Sunday, July 15, 2007

Whatever the Weather, We're A Family

I have come to realize that our children are accurate, easy to read, always available barometers of sorts. Just as we turn to the weather channel, or in our case the local news channel website, for an up-to-date weather forecast when we want to know how things are currently going or what might be ahead in the coming days, I can turn to my children to monitor the pulse of our family. Each one seems to keep track of a different measurement, but all can be counted on to let us know the bigger picture.

Let's take Matthew for example. Want to know how the rest of the neighborhood views our rather different, more traditional family? Need to know what the current trend is in teenagers having to do their own chores before enjoying privileges like playing bball with the other teens in the 'hood? Or did you want to know just how much time we have all been spending together as a whole family recently, and perhaps how much quality that time has contained? Watch and listen to the resident barometer. He'll be sure to tell you. I regularly get input on what his friends think about his life because he's still very willing to share that. And while his friends parents and I have a pretty regular email relationship where they often tell me how much they admire our choices, it isn't the same as hearing it from a teenagers mouth and reaffirming that we're making good choices for our family. And I love when I hear Matthew tell his friends he can't hit the bball court with them because he's got something planned with his family. Yes, I know that we're doing okay when all of that falls nicely in to place.

But the best barometer in Matthew surely must be the anger management meter. It is a given that if Don or I have been overly tired, overly stressed or stretched in some manner and have, as a result, have a shorter fuse and lacking some tolerance in our normally more easy going household, Matthew will, in turn, respond in kind. His temper gets short. He can't maintain his self control with as much determination as he normally does. He wants to lash out for all of the wrong reasons. Of course he does. Because we aren't maintaining our self control as well and we aren't keeping the normal routine in our household because, for a time, it seems like it takes too much energy. So I'm learning just how important it is to keep myself on an even keel, and to tell Matthew when the opportunity arises that I'd like to let go of myself at that moment but I realize I need to maintain self control. I'm learning that some semblance of a routine is important no matter how much else is going on. My Matthew needs that. And frankly, so do I. He teaches me so much. I'm glad I'm mature enough to gladly learn from him.

Jonathan, on the other hand, is very good at monitoring our priorities. And his sensitivities go beyond the normal, 'we haven't had enough time together on a one-on-one basis' thing. He can give you not only the past few days, or even hours, highs and lows, he can give you an indication about how you need to adjust for the coming days in order to avoid the storms of disagreements and difficulties that come from lack of attention and misguided priorities. He is very good at reminding us that while maintaining a clean house is a good thing, making it a priority over playing a game with him or holding the next tether ball tournament would be a guaranteed storm in the making. It is a wonderful way to reassert the appropriate place for almost everything in to your life.

Yes, he's only 9. But at his young age, he is extremely sensitive to what we think are hidden issues. Don't feel well? Don't think you can hide it from him. Frowning on the inside but trying to smile on the outside? Don't even begin to imagine that he won't notice. Need a hug to reset your heart at a difficult moment? Count on Jonathan to be there, ready and willing to give you one without asking. Need to just sit for awhile quietly with nothing to bombard your senses and want a companion? Jonathan will willing come without you even mentioning it and just sit with you, cuddled in to your side, quietly waiting for you to settle your breathing rate down to an even, calming level. He teaches me so much. I'm glad I'm mature enough to be willing to learn from him.

And then there's Laura. What could a 3 year old do to help the household? You can't even begin to imagine. She is our joy meter instilled in a little body with much to offer and now, thankfully, little required. While the other two resident barometers periodically would like to hang her up on a hook in the closet for an hour or two and willingly put her down for a nap when asked, they, too, find great joy in her everyday life. As is probably typical for a child born later in life and periodically the center of attention, she's becoming quite the entertainer. Drama is her middle name but not often in the negative sense. When she's whiny without cause you can be sure we haven't spent enough time having fun lately. When she demands attention in a negative manner you can be sure there hasn't been enough positive attention given that day. And when she tells you that she "want up, Mommy", you can be sure that some quiet time is needed for everyone so making time for some downtime would be a prudent use of our time.

But perhaps the most important thing she monitors is just good ol' plain family fun. She demands that we participate when she needs to just get up and dance. She has an affinity for repetition and can sing the same song over and over again with a smile that just infuses happiness in to everyone in the room. And she can get anyone to participate with her just by encouraging you with her ever-increasing personality. Who can resist someone else having the time of their life at that moment? Who wants to remain full of frustration and anger when someone else is dancing around like a maniac full of life, love and excitement over the littlest things? Certainly not any of us! She has taught me so much. I'm so glad I'm blessed with her presence in this season of my life.

Learning to read my resident barometers has come with my status as a stay-at-home Mom. It takes time invested and a willingness to change myself. I'm still learning to read them and will continue to do so as they grow older despite my desire to stop time. I'm continue to be very thankful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to avert floods of Noah proportions in our household, that my husband supports my efforts by allowing me to be at home with them every single day, all day, and that I chose to invest in three little human beings that will someday change their little corner of the world, making it better in their own way.

As the household begins its new day I wonder what our weather is... I hope I find sunny skies as everyone starts their day. If not, I know I'll know it soon enough. And unlike our fearless weathermen, I have the option to reroute most of the oncoming storms.

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