Monday, September 4, 2017

A Good Enough Summer

I'm taking a break from my Body Talk series, because, well, summer is ending this week and I have a few things I want to say. I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons lately. I’ve been thinking about how God must have designed them to accommodate our need for variety and creativity. We long for the sunny days summer and, once they are upon us, our expectations turn toward the cooler days of fall. As humans, our attention span rarely lands in one place for any length of time. We like movement, rhythm; we are cyclical in nature.

Not 2 ½ months ago, I wrote about how desperate I was for the close of the school year which you can read about here. We were done with the schedules and the homework and all the things. We were ready for lazy days and for freedom. And now here we are two days from the beginning of a new school year and all I want is schedule and routine and order again. I’m totally over the chaos that accompanies freedom. I’m really to create systems and whip my crazy messy environment (read: my house) into shape.

Maybe it’s the constant nature of my home life that makes me long for school and space and time again. I simply cannot keep up with the perpetual questioning and requesting from the mouths of babes. The people-pleaser in me wants to meet each need. If I don’t consciously fight against it, it’s how I catch myself measuring my success (which, as a mom, is a sure-fire way to feel like a failure if there ever was one!)

Or maybe it is my filthy house - the piles 80 days high of paper and swim bags and craft projects and Lego towers, all stuff that has gone ignored and has accumulated with not a spare moment to address it, that makes me ready for a new season.

Maybe it is the fact that I currently cannot exit the house without three little cling-ons literally bolting to the door and wailing in their distress things like “Why do you ALWAYS have to leave us!?” I could be unlocking the front door to water the plants on the porch and they will come running. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!?” they cry, as if I make a habit of abandoning them. Suddenly the past 162 hours straight I have spent with them amounts to nothing in their minds. All they can think about is how I “always” leave. In my weaker moments (read: every time), I can barely handle it. Feelings of guilt threaten to take over. They send me reeling and I catch myself wondering for a second “Gosh, maybe I am actually a neglectful mom.” Heavens. Seriously?

Maybe it is the fact that I’m an introvert and we have been go-go-going and peopling and socializing all summer long. I sent the following SOS text to a friend recently and it provides excellent testament to my mental state: “All I need is like three weeks alone and then I’d probably like humans again.” Just a mere 21 days alone on a beach with a tropical beverage and I would be back up and functional again. But then 5 minutes after the company departs, I suddenly I feel desperately lonely. As my husband has been known to say, “Sometimes there is no winning with you.” Ha! You can say that again.

So, it’s time for a new season. And I think God designed us this way. Every time another season dawns, the newness might excite us. Or it might leave us feeling anxious and unsettled by the unknown. But it also draws our attention in a unique and needed way that keeps us on our toes. When knee-deep in any one season, it can be tempting to just glance up to take in our surroundings. We glaze over, disengage and stop paying attention because not much changes from day to day. Everything becomes a part of the scenery, losing its potency and so we begin to miss a lot.

We need a new horizon, a new vantagepoint. New seasons jolt us awake again. They alert us to focus in and take account, to reevaluate and check our game plan. They help us realize how worn we really are.

New seasons bring change. As much as we may claim to hate change, it serves a valuable purpose. Change is an inevitable force that presents us with two options: we can stand our ground and stay put, refusing to shift with the tides and grow stagnant and quickly irrelevant OR we can jump aboard the new program and adapt. We need seasons. We need a forced change in routine.

I’m thrilled for school to start on Wednesday. Beyond thrilled. Yet I know when I kiss my girls’ little heads and send them off to the classrooms where they will spend the next 9 months, I will be fighting back tears. They will be tears of sadness, yes, but also there will be tears of regret. A change in season can be exciting but, for some of us, the feelings are mixed. We may look back and not like the looks of what we see in the rearview mirror. While we may be elated about a new rhythm, it is all too easy to fall victim to feelings of regret and guilt for what has passed.

I know myself and, if I’m not careful, I know I will be overcome by a list of summer “shoulds” and “what ifs” on Wednesday. Suddenly I will think of all the things we “should” have done this summer but didn’t, all the ways I had hoped to pour into my children but that I never found the energy to implement. I will regret wishing them gone. I will most definitely question my worthiness as their mother. Suddenly the trips we took to the waterslides, to the wading pool and the lake, the morning snuggles, chauffeuring them to and from art camp and soccer camp and Vacation Bible School, the birthday parties planned, the meals out, the bike rides, the playdates and the berry picking – all these will go absent from my memory. The only things I will be able to recall are the things I intended but failed to actualize.

So, I am writing these words now, in a moment where I am not overcome by emotion, so I can read them to myself on Wednesday when I bid my older kids adieu: I am a good mom, no matter what guilt and regret might try to tell me. I love my kids and I even like them most of the time too. Our summer was good enough.

Does that phrase “good enough” just make you cringe? Oh, how it does me! Who wants their claim to fame to be that they were “good enough?” Or that they planned a vacation that was “good enough?” Well, I can tell you. Exactly no one. But, I am a firm believer that, as a culture, we need to turn this notion of perfection and ridiculous expectation on its head and grow to be okay with the good enough.

My kids had a blast this summer. My laundry mountain towers as evidence to it. They were cared for and loved. And therefore, our summer was good enough. Full stop.

Do you also need to be reminded of these words? Do you need to hear that what you did over the past 12 weeks was enough? No matter what has happened in your life this summer, there is bound to be something you didn’t get to. There is some outing or activity or art project that you had fully and absolutely intended to complete with your kids. And you didn’t. Or maybe it was visions of special one-on-one time with each child that didn’t materialize. Maybe you had hoped to snuggle them in bed every night and talk about their days but reality played out differently.

Mama, where did the time go? The days flew by and yet oh how they dragged on and now a new season is upon you. You might be wondering why you never made it to that new park or got together with that one person you said you would see all summer. Did your hours go toward comforting distraught children? Nourishing them with homemade meals? Cleaning their toilets (even if it was just that one time over the entirety of the summer?) Were you nursing boo-boos? Packing for trips? Folding laundry? Standing outside a bedroom door holding it shut to contain a tantruming child?

So often we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We kick ourselves needlessly. Our expectations are far too high. We wonder if we built enough summer memories with our children. Our minds go blank - did we have any positive interactions with them over the past 3 months? Allow me to answer that question for you: YES. Yes, you absolutely did. Your emotions may be clouding your view at this moment but trust me, you did.

Rest assured tired mama, what you did or didn’t do over the summer is in the past. Fight that twisted corner of your brain that might try and convince you that you “should” feel guilty about what went down. I don’t recall a single verse in the Bible that endorses guilt and regret. These are not from our God.

A new season is upon us. Go forth encouraged that, by the grace of God, you are enough.

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posted by kelsie