I am not good at “again.” All those parts of mommyhood that demand repeated attention – oh wait, that’s all of it – are hard for me. I get to check laundry and dishes off of my list one day, and then, just like that, there they are on my list again. And again. Every day, in fact!
But I am an achiever. I am type A. I am a first-born. I have a master’s degree. AND I DON’T LIKE HAVING TO DO THE SAME THINGS OVER AND OVER. In my job, I create things. It’s very fulfilling. I create training slides and handbooks and resource materials. Every once in a while I might go back and update some wording or add new numbers to a chart, but basically, once I complete something – it’s out there. My name and a date are stamped on it, it gets e-mailed out to the people who need it, and voila. I check that thing off for good and move on to the next thing.
But you don’t get to move on to the next thing with kids – at least not quickly or easily. The same conversations (put your shoes away/don’t pick your nose/please put a shirt on/we don’t throw food) happen for years… if not with the same kid over and over, then with the next kid in line. And the same activities (i.e. changing diapers/cutting up hot dogs/searching for soccer cleats) keep happening, too.
Are we getting anywhere?!?!? Are we moving in the right direction?!? And how can I know? My husband laughs when I tell him that I need a strategic plan for family life. But I want to know what our ultimate goals are, when they need to be accomplished by, and the specific action steps to take to get there.
Goal #1: Raise small children to become healthy, responsible, and unselfish adults by the year 2030 (give or take 5 years).
- Action Step 1: Feed and clothe them
- Action Step 2: Pray them before they go to school in the morning
- Action Step 3: Read them a book every night
Oh, if it were only this easy! If only I knew that my efforts would produce a specific outcome!
Part of the reason I get so frustrated with my children when they act… for lack of a better word… childlike, is that it feels like proof that we are making no progress. Here we go again, I say to myself. Dealing with the same emotional outburst/issue with lying/carelessness/selfishness as always. It’s like sorting laundry. Problems that we addressed yesterday come right back up again.
Like the man cursed to roll his stone up the hill over and over for eternity, I sometimes feel like I am rolling my home and laundry and small children up the hill over and over, never actually accomplishing anything meaningful. Every day is just a repeat of the last day. I am living in my own personal Groundhog Day.
Whew. That’s a frustrating and hopeless feeling.
But check this out, people. I just discovered something life-alteringly simple and amazing.
It is spring, and trees are blooming and leaves are sprouting and dandelions are already everywhere. Next, summer will come, and then fall, and finally winter. And then guess what? Here we go again…. spring! The seasons repeat themselves endlessly, too! It’s not just my laundry and my kids. Repetition is an integral part of our experience of life. I may be living in a microcosm of repetition, but it is not unnatural or abnormal. This is the way of life.
And yet, although there is repetition, it’s not the exact same thing over and over. Every spring, saplings stand a little taller. Perennials spread to new patches of ground. Bushes fill out a little wider. And trees’ roots grow a little deeper. Why? It takes repetition and time for growth to happen.
Deuteronomy 6:5-8 (NLT) says:
5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Oh!! It’s in the “over and over”, the boring, the routine, and the rote daily activities… that’s where truth and character have a chance to take root.
So here’s to you, dear mothers/caregivers/ones living in the frustrating realities of repetition… And here’s to seasons.
Because even when a season feels like it is lasting fooooorrrrreeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrrr, I’m almost positive that what we do over and over (and over and over) is making a difference. No matter how many times we have done it before, and no matter how many more times we will do it again. Our day-to-day reminders and meal prep and prayers and laundry and loving correction and practice of life are the water and sunshine that make our little saplings grow.
And growth – imperceptible growth – is sneaking in through our faithfulness!