Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bedtime Prayers

Raising boys is not my forte, I must say. It is a struggle for me to understand and accept the noise, dirt, mess, jumping, throwing, yelling and general windstorm of raucousness that is termed "BOY." I'm slowly learning to not battle the natural disposition of my boys so much anymore. But it’s hard. I feel like I'm failing regularly because I feel like I'm losing my cool regularly. I don't like to feel either way. Many nights I lay in bed, looking at the ceiling, confiding to my husband that I have no idea what I'm doing. And the things I am doing don't appear to be making a difference...

...until I pray with my boy. Suddenly this busy, little body, who hasn't stood still long enough for homework, reading or dinner; who has made his sisters cry and picked on his little brother; who consistently "misses" in the bathroom; who leaves a trail of dirt, food and stinky socks in his wake, takes my breath away with his prayers. As he prays, his walls come down and he asks for help to be better in ways I didn't think he realized he was lacking. He has yet to offer a rote or routine prayer. It is always sincere and specific. He asks for help to be nice to his sisters. He asks for help to listen to his teacher in school. Last night he asked for help "to not be so hyper." Simple requests but heartfelt to the core.

I don't say bedtime prayers with all my children. Mostly with Parker because he insists on it and I am so grateful he does. I know I'm missing out with the other kids and that needs to change. It’s so easy to overlook those quiet, heartfelt moments and let them pass without much thought. They are as elusive and fleeting as a gentle summer breeze. Unless I am deliberate in capturing and appreciating the moment, it’s gone before I can even recognize it. The following three ideas have helped me hold on to tender moments before they’re gone.

Slowing down to enjoy special moments with my children is often like trying to stop a sled on a steep, iced over hill. But slowing down is exactly what it takes to make the most of the short time I have with my children while they are young. I was once challenged by a friend to not say, “hurry up” to my children or to “hurry” them through activities. Often times I am usually rushing from one chore to another and from lessons to games. Then it’s on to dinner and homework. As I accepted her challenge, it was hard to not hurry them into seatbelts or hurry them through snack or lunch. I had to hold my tongue while they brushed teeth and put on shoes and finished coloring their latest work of art. As the day wore on, I found that much of the contention I usually expected as we transitioned from one activity to another had disappeared. I firmly believe that was because I wasn’t constantly in hurry mode. I slowed the pace down and the tension level followed. This slower pace allowed me to be more present in the moment and to enjoy my nurturing role as mother.

My nurturing role as mother sometimes gets lost in the business of being mom. Someone has to make sure meals are prepared, assignments are finished and commitments are kept. However, making sure the family is managed doesn’t have to mean we can’t have fun. The other day I let Parker listen to music through headphones as he finished his homework. He didn’t realize how loudly he was singing along. I stood back and watched as he would shout out words every now and then like, “it makes me feel good” and “like its dyn-o-mite.” Soon enough, he was out of his seat, shuffling his feet, still with pencil in hand. When he noticed me watching, he gave me an unapologetic grin and sat down to finish his homework. Much to my surprise, he finished in record time. I don’t let him listen to music every time he does homework, but sometimes we just have to have a little fun.

Most importantly, I need to take the time to give my time. There are countless ways I would like to spend my time. Unfortunately, time can be as fleeting as those special, quiet moments I crave with my kids. All too often, I’m required to make a choice in the way I spend my time. My greatest rewards come when I am able to spend one on one time with each child and they are able to open up. Those moments come in many forms, like a car-ride, a late night talk on the edge of the bed or spontaneous karaoke in the kitchen. Regardless of the circumstance, it is up to me to find the time and willingly give it over to my children.

If I had not taken time to pray with Parker, I would not have the same insight and understanding I have now. What a difference it makes to get a glimpse into his heart and the way he really feels about things and people and actions. As I pray with him, I realize how hard he is trying to improve himself. I also come to recognize his unique spirit more as I see him pray with confidence and sincerity. Suddenly everything that irritates me about little boys dissipates as I peel away the mortal mask and see him truly for who he is. And when he closes his prayer with, "thank you for my mom," I couldn't love that little boy more.

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