“Oh, if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one.
But if life were only moments,
Then you’d never know you had one.”
– Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods
Recently, my family and I had a week which was made up of “moments” and memories. It’s not all that often that I am able to recognize the “moments” in the moment, but during this recent week, I was able to. And I was keenly aware of what a remarkable gift that was.
My husband and I are blessed with two boys — one a teen, one a tween. Truly special family times seem to be more and more difficult to come by, the older they get. All in all, we do pretty well, I suppose. We love each other deeply, and even the teenager doesn’t absolutely hate spending time with us yet. Most of the time. But there are distractions. Girlfriends, phones, hormones, school trips, youth group, hormones, laptops and iPads. And did I mention hormones?
However, none of those distractions get to me, for the most part. Though it’s sometimes jarring and emotional, I can deal with another female being in the picture, stealing my son’s affections. I have no trouble pulling phones and devices away when they begin to pull too much focus. And I can meet tempers and moodiness and sulking head-on. Toe-to-toe, hormone-to-hormone.
But what about when I’m the one who is distracted? When I’m the one preventing the creation of moments?
I know that fathers love their children, and I know that my husband’s heart, in particular, beats for his sons. But let’s face it: mothers and fathers love differently. Not more, not less. Differently. And I don’t know about any of you mothers out there, but for some reason my love for my children so often manifests itself in…guilt.
They deserve my time…
They deserve my attention…
They deserve my best moments…
And so often, they receive the leftovers.
So I do my best to fake it. I’ll fake it until I make it. I’ll act as if the day hasn’t taken absolutely everything out of me by the time they get home from school, and I’ll pretend I’m interested in their “boy stuff” when really, at the end of a long day, all I want is to sit in front of the television alone, watch a Colin Firth movie, burn a lavender candle, and eat cookie dough straight out of the package. But, no. If I am to get any of their time at all, it’s going to happen while watching things I don’t really care about — because they’ve never really gotten into Colin Firth movies (and I wouldn’t necessarily want to share Colin anyway). If I’m going to eat cookie dough, I have to give them some, too. And I don’t want to share my cookie dough anymore than I want to share Colin Firth. (Though if sharing cookie dough with Colin Firth were an option, I would give it some thought…)
All too often I don’t even give them the leftovers. All too often, I don’t even have leftovers.
I have a full-time job in ministry, I have a book coming out in October, I have another manuscript which I hope my publisher picks up, I have two other works in progress which I’m beginning to suspect will be in progress for all time, and I have odd-and-end freelance jobs. I’m trying to get healthier, and I need to go to the gym regularly. Once in a while I’d like to have time to read a book written by someone other than myself. All of these things are just…life. None of them are bad. In fact, they’re good. Each and every one of them.
And each and every one of them, at one point or another, has come before my children. Not in the grand scope, perhaps, but in the…moment.
The thing is, that really is okay — no matter how much my heart and my guilt try to tell me otherwise. My children don’t want my attention every hour of the day, I assure you. So why do I convince myself that I am failing at motherhood if they don’t have it?
I’m not failing. You’re not failing.
I’m finally beginning to understand that, even if it is still sometimes a struggle to believe it. And I think that what makes it so difficult, and what causes the guilt, is this crazy notion that life should be made up of moments. Moments of life lessons and laughter and memories that will last forever. Moms…when did we get it in our heads that life would be that way? Do we have June Cleaver to blame, or Carol Brady, maybe? Should we blame society as a whole?
Nah. We don’t need to blame anyone. But we also don’t need to feel guilty because we don’t have a meaningful moment with our children every thirty minutes. Life is not an episode of Full House, and we won’t always have the right words to say, or even the time to say them. And sometimes when we say them, no one will listen. Not even a pesky neighbor like Kimmy Gibler, or Urkel, or Skippy from Family Ties.
So we just need to keep loving our children and loving our lives — because they’re our children. They’re our lives. No one else’s. Revel in the monotony, celebrate the distractions.
When those moments come along, cherish them until the monotony and the distractions return. And begin looking forward to the next moment, because it’s guaranteed to be worth the wait.
Bethany Turner is the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former VP/operations manager of a commercial bank and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she’s chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight. Her Christian romantic comedy, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, will be published by Revell on October 3, 2017, and is available now for pre-order!
If you like what you read on Shame on Shanty, you might enjoy the book where she came to life. Follow Shanty’s blog and be entered to win an autographed copy of Varina Denman’s Looking Glass Lies. Winner will be drawn from blog subscribers and announced the day before the book releases, May 1st! US and Canada only.