I remember the moment I had a “mothering-change-of-heart.” In Oprah’s words, an “aha moment.” When I took hold of the reigns to be the mother I wanted my kids to have. When I realized that a scheduled home, a secure home, and loving home was up to me. I was the mom here, and the choices I made would have lasting impact on my children.
One aspect of my childhood that I’m thankful for was our family’s morning schedule. We always ate breakfast together. Even during the high school years, when we had to be out the door early for a full day of school and activities. The breakfast menu in and of itself was rarely anything extra special; in fact, it was usually simply a bowl of cereal and orange juice. But we were seated around the table together as a family. We started our day together. And we usually read a passage of scripture together and prayed before heading out our separate ways.
Of course, there were many mornings I would have rather had an extra fifteen minutes of sleep instead of breakfast with the family. But even then I knew what we had a special. And now, I know all the more how important that was. I believe that short daily time together was crucial to providing us with a sense of security and being loved. It was a spiritually and emotionally nutritional way to begin each day. Skipping that would be like skipping breakfast. Both the breakfast and the time together gave us energy to make it through the day.
So, as I entered parenthood, I knew this was something from my childhood family culture I wanted to continue.
Of course, I didn’t need to do this when my children were young and still toddlers and pre-schoolers. In fact, during those days I was rarely getting up and out of bed before my kids. More often than not, my children were my morning alarm clocks. I am not a morning person, and I was desperate to get as much sleep as I could. I was with them all day anyway, so I didn’t feel the need to start off each morning early around the breakfast table. That day would come soon enough.
And it did. Before I knew it, Kiersten was starting kindergarten. She had to be up and out the door shortly after eight to catch the bus. Every day. Yikes! Up to this point in our parenting, Randy and I often unofficially took turns getting up when we heard a kid stirring in the morning. Many times, we’d both lie in bed wondering which one of us would “bite the bullet” and actually get up with whichever child was awake. Once Kiersten started school, I clearly remember lying in bed hoping that Randy would decide to get up and get her ready for school so I could roll over and catch a few more winks of sleep.
During the first few months of school, we continued our mornings this way. Never sure which one of us would get up with Kiersten. Never, or rarely, were both of us up together to eat breakfast with her before she began her day of school. I felt guilty. I knew this wasn’t how I had envisioned school mornings for my children. But I was tired. I still had a three-year-old and a baby. I just wanted to sleep!
And then, one fall morning of that same year, it struck me that my mom probably felt the same way on those early school mornings so many years ago. Honestly, I had never thought about that. I had taken those family breakfasts for granted. That was just a part of what Mom did. But now I realized that she had to be intentional ~ she actually had to sacrifice ~ to provide good things for us. I’m sure there were many mornings when her alarm clock went off that she would have rather turned it off and rolled over for a little more sleep. But because she loved us, and because she took her mothering job seriously, she didn’t. She got up, and began the daily task of providing tangible things that gave our home structure, security, and love.
And that was my turning point, the moment I realized that it was up to me to provide what I wanted for my kids. That it was going to be hard and was going to require sacrifice on my part ~ namely a sacrifice of sleep. My desire to provide for my kids what I had received as a kid, was going to require intentionality. It was up to me to make it happen. I was the adult here. The mom. In that moment of truth, I made a personal decision to always be the person to get up with Kiersten. I wasn’t I going to keep lying in bed, hoping that Randy would be the one to get up that morning. I was going to take hold of my mothering reigns.
My mom writes about this very thing, her moment of truth, of realizing it was up to her to make things happen. Her moment was in the context of Christmas. Of decorating the home and making things special. But her conclusions were the same:
I thought about my children. My husband. What was I doing to create a home in the deepest sense of the word for them? Were they not worthy of the same efforts that had been made for me? I will always attribute to our crossing of wires this moment of truth: I was still looking to others to receive something which had been given to me. But the time had come for me to give. I realized fully, for the first time, that all those good things that went into forming a home didn’t just happen. Someone had to invest love, energy, and creative thought. Rather than looking elsewhere for the perfect place, the time had come that my place, wherever it was, would simply have to become home. And someone would have to shape that home out of the stuff of the here and now. That someone was me.
…As I cleaned and polished and added special touches throughout the house, an important change in perspective had taken place in my heart. Instead of vainly longing for a place for me, I would create a place for those I loved.
There was no instant transformation. Rather, the beginning of a “process” based on a commitment to the bigger picture. And in that picture I was the artist creating a “safe place.” Exactly what that would involve was yet to be discovered. But what had seemed too great an effort only hours before was now elevated by a broader understanding of how it fit into the whole. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t became the first twig in the grander scheme ~ the building of “our nest.” (Keep These Things…”Building Our Nest”)
I now have an almost fifth grader, second grader, and kindergartener. It’s been almost five years since my “mothering-change-of-heart,” and I still don’t like getting out of bed in the morning. But I’ve been doing it. For five years I’ve been getting up early enough to have a breakfast ready and to help get kids successfully out the door. We have a set time for breakfast around the kitchen island every morning. As a family.
Most of the time that breakfast is quick. We’ve not incorporated a bible reading into it, like my parents did when I was a kid. We do that around the dinner table. But we start our day together, before heading off our separate ways.
I see this as part of my job, and sometimes jobs take sacrifice. My kids are worth that sacrifice. Somebody has to provide for my children what I want them to have…and that somebody is me. And I want that somebody to be me. I am the one who sees the bigger picture, and how rolling out of bed in the morning fits into it. I am their mother. The builder of their nest.