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When Is a Mess Not a Mess?

Trio block constructionSunday evening, one week into my 19-unit semester. Four months of classes and assignments, abstracts and annotations, essays and reflections loomed ahead. I wanted to get in bed on time … so I wanted the kids to get in bed on time. I approached the boys’ room to pray with them for the night.

I stopped in the doorway, temporarily blinded by the state of their room.

Books, papers, and writing instruments covered the desk. Trio block creations scattered the floor and Lego creations stood on top of the dresser and every other horizontal surface. During the weeks leading up to the kids’ school and my classes starting again, I had spent more than a couple of hours organizing, cleaning up, and cleaning out that room with the boys … then telling them in no uncertain terms that their room needed to stay clean because the weeks ahead would be too busy to spend much time deep cleaning.

“Boys, this room is a mess,” I stated. They looked at me as though I was speaking another language. “How much time did we spend cleaning this room?” They were silent. “You’re not watching any videos until the room is clean.”

As I tried to go to sleep that night, I thought back on my motherly feathers being so ruffled by the state of their room. And I thought about that. The Trio buildings. The art work and projects. The Lego towers. I realized it was all creative play. Building. Drawing. Even reading. All good things. Creative expressions.

No wonder I felt like I was speaking a different language. In a way, that’s just what I was doing. I said “mess” because I saw a mess. They drew blanks because they saw their creations and ongoing projects. We looked at the same room and came up with very different conclusions because of our very different perspectives.

And then I thought about later. Five years from now. Or ten. I thought about their room, and how I might wish to see my kids’ latest drawing or project or poem or construction. But my kids will no longer be kids. They will have moved on to bigger and grander things.

Their room might be clean then. But the loss would be mine.

How many times do I, as a parent, look in from the outside, or from above, and fail to see the world from my children’s perspective? Through their eyes? Whether it be their room or their homework, an argument between siblings, or an emotional situation they’ re going through.

The next morning, before I even got up, the boys had cleaned their room. (And I thought my words had gone selectively unheard.) I missed the chance to get on their level and ask them what they were working on. Or join them in their creative play. Again, the loss was mine, even though the room was tidy.

No, it’s not my job to clean up after my children. And yes, they do need to develop a sense of responsibility. But perspective makes such a difference. Perspective on messes. On time. On teaching and learning.  As a parent, I am slowly coming to learn that I have more to learn than I ever did. And even that is a matter of perspective. Seeing the learning as a joy, as something to be gained from every person and every situation.

Even from a “messy” room.

Lego creation & stack of books

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A Living Example

Today my kids made me proud … and they put me to shame.

I posted this on my Facebook wall today, as I’m trying to post something I’m thankful for each day leading up to Christmas:

I’m thankful for my kids’ generosity. It actually astounds me. They have been saving up coins for over a year. Nearly two years, actually. Faithfully dropping pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into their blue piggy bank.
Then, when the typhoon tore through the Philippines, I suggested sending something to them. Since then, they have been trying even harder to save up, putting every coin in the piggy bank. Even Aiden kept talking about how full it was getting and how we would need to send it to the Philippines soon.
Today we went to a store to get the money counted. The kids saved up $44.40 and not a single one asked to keep any of it for themselves.

I was at first feeling good about my kids … and myself. Raising them to be aware of people in need. About time to pat myself on the back.

But then I thought, “Hold on. They’re not following my example.” I don’t know that I’ve ever given up a year’s worth of savings for the cause of missions.

I’m actually not a very generous individual. Money, perhaps, is not such a big issue for me. God will always supply in some way.

But I’m selfish with me. With my time. I consider time very important … probably more important than it should be. I hate wasting time. More than once, I’ve gotten on my kids’ cases for “making me waste time.” I’ve also gotten on their cases for wasting their time.

But seeing them today, so freely giving away something that has taken them time to earn and save humbles me. Makes me want to be a little more generous … a lot more, in fact. With my time, with my money, with anything that could make a difference for the better in someone’s life.

To be a living example to my kids. As well as let their living example change my heart and life.

via A Living Example.