March 27, 2013

Eleven Lessons Learned in 11 Days of Parenting

From Tuesday evening, March 11th to Friday evening, March 22nd, we were entrusted with the care of 3 children while their parents went on their first-ever private vacation (to Hawaii!). Their kids are Catherine-13, Jacob-10, and Sarah-6. We moved ourselves into their house, which helped keep their lives relatively similar to when Mommy and Daddy are home. I was fully confident that Kevin and I could handle this task, but I was a bit overwhelmed with the time demand, wasn't sure how my husband would manage while I had pit orchestra practice from 4-8pm every day during the second school week, and was praying these children wouldn't suffer from overwhelming mommy-missing.


Praise the Lord, all went wonderfully. No, that doesn't mean the kids were angels for their special long-term caregivers. In fact, there were daily discipline issues. But Kevin and I learned a lot during these weeks. We learned how to communicate and stay on the same page (especially when those kids are trying to pit us against each other). We learned how to discipline out of love, yet with firmness. We learned which things are important to us -- like sharing meals together, praying before we eat each meal, respecting the one who cooks a meal, having children honor the authority of whichever parent is handling the situation.

Besides those important lessons here are just 
{Eleven Lessons Learned in 11 Days of Parenting}

1) Six year old girls really REALLY hate having their hair brushed. It's like you're trying to torture them within an inch of their lives

2) I now understand why some moms despise school vacations so much. Having those kids, particularly the young ones, at your feet all. day. long. asking for this and that and the other thing is just draining. 

popcorn and SkipBo together before bedtime.

3) It's amazing how much you can get done by 8:25 in the morning. I would wake up at 5:50am. Work out for a half hour. Shower. Kids were up by 6:15, eating breakfast on their own/with Kevin's help. I would force Sarah to brush her hair, say goodbye to Catherine as she headed to the Middle School bus at 7:15, make sure Jacob and Sarah had brushed their teeth, help Sarah get on a reasonable outfit for the day (it's outstanding how much convincing was necessary to put on a clean pair of underwear every morning), do a load or two of laundry, eat my own breakfast while playing 4 rounds of the Matching Game with the two kids, clean up the kitchen from breakfast, bundle everyone up, and head out to the bus at 8:20. Not too shabby. 

4) It's possible to do everything we need to do AND do everything the kids need AND have a bit of down time just-the-two-of-us at the end of the evening. Even during the week of my pit orchestra rehearsals until 8:00pm, when we still had to get the kids home, un-wound, teeth brushed, tucked in, tickled, and prayed with, we managed to have fun times with those three and with just each other. I was genuinely shocked. 

5) Those big, beautiful child eyes are insanely hard to say, "No" to sometimes. 

Sarah Bug as we called her.

6) Whenever possible, don't take the kids shopping with you. You will inevitably buy more than you wanted to or be forced to deal with I didn't get what I want temper tantrums. 

7) My husband astounded me with his fatherly capabilities. I knew he would be a good dad, but man-o-man, he's going to be a fantastic father! He had this incredible capacity to discipline the children with definitive firmness (but not harshness), and be back to snuggling with them moments later. They respected him, responded to his discipline, and still loved him. 

8) We will always prefer driving our awesome little 5-speed '98 Honda Civic over a spacious mini-van (even with the cd player, leg room, and air conditioning). I don't look forward to the day it's a necessary commodity. 

9) It's important to incorporate those little hands in your daily tasks. Giving them responsibilities, telling them, "I need you to be in charge of this for me," empowers them to be awesome and even exceed your expectations. 

10) You can have genuine FUN with your children. It's a huge chore and a constant demand, for sure, but it's a wonderful, joyous gift to spend time with them. The toughest part is balancing saying, "Yes, I'll play with you"  with needing a) time to yourself or b) time to accomplish x, y, and z. Playing with them brings so much joy and connection for both of you, but it's ok to send them off on their own and teaching them how to entertain themselves. 

Kevin constructing the awesome blanket fort Friday night

11) We have WAY more time in our days than we ever realized. It's amazing how many more hours open up when you're suddenly filled up with responsibilities. Priorities are made, a goal-focused mind is set, and you still have time for devotions and a bit of Dr. Who with your husband before bed. :) 

Though we're happy to be back to our just-the-two-of-us routine, we're now confident that one day we will be able to handle the responsibility of parenthood and still make time for ministry, community service, personal fitness, and husband and wife time. I am thankful to Tara and Cliff for entrusting us with their babies for this amount of time and for empowering us to discover what we're truly capable of.

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