I want someone to say, “That ’s a good idea.” I want reassurance that I am making the right choice or the best one. But the thing is, usually I can decide myself, and there’s often not a right answer.

I found this recently when trying to decide about what meal to make for a new mom in our church. I texted two people for their input and kept weighing the pros and cons. But then I realized: I need to choose something and just go for it. So I did. And I felt so much freedom as I planned when I would go to the store and what I would buy. Rather than stressing about the “best” option, I made a decision and freed up brain space.

I’ve mentioned that I have really struggled with meal planning. It overwhelms me. But recently I read Lindsey’s post and realized that I, too, needed to establish a rhythm. It has freed me incredibly in the last couple of weeks. I no longer dread those seven open days because I have already limited myself (what The Nester calls “lovely limitations”). Now I don’t ask, “Should we do Mexican again on Sunday or just make soup?” I know that Sunday is breakfast for dinner night and I plan accordingly. It’s life-changing!

I also find this to be true of any thing we are trying to plan—a weekend getaway, a fun outing. It’s better just to go ahead and decide.

It’s like the old story about kids playing better on a playground with a fence. (And in the Montessori tradition, I’ve found the same to be true with a rug or tray provided for a child’s activity). The boundaries bring a sense of peace that enables us to be productive and enjoy life.

Part of this is a mental exercise in letting go. Once I’ve committed, even if it was my choice, I tell myself that it is set in stone. Then I don’t waste time lamenting or questioning. I just go with the plan. I find a way to operate within the parameters rather than rebelling against them. (I could probably insert something about November 8 in here).

Recently there was a lot of political discourse (which may be too generous a term for what was happening) in my newsfeed (I’m sure yours was the same!). In addition to the general disorientation I felt after the election and the angst I felt as I saw anger or gloating everywhere, I finally realized I was feeling indecisive about responding. I kept thinking of responses in my head.

But I don’t believe Facebook is a good place for political debate. It usually just turns sour, and except for possibly making the poster and those in agreement with the poster feel better, it usually doesn’t change minds. Knowing this, I still kept waffling about adding my thoughts to the discussion.

When I finally made the decision that I would not post, I felt freedom. Even when those posts popped up (and I unfollowed a few people temporarily), I knew I had already committed to not respond. It was a limitation I placed on my life. This limit worked well for me and went along with my values. And I stopped writing semi-angry posts in my head and started living again—thinking about other things.

I sometimes feel this when I get emails from companies I love. I start to ask, “Should I take advantage of this promotion?”

It’s easier to keep those emails out of my inbox until I actually need to purchase new jeans or kids’ shoes. It makes it easier when it doesn’t seem like it should be an option to buy shoes now. I find the same to be true with grocery shopping. I tend to think of all the places I could go and all the ways I should save money. But I’ve found such freedom in committing to just one or two places, even if it may mean spending a little more (although generally I actually end up spending less).

We’ve also found eliminating too many options to be very helpful with our kids’ toys. It is incredible how much longer they will play when they aren’t surrounded by so many toys.

What ways does making a decision free you? Have you found too many choices to be overwhelming?

Motherhood Lately

unnamed-2 (1)Motherhood lately is sitting on the floor cutting out things for home preschool while the baby tries to put pieces of laminated paper in his mouth and Liam begs me to be finished so we can actually do preschool.

It’s trying to be patient—and sometimes feeling like I’m doing it—and then losing my patience again and feeling so much guilt (and subsequent apologies).

It’s feeling like we’re finally able to go out and about and connect with other moms. It’s battling days of exhaustion and sickness (maybe as a result of our venturing out). 

It’s feeling total joy and delight and realizing I am so lucky to spend my days doing this. But it’s also wanting so badly to take a bath and read for thirty minutes alone or be able to actually finish doing something. 

It’s frustrating dealing with imperfect little beings who push and shove one another and selfishly want their way about everything (that sounds like me, too!).

I forgot how hard the crawling stage is. Liam was older when he learned to crawl, and since he never put stuff in his mouth, it wasn’t really a big deal. I was thrilled by how much happier mobility made him. Walt is happier too, but now he is much less happy to be in the high  chair or the playpen. That’s hard. Plus he always grabs something lightning fast to stuff in his mouth, and it’s just terrifying.

I think mostly, I’ve been so tired lately. We’ve had wonderful days, and overall we have a great time together. But I’ve been struggling with big fears and not enough sleep and guilt over the times I lose my patience or can’t keep up.

Writing that makes it sound like things are bad. And they’re really not! It’s just surprising how each day can be blissfully happy as we make coffee in the sunny kitchen shadows and giggle. Without warning it shifts to the shrieks of a disgruntled toddler over something that didn’t go his way.

And some days, I feel so very raw—like my nerve-endings are right on the edge of my skin and every scream or crash or fall just hurts.

We’ve been trying to go out more, which has been really good. We’ve fallen in love with library storytime, and we’re hoping to start doing Bible study at church one morning a week (though the chances of both my kids actually being okay in the nursery for an hour is just… no, it’s just impossible).

unnamed-1 (1).jpg We decided not to send Liam to the two day a week preschool program, which is definitely the right decision right now (though it felt agonizing). But this means I’m trying to be more intentional about creating social opportunities with adults and with other kids. He’s my son—totally happy to be at home and play all day every day. But we both reach a point when we need to get out in the world and step out of ourselves. Still this stepping out is exhausting for both of us, so I’m trying to be careful not to overdo it.

I still struggle with knowing what I can expect as far as free time goes. Most mornings now, instead of writing during Walter’s nap, Liam and I do preschool together. He loves it, and it is something we both look forward to. But I have to let go of my desire to write and trust that the time will come again. Quiet time doesn’t work with any consistency, and it seems that either Walt refuses to sleep or wakes up early or Liam struggles and calls for me more often than not. That’s exhausting because I count on that time to get about twenty minutes of sleep, sleep that feels very necessary since Walt is quite wakeful during the night.

I’ve been learning a lot about letting go and being okay with it, although it’s hard to be okay with the stuff that doesn’t get done or the laundry pile that just stays. We’ve all struggled with sickness off and on for a month, which is very new for us.

And right now, motherhood is also cuddling in bed and reading Narnia (“Narnee”) at night to a toddler who barely understands and yet looks forward to our reading time right after we say the Lord's Prayer. It’s googling whether my baby has a common cold or some serious illness (and I should be over this now that it’s the second time around!).

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Motherhood is afternoon tea time that a three-year-old looks forward to particularly for his cookie. It's the realization that we're slowing finding a routine, a groove. It’s the struggle to decide how much one child can fuss while I strive to finish just one task like vacuuming. It’s the decision to leave the laundry unfolded or the blessed relief that comes when my mom offers to make dinner or Jon brings it home.

It’s an odd season right now. There are tantrums and tears, and I still struggle not to see these as evidence of bad mothering or a bad home environment. I have to remind myself that frustration is part of normal, healthy child development, and I guess frustration is part of my own maturing as well.

Motherhood right now is reading tons of Scripture and  books on mothering to help me make sense of this, to fight for joy in the midst of fatigue. It’s becoming increasingly aware that I don’t have all the answers—that everyone’s story is different and there aren’t neat absolutes.

It’s trying to avoid resentment and reminding myself constantly that though Jonathan’s life is different than mine, my husband is entitled to be tired, to need a break. It’s reminding myself of all the work he does and trying not to compare and blame when I’m the one feeling defeated.

It’s letting other people help and not feeling guilty about time away from the boys. It’s the constant feeling that I should write down mantras to help me in this fight for daily joy and patience: “He works hard, too” or “Stay calm—you’ll regret getting angry” and tons of others that I can’t remember because I can never find my journal to write them down in time.

It’s that feeling that my good ideas are not being caught and trapped, that they’re just flitting off to some one else, someone who can appreciate them, who has her life together.

But motherhood right now is also realizing that our baby is closer to being a year old than he is to his birth. It’s feeling so much beauty and gratitude most days that my heart can’t take it, thinking we must be on the precipice of something going terribly wrong. It’s knowing with dead certainty that I will want these days back—that I’ll look back my whole life and cherish these days full of stories on the couch and feasts made in pretend kitchens and one boy begging me to play trains while another pulls up on the train table.

These things are so precious, and who am I to be worthy of experiencing these delights, the realizations of all my hopes and dreams (even if my nighttime dreams are short-lived due to the broken sleep)? 

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Adventures in Home Preschool

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Our First Three Weeks of Preschool at Home

I remember that the time after I had Liam was one of the happiest of my life because I started to relax more. I stopped worrying about getting everything done, stopped beating myself up, and stopped being a slave to the clock (which I had been my entire life up to that point).

So I resolved to have the same mindset after Walt was born (albeit with a toddler, too!). It worked great! Though I overdid it a bit the first few days, eventually I got back into the “I need to keep these tiny humans alive and just accomplish what I can” mindset. I actually felt better than I had when I was pregnant, and I discovered how much I loved having two kids to split my time (most of the time!).

As the hazy (fussy) newborn days began to lift and Spring came, I realized that we needed something to direct our days. I follow Lindsay on Instagram and saw her post about preschool.

The last time I tried preschool at home, we did ABC Jesus Loves Me, which could work great for some kids, but it was a lot of paper for us. I couldn’t find a way to make it creative and to make it fit within our lives, so eventually I gave up.

But this time, I saw Simply Learning’s Instagram feed and realized, “We could do this!” I chose a theme (construction), visited the Simply Learning Pinterest as a jumping-off point, and began pinning away. A construction theme seemed like a great start because Liam already loves construction, and we have tons of construction toys.

We got tons of books from the library, some old and most new. On Sunday night, I put out only construction based toys (and left his cars because there’s no way he would live without his cars). I made a sensory bin with rice, sticks, rocks, and a little bit of homemade Play-doh. He was so excited that first Monday! He calls it the “special bin” and seems to appreciate it is not available to play with all the time.

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I love the idea of a theme-based weekly preschool at home. It provides the flexibility I need, while also giving me a toolkit of great activities and books to structure our lives. Liam is really good at playing with me—he’s so creative and verbal. But he also would love to play all day and gets bent out of shape when I have to take care of Walt’s diaper or feed him. Our theme-based activities give us something extra to accomplish besides just playing (though playing is great too!), so it’s a win-win. Plus he actually is learning.

Last week our theme feelings because giving him more vocabulary about emotions seems helpful. One of our biggest successes has been gross motor movement games like these flashcards for construction or playing musical monsters with these cards (when the music stops, he has to imitate the monster’s face).

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Some of the activities have not been successful,but most require little time on my part, so that’s okay. I've learned not to let it ruin my day when he refuses to do an activity (or refuses to do it my way or the right way). After all, this is just for fun!

We do the activities and read the books when we can. Jon’s schedule has been crazy lately, so some mornings we have more of a formal circle time, but most of the time, we just try to fill in our circle time calendar at some point in the morning.

I think the biggest benefit has been adding some structure to our days. Liam asks for “more fun stuff” (meaning school stuff) often, which is encouraging. Sometimes he doesn’t seem very interested in an activity until later when he’s showing Jon what we were doing. It has made a positive difference in our relationship for me to have activities ready for him. He still wants to “just play” most of the time (which I totally encourage) , but he also loves these activities.

As we've been talking about sky and space this week, he's love learning about which clouds mean storms are coming. I bought some miniature planets (which were a huge hit!). We'll continue our sky and space theme through this week and then join up with the Simply Learning Little Blue Truck unit on May 9, which I am ridiculously excited about.

I feel better knowing we are working intentionally on skills like letter and number recognition, and I love having some control over our days. These activities often pull either Liam or myself out of a funk. And I  can't overemphasize how flexible we are about this; some days we do many activities while other days we may just read themed books before bed.

As I reflect on it, I have two main goals: to open his eyes to new ideas and to make him want to know more. He probably won’t remember dropping a homemade parachute off the deck on a warm April morning or laughing as we read How Are You Peeling, but I hope that our school activities will stick in his mind by inspiring him to want to learn more. And maybe, just maybe, those planet names won’t be quite as unfamiliar when he encounters them in the future.

I've made an Instagram account to make it easier for me to document what we're doing and include some in our yearly family albums. Feel free to check it out: @tinyschooladventures.

P.S. I highly recommend starting preschooling/tot-schooling at home by looking at Kaitlyn's website, Simply Learning. It is beyond amazing and not at all overwhelming.

On Seeing Children as Sinners

I know this post is exceedingly long. But it feels like one of the most important things I've ever written as I've worked through my own understanding of God and parenting. That's why I share it here.

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I heard it from a young age, probably with each infant that was baptized: children, even from birth, need God's grace because they are sinners.

I can't tell you how many times since then I've heard some version of this:

"We don't have to wonder if our children are sinners. From the very beginning they crawl towards things even when we say "no." They often have a look of deliberate disobedience when you tell them not to do something. And if you watch them in the nursery, you will see that they don't even want to share!"

I'm tired of it.

I'm not sure why we focus so much on seeing children as sinners. I think the goal is to illustrate the concept of original sin--that in Adam's fall, we sinned all. None are born in a state of perfection; all are sinners because Adam sinned. We deserve the curse of disobedience even before we disobey because we are part of the human race. But I don't think this means we need to discipline from a standpoint of children as sinners.

To push it further, I'm not sure that everything we see in our children is even sin. That desire to crawl toward something even when the parent says "no" may not be rebellion so much as curiosity--even a healthy testing of the limits. Children don't always understand our commands like we think they do, nor are we always as consistent as we think.

The parents who parent the child as first and foremost a sinner are not only possibly missing a good relationship with their child; they are missing the Gospel for themselves too.

Cheerful, Immediate Obedience

Christian parenting advice often puts the parent in the place of God and the child in the place of us. These books imply that we are supposed to teach our children to obey us cheerfully, and that will teach them to obey God cheerfully. But harsh discipline and strict rules cannot, alone, produce willing obedience. Our commands are never perfect as God's are; even our commands can be tainted with sin and selfishness. Sometimes I've found that we want our children to obey more for our convenience and self-image than for their good.

In Deuteronomy 1:39, God is telling Moses that the faithless adults will not see the promised land; He will instead give it to their children (a marvelous act of grace!). But what he says fascinates me:

"And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deut 1:39, emphasis mine).

What age, I wonder, were these children that the Lord said had "no knowledge of good and evil"--the same phrase used for the Tree in the Garden of Eden? Perhaps until a certain age, there is no true knowledge of good and evil, necessary to call something "sin."

Even the "rod" in the spanking verses is not as clearcut as some parenting experts imply. Certainly the word rod--shebet-- can mean a literal rod of punishment, but it can also be a rod used for writing, ruling, walking, or fighting. It can even be a shepherd's staff. After all, it is the same word used in Psalm 23--"his rod and his staff they comfort me."

Another Parenting Metaphor

That's the image I cling to--a parent as a shepherd. So perhaps our primary inspiration should come from the verses about Christ as the Good Shepherd in John 10. He lays down his life for his sheep; they hear his voice; none harm them. And ultimately, I think shepherding reflects how so many of us want to parent. We want to be free to cuddle our kids and delight in them fully and not worry about them being spoiled. We want to be free to sacrifice for them without people telling us we are spoiling them or becoming martyrs. We don't want to see every misstep as sin.

Instead of parenting from a standpoint of God (us) and Israel (our children), we need to parent incarnationally, embodying Christ who makes himself nothing and comes down to us in all of our mess and tantrums and frustration. I think this would look like getting down on our children's levels more and trying to see things from their viewpoint. It would mean parenting from their context and not just our own, using our power to make them more the people God intended them to be. It would mean seeing their God-given image-bearing characteristics first--their innate creativity and desire to be productive and beauty and relational skills--before we look at their sin. (Sidenote: This is one reason I love the Montessori philosophy so much!)

We talk about the metaphoric washing of our spouse's feet, but what about washing our children's feet? It's not just the daily serving--the resources we are obligated to provide like shelter and food. It's about voluntarily serving them and submitting our own desires--when appropriate--to theirs. It's not a parenting of martyrdom but of self-giving love. And while most parents do love sacrificially day in and day out to keep their children healthy, I think we need to see the delight in the sacrifice--the delight in making ourselves nothing in order to live out the Gospel for our kids (note: this is not about burnt-out sacrifice).

Jesus and Parenting Advice

Interestingly Jesus never once tells parents to discipline their children (though teaching our children right and wrong and the commands of God is certainly in the Bible!). When he does talk about children, it's inviting them to come to him and encouraging faith like theirs. I think about this when children--my own child or those of others--seem to get in the way of my plans. My heart is far too often that of the disciples'--"Get them out of the way! The adults are talking now." But Jesus says,

"Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14b).

In Mark 10, he adds,

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (vs. 15).

This story is told in all the Gospels except for John. Perhaps we come closest to the kingdom when we are closest to children. If my job is about conforming a stubborn child's will to God's commands as so many Christian parenting experts imply, I am missing the clear words of Christ in Mark 10:15. I am missing an opportunity to learn from children.

How we parent reflects how we see the Gospel. If I see myself--standing in the place of God--as a strict disciplinarian and my child as a stubborn sinner, then I am missing the Gospel. God does not look at us and see sinners; he looks at us and sees children because of Christ. This means that I can embody the Gospel in my parenting, preaching it not just to my child but to my own heart.

It's clear that just as in God's relationship with us, parenting is first about the relationship and second about the commands. The sheep must know the shepherd in order to hear and trust his voice. This is what we see in God's commands to Israel. Rather than a command to discipline the children, the Israelites are commanded to talk about God's law in all the ordinary aspects of their lives:

"You shall teach [these commands] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise..." (Deut. 11:19)

In this past year and a half of motherhood, I've come to understand God's love better not through discipline or calling my son a sinner but through the sheer delight I take in him and his simple trust in us. He looks to us to give him good food and the right word and sleep. We want to give him good things--sometimes I wish I could buy the whole toy store for him! We're not sitting there trying to test his obedience, waiting for him to mess up, expecting that our own rules are perfect models of God's own.

We try to understand him while simultaneously trying to raise him to love what is good and true and holy and beautiful. We're aware of our own failures and don't think of our rules as perfect like God's.

I know I'm just a mom of a one-year-old. I hardly qualify as a parenting expert. But I do wonder what would happen to our own understanding of God if we stopped viewing children as little sinners and tiny despots and instead tried to see the world from their eyes. What if we washed their feet--voluntarily rather than just meeting obligations? What if talk about God was a consistent part of daily lives, not just during devotional time or discipline situations? What if we tried to receive the kingdom of God as they do? Would we find freedom--and renewed spiritual insight--in parenting like that?

How I Learned I'm Not As Lazy As I Thought (And You Probably Aren't Either!)

IMG_8978 Jon and I always had a pretty even division of dinner labor (that I felt worked completely in my favor). I made the dinner; he cleaned the kitchen. We did this for the first few years of our marriage, and when I became a stay-at-home-mom, I actually had to re-learn how to clean a kitchen because I wasn't used to tackling the mess I made when I cooked.

However we still struggled with dishes. After breakfast, dishes remained in the sink all day. Then Jon would come home and wash them with most of the dinner dishes. Sometimes there wasn't room on the counter for all the clean dishes so more would stay in the sink, and the cycle would repeat itself. On my highly motivated days, I might undertake to wash the dishes earlier and stop the cycle, but I had to force myself to do it. "I need to get over my laziness!" I thought.

Washing dishes is not my favorite chore. Because of eczema, my hands are prone to cracking and bleeding if exposed to too much water. So daily dishwashing took its toll. I ended up keeping lotion next to the sink, which helped a bit. The sink was also a pain to use; it was a very old sink and spewed water everywhere until you found just the right setting. I usually ended up fairly wet after dishwashing. But I still attributed my hatred of dishwashing to my laziness.

We finally bought a new faucet when our old one broke. This faucet swiveled, came out so we could squirt off the sink, and kept consistent, moderate pressure. It definitely improved dishwashing. But I still avoided it. Lazy girl.

Then my dad was in the hospital for his hip replacement. He had to learn to trust his new hip, which was tough because the old hip had caused him so much pain that he naturally favored it. As the nurse was teaching him to walk again, she said something that stuck with me.

"We will do whatever it takes to avoid pain, and it's often subconscious. But it's a natural reaction."

On a whim, I bought a pair of light blue kitchen gloves at the grocery store. And without realizing it, I started washing dishes. There were no mental blocks, and I didn't hesitate. I didn't wait for Jon to wash them, and I didn't balk at the thought.

And suddenly I realized that maybe I wasn't lazy. Maybe I had just been avoiding the pain of cracked hands.

We're often hard on ourselves. I know all of us struggle with laziness, but I think we also have an innate desire to create, to be productive, to put in order. We like to be constructive and productive. And when I feel lazy now, I've learned to ask myself whether it's actual laziness or something that makes the task unusually painful or daunting.

When we don't want to put something away, it's often because it's hard to cram it back into an overly full closet (the capsule wardrobe changed this for me!). It may be a pain to get the mop out, so we don't mop as often as we could. Our art supplies might be buried away, so though we want to paint, we choose television instead because it's the path of least resistance.

Choosing the path of least resistance isn't always based on laziness. Sometimes it's based instead on pain, fear, or struggle that can be effectively removed. I knew I should tidy the house at the end of the day but always fell into bed instead because I didn't know where to start. And the mess built up. But once I started actually clearing our home of clutter, tidying at night became simple and actually enjoyable. I wasn't lazy; I was just overwhelmed.

You'll often find me at the sink washing dishes now. I didn't realize how one pair of gloves (plus a nice faucet!) could change my entire mindset. It sounds silly, but realizing that I'm not just lazy has helped me in so many areas. Now instead of talking to myself harshly or just giving up, I rethink my routines and ask, "Why am I avoiding this? What could make this task simpler?"

When something does need to get done, how can we make it easier on ourselves? I remember Haley talked about self-care as taking care of herself as her mother would take care of her. Sometimes I challenge myself to think of my future self. Won't my morning self be glad that my evening self took fifteen minutes to straighten up? Won't I be happy to find water on my nightstand in the middle of the night? Learning this foresight is one of my favorite parts of growing older.

You're probably not lazy either. I'm convinced that we often subconsciously know when we need to take breaks, when we need to avoid something, when we need to let something go. This past year, I've learned a lot about trusting myself and asking myself "why?" instead of criticizing and labeling. And I bet you can trust yourself too. I'm convinced you're not as lazy as you think!

Are there any tasks you have avoided because they cause pain or expend too much effort? 

P.S. I love this  article by Anne about how the right tools can make the difference (like our new faucet!). And if tidying is the cause of undue pain, give The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a try!