resting with my children

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The house was quiet … well, not totally.  My number one chatterbox was at my side, but the seven-month-old and the drama-queen toddler were down for naps, so the house was relatively peaceful.  I could have taken a nap, I could have worked on dinner, I could have cleaned the bathroom, but instead I sat at the dining room table helping Maggie cut out flower petals.

She had done the same craft the day before, and had done an excellent job.  Preschool last year gave her some great cutting and pasting skills!  But she wanted it to be a little better … and more than that, she wanted me to do it with her.  Not just because I can cut out a more intricate flower than she can, but also because she just wanted me.

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee wrote a beautiful post a few days ago about “The Motherly Art of Rest” – go read that, and then come back here – and she hit the nail on the head: rest is necessary and makes us better mothers.  The catch is, how can I get that rest when there’s perpetually someone needing me?

I’ve been very lucky to have an oldest child who still naps, even as she approaches her fifth birthday.  But she goes through phases of not-napping, and those have been hard for me.  I’ve tried to get through it by enforcing “Mama’s quiet time,” giving her activities to do while I do my own thing – but it’s not usually very successful.  Attempting to enforce quiet time really means fruitlessly pursuing my own quiet activity (nap or prayer or reading or computer work), and snapping at my poor sweet oldest child whenever she interrupts me.  Which is … all the time.  By the end of “quiet time” I am more tired and tapped out than when we’d begun – and Maggie is feeling unhappy and rejected.

Recently, though, my eyes have been opened to the ways that I can rest with my children.  Setting up a very, very simple craft for Maggie, and then sitting with her while she works on it.  Folding laundry in whatever room my kids are using to play pretend, so they can chat with me and tell me all about their imaginary world while I am sorting socks.  Reading stories while I finish my coffee, or pushing someone on the swing with one hand while I hold my beer in the other.  And of course there’s also the sweet gift of pausing in the middle of a hectic day to sit down with the baby for a quiet nursing session.

I think the trick is to plan on these oases of rest with my kids – to plan for it to be with them.  If my plan is to fold laundry while listening to a podcast, I’m setting myself up for disappointment.  Praying, reading, or blogging are likewise ill-advised when there’s a child needing my attention.  Those are not bad things to do, and I still take whatever opportunity I can to do them!  But when my kids need me, the most restful and peaceful thing I can do for them and myself is to rest together.  To choose a quiet activity and intentionally open my heart to my daughters.  When I can let go of all the other things I want to do, we are both filled up by the time we spend together.

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