We are so excited to feature one of our teachers from the The Shift! Elisa Watson, is our guest author on the blog today and she has a message that completely resonated with us. If you’ve ever been brave enough to make a detailed schedule and tried to enforce it with your children, we have a good feeling you’re going to love what Elisa has to say.
I recently made a very detailed new daily schedule.
!!!Ta-da!!! That is the single most boring opening line of a blog post you will ever read!! But stick with me for a sec. That’s what friends do. They stick it out through boring blog post openings. (As the age-old saying goes.)
YES, I made an exciting new schedule. It’s exciting because having this schedule is bound to reduce stress and develop an ever-growing sense of joyous togetherness between me and my husband and children as we intentionally make the most of every moment. As all schedules do.
‘Round here, bedtimes had been getting later and later, mornings had been getting more and more hectic, and, due to (very) frequently missed baths, my younger boys had been getting dirtier and dirtier. Perhaps I’m placing a little too much faith in some inked-in numbers and words on a piece of paper, but it’s funny how that piece of paper carries so much authority. With a schedule, it’s no longer just me saying “Hey, kiddos, you should probably have a bath tonight since you haven’t had one in…..seventeen days.” No, now it IS Bath Time. It’s a fact of existence. When the younger boys come around asking for snacks for the eight-thousandth time each day, I can say “Nope! Snack time is in half an hour!” or “Nope! We just had snack time! Wait until dinner!” and everyone complies — albeit grudgingly — because now Snack Time is an actual thing that exists. It’s delightful.
But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and a mere two days into this heroic new schedule we had one of those “spills and stubbed toes” kind of mornings, a “tears and exhaustion” kind of morning, a “poop-fiasco-that-nobody-wants-to-hear-the-details-of” kind of morning. And I commented to my teenager as we got in the car to leave for school, “My schedule didn’t have poop in it.” He agreed that it would be rather a weird schedule if it did, but now I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and add “poop fiasco” to any spot on my schedule where it would be most inconvenient. Then I would be delighted on days where such a fiasco did not occur. Oh look! Seven extra non-disgusting minutes in my day! (n.b. The poop in question belonged to my potty-training toddler. Everyone older than three is doing just fine in that department, thank you very much.)
That particular morning, shortly before the fiasco — and shortly after the spills — I was scrubbing some unidentifiable (but abundant) smudgy mess off of a door frame (marker? pancake syrup? something more nefarious?) and meanwhile my toddler was screaming for me from across the house (a result of the aforementioned stubbed toe). I knew we had ten minutes to accomplish an hour’s worth of things in order for me to get all four of my children out of the house in a timely manner, and I felt aggrieved by these unscheduled intrusions on my time. (Some people may claim a smudgy door frame is not an urgent matter. Some people don’t know me.) Running back and forth across the house tending to messes and tears hadn’t been in the schedule. I hadn’t decided to do those things. They had been decided for me.When every day contains only a certain number of minutes, and I have things that I would like to do with those minutes, unexpected events like stubbed toes and door frame smudges tend to feel like an intrusive waste of time.
So, already feeling that precious time was being wasted by non-schedule-approved scenarios, I had just begun to usher everyone out the door when the fiasco ensued. I believe I let out an exasperated noise (something attractively along the lines of “raaaugh!”), but even as I did I also had to laugh a little — more of a high-pitched “why is this happening” laugh than a lighthearted “isn’t this delightful” giggle — because it was all so ridiculous. I had felt like spilled milk and a smudgy door and a stubbed toe were really cramping my style, and then along came an actual “you must deal with this RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW” situation. As I whisked the offending toddler out of the room to tidy him up, I found myself praying, through the gritted teeth of my soul, that God would somehow redeem all the events of the morning, because they weren’t feeling particularly valuable to me at that moment.
That’s probably based in part on my definition of “valuable.” When I’m able, I read books about people who have done interesting and important things, and they are fascinating and inspiring. Even the books themselves are important and interesting, meaning the authors who wrote them are also doing interesting and important things. And as every parent knows, much of what we do every day can feel anything but “interesting and important.” On the surface, what we do can seem really really mundane. And yet it’s not mundane, not if there’s any joy or humor or humility or character or connection with others to be gained from it.
Because a poop fiasco can be nothing more than a poop fiasco, something to be dealt with as quickly as possible and then moved on from and forgotten about forever (instead of memorializing in a blog post). It can be an opportunity to get angry at the kids or the defecation gods or our own human disgustingness for creating such situations in the first place. It can be an opportunity to feel supremely sorry for oneself. OR it can be an opportunity for something more. To groan in disgust, to buckle up and take care of it anyway, to kiss our kids on the head and say “I like you, you know” real quick (because they might be wondering at that point), to laugh about it afterwards, to feel a sense of camaraderie with one hundred percent of parents everywhere, and to pray that God would keep us humble and self-sacrificing and persevering in our love for those entrusted to our care
There’s a boring version of the story, and it goes like this: I made a schedule, but I can’t stick to the schedule because my kids are needy and demanding and unpredictable and sometimes gross, and I guess I just have to put things like peace and order and dreams and “me time” on hold for the foreseeable future. Oh well. Motherhood is a thankless job. Blah blah blah.
And then there’s the redeemed version: I made a schedule, but “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) And sometimes it seems it’s the Lord’s purpose to remind me that I’m not in control, that my children need me to love them just as much when they’re being gross and obnoxious as when they’re being sweet, and that my desire to do all the things I want to do is not as important as his desire to see me become more like Christ through a daily dying to self. And meanwhile, there is also the subtle sense of hilarity that I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience if everything went as planned, the ability to laugh with my older kids, to say “I hear ya, sister” when another mom shares a similar story, and the strangely refreshing reminder that I am weak (but HE is strong). Every one of those things is a good thing.
I don’t usually feel all those warm fuzzies in the moment. Usually, I just feel exasperated. But part of the redeeming process is that a thing was bad, and it became good. If it didn’t feel crummy to begin with, it wouldn’t need to be redeemed. Like fiascos, like messy schedules, like my own gritted-teeth soul without Jesus.
Now I just need to remember I said all these nice things next time I experience an unscheduled fiasco. Which is likely to be any minute now.
Elisa Watson is a wife, mother to four boys and former foster mama. She loves a good storytelling of all sorts, from novels to memoirs to blogs to television to movies to music, and when she writes she loves trying to see the bigger stories behind little everyday things. She is an ISFJ, and if you’d like to have a long conversation about what exactly THAT means, she’s your gal. But if you’d like it in a nutshell, here’s a little gem she recently came across: “The undyingly loyal friend who reminds you of your grandmother, but in a good way. As in, they regularly bake you cookies and are always down for a relaxing night in.”