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In which I need to stay home

On Tuesday, I was supposed to get on a plane headed to Winnipeg for the YWAM Peace & Justice Institute. I have loved Jamie & Kim Arpin-Ricci’s work in Winnipeg for years now. They are the real deal and I was giddy at the thought of being with them, becoming real friends perhaps.

But instead, we have cancelled the event. I need to stay home. We have kept rather quiet this week as we’ve walked through the days but since we cryptically said it was a “family emergency” many kind people have reached out to check on us. So I thought I’d let you know what has been happening.

Our five-year-old son came down with a rather common illness last week, but when he was treated with the antibiotic, he had a severe allergic reaction to one of the drugs. It was scary, I admit. He was so swollen, he was covered in an angry red raised rash, he couldn’t open his eyes, he didn’t look like himself, but scariest of all, he couldn’t breathe well.

I’m so thankful for our local ER and hospital, for our nurses and doctors. They rushed us right through and gave him the medicine he needed to breathe without making him feel more afraid. I didn’t know what in the world was going on but in those moments, all I could do was cradle a too-tall boy in my lap, stay calm, and pray without words.

Help us. Help us. Fix this. Fix this.

Sometimes it feels like time stops and we are hyper-aware of our surroundings. We feel the plastic of the chair, notice the ticking of the clock more clearly, see that our hands are holding on tight, our bodies swaying slowly in the comfort-dance of motherhood: it’s fine, I’ve got you, it’s fine, I’ve got you.

We did get to bring him home later that day: looking like hell, but breathing well on his own, fever down. He is on the slow mend now, poor boy, but it has been a long few days. It will be seven to ten days before he gets the all clear. He is taking all of this the way he takes everything: easily, in stride, no complaints, matter of fact boy. They say we were lucky.

Lucky.

“Help. Thanks. Wow.” … Indeed, Saint Anne.

Since he needs monitoring, even during the night, due to the possibility of relapse, I’m staying home from Winnipeg. Jamie and Kim have been so supportive and understanding, I am thankful for their grace in these days.

I am terribly sorry for the fuss, for the inconvenience, for the disappointment. I feel it, too.

But I need to be home.

Thank you for your prayers and for your understanding.

 

Continue Reading · family · 40

In which I don’t mind if my tinies see me on the computer

 

There was a bit of a movement underway a few years ago: Christian women were signing pledges saying that they wouldn’t let their tinies see them on the computer. I think their intentions were mostly good – they knew they were distracted by social media in particular, perhaps, and so they wanted to give their best attention to their children. That idea continues to hang on somehow, particularly in my line of work.

I understand it. Of course, 8 hours of Facebook to the exclusion of fully being present with our families is damaging. And I am wise with my time on social media, not only for their sakes but for my own creativity, health, sanity, and proper sense of perspective. (For instance, when my husband gets home and asks me about my day, I don’t like for my first answer to be, “well, you wouldn’t BELIEVE what this one guy said on Twitter or how many likes this Instagram picture of the kid I neglected all day received!” Not exactly healthy.)

But here’s the thing: I work from our home on a – wait for it – computer. My husband works out of our home full-time in a pretty demanding job with irregular hours occasionally. I am the primary caregiver for our tinies. Granted, we have a (very beloved) baby-sitter for our littlest girl two mornings a week while the older two are at school, so that I can make phone calls, do interviews, and work uninterrupted for a bit of time, but I am usually at home, trying to get in a full-time job at the edges of our life.

Being a work-from-home mother can feel like a juggling act, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love this choice.

Through trial and error, we’ve learned that our family works best in this way with one parent more fully engaged during the day, but I know that I am privileged to be a work-at-home mother. I do not take it for granted, even though there are occasional afternoons when I pick up the tinies from school and then turn on Wild Kratts, hand them a plate of apple quarters with goldfish crackers, and then sit down to answer emails for an hour before supper. There are mornings when the baby and I take the tinies to school, and then come home to a wide-open toy box for her and an open laptop for me to write an article to deadline. When I am interrupted, there are times when I put my work aside, absolutely, but then there are times when I hand her a book and say, “Mum is writing, we’ll go to the park in an hour. Find something to do.”

Early into our family arrangement, I had to take a long hard look at the narrative that it was a shameful thing for my tinies to see me on the computer.

And then, thoughtfully, prayerfully, we decided to call complete and utter crap on any more needless mum-guilt.

I don’t feel guilty when my tinies see me cooking supper. That’s part of our life – and in fact, it creates a great opportunity to be together, to prepare them for life, to teach, to have fun.

I don’t feel guilty when my tinies see me cleaning the house. Keeping our home clean and tidy is part of my life – and it is part of theirs, too, unless I want to have lazy and entitled teenagers someday. Can I get an amen?

I don’t feel guilty taking them along when we get groceries or pay bills or drop off library books or help others or any other of the chores and tasks and work that goes into running this little family.

Maybe my prairie kid work ethic is showing. My grandpa raised our clan to know that truth: work is honourable. Now I’ve rounded that out with the belief that work is also a gift from God, part of our heritage as co-creators with God. Particularly when our work – paid or unpaid – is personally fulfilling, an act of creativity or beauty or usefulness. What a gift to be able to work!

So, is it a shameful thing for a mother to work on the computer while her children are present? Nope.

Not only is it not damaging to my tinies to see me – gasp! – working on the computer while they’re here, I believe it’s downright good for them.

Yes, it is good for them to discover right now that they are not the centre of the universe. To let them discover ways to entertain themselves – I’m not their cruise director. To let them see their dad choring around on a Saturday, make sure they grab a broom and sweep up drywall dust alongside of him. To let them grab a rag and a bottle of vinegar to pitch in with Thursday cleaning. To let them learn to fold socks. To let the tinies sweep the floors.

Welcome to being part of a functioning family, for heaven’s sake.

(This home doesn’t run by magic or pixie dust: welcome to the real world, darlings.)

In addition to that, we have decided it is GOOD for the tinies to see me loving my job, loving my work, being good at something, and actually doing it. To let them see me being faithful to my calling, let them see their dad empowering me to do it with his enthusiastic blessing, let them see it as part of our family’s gift to the world.

This is what we do in this family: we support each other in our work and in our callings and even in the things we just plain love to do.

Mothers are people, too.

(And, very quietly, I’ll also gently point out right here the privilege inherent in the idea that we can choose whether or not our children see us work.)

Let the tinies learn what it looks like to be a person, made in the image of God, working – no matter if our work happens on computers or at the laundry or on the job site or the classroom – as unto the Lord. Let them see us working: work is a honourable thing.

 image source: Getty Images Lean In Collection as shown on Buzzfeed

Continue Reading · family, parenting, women, work · 110

In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15

In which the moments are now ours alone :: on (not) blogging about my tinies

Sarah and Anne

photo by Tina Francis Mutungu

In the fading of the day, Anne was curled up against me in our beat-up old leather chair. I was reading, and she was just resting, watching me. We were rather quiet because the other two were watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood together. I had my hand in her blonde hair, slowly running my fingers through, she was precariously balanced, a noodle of a girl. Then we had a lovely conversation.

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe you haven’t, I don’t know, but Anne and Joe have steadily been disappearing from my blog for a while now. I used to tell a lot more stories about them – their spirituality, their daily lives, their quirks, their new experiences, their wisdom, their frustrations – but the “mum-blog” aspect of my writing has wound down.

(It’s likely I’m the only one who misses it – the world hardly needs another over-sharing mother with a blog.)

I made a conscious decision to stop blogging about the tinies when they started kindergarten. I figured at that point – when they had friends at school, a presence in our community, a life of their own beginning to emerge – that they needed to know that their life was their own. So when they headed off to school, they headed away from my blog, too.

It’s been hard sometimes because, well, I’m a writer. It’s hard not to write about the most precious part of my life, the most inspiring, most rich and challenging part of my days. But I don’t write about the intricacies of their lives anymore – at least not publicly. (Babies and toddlers are fair game, so Evelynn still shows up a lot, particularly on Instagram since we’re together all day while the older tinies are at school. I tend to treat that medium as a her baby book (poor little third baby). But even with her young age, I try to be respectful with an eye on her future life.)

The tinies all know about my blog, of course. Before I post a picture of the older tinies, I ask if it’s okay with them. “Is it okay if I share this on Facebook? on my blog?” Most of the time they say yes, they get a kick out of it. Sometimes they say no, and then it’s just our moment. Sometimes I don’t even ask, I just know: it’s not for anyone else but us.

I do write about motherhood still, of course but now it’s more about Me As A Mother, my own journey. Details are obscured. No one is named if a particular situation warrants a mention. A couple of years ago, right about the time I was having these realizations about “war photographers” that I eventually wrote about for D.L Mayfield, I was having very similar thoughts about my own tinies.

And I’ll be honest with you: there are a few posts back in my archives that I wish now that I had not written about the tinies - I feel sad that I took a private moment and made it public, let other people weigh in on their lives. I was learning, and I get that, but still I have regrets. I have deleted them. I will make apologies when they are older: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have written about that. Will you forgive me?” I’m trying to figure out a way to keep writing about mothering without using my children as fodder – and until I do, I’ll just keep erring on the side of silence and protection.

So that moment on the chair earlier today with Anne, it was ours alone. Even though the Writer-Me wants to capture the narrative and make some art, some connection, out of it, the Mama-Me is holding it close to the heart, protecting them. The days are moving too quickly sometimes. Anne is seven and a half, Joe is five and a half, Evelynn is nearly three. We have a lot of laughter, a lot of mess, a lot of frustrations, challenges, victories, and sacred moments. We have conversations that end well and other ones that end in eyes-rolling or yelling. There are things about the tinies and about this new season of our lives that are so incredible. But most of those moments will go unblogged. Those moments, those conversations, they’re ours alone now. I’ll jot them down in a journal, maybe someday they’ll show up in my writing but that day won’t come for a while – if ever.

I need my children to know that they aren’t blog fodder. I need them to know that they can grow up without an audience being privy to their sacred moments.

I need them to know that when they curl up around me in that old leather chair that their secrets are safe with me.

 

 

Continue Reading · blogging, family, parenting, writing · 83