We are in our last week of our Easter month celebration, and it has been amazing. I’ve instagramed lots of Easter moments that might look awesome from the outside and I’ll probably blog some details that might look like we had it all together around here. But I want to document that it’s also been much more of a rollercoaster than I had anticipated! I had envisioned lots of spirit filled, sparkly devotionals before bed where the spirit would feel thick and sweet and we’d feel Christ more tangibly in our home. I was hoping for some kind of Jesus magic to settle in around here and change all the pestering and bickering and button pushing to service and compliments and loving interactions. Hmmmmm. Things haven’t played out that perfectly.
Thankfully there have been a quite a few golden moments where we have felt that Jesus magic, where everything has snapped into place and time is slow and the air is crystally and the Savior feels near at hand. A few times I have noticed my children talk about Jesus spontaneously and consider Him when they think about something new, or make a decision. And I have certainly felt more bonded with the Savior in relearning so many things about who He was, what he taught and His mighty miraculous power. But boy have there been lots of moments of chaos and fighting and resistance and refusals. Lots of mom frustration and kid frustration. Lots of pushing and resisting. Lots of plans gone awry.
Before becoming a mother I think I knew that things would be hard and that everything wouldn’t always go according to plan. I imagined I’d be tired, that I’d lack vision and energy, that I’d have a hard time controlling my temper, that my kids would do cute little mischievous things, that I'd have to teach them to share and get a long. But I didn’t realize how much my kids would get in the way of me parenting them! Isn’t that some kind of oxymoron? I didn’t realize that I’d put in all this work and effort and time and prayer and planning on their behalf only to have them wreck it with resistance, a bad mood, too little blood sugar, a strong will to do something different, silliness, the list goes on and on.
Sometimes I want to just say to my kids: “Trust me! Just go with it, it’s gonna be good. Just follow the program! I HAD A VISION HERE PEOPLE!! And that vision was so much more beautiful than this mess you’re making of it!”
In those moments I find myself wanting a remote control. To turn them off, or at least turn them down. I want to move their arms and legs away from all the buttons they’re trying to push and into a nice folded position. I want to turn on their ears and off their lips. I want to rewire their little brains to see things from my perspective. I want a button to mute, a joystick to move them into place and a pause button to keep them there until I get all collected and ready go. And I want a rewind button, to go back and get it right. And lots of times a fast forward button would be nice too (get sugar into their blood stream at fast forward speed!).
But God didn’t give me a remote control. That’s not the plan. As fantastic as it sounds, that would sort of defeat the purpose of parenting. We are to teach our children to control themselves, to ultimately make good choices without us using the remote of privileges given or withheld. If we could control them they’d just be little puppets, unable to direct their own lives, and really, that might get a little boring. I’m finding that Motherhood is a constant dance between knowing when to be deliberate and structured and planned out and when to throw up our hands and just shower down love. When to let things flow in a natural way and when to push your plan through even in the wake of resistance and chaos and discontented children.
This Easter season has had a hefty dose of that dance for me. I sat down to dinner on Holy Monday to tell the kids the plan for the week. All four kids were in quite a state that night. Maybe too many late weekend nights in a row, maybe too much sugar, who knows. But one was pestering, one was screaming, one was laughing and one was arguing with me about how tired they were of Jesus. Can’t we just do some worldly stuff for Easter? We already know all this stuff about Jesus.
So, that night, instead of teaching them about Christ cleansing the temple I plated my own figurative whip and I put them all to bed in a quiet (but kind of scary) mothering rage and flung myself on my bed to have a good long ugly cry. The flood gates opened and all the emotions contained for months spewed forth. I cried out pleas for Jesus to come in and clean out our temple here. Cast out all the filthiness in me, in us, in our patterns of interaction. I felt hypocritical, like somehow on the outside I might look like I was getting it all right, but on the inside things were a royal mess. I felt the frightening and utter lack of control that is really the reality of parenting. I felt stuck and unable to realize my visions, to love the way I wanted to, to teach and enjoy the blessings packaged up in these little children of mine. I felt the frustration of trying with all your might to do something good and have it go totally wrong.
I know half of those rushing emotions that night were irrational….hormones flaring up their crazy heads. But I truly believe that sometimes those crazy, seemingly irrational emotions are also meant to propel us towards something new, to get us back on track, to give us the ambition to change. So I tried to embrace all the feelings flooding my soul that night. I entertained them. I felt them fully. I wrote them down. And I woke feeling much better, but weak and reliant on God. Like all of those tears had washed away my resolve to cling to what I had believed was right, leaving me clear to rethink, a cleaner slate to rewrite. To start fresh and carve a new path, less mired by my limited vision and more inspired by God’s.
And so Holy Week went on. One of my newest friends in our ward who doesn’t have children of her own came over to do some cute Easter crafts on Tuesday and stayed for our devotional. She was a god send. Everyone seemed to be reset, to be ready to listen and feel and focus again on Jesus. I relinquished some of the control I had been wielding over to God and was reminded again and again (by the Spirit and by Jeff) that really the purpose of all of this Holy Week, this Holy Month was for all of us to feel love towards each other.
So, as soon as I felt things were going awry, as soon as I felt that urge to throw up my hands and give up, I just let go instead. I let things flow. I delegated parts of our celebration to the kids so that they felt more involved. I modified when things started going south. I danced that dance right on the edge and realized that with each situation I needed to start with a plan but be so ready to look for God’s way rather than sticking to my own.
On Thursday we met up with Eva to go for an Easter Walk through the (still snow covered) woods at the Ipswich River Wild Life Sanctuary (thanks so much for this beautiful idea Catherine). I had printed out little lists of things in nature that I wanted the kids to look for. At the end of the walk I had envisioned that we’d sit in some nice warm sun filled spot and look through their bags of nature symbols and discuss the ways in which each one points to Christ. The kids weren’t too excited about this plan and I was bracing myself to be seriously disappointed until I decided to just let it flow. They traipsed through the woods unfettered and, being led by serendipity instead of the printed sheet they found symbols and signs much more profound and real and thrilling than the ones I had included on the hunt.
We stopped still for nearly an hour to feed little Chickadees who fluttered down and ate right out of the kids’ hands. The excitement was thick as the kids felt a new connection to the wild. We noticed the thawing earth, the melting ice, the succulent water lily plants poking through the snow, the warm bright sun. We noted how thorns hedged up some of the way, how the lichen looked so brilliant and alive against the rest of the cold world still waiting for more warmth to bring new life. We spotted crosses in branches and bright green mossy growth. We walked through a tunnel carved through stone and stood in the damp middle of that path breathing in the smell of an empty tomb. We didn’t read any scriptures or talk about anything too serious. We just let ourselves feel the thrill of breathing in the brink of spring.
One year we’ll do the Easter Walk I had planned. We’ll collect beautiful signs and bring them home and make a centerpiece for our Easter Table. But this year where serendipity took us was perfect.
Parenthood is a great balancing act. Of course we want to plan and think and be deliberate and create meaningful experiences for our children. Of course we should push through lots of things even (and maybe especially) when our children cry out in protest against them. But this Easter season I’ve been reminded that the minute I feel like my kids are getting in the way of me parenting is the minute I need to step back, zoom out, re think my plan and connect with God who sees the big picture.
I can’t wait to post more about our Easter season, because it really was stretching and bonding and strengthened the foundation of our family. But I wanted to post all of this first because it’s so easy to see all the happy perfect pictures and forget that there was a struggle beneath them. We can’t forget the struggle because it’s the struggle that makes everything beautiful. The dark parts are what make the whole glisten.