My children get along famously. They wake up in the morning and immediately begin playing with their toys together. The living room has become a small town, complete with a canine President, a Chick-fil-A, and a curfew. While they play, I am able to clean, bake, work on lesson plans, maintain correspondence, and manage the incessant stream of laundry. I rejoice in the fact that I can accomplish all this while they engage in imaginative play instead of staring hypnotically at a screen.
That is right now.
Four months ago, I was in despair. After getting Super Mario Wii for Christmas (I won’t disclose the name of the benefactor, but will simply say she knows better now), my children decided that nothing they had ever done or could ever do came close to bringing them the joy brought by Mario and Luigi. Consequently, any of my attempts to wrest them away from the remote controls long enough to teach them something, read them a book, or even make eye contact, met with resistance and gnashing of teeth. Only the Wii could bring happiness, and I was in the way. I concluded that their imaginations were doomed for destruction, and that I would never again interest them in other activities without a violent struggle. I wept for the brain cells that were slowly dying, never to revive.
Looking back, I see clearly that the Mario obsession was just a phase. Not the healthiest or most laudable of phases, but certainly not cause for my hand-wringing and abandoning of all hope that they could someday grow into educated, productive citizens.
You see, I’m hopelessly time-bound. As humans, of course, we all live within the confines of linear time, but I fear I’m worse than most people at letting it get to me. When it’s raining, I feel like it has always been raining and the sun will never shine again. When I’ve eaten too much, I see no point in making a grocery list, because after all, why would I want to make meals when I’m not hungry? And I certainly can’t discuss vacation plans when I’m sick. I mean, come on, I’m sick. I just want to stay in bed for the rest of my life.
Knowing this about myself, I’ve tried to temper my responses to the highs and lows that life brings. I can usually recognize a bad day for what it is: just one twenty-four-hour period with more bumps than usual. Not a horrible omen that my life has taken a permanent turn for the worse. Likewise, I can appreciate a ridiculously productive day without expecting that every day thereafter will yield the same output and eventually earn me the uncontested title of Supermom. It’s when I experience several consecutive days of sameness that I get into trouble. Right now, for example, I’m hatching all sorts of glorious schemes. As my children play happily, I’ll redecorate their rooms! I’ll plant a vegetable garden! Write a book! Clean the baseboards! Nothing can stop me!
…Yet I know this, too, is a phase. When summer becomes too hot (which is a given in Pennsylvania), and the kiddie pool has lost its appeal (usually after three refills), the kids will grow irritable and antsy and demand entertainment, and the two options will be: Mama or the screen. And as I desperately try to be as much fun as the Wii (yet also educational and character-building), then collapse on the sofa when the afternoon finally arrives and they get their daily screen time, I will once again resign myself to my fate of relentlessly trying to rescue their precious imaginations from atrophying. Forget cleaning. Forget writing, beautification, self-improvement. It’ll be all about survival.
Except that maybe, maybe I’ll know better. Know to look back and remember how wonderful it was when I had a breather. To recall that it followed a period of frustration and doubt. To look ahead without worry, realizing that “tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34), and that my task, each day, is to walk with the Lord, to love my husband and children, and to trust that God’s grace is not limited by the temporary circumstances of daily life.
I’m thankful for the way my children are enjoying each other right now. I relish the opportunity it’s allowed me to do things I don’t always have time for. And when the time comes again that all I can do is keep everybody alive until bedtime, I hope I will recognize it as a season in my life…and remember that a better season will always follow.