|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.28(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.49(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Mommy's Locked In The Bathroom
By Cynthia Sumner Barbour Publishing, Inc. Copyright © 2003 Cynthia Sumner
All right reserved.
Chapter One Getting Away from It All
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" Mark 1:35-37
Life certainly would have been easier if my children had arrived with an instruction manual. Being inexperienced, I equated my first baby's cries (of which there were many) with bad mothering. So I spent every one of Baby #1's waking moments trying to make sure he cried as little as possible. I know; it's a ridiculous notion. If only someone would have told me point-blank, "Babies cry. It's normal!" But they didn't, so the first time around I wore myself ragged walking, rocking, and swinging. Thank goodness I overcame that aspect of my Supermom complex by the time Baby #2 arrived.
My first child seemed to become particularly agitated if my attention wandered to personal matters like taking a shower or even going to the bathroom. Many days I'd cross my legs and wait anxiously for my husband to get home from work so I could take a potty break! Looking back, it is exceedingly embarrassing to have denied myself the time to satisfy even the most basic of physical needs, not to mention that I gave so little credit to my child's ability to adapt to a few minutes alone.
I could empathize with my baby's need to be with me as much as possible. But I hadn't counted on just how long that stage actually lasts. I thought that by the time my child started walking, he would also outgrow his desire for us to be joined at the hip. Then I could resume a slightly modified version of my pre-mommy life. Of course, the reality couldn't have been more different. Before Baby #1 had stopped clinging, I had another baby, and somewhere in the ensuing craziness of caring for two children under the age of two, I lost my former life. Or rather, I lost myself in motherhood. When I had the time to think about it, which was rare, letting go of my previous identity was pretty scary.
Just about the time I thought I'd be able to find a few minutes for myself, it actually became more difficult. At the end of babyhood, a mom faces the double whammy of shorter nap times combined with her child being mobile. Before my child began to scoot we engaged in "parallel play" with me working on a project while my baby played nearby. But once he became a toddler, any similar effort inevitably turned into a demolition derby instead. It is hard to overestimate the number of things a boy in the toddler stage can break, smash, or tear.
Some of my friends have locked themselves in the bathroom (à la "Calgon, take me away") to get a break from their little darlings. That never worked for me. Whether I hid in the bathroom, bedroom, or closet, my kids could hunt me down and flush me out in record time. However, I did find a way to make myself invisible for short periods of time by introducing my children to the game of hide-and-seek. When I needed a few minutes to myself, I would hide in a really hard spot on my turn. Even though I was usually folded up like an accordion, two things about this game were appealing. First, I could actually sit alone for a few minutes, but more importantly, listening to the kids search for me always made me smile.
Perhaps I do have difficulty setting appropriate boundaries for my kids, but I have shared this struggle with enough other moms to know I am not alone. When my children were all preschoolers, the only time to myself I could count on was (don't laugh) while mowing the lawn. No matter how loudly one would come to tattle on another, I could smile and legitimately feign deafness over the noise of the mower. I never minded cutting the grass!
Even now, as when Jesus "got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place" (Mark 1:35), I can sneak out for an evening walk-leaving our children in the very capable hands of their father-and return to three kids and a dear hubby greeting me at the door with "Everyone was looking for you!" Getting away from it all when you have young children is not easy.
Each mother has a different tolerance level for the amount of time we spend with our children, just as each of us has a unique level of tolerance for labor pains, the number of toys strewn about the living room floor, and how many times we ask for dirty clothes to be placed inside the hamper instead of in front of it. An acquired skill in mothering is the ability to go over the top even when your upper limit has been reached. We think we can't read Goodnight Moon one more time, but we do. We cringe when our child pulls out the Candyland game, but we play-again.
Still, the desperation to briefly escape the responsibilities, work, and noise of a growing family can make a mom consider some pretty far-out possibilities for getting away from it all. For me, the most extreme example came on a road trip from Texas to our home in Illinois. The passengers were myself, my mother, and my three children (then ages four months, four years, and six years old). Mom and I thought it would be easier to drive all night rather than stop, unload, and try to sleep in a hotel. So everyone was tired and cranky, especially the adults.
Only a mere hour and a half from our house, the older kids were bickering, the baby was crying, and my mother sat in a virtually comatose state. We entered a highway construction zone, and I neglected to slow down. I'm not sure what the highway patrol officer thought when I rolled down my window and the noise spilled out to him, but he decided to take pity on me after surveying my situation. Not, however, without first employing what he thought would be a scare tactic.
"Do you know that I could take you to jail for driving ten miles over the posted limit in a work zone?" he asked. It may have been my hopeful gaze that prompted him to give me a warning instead of a ticket. Or maybe he could read my thoughts: Do I get my own cell? Is baby-sitting available? At that moment, a few hours to myself under any circumstances sounded really good. Have you ever felt that jail was preferable to spending more time together? Or perhaps that family time has become a "sentence" you would rather avoid? It doesn't take this extreme level of family togetherness for a mom to feel like she needs a break-daily life is wearing enough.
My friend Anne has a completely different opinion about spending time in the car: "My sanctuary was my car. Even if I had to wait until my kids were all asleep, I would go out and drive around by myself for awhile-just me and some music on the radio. Thank goodness a local convenience store was always open, so at ten or eleven o'clock at night I could still say, 'I have to go to the store for some milk for tomorrow morning.' Sometimes I'd have a good cry before I came back. That was my personal 'therapy' session, in the automobile."
The Bible speaks of Jesus spending time alone and going off to a solitary place, usually in order to pray. "After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone" (Matthew 14:23). Or as in Matthew 14:13, "he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." What it must have been like for Jesus! People constantly clamoring around Him, everyone wanting to talk to Him, touch Him, ask for His help-even His disciples. In a way it sounds like being a mother, doesn't it?
As much as He wanted to reach everyone, Jesus knew His limits. He recognized the importance of reconnecting with His Father for direction, support, and encouragement. He accepted the necessity of taking time to renew Himself- in mind, body, and spirit. Jesus provides us with the perfect model for taking time to nurture ourselves. I sometimes think, if the Son of God took time for reflection and prayer, could my need be any less?
Of course, just as it was with the multitudes in Jesus' time, my own brood resists any attempt for me to get away. For the longest time, my very verbal daughter would follow me wherever I went, talking the entire time. If I went into the bathroom she followed me in. She would still be talking, through the closed door, after having been gently ushered back out! That kind of dogged devotion is touching, but also exhausting.
Sometimes we need an outside source to help us recognize our need to get away. When my friend Tina's boys were ages one and three, a visit from her own younger brother provided a wake-up call that she needed a break. Her brother had stopped by to enjoy lunch with his sister and nephews. Before she handed him his plate, Tina carefully cut up her brother's pears into bite-size pieces. When he saw what she was doing, her brother said, "Tina, you really have to get out more!"
So how does a mother with a growing family get away from it all? Any way she can! We would all love to spend a day at a spa or go on a weekend getaway to some exotic locale. But most of us can look forward to that type of escape, say, once every five years. Mothers with young children often struggle to carve out any time, or even space at home, for themselves. Any attempt will likely involve either juggling a baby-sitter's schedule (if you can find one) or installing some sort of child-containment device like a baby gate or childproof door handle. The sheer amount of effort required to get some time to oneself is daunting. Thank goodness you don't actually have to leave to get away from it all.
To reenergize themselves, moms in this season need a K.I.S.S. (Keeping It Short and Simple) time-out. I mentioned earlier that the shower is my special prayer spot. It's actually my best place for thinking of any kind-my most fruitful ideas, insights, and inspirations come to me there, even with interruptions. A shower get-away (or bath, if you prefer) is the perfect example of a K.I.S.S. time-out for a busy mom. It fits into the daily schedule. No special equipment or supplies are required. And it can be as short as you need it to be, depending on the size of your children and your water heater.
Here are some other ideas for K.I.S.S. time-outs:
rub lotion onto your hands and feet and give them a massage read a daily devotional or meditate on inspirational quotes plan a project you would like to do, even if you can't start yet arrange some flowers from your garden in a small vase make a cup of tea and watch the activity outside your largest window call a friend and compare your day
Do anything that gives you pleasure, even if it is unconventional. A friend of mine especially looked forward to one day in the week when she could catch up on current events in the world "outside."
When my children were young, I remember that Newsweek magazine came on Tuesdays. The postman brought it with the rest of the mail at 10:00 a.m., and I would lay it on the table in plain view as my motivation to get the kids down for a nap. I used to read it cover to cover before they woke up. It was my only link to the outside world.
What about getting away from it all spiritually? Scripture reminds us to "turn to God, so that ... times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (Acts 3:19). Spending time communicating with God-either in prayer or by simply making yourself still in order to hear His voice-refreshes our hearts, minds, and souls. God can work miracles with just a few minutes!
Jesus knew He needed solitude to renew His mind, body, and spirit in order to continue caring for those around Him. Having time to myself, whether for an hour or a day, allows me to recharge, which translates into more energy for my family, so that even when life is chaotic (which is most of the time), I can respond to their needs in a positive manner. Sometimes getting away keeps me from running away!
Kids Say the Darndest Things
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Psalm 139:4
Cooing. Babbling. Crying. It takes many months for our baby's attempts at communication to become intelligible. Then comes the momentous day when he or she utters that first word. My husband and I waited excitedly and competitively. Would our son's first word be "mama" or "dada"? After much coaching from each of us, we had our answer. His first word was "dog" (but "mama" was second).
It is comforting that the Lord, at least, knows what kids are going to say. From that first word, it was apparent that my husband and I could not presume to know what would come out of our children's mouths. Funny, insightful, cute, embarrassing-their speech has not disappointed us. Like when our youngest child's big brother was singing to soothe him:
Yankee Doodle went to town riding on a pony, He stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni, Yankee Doodle keep it up, Yankee Doodle Bambi....
Or the time I was preparing to nurse the baby and my daughter exclaimed, "Here comes the milk bar!"
When kids are little, their lack of verbal skills can make it hard to know what they are thinking. My youngest son used to growl like a dog whenever another child bothered him. His immediate family members knew what "Grrrrrr" meant, but it seemed to perplex his playmates. When young children do speak, their innocent and often hilarious comments give us insight into what is going on in their heads. Young children's verbalizations help them interpret their thoughts and experiences; through speech they are making sense of their world. My kids, at least, like to "talk things out," endlessly. Yet verbal communication has so many subtleties-one word may have several different definitions, and the way a phrase is spoken can change its meaning. How confusing it must be for them at times! Those misplaced words and misused phrases are the basis for many keep-it-in-the-family jokes. Here are two from the journals of my friends:
I had been stuck at home for several days with two sick preschoolers, and my cupboards were getting bare. One morning when the worst was over, my three year old asked, "What are we going to do today?" I replied, "We are going to the store without fail." My son asked, "Who is fail?" My older daughter asked one day why we were telling her younger sister Gwen, who was in the midst of potty training, that she was "doing a good job." I said, "We always give Gwen praise when she goes to the potty." My older daughter replied, "We don't give her praise, we give her toilet paper."
Some of a child's most interesting interpretations relate to matters of the spirit. On one hand, it is difficult for them to comprehend the intangible concepts of faith, but on the other, they are blessedly free of preconceived notions and teachings, misguided or otherwise. Because a child's experience is so limited, it is important for us to be as clear as possible in matters of faith-and be prepared to answer a lot of questions!
A mom I know shared a story about a nephew of hers who was confused about the priest's instruction at confession. The youngster confided to his mom, "He told me to say two 'Our Fathers,' but I only know one." Another friend's son listened closely to the pastor's preparations for communion, in which there were several references to the "body of Christ." Finally, her little one couldn't contain himself any longer and blurted out, "I can't stand it! Where is the body of Jesus Christ?" Even the pastor had to smile.
While kids refine their verbal skills, we often act as interpreter to others who are unfamiliar with their unique dialect. There have been times when even I could not understand what my children were trying to communicate-a frustrating situation for both of us! It's encouraging to remember that interpreters of all sorts figure prominently in Scripture. For example, the ability to interpret dreams was greatly valued in biblical times. When Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt he was asked on several occasions to interpret a dream. The first time Joseph replied, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8). He agreed to provide an interpretation only because he knew God would reveal the meaning to him.
Sometimes our children's interpretations of the things they hear can point out spiritual truths, even to us. One of my friends had coaxed her reluctant son into sitting at the table to practice writing his name. (Of course, he would rather have been outside playing.) After much complaining, he wrote his name a couple of times, then looked up at his mom and said, "Mom, you know even God rested on the seventh day." To which she replied, "Yes, but God didn't get a bad report from His preschool teacher about His handwriting." Without missing a beat her son replied, "Only because God is perfect and we are sinners." Not knowing what else to say, his mom let him go out to play.
Many of our preschoolers' comments are simply uninhibited observations about the world around them. On a family vacation trip to the Grand Canyon, a friend's youngest daughter complained, "What's the big deal? It's just a big hole!" That's certainly one way to look at it. While driving through town during high school football season my own daughter asked, "Mommy, do we have to throw toilet paper all over our house, too?" We can forget that young children see things in very simplistic terms-until they put those perceptions into words.
Excerpted from Mommy's Locked In The Bathroom by Cynthia Sumner Copyright © 2003 by Cynthia Sumner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
|Getting Away from It All||17|
|Kids Say the Darndest Things||27|
|What Goes in Must Come Out (Though not Necessarily the Way You Expect)||39|
|Making a Joyful Noise||51|
|"Rest Time" and Other Misnomers||63|
|Fearfully (and Wonderfully) Made||79|
|Vanishing Paper Products and Other Mysteries||95|
|In Sickness and in Health||109|
|Role Models Are More Than Action Figures||121|
|Gravity and Other Forces of Nature||133|
|I Love You, You Love Me||145|
|What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?||159|
|Relaxing the Reins||175|