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THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

This morning, I woke up with a headache. Even before my head left my pillow, my eyes were having a harder than usual time.

It was the opening they couldn’t do.

Now, as I sit wide-crosslegged on my carpet, typing away at the coffee table in my living room, I think my early morning experience is kind of funny. My eyes were having a harder than usual time.

Lately, it’s everything else that has been having a hard time. I have felt like I can’t do anything. I can’t process things correctly. I can’t think or organize (well, the non-organized part is pretty usual for me). I can’t respond. I can’t focus.

Why? Maybe because of this hectic world I’ve created. Too much on the plate. Not enough calm. Not enough space. Not enough rest.

Because my life is like yours. There are too many crumbs on the floor. Too many dirty clothes. Too many questions. Too many mouths and not enough spoons. Too many dishes and not enough hands. Well, sometimes there are too many hands too.

Like tonight.

But before we get into that story, I’m going to back up.

I woke feeling terrible. I was forced to step back. To put on The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space and lie down on the couch so I could close my sore eyes. To make whatever food was easiest. To back away from the kitchen as soon as possible so I could stop using my legs.

Right before lunch, my 4 year-old (who never stops jumping and has tantrums like The Hulk) said he wanted to go to bed. He said that both his stomach and the back of his neck hurt. These were my exact symptoms.

“Okay,” I said. “Would you like some pizza first?” Today’s lunch was homemade frozen pizza, and Super Healthy Kids jello. And cucumbers. All foods that this boy loves.

“No. I just want to lie down,” he sagged down the hall to his bed, hugging Red Monkey all the way.

After naptime, I was feeling better but this boy had a fever. So we snuggled and played cards.

What took my attention was the fact that he did everything right while he was sick. He didn’t get impulsive and flip over our game of war. When he went to the bathroom, he didn’t pee on the floor, and as soon as he came out of the bathroom he told me that he washed his hands and flushed the toilet. He didn’t once raise his voice. Not all afternoon or evening.

So, he does know what he needs to do. He just chooses not to do it.

Kind of like me. I know that I need to rest. I need to stop focusing on what my life should look like. I need to use more paper plates and I need to buy more packaged foods. I need to let go of the desire for homemade, at least in a few areas.

After dinner, we were all feeling somewhat better. Our bellies were full of eggs and bacon and sautéed kale and fruits. (Well, only mine was full of sauteed kale. Kale goes with everything. No? 🙂 )

I decided to step in the kitchen and empty the sink so we would have some clean dishes. My feverish boy brought a chair and helped as best he could. Ah! How does a 4 year-old help wash dishes? Some of you probably know the answer, but in that moment I was shaking with uncertainty.

But his chair was already there and his voice was so sweet.

“Can I help you, mom?”

I have been thinking lately that maybe it’s not the daily chores, but how I do them. I often rush through chores with speed, trying to get them done before one son slaps another. Before voices are raised. Before toys are thrown. I rush through tasks because I don’t have enough time to slow down.

But there is no lack of time. There is a myriad of time. And rest requires that revelation.

As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, it would benefit my whole family if I slowed the chores down. These are teaching moments. Learning to make a dish clean is learning to love. Caring for a home means caring for the family, for the people. Though tasks are numerically abundant, they can hold another kind of abundance, too.

This is the kind of abundance that makes our hearts flow at night’s end, and uncovers joy within the chore of a.m. eye-opening.

Why I Make My Kids Share

Why I Make My Kids Share

Here’s how it starts: you have one child who is lovely and amazing and he plays well on his own and he gives you hugs and kisess all the time and he sleeps until 9:00 every morning. Then you decide to have a second child. The second one never sleeps and mostly just cries and when he finally gets over crying all the time, he starts to take things from his brother. That’s your firstborn. You love both of these children and you want them to get along. So what do you do?

Okay, so here’s a little confession: those are my two boys, the oldest of my children. We were lucky enough to get a firstborn who was really an amazing baby, pretty even-keel, emotionally speaking and nice and would let anyone hold him. Our second is pretty great, too, but very different. He is either very happy or very sad. When he was 2 years old he loved The Hulk (not Captain America or Iron Man, like other kids… The Hulk.) He would walk around holding this little Hulk figure and he would say, “Hulk SMASH! Hulk SMASH!” in a loud low kind of voice. I would tell people that he probably identifies with The Hulk. He goes from zero to monster in no time. When he’s angry, he’s the  “Hulk SMASH!” kind of angry.

When “Hulk SMASH!” wanted something, no one wanted to say no. So, there we were, going head first into a big river of sharing. And the current was strong. And the rocks were bruising.

I’ve heard the opinion that explains why we shouldn’t teach our children to share. I understand that as adults, we are not expected to share our cell phones and cars or homes or groceries. As adults, our possessions are ours and we don’t have to share them. And if someone asks to share them we shouldn’t feel obligated.

I understand that sometimes what is ours is ours and no one else can have it. Like my glasses and my purse.

Then there’s the principle of generosity.

I have this really old, beautiful, smelly dictionary that I love to use. Someone actually gave it to me…someone who was being generous and thoughtful. Here’s what it says about the word “generous”:

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It attributes generosity to nobility. It says generous people are magnanimous. Willing to give or share. Unselfish. Bountiful. Rich in yield, fertile (said of land, but I think it applies to people too.) Rich, full-flavored and strong (said of wine, but I think it applies to people too.)

I want my children to know that things are just things. Anything that they own and find precious, I know is simply not worth arguing over. Anything they own and love can be easily replaced or remade. I know that kids are sticklers for keeping their stuff in their own hands, but I don’t believe that’s healthy.

My children get the generosity lesson a lot with Lego creations. I tell them that “Legos are meant to be taken apart and rebuilt.” My children are allowed to put a Lego creation on a dresser, out of reach, for a little while, but the next day (and sometimes sooner) they have to take it apart or give it away and start over. And they can’t hoard the Lego blocks.

This is a lesson I face every day too. I do need my glasses and my purse, but if my daughter (not included in the sharing saga because she’s a happy 1.5 years old) wants to pick it up and carry it around for a little while, I let her. She’s not allowed to dig into my purse and scatter its contents around like breadcrumbs, but carrying it around isn’t going to hurt a thing.

My children don’t go to school anywhere, so we mostly deal with this sharing thing in our own home or at playgrounds. There, especially with strangers, I want them to learn generosity. I think that’s a true test of character. It’s easy to be generous with those we love because we get to reap the benefits of friendship. But if they can learn to be generous toward people they don’t know, well, they could change the world.

If I teach my children that they don’t have to share, I am teaching them that their possessions mean more than people do. That’s not what I want them to learn. I want them to find joy in the joy of sharing. I want them to learn to love people. I want them to be noble, unselfish, rich, full-flavored people, not stingy, selfish, lonely people. They are not allowed to expect that others share; that would create another kind of monster. I just want them to learn generosity.