As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Time Waits for No One

I hesitate to write a post about organization, because I fear the moment I do my life will be launched into chaos.  If next week you find me lamenting the craziness of life and how all my routines have gone by the wayside, you can politely remind me of how I dared to write about how I have it all together.  I brought it on myself.

The truth is, organization is a long and continuous process of conversion for me.  My life constantly ebbs and flows between routine and chaos, and sometimes I am on top of everything, while while at other times I can barely manage to stay afloat.  It all depends on what is going on at the time in my life, and I am slowly beginning to realize that I can't attach myself to one idea of a routine.  Sure as the sun as soon as I find my groove, there will be something to throw it off, and what I really need to learn is how to be flexible and do the work before me in the moment, understanding that sometimes I won't be able to do everything I did yesterday.

I reached a real turning point near the end of the school year when I found myself constantly complaining that "time just gets away from me."  Not unlike students everywhere, mine were distracted by the warm weather and imminent promise of summer vacation, and I struggled to keep them focused on their school work.  Lunch gradually pushed back to 1:00 and sometimes even 2:00, which of course pushed back all the work I had not been able to get to during school, leaving me with a small window to accomplish a day's worth of chores before supper time (and without the convenience of a sleeping baby, whose nap was often over by the time I even managed to look at my chore list).  I was so fixated on the amount of work the kids were doing, and they were completely unmotivated.  I had read a parenting book that talked about putting the monkey on the kids' back when it comes to discipline (making the consequences such that it was more of a problem for them than you, so they are motivated to change it) and I remember texting Jeff one day in exasperation over what the school day had become and saying, "help, the monkey's on my back!  How do I get him off??" Then I decided to buy this bad boy:

Jeff put it up right in the middle of my living room, and from that day on our school days have followed a strict schedule dependant on time, not the amount of work they do. Anything they don't accomplish during the school day gets left for homework and we move on to the next subject.  Homework time, rather than being after supper (which I always found to be a fight, especially when they straggle and it starts to affect bed time) is now 3:00 - the exact time their school friends arrive home on the bus.  So if they want to go outside and play, they have to finish their homework first.  If they straggle, they have plenty of time to get it done before or after supper without putting extra pressure on me.  Bonus!

I realized then how important it is (for them and me) to realize that we operate within time, and it doesn't bend for us.  Days shouldn't just slip away, and time shouldn't just stretch on and on - we need to pay attention to it, and make good use of it.  Little by little, that's what I've been trying to do.

This summer, in anticipation of the new school year, I got serious about a family schedule and family jobs.  Things were starting to get out of control, and I realized it was time to start depending on the kids on more of a regular basis, instead of just when I reached the end of my rope and asked them to help.  I made a job chart for them, assigning specific jobs to each snack and mealtime that we have - the idea being that we are all together at those times of the day, and it's easier for me to get them to do something before sending them off again than it is for me to call them in if they're outside (in which case I would be tempted to just do it by myself, because things are quiet!)  I left the morning snacktime free with the school day in mind, figuring they need a break from having worked all morning, but otherwise they each have a small job to do after breakfast, lunch, supper, afternoon snack, and rosary.  I put the jobs that are non-negotiable (the ones that absolutely need to be done every day) first thing in the morning and just before bed, so that if we have a day out the afternoon jobs can be left until the next day.  I find it makes me so much more agreeable, because if I walk downstairs to discover their room a mess for example, I don't freak out right away.  I know that the time will come for them to do that job, and I wait until then.  

In the process, I gave my daughter a little more responsibility. She was not crazy about the idea of doing laundry, until I came home with her very own pink laundry basket. Now she can't wait!

Things have been really good for the past little while, and I really feel the Lord's blessing on our family life. Not because of my schedule, or my charts, or even my pink laundry basket, but because every day I am learning more to find Him in the present moment. It is so hard not to be attached to the future, to feel pressure from the end of the day and what I want that to look like.  I can't help that, and if I'm always playing catch-up then I'm doomed to fail.  But if we as a family know what we need to be doing in each moment and we do that, I'm finding things run so much more smoothly.  I fully expect that things will be shaken up at any time depending on a multitude of things - birthdays, illness, vacation, new babies, anything!  But I know that if I stop looking to the future with worry and keep my focus on the duty of the moment, the Lord will bless my efforts and make me a much more contented Mom.  Which is something we could all use a little more of around here.

The reward of a life lived in the moment

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