I entered my kitchen with a huge sigh and a feeling of remorse… It was bad. The dishes were piled high in the sink, the dishwasher was a mess of items to put away, crumbs littered the floor and the griddle was still out from the pancakes we had made that morning. Despite cleaning the night before, the kitchen had seen its wear and tear that day and, with it being almost bed time, it was time to attack it while my husband played with our kids.
I glanced over at them… All 4 of them were standing in the living room while my husband was scrolling through YouTube. He landed on a video, pushed play and Chubby Checker’s “Twist” began to fill the the living room.
“Let’s Twist guys!” said my husband as he grabbed little hands and soon they were all twisting. Giggling, little shrieks and a whole lot of dancing. Everyone was smiling and my husband was laughing and dancing right along with them. They were enjoying themselves completely. And I watched them, behind my perch of dirty dishes, and felt like I might sit down and weep. It was a scene of joy. And I felt a little isolated and even ashamed. Because I couldn’t remember the last time I had enjoyed my kids so much.
Somewhere between sleepless nights, a consistent level of worry over if everyone is okay, and taking care of their every day needs, I had become a mom who did her duty… My kids were well cared for and fiercely loved. However, I forgot to enjoy all the little things. The giggles before bedtime. The bathtub splashing. The running in circles around the kitchen island. All of these small but beautiful things that tell me I have these amazing little ones. Little ones who show us what sheer and pure joy is… And I was missing it. Missing it because of getting so involved with the duties of mom that I didn’t invest in the pleasure of watching and playing with my children.
The Bible says our Heavenly Father delights in us and rejoices over us. Isn’t that amazing? He takes pleasure in me. I think that is a wonderful example of the parent I want to be. I realize my children will only be little for so long. They will only build towers with blocks and make me pretend cakes and tea for so long. And I don’t want to miss out… There will always be the everyday care and routine that is necessary with being a parent but enjoying them is just as important to me… And here are some ways that got me back there:
1. Getting down to their physical level. My kids are still so tiny I can pick all of them up and carry them everywhere…. But I find getting down to their level makes me more one on one with them. Whether it’s kneeling down for a hug, getting on our tummies to color, or sitting on my knees to make Lego cars, we can see eye to eye. I see the world from their perspective. And somehow it all becomes more fun. Suddenly I remember my childhood playing with Barbies and pretend dinners and I connect with their enjoyment.
2. Reading to them. I find if things are going crazy the best thing for us to do is pick out books to read. Before it was throwing them in the bathtub to splash it out but I would just focus on washing their hair and cleaning dirty faces. When I sit down to read with them, I am all there. They ask me questions. I make up little voices. I usually say, “Everyone pick a book to read” but by the time we are done we’ve gone through 10 at least. They ask questions about the story and we laugh at silly situations. It seriously makes me realize what a gift it is to just be with them and connect through learning.
3. Go outside to play. It is so easy to say “go outside for a bit you guys” so they can run into the backyard and I can get some things done. But when I go out with them it leaves me almost exhilarated. We kick around the ball and run around. I toss the ball to my son who swings with his oversized bat and I cheer him on when he makes a good hit. We splash around with their water table and paint watercolor pictures on the benches. The fresh air, the sun shining on us, and just being together puts us in such a calm and happy place.
4. Talk to them. I sometimes forget my kids are humans who can converse with me. They are learning to understand and like things. They have questions. They have items they want to tell me. When we talk about the things around us we are learning together, I can teach them, and they can discover new and exciting things. Once, before we went to Disneyland, I took the kids to In-N-Out for some french fries and we talked about what rides we wanted to go on, we watched YouTube clips of the rides they might be excited about and we figured out what snacks we should buy. Suddenly I realized we had been sitting for 45 minutes, chatting the whole time, and letting the kids have a vested interest in planning our vacation. It was so much fun and to this day they will still talk about that time.
5. Pray together. I found nothing has brought me closer to my children then to sit and pray with them already. They may be littles (4, 2 1/2 and almost 1 years old respectively) but they understand prayer. They know they are talking to Jesus and we are giving Him thanks for what we have and praying for those in need. Before we eat they actually go “I pray first!” while the other goes “No, I pray first please!” They close their eyes tight (my son even cutely rocks his head back and forth) as they say “Thank you Jesus for food, for playing, for my cousins, for reading books…” They are learning gratitude and honor at such a young age and I find they teach me about the faith of a child. Nothing gives me greater pleasure then to see my children praying to the Lord and joining right along with them.
That night, as I stood in the messy kitchen and I watched my children, my son caught my eye and said, “Come on mom!” And so I did. I dropped down my dish towel and joined them in the living room, grabbed my daughter’s hands and began to twist. And then with my oldest son. And then my youngest even. And then we all held hands in a circle and had one giant twist party. And I can tell you it is one of the best and most enjoyable memories of my life.
The kids eventually went to bed. The dishes got done late. And every second of twisting was worth it. I wish the responsibilities of being a mother didn’t come as naturally to me as the joy. I may have to be intentional to work for the joy. But the moment I make an effort, the joy is overwhemingly wonderful. And every second is beyond beautiful. Motherhood is hard some days and full of every day work that is necessary and those are actually really wonderful and beautiful things because motherhood is serving our children.. And serving is a gift. But don’t forget to enjoy the little moments. They happen every day if we just choose joy.