Menu

Friday, May 9, 2014

Parenting in the Mundane (Or How Mummy Struggles)

Lately, part of my job description as a mother has included spending the time when we reach home tiredly circling around the car park next to our apartment block, as our son Z enthusiastically uses his eagle-eyes to identify the license plates of cars which share the beginning letter of his name. It just seems to be his 'thing' right now, part of his excitement in learning the alphabet.
Learning the alphabet through the letters on car license plates.
He spots a letter Z from afar, clutches my hand and pulls me towards said car, stops in front of the plate and beams widely at me before tracing his favourite letter of the alphabet with his finger. We do this about five more times until, finally satisfied, we head back to the pavement and he dashes off to be the first person to press the "going up" button at the lift lobby. Not that anyone is going to vie with him for that honour - by this time, Daddy has already taken his younger brother up to sleep, and I am trudging slowly towards him, laden with bags and the tiredness of having made a few rounds of our car park yet again. Then the routine of bedtime beckons - brushing teeth, drinking almond milk, reading Elmer the Elephant, Bible story and prayer time. I must admit that sometimes I wonder when going home and getting into bed will be any easier for all of us, but still try to spend the last moments of each day meaningfully with him, knowing that they contribute to a peaceful night's rest for him.
Our little nature lover son used to insist on stepping on
every single leaf he could find. 
It used to be another ritual that got to me. On the way to the nearby neighbourhood grocery store, my sweet nature lover would insist on cutting through the field in-between the blocks of flats to look for a clump of mimosa, say good night and put them gently to "sleep", then scurry off to the area behind the shops where the exhaust pipes are, and ask me to sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" while he danced around the open area till we both got hot and bothered and sought refuge in the air-conditioned comfort of the supermarket. Yes, strange, I know. I can't remember how this routine started, but we must have done this for at least half of his second year, each time we took the same route. In fact, he even tried to do it in the rain, not caring about whether or not he got wet. It somehow brought him comfort and great delight.  

The funny thing was that I never took note of the day when he decided to stop. One afternoon about a month ago, we were taking the same path to the shop when I noticed him zooming past the field with mimosas, and dashing right past our "If You're Happy and You Know It" corner, right into the shop. 

At that very moment, a totally unexpected wave of something hit me, a combination of wistfulness and a realisation that my little boy was growing up. I glimpsed at the bright sunlight casting shadows on the exhaust pipes, half expecting to see a slightly younger version of Z dancing madly around and clapping his hands, and running to hug his brother as we sang, "If you're happy and you know it, hug Di Di..." But my little boy was no longer there; he had moved on.

The irony is that the things that seem to bug you the most at one stage in your children's growing up become the very things that you miss.  And sometimes you may not even know what these things are going to be, until they're gone.

It's been a very difficult period for me as a mother, perhaps one of the most exhausting so far. Babies are no trouble at all, regardless of what everyone says. They drink milk, sleep, and need diaper-changing, and are content with lots of hugs and snuggles. Two-year-olds, on the other hand, are bundles of energy who require your 24/7 presence as they experiment with the world around them, sometimes at the expense of their own safety. Four-year-olds also need lots of extra loving on and patience as they seek to find out a bit more about who they are and whether they matter to the people who matter most to them. Combine an affectionate but boisterous 2-year-old and a tender-hearted but whiny 4-year-old with a house that needs managing and part-time work that needs doing, and my days have often ended with me crawling into bed and not knowing how I will have strength for the next day!
Two boys each with every different needs. But both so sweet-natured and
adorable.
In The Practice of the Presence of God, the author Brother Lawrence describes how he left a life in the secular world to go into full-time ministry and joined a monastery, thinking he would spend his days in meditation and contemplation. Instead, he finds himself in the kitchen, having been assigned cooking and washing duty. To his surprise, it is there, he says, among the clatter of the pots and pans, that he finds God. 


For Brother Lawrence, "common business," no matter how mundane or routine, could be a medium of God's love. The sacredness or worldly status of a task mattered less than motivation behind it. "Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God."


I have always desired to do the same, to see God in the seemingly mundane moments of my everyday life. 

But faced with almost near exhaustion and the drudgery of the routines of everyday life, I am often full of complaints and grumbles instead of joy and gratefulness (you can ask my husband!) I not only fail to cherish these moments but often turn them into potential areas of conflict with my husband and children, expecting them to carry the load when I feel I cannot, and thinking that everything should revolve around me because I am The Tired One. How far from the truth!

These times of mundanity are times that God uses to mould our characters and make us grateful for what we do have, and to depend more fully on His Spirit for the strength we lack. 

We heard recently of a family serving God in Arkansas who lost their father and two of their nine children when a tornado hit their home. I thought that if I were in their shoes, what I would give for just one of those mundane moments which now they will never have the chance to enjoy on this side of heaven. There are so many other families who have experienced such losses. It somehow makes me grateful for the simple things we share in the everyday of our lives.

The now-missed moments of my children's growing up years drive me to thankfulness and help me to treasure the difficult moments in the present. When I choose to lift my eyes above my circumstances, God gives me a glimpse of how they look to Him; What He sees in these times is a mother offering her child her simple presence, and her children finding security and comfort in the safety of the familiar. 

More importantly, He shows me that He has been there with me in each of those moments, and that in the seemingly mundane lies something most sacred.

The Daddy's Version of Parenting in the Mundane can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment