Having my first kid was love at first sight. I was in awe of that tiny little bundle. Those ten little fingers and ten little toes made me weak in the knees. I spent hours just staring at him, marveling at the wonder of life. He and I, we meshed. He moved into crawling and walking and still it felt as if this new heart of mine, this mommy heart, beat solely to the rhythm of his.
Then along came baby #2. Less than 2 years after the arrival of #1. And it was fun. Now I got to introduce my first to all the amazing things that make babies so lovable. I still had energy and patience and somehow I survived just fine on little sleep. I adored both boys. I marveled at every new thing they did. I soaked up all the “Mommy watch this” and the “Mommy hold me.” I loved being needed. Tears and meltdowns felt like par for the course where I was able to soothe and restore. I had this whole Mommy thing down pat. Life was more chaotic than with just one, but I was good at it. And I loved it.
Less than 2 years later, #3 arrived. 2 years after that, #4. And suddenly I was knee deep in crowd control. Being a Mommy didn’t feel nearly so fun and while I still was in love with each of my babies, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to reflect on the wonders and marvels of little life. I hardly had time to stare at one before another needed my attention. I was over here treading deep water just trying my best not to sink. The first couple of years of #4’s life? A complete blur. When did she start walking? What was her favorite bedtime story? I’m ashamed to not know. I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere but the moments aren’t carved into the essence of my heart the way they were with the first one.
Realizing I can’t remember some of those moments because I was moving through life in a daze? That’s a sobering thought.
I don’t tend to hang myself with guilt or beat myself up with regret. But I do tend to let my past guide me.
These relationships I have over here? They’re not just important to me. They’re my lifeline. These kids might temporarily be mine before they head off into the wide world but they are my saving grace, my road to sanctification.
How will I possibly live with myself if I don’t nurture the little lives that I labored to bring into this world?
My littlest one is almost 4. Life has slowed down considerably for me. We can actually travel and not have to listen to screaming thirty minutes in. No more diapers or nursing babies. No more meltdowns eagerly awaiting naptimes. I’ve got two boys that I can’t remember the last time they asked me to pick them up or hold them. I only hear “Mommy watch this” occasionally these days. My once upon a time toddlers now help around the house and ease the workload of this busy mama so life doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
But I’ve spent the past few weeks looking at them wondering how the last few years impacted our relationships. I know I was here physically, but my goodness, mentally I was exhausted. Some days I felt like I had nothing left in me to give. I can’t honestly say that I paused long enough to listen to each of them. There was always so much laundry and cooking and cleaning and the minute one began to talk, another began to cry. I literally spent the last few years divided, not really giving fairly to any of them.
Of course it doesn’t help that on top of all my own self-induced responsibilities, I also had the distraction of an outside world. Text messages, social calls, Facebook groups, the world of internet. It all moves so fast today. So very fast.
So how do I nurture the relationships that give me purpose in such a fast paced world?
I have a vision of what I want our relationship to look like twenty years from now. And so I choose. I choose to slow down. To stop and savor. To be intentional. Intentional in my plans. Intentional in my conversations. Intentional in the moments I share with these darling little beings. Intentional because that’s how a goal is met…one intention at a time.
If you want to be a pro soccer player someday, you train. Intentionally. You don’t spend your days eating bags of potato chips and greasy hamburgers. You don’t take weeks off to stay indoors reading books about soccer. You play soccer. It’s one training session at a time. One intentional day at a time.
Relationships are no different.
Sometimes those intentional moments require a complete break from the fast paced beat of our everyday lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning off the phone. Other times it’s as simple as choosing them over some imagined priority. It’s always as easy as looking into their eyes when they’re talking to me. Listening to them when they express themselves (even when that’s done through a cascade of tears or a fit of anger). Holding them even when they think they don’t need to be held.
Those things pressing into me from every side. Most of those things will still be there tomorrow. They’ll still be there twenty years from now. But these relationships I’m building? That’s happening now. And I have to choose. If I want those to look like I imagine in twenty years, then I have to choose to be intentional today.