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Fabulous Family Friday–The Third R of Relationships

Well, we finally come to the third R of Relationships! 

You’ve figured this out by now, right?!  

It is your relationship to your children. 

Let me repeat–your first two relationships must be in order for the third one to be as well.  You certainly can’t be mad at God or your husband and expect your relationship to your children to be just fine! 

I’m not talking about the occasional frustration but the ongoing tone of your other relationships. 

Now, what about those lovely gifts God has entrusted to you? 

There are days they want to make you pull your hair out, right?! ;) 

Having the right perspective makes things fall into place much better AND helps you keep your eyes on the long term goal vs. the current “tyrrany of the urgent”! 

It’s so easy as a young mama (and even us not-as-young mamas!) to get so focused on the here and now–the diapers, dishes, messes, homeschooling, laundry, or if you’ve got older children helping, then you have the oversight of the littles’ training (so they don’t just ride on the coattails of the older ones!), homeschooling three to four levels, (overseeing some, involved in others), making sure the jobs you delegated got done, making sure children make it to lessons, ministry opportunities, coordinating all that and still finding time to practice music as a family (in our case, anyway)!  Whew!  

From time to time it is important to stop, look up, take a deep breath, and keep your eyes fixed on the horizon of your long-term goals, so they don’t get swallowed up in the dailyness of life.  

“Getting things done” is probably a mama’s worst enemy to relationships.  Whether the “things” are chores, school, outings, ministry, meals……if we’re not careful we can go days without really tying the heartstrings in our relationship to our children.   Guilty here! :( 

I remember something I read by Michael Pearl…wish I could find it to quote it verbatim, but in essence he was saying that your daily duties are opportunities to train your children and tie heartstrings.    It was a fun issue with stories by other moms–I remember one enterprising mom had her children drawing or doing their math facts on the tile floor–maybe in washable marker?–then they had the “fun” of wiping it off.  Or maybe she wrote the facts down and as they answered them they wiped it off.  Math and clean floor in one lesson!   Now that’s my kind of school! :D 

Ah!  I found it! 

Here is the letter from the mom and Michael’s comment, both very good: 

The tiles of homeschooling 

“My four and six-year-old love to help me clean our kitchen floors. Although this
game works as well on linoleum, our kitchen floor is made of large ceramic tiles. I
divide the kitchen floor into two sections. With a dry erase pen on the four year
old’s section I draw numbers and letters in random order on the tiles. He has to clean each large square perfectly, thus erasing the letter or number on his square–but he has to do it in chronological order. His older sister has various words to read as she cleans each square, thus decoding a secret message (often a mini love letter) I have written to her. Sometimes we even make it a race. It’s lots of fun and sure beats nagging the kids! 

Valeri Marsh 

Payson, AZ” 

“The previous letter is the way life should be lived. She said, “it sure beats nagging.” Nagging is always counterproductive. It eats away at the soul of the family like moist rot. 

“Can you see that this mother is enjoying her children? It would no doubt be easier for her to clean the floor herself. Imagine mother crawling around on the floor, writing on every tile, leaving coded messages. This is a woman that needs to have fifteen kids. 

“Consider what must be the world-view of this mother. What is the most important thing to her in the course of a day? Keeping her house clean? Absolutely not. She lives for her children. She is a builder of souls. She has a full time job, and she is determined to succeed above all else. She is a mother. That is the attitude you must have to train up your children in the way they should go.” 

~Taken from Working Character in Children, part 2 

The following was also taken from this article.  I’m quoting this at length because it really captures the heart of why we do what we do–it’s not just to have something to eat, a clean home and clothing.  It’s about training character while tying heartstrings: 

“You have been thinking in terms of what you can get done most efficiently in the shortest amount of time. You are motivated moment by moment to follow the path of least resistance. You must change mantles. You can no longer be a one-person dynamo of efficiency. Resign from all of life’s callings. You are now a father or mother whose sole purpose in life is to produce beautiful sons and daughters of God

“There must be two changes; the first one is absolutely critical. Change your perspective and then you can change your lifestyle. With a new attitude toward the children and toward what must be accomplished in a given period of time. Arrange your lifestyle so the children are needed and are effectively engaged in responsible work.” 

(my emphases) 

Another mom I read about (different source) talked of giving the kids dishtowels that they could scoot around the floor on while they “mopped”.   Yeah, they made a mess and needed to change clothes when done–but what a memory!  And what a mom! 

This is where we must–must change our views.  It is tough when they’re younger, but probably the first thing you need to do is die to your pride.  Your idea of what a day should look like.  What if you end up throwing all the cushions on the floor or pillows and just read half the day away?  Was that a loss? 

Or what if you ditch your well-planned day and take a sheet and have an indoor picnic on a rainy day? 

I have done both of those, but way too few times.  Unfortunately I can probably count on one hand how many indoor picnics we did.  :(  And now, that I’m an older mama, I wonder….what was so pressing that I “just didn’t have time”? 

I no longer remember what the “tyrrany of the urgent” was during those younger years.  But I remember those fun oases when I let go of my agenda and let God direct! 

Of course I’m not advocating throwing your schedule out  24/7/365!  I think, however, that most of us in this “Daytimer” generation have a harder time letting go than being too loose! 

There are going to be days, especially when your children are all little, that you may need to take more time than you’d like to discipline and/or train them.  But you are laying a foundation, and you can gloss over the “little foxes that spoil the vines” and “get more done” now…..but you will reap a harvest and not get as much done later.  Nor will you have cheerful help later. Nor will you have the joy. 

Marilyn Howshall (who wrote Wisdom’s Way of Learning) often wrote:  

Character training adds time to every duty and every duty must stop for character training. 

We don’t like that, do we?  We want it to get fixed fast so we can get back to what’s “important”.  Whatever that is. 

Here’s another quote from the introduction to Elisabeth Elliot’s classic book, Keep a Quiet Heart:

“I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances

to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to

help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps

one’s true work–one’s work for God–consists in doing some trifling haphazard

thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is

tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day–the part

one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the

planned work; trust  that time to finish it will be given sometime, and

keep a quiet heart about it.

~Annie Keary, 1825-1879

I fear that we are rushing after the planned work, not trusting and certainly not keeping a quiet heart about it all! 

I had that quote written out and posted at different places in the home for awhile.  At the kitchen sink for a long time, then a mirror, then in my Bible.   I needed the reminder, because when I first read those words I was recovering from my 7th miscarriage and my children were 8, 6, 3 and almost 2.  

I am admonishing you younger mamas especially, please take the time!  Take the time to write down each day the silly, funny, seemingly mundane things you did today.  Right now you may think, “Who will care about that?”  Believe me–in 10 years it will be a riot to read what you ate for lunch that day, or  “Oh, remember? That’s the day we decided to just do a nature walk and had a picnic down the lane!” or when your barely walking toddler pulled your petticoat off the playpen where it was drying and got inside of it and then couldn’t walk! She was so distressed and you were laughing so hard you could barely help her out of it!  (Yes, that happened with my oldest and I did write that one down! ;)

Take time to make a chore fun.  Oh, you can’t do it every day with every chore, but what about 1 chore?  What about making Fridays “Family Fun Friday” where “regular school” is cancelled?  And it’s spelling games or math bees or wash the tile floor with secret messages  ;) ?  My goal is to have Fridays free–no matter how the rest of the week went!  That means if you “lost” 2 days’ worth of work, you do not use Friday to make it up!  That will speak volumes to your children!  Of course there may be the occasional (very rare) exception, but even taking the afternoon off to do some fun projects will be something they can look forward to! 

And please don’t make it a discipline issue–no “If you don’t straighten up you will do your work while we all have fun”–this is about grace.  There are plenty of other times to tie consequences to actions, but let there be one time, one fun time each week where it’s all grace.  Remember what grace you have been shown, Mama! 

You could even use that time to make something to bless others–make cards, no sew fleece blankets (we have a children’s hospital in our state’s capital that posts sizes needed and how to do them–cutting a small 1/4 inch slit at the base of each fringe piece to pull each fringe piece through vs. tying, works for single layer fleece), or perhaps make some simple gifts to have on hand for baby showers, birthdays, etc.  Here is a GREAT blog, Skip to My Lou,  and her Made By You Mondays have a TON of links to other people’s projects they share!  

Another good resource is Teaching Good Things, and she has many freebie ideas on her blog/website!  You will need to scroll down a bit on the right side to search, and there is a category selection that will keep you busy for awhile! ;) 

I personally believe whatever a child’s “bent” may be, he or she will benefit with learning to work with their hands.  You don’t have to be proficient yourself–just learn along with them!  (Just like homeschooling! ;)

When I was first married I didn’t know how to sew much, knit, decorate cakes, toll paint or a host of other things I’ve learned over the years.  I sometimes have felt like King David–I have amassed the materials (well, definitely THE material!  LOL!  I think I have my own fabric store!) and my children are King Solomon, building the temple.   My girls can do all the things I learned over the years much better than me.  But that’s okay!  I do not have to be top dog! 

Working with your hands builds character, but it also calms and soothes.  There is a boys’ home in Idaho that teaches the boys to crochet.  It is amazing how these troubled boys calm down!  They make blankets  to bless others with and accept yarn donations.  I often said that “technology” and “progress” have taken the part of woman’s work that stayed done and left us with the part that needs redone–sometimes several times a day! 

“Needlework is strong medicine for anyone, but for these young men it helps rebuild their very core. ” 

~p. 22  MaryJane’s Stitchery Room, by MaryJane Butters 

Patsy, a teacher assistant at this home who was  interviewed in MaryJane’s book, said it helps the boys with their anger and their addictions as well as building their self-worth. 

I wonder how many troubled women and children could get off drugs or therapy simply by keeping their hands busy?   Knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, quilting, even spinning (it’s been a long time since I used my spinning wheel, but I still remember how utterly soothing it was!).   

Please don’t overlook the importance of this–“craft time” should not just be a nice extra that gets bumped off when you are “behind” in math! 

I have more I want to post about this “R” of relationships, mainly about older children, so I will save that for next week (don’t want anyone groaning at the length of my posts—conciseness is not one of my strong points!). 

I also wanted to share about Math on the Level today, too, but since this is long enough, I will share that on “Math Monday”!  ;) 

If you would like to donate yarn to the boys’ home, here is the address: 

Northwest Children’s Home 

P.O. Box 1288 

Lewiston, Idaho  83501 

For more information about crocheting as a tool for healing, or to support this important program, contact Patsy Gottschalk, 208-746-1601 ext. 270 

(This information was current as of the 2007 publication of MaryJane’s Stitching Room)

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