Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Putting on the Brakes

We've experienced a new development in our family. One that has given me a bit of angst and worry, one I am still processing and learning about. But writing this article for the Deseret News (it's also on the Power of Moms site today) has helped me determine a plan of action.

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I want to write more about how I've felt as I've watched my boys present this new challenge, how I would do anything to help them, but for now, here's my take on slowing down life and why it's important, especially in our homes.

21 comments:

  1. I've followed your blog for sometime now, probably almost a year. This topic is my neverending struggle, my source of nightly anxiety and constant guilt after all my little ones are finally in bed---what feelings did I leave them with after all the chaos and rushing of our day?? I have twins who just barely turned five, a 2.5 year old and a 7 month old. There is NEVER enough of me to go around, even for my husband, certainly not for myself, either. Like you, we hardly ever go anywhere, but even just staying at home all day, everyone is always getting shortchanged. I would love to hear anything more specific about how you have managed this feat of slowing down and getting down to your children's level. If you had to distill your experience into one sentence of advice on how to cope with life's demands while trying to do less of life and more of living, what would it be? I know i have to find my own way, my own answers, etc., but any advice would be appreciated while I am standing here at the overwhelming crossroads of my own journey to learn how to focus on what matters "more".

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    1. Amber, I understand your crossroads and the overwhelming nature of each day's choices/challenges. I liked your phrasing of "less life and more living" - that's a pretty good one-liner to go on! I feel just as you do many nights as I walk into the kitchen alone to finish the dishes, pick up toys: "What feelings did I leave [my children] with?" I've had so many guilt-ridden moments when I focus too much on what I can't or didn't do. And I don't think it's healthy for us. I hope this article isn't making all you wonderful mothers out there feel like you never give your children enough attention, and that some devastating repercussion - like stuttering - is inevitable. That's not the message I want to send. Despite our best efforts, we will still have difficulties. I think most moms, like you, who are thinking about how to be better and give more to their children, are enough. I believe God gives an added measure of grace to his daughters who are mothers. You are enough, Amber. You are the right mother for your children.

      That said, I must admit that slowing down has allowed me to see a better way. Impatience and rushing (for me) are inseparably connected. If I can continue to move gently through the day, slow down and let go of things that don't HAVE to be done, I can focus on relationships more than tasks. I am happier this way and so is my family. If I had to whittle it down to one sentence it would be, "Start the day aligned then go gently, love generously, and listen carefully." When I say start the day aligned, I mean, always begin the day with prayer. Pray about what you "have to do" in a day and what you want to do. Put your desires before the Lord. Then be willing to listen and move fluidly, more organically through the day. He will help you balance, help you know what to do when, if you pause and listen. The layers of living that don't matter will be different for each of us, and they may change on a given day. When my kids have no socks left to wear I know laundry is a layer of living that MATTERS that day. But on another day, I can decide when my boys come up to me while I'm folding towels and they want to read a book or go outside, that they matter more than the towels. It's all about listening and moving with what you feel is right.

      I have also realized recently that the Savior's Atonement has two parts. His redemptive power (that allows us forgiveness and the chance to change), and his enabling power - the ability to do things we could never do on our own. I think we forget that He can enable us to do very difficult things. We don't have to be better all by ourselves through sheer grit or willpower, with our obviously limited capacities. We can receive divine means of help and strength, assistance that will lift us beyond our own inadequacies. That is the enabling power of Christ's Atonement and I am seeing it change my mothering as I ask for it (see David Bednar, The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality, Ensign April 2012).

      As for "going gently, loving generously and listening carefully"... I think those speak for themselves. I know this was a lengthy response, but I felt like I shoudn't hold back but that I should share with you what has really made a difference for me over the last couple weeks. I'm still figuring things out too, still learning and making mistakes, but things are better since slowing down. Thanks for your wonderful question Amber. Sending blessings your way my friend.

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  2. Cath - we recently went through a situation with our oldest where I was reminded how much she still needs. Her teacher called to talk to me about some things that had gone on at school and suggested that we start a mother/daughter journal. I took a really nice unused journal and gave it to my daughter. I told her she could ask me any question she wanted and I would respond in writing and ask her a question in return. It has been a really great experience for us both. I have gotten to know the inner workings of her mind, heart and soul much better. Good luck with the slow pace.

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  3. Oh, Cath, this is so hard for me to read. I know all four of my children have their "stuttering" problems thanks to my insane schedule and inability to truly connect when home. I have made it a matter of prayer, but maybe not enough prayer and maybe not enough willingness to listen. Sigh. More to ponder. Thank you for your sweet example.

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  4. Oh, Cath, this is so hard for me to read. I know all four of my children have their "stuttering" problems thanks to my insane schedule and inability to truly connect when home. I have made it a matter of prayer, but maybe not enough prayer and maybe not enough willingness to listen. Sigh. More to ponder. Thank you for your sweet example.

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  5. Oh Cath-- that was just awesome. I'm amazed you pulled together such a beautiful piece of writing so quickly. I commented over on DN; I almost said, 'Wow, you should make her a regular columnist!' then decided that wouldn't help with your slowing down theme. ;)

    Love you! M

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  6. Beautiful article. I wonder if your writing is as soothing to you to write as it is for me to read. My little twin girls are 2 1/2 (responding to your question several posts ago). Spring seems to push us into go-to mode with wonderful weather and spring cleaning. I am going to strive to slow down as you have and sit with my 4 girls, individually. Just like you, they came so quickly and I have a fear that they'll grow up just as quickly. The slow moments are what I want-I am grateful for this reminder. I will do better! Good luck to you and your family.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings that are very private and precious, in order to inspire and help others.

    What a tricky journey you are on now, as you help your two precious boys with their stuttering. I wish you all the best. We can all see how much you love them.....all your children.

    It sounds like you are reaping the benefits of slowing down and just "being" with your kids. Sometimes we can be there physically, but really we are a hundred miles away. It takes a lot of discipline, to change that habit, and engage with our kids. (But are the benefits so worth it!!!) I look forward to reading more about how things go.

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  9. Shells - Thank you so much for the journal suggestion. I'd like to find a way to fit something in like that with my girls. We journal, but not with the purpose of questioning and understanding each other. So wise. Hoping all goes well with Hilde. She is so very lucky to have you. xo

    Sweet Kerri - We're so human - all of us - but even in your humanness I know how blessed your children are to have you. Your heart is good as gold and always striving. That is enough. I know I'll stumble again and I won't be perfect at slowing down or going gently. But I think what Elder Bednar is trying to teach us about the enabling power of the Atonement is rather revolutionary (see my reply to Amber above). Christ can help us doing things we would not be able to do alone. And listening is hard. There is so much distracting us. I'm right there with you... trying. Love you.

    Michelle - thanks for letting me cry to you. Your comment made me laugh. I love you.

    Meagen - Can't believe your girls are two and a half. Time is spinning so quickly. From what interactions we've had you seem a wise guardian with your time and home life. I have no doubt you're doing wonderful things for your girls. Blessings to you, and thanks for your well-wishes.

    Mika - Agree. The benefits are worth it. And I'm finding they're more abundant thatn I thought they would be. Thanks for your encouragement.

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  10. Thank you for writing this. When my twins were almost 1 year old, my almost 3 year old developed a pretty severe stutter. It didn't last long, but I had many of the same thoughts you describe, guilt, fear, and I worried-a lot. It made me slow down and listen to him, and try to not hurry him. We are late a lot. I still have to fight the urge to hurry them into the car, out of the car, while putting on their shoes etc. I think slowing down is one of the hardest things to do. Thanks for reminding me that I need to slow down and enjoy their little words:)

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  11. I love this. I need to hear this. Thank you.

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  12. we experienced this with our fourth child. when he would begin speaking i would stop, look at him, and we would say the words together in a measured deliberate beat. it did wonders.

    love this sweet girl. xox

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  13. Good article Cath! I think you're a great Mom. They're so lucky to have you.

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  14. What an amazing article. Your words are powerful, my friend. Thinking about you and your sweet boys. Love this message and this gentle reminder to us all. xo

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  15. Dear Cath, I have had to step back from e-mailing and blogging the last few days only to come and find this beautiful, thoughtful piece of yours. So sorry that I've been so slow to respond here and to your e-mail. I will be in touch soon. I thought of you when I read Elder Bednar's article this morning, and then I come and see that you had already applied his wisdom so beautifully in your own life. I've been thinking of you. Those boys of yours are just so lucky to have you. I'll write soon. Love you!

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  16. I just read your response to Amber. All I can say is, "wow and amazing". Thank you for your perspective on this.

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  17. I put this over at DN, thinking it was your site:
    I don’t have any twins, but I do have five children and they all desperately need the wide margins, the white space you talk about. We had a very bad Fall as a result of insufficient margins and we’re still trying to pull back from it. As a mother, with so much to be done combined with my very introvert personality where I need my own margins, I often find the hardest thing to do is to be present, to be really present for my children. It’s what they need most and sometimes what sucks the living air right out of me. I’m pretty good at saying no to a lot of things. I’m not raising the next Derek Jeter or Ronaldinho or Yo-Yo Ma and that’s okay. I need to be better at saying yes to people, to my beautiful little people. That requires a lot of slowing down, of purposeful thinking, of margins of my own. Thank you.

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  18. I just want to thank all you sweet women for your encouraging words. And to those of you who have negotiated these kind of issues in your own family, I'm so grateful you made mention of it here. You've given me ideas and wisdom. The boys will have an evaluation with a speech therapist who will come to our home in the next few weeks, and a sweet woman who read the DN version of my post offered me a copy of her book, "Voice Unearthed" - helps for parents with children who stutter. All of this makes me feel like we're heading in the right direction. And I'm finding this new impetus to slow down might just be one of the greatest blessings I give my children. You're all wonderful and good. Thanks for giving me some of your time this week.

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  19. Who said, "There is more to live than increasing its speed?"

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  20. I'm just finding this and I'm wowed. It reminds me of Sister Beck's wise counsel that she's given in many places about prioritizing. It can sometimes sound so, I don't know, mechanical, when we talk about to-do lists and schedules and such. But really, it's about opening our hearts to the Spirit and to those around us, I think. You've captured that essence really beautifully.

    Your spirit is like a healing balm for mine. Thank you.

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