by Jane Robinson
I’ve always wanted to write a book for parents titled Should I Clean Up the Rice from the Floor while It’s Sticky, or Wait till It’s Hardened? I think most parents of young children will agree it’s a pressing question. My children are 7, 9, and 10 now, but when they were little, I dreaded the evenings we had rice for supper. First I’d clean up the three rice-covered faces and six sticky hands. Next I’d attack the table, having to rinse my gummy washcloth several times during the process. Finally, I’d face the floor. The point of the question above is that there’s no good time to clean rice off the floor. Either it’s sticky, smashes into the vinyl, and goos up your cloth, or it’s rock hard and glued to the floor!
Being a mom presents many similar dilemmas. When my children were younger, I felt as though I was always doing one of two things: trying to figure out their next adventure before they thought of it or cleaning up from an adventure I hadn’t foreseen. I remember the fatigue well enough to empathize deeply with parents of young children!
Trained as a teacher, I had all sorts of ideas about how motherhood would go for me. I was going to encourage creativity. I would surround my children with a mountain of literacy opportunities. Musical experiences, particularly those centered on Christian songs, would take up a big part of the family’s day. Finally, my children would know how to play by themselves rather than needing me to come up with ideas for them all the time.
Here’s how it went:
Creativity: We did a lot of little projects. Emily adored painting. How happily I noted her creativity! However, I was not so happy the day she created a giant crayon mural on the underside of our kitchen table—rather like Michelangelo’s rendering on the Sistine Chapel! (It’s there to this day!) Nor did my heart swell with delight when she used her red crayon to fill in the white areas on our burgundy-and-white oriental rug. My dear, creative child.
Literacy: Here’s a classic example of “Be careful what you wish for” . . . My idea of surrounding the children with literacy opportunities had not included bedrooms and a living room with books stacked three feet deep across every square inch of floor space. But that’s what I got. Of course, with it came three voracious readers. I can’t complain about that. If you’re around our house for long, you’ll hear, “Put that book down for awhile!” or “Why is this pile of books here?” or “You have so many books on the floor I can’t even walk in here!”
Music: Let’s just say there are days when I want to scream for quiet. Our children have discovered that Christian songs echo quite nicely from the tile walls of the bathroom every bath night. There are also times when the ukulele, piano, and trombone concert gets a little too intense! (Did Bach or Beethoven ever think of writing a concerto for ukulele, piano, and trombone?)
Self-initiated play: Definitely the Pandora’s box of parenting! Let me share two defining experiences:
The first. James was 5 years old and William was 6. My husband and I were doing dishes together and talking about our day. Suddenly from the boys’ bedroom directly over the kitchen we heard in quick succession, thud, thud, THUD! Then, complete silence. Racing up the stairs, our minds filled with horrible visions, we found both boys on the floor and the curtain rod above their beds pulled almost completely out of the wall. We were stumped. “What in the world were you doing?” my husband demanded. The answer sent us both scrambling for the door, biting our lips and tongue to keep from bursting out in laughter: “We were racing up the wall to see who could get to the ceiling first!”
The second. Grandma gave James a giant magnet for his 5th birthday. Knowing James’s curiosity, legendary even then, I proceeded to itemize all the appliances in the house he should avoid while holding the magnet. I was especially careful to talk about our computer. Later that day, all three children came to me with stricken faces. William spoke first, “Mom, James put his magnet on the TV, and now there are dots on it.” He was right—big purple and green dots now covered the entire screen! James’s explanation? “You didn’t tell me not to put it on the TV!”
How blessed I am to mother my three dear ones. I remind myself often that their creativity, love of books, musical accomplishments, and independence will be terrific assets for them as they grow. In the meantime, I’m still working at steering them in the right direction.
The greatest responsibility—and the most incredible honor—God has given me is the opportunity to teach each of the three about his gift of eternal life in Jesus. I thank God for his goodness in using me to help them grow up, knowing and trusting in Jesus.
As for the rice, I still don’t have that answer!
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