Happy Kids, Happy Mom (And Dad)

We have these two daughters, you see … and they make our lives fun and interesting. And in the last two years (or so) they’ve made our lives remarkably easy. By that I mean easier than it was when they were toddlers and babies. There are several reasons for this.

  • They’ve been out of diapers for a while now — being as they’re 6 and 7 years old.
  • They no longer need parental intervention to see their food into their mouths. (Though, more of it than you’d expect still ends up on the floor under the table. But, in that they know how to use a dustpan and brush and can clean up after themselves when called upon to do so, it still technically qualifies as way easier.)
  • Dressing themselves and picking out the day’s clothing is something they find quite entertaining, even if their choices occasionally make me shake my head and bite my tongue. (In the interest of honesty, I must admit I don’t always bite my tongue. I have been known to utter something akin to “Uhhh … No.” It’s really the tone of finality in my voice that ends the discussion. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.)
  • They’re wonderful at self-soothing and getting themselves to sleep, with a bedtime book, praying together, and a kiss (or five) on the forehead. Sometimes it does require butterfly kisses (which, granted, makes it necessary for me to remove my glasses, thus requiring a little more time) and eskimo kisses all around — but the rules of the house (in this case, the reality and finality of bedtime) are firmly established and it’s all good.
  • And, to top it all off, they can now pick up some of my jobs. Bonus! Setting and clearing the table, helping with laundry, making their beds, the aforementioned sweeping of the floor, and the list goes on …

I was not — ever! — the mom who couldn’t wait for my babies or toddlers to get on to the next stage. I never wanted to wish away that favorite snuggly age when I felt so needed, even if I got very few consecutive hours of sleep. But I’m here to tell ya, I’ve been shocked at how much easier it is to parent them right now. I never expected to feel that, much less to say it. But I do. And I am. And I just did.

Please don’t tell me to brace myself for the teen years. I know — really, as much as one who hasn’t gotten there yet can know. I get it. And yes, it has been more of a mental challenge already when they ask about things I have to really think about how to answer. Or when discipline issues become way more complicated. Or when I have to explain how babies get inside a mommy and how, exactly, they get out, or the meaning to words of a song they’ve heard on the bus. And I realize that, without doubt, it’s only going to escalate. I get it.

I’m not trying to rest on my laurels, imaginary or otherwise. I’m just allowing myself to enjoy this albeit brief respite in my parenting career.  And, if you catch me on a different day — maybe even tomorrow — I may deny everything I’ve just said. But, for today anyway, I really enjoy my easy kiddos and I love being their mom.

Not A Tame Lion

In 2011 the girls and I dove headlong into the world of Narnia, which was lovingly and thoughtfully created by author, C.S. Lewis. I hesitated only long enough to consider whether 5 and 6 years of age was too young to appreciate the allegorical themes contained in the series. I concluded that they would get it from me, if they didn’t understand it directly from the text. And so, we embarked — for that was, after all, the primary purpose of the journey.

Now, because I feel the need to state my position on this subject, I will tell you I have always begun with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. For those of you wondering why I bring this up, I will try, concisely, to explain the issue. For many years the designated order of the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia were as follows: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle. (This is the order in which they were originally published.) But then in 1994, the American publisher decided they were to be numbered according to their chronological order, thus switching The Magician’s Nephew to be the first book in the series because it is the creation story of Narnia.

But I didn’t want to read it in chronological order to my girls. I wanted their introduction to this world to be the story in which Aslan is first introduced and the book in which the Pevensie children first learn about Narnia and the strange, talking creatures who inhabit this world — as it was for me. I strongly believe that you cannot possibly fully appreciate witnessing the creation of Narnia until you know the land, and its landmarks have become familiar and dear. Would you as richly enjoy the scene from The Magician’s Nephew where Jadis throws the broken piece of a London lamp-post into the newly created Narnian soil only to watch the Lamp Post grow up before the children’s eyes — if you never knew that oh, so familiar landmark? I can only imagine it would lose some of its wonder. Or learning the origin of the wardrobe before you have experienced its magic and understood its importance as a gateway to Narnia? This is why I have continued to read these stories in the order in which they were initially introduced to the world — beginning with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

You see, when Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are first in the strange land where it’s always winter and never Christmas, and they begin to hear about Aslan, son of the Emporer Over the Sea, there’s an air of mystery. They hear that he is returning to Narnia after being many years absent. And, at first the children (and thus, we) are not told that he is a lion. But when that fact has been disclosed, they ask whether he’s safe. And they’re told, “No, he’s not safe. He’s not a tame lion! … But he is good.” What a wonderful way to describe him, and his allegorical counterpart, Jesus. What a fantastic introduction!

And there are wonderful lessons for us to glean from these adventures. In the third book (The Dawn Treader), Eustace, who has been nothing but a major annoyance so far, is turned into a dragon in a series of curious events. And after a period of time during which Eustace learns and matures, Aslan (whom he has not yet met) wakes him up early one morning and summons him to a small pool where he tells him to get in and bathe and take off his clothes. But, being that he’s a dragon, instead of taking off his clothes he realizes he is meant to shed his skin. Then, seeing there is still a dragon skin underneath, he sheds that skin. This happens three times, to no avail, before Aslan says he himself will have to do it. This time, instead of being painless, the process is excruciating. But when it is done, and Eustace steps into the pool, he realizes that he is no longer a dragon. He is a boy again! And Aslan dresses him in brand new clothes.  I love the way this illustrates our need to have our sins removed by Christ. We can shed some of our sinful habits, but we can never be free from the curse of sin without Christ’s (sometimes painful) intervention.

Woven into the stories are warnings against pride and self-sufficiency (Silver Chair and Horse and His Boy), vanity (Dawn Treader), heeding human advice rather than following divine guidance (Caspian), lust for gold (Treader), and a reminder to meditate on God’s word (Silver Chair). These and many more lessons are easily understood throughout the stories, without seeming preachy, or pompous.

There’s much more I could say about Lewis’s delightful allegories that are The Chronicles of Narnia! If you have never stepped through the wardrobe for yourself, you really ought to. There’s much to see and much learn. And there are many compelling friends you won’t be sorry to have met.

Running: The Challenge Continues

I feel I owe the readers (both of you) an update. If you’ve read my post from earlier this month entitled Facing the Challenge, you may remember that I am attempting to be an actual runner — at least one who can run for, say, a mile or two, without breaking into a walk, so as not to collapse.

Well, let me tell you, this is a process. Those of you who actually run may be thinking anything from “Yep, it’s a process” or “Yep, it’ll take some time,” to “Oh, for heaven sake, girl! get a grip!” And to you I say, I don’t mean that it’s taking me several weeks to get the hang of it. When I say “process” I mean it just might take the rest of the year before I can comfortably run without walking and without hurting myself. And this is only March! That’s what I mean when I say it’s a process.

So, let’s back up and start where I left off in my previous post. I had almost completed a week of the scheduled run/walk-ing. This schedule I’m following … well, I’m not exactly “following” it, so much. On my own, I’m gradually increasing the running and slightly decreasing the amount of walking. All seemed to be going along swimmingly until Friday of last week, when I noticed with some dismay that my knees were beginning to hurt when I ran. Now, this is one of those things I’ve been quietly dreading. (Hard to believe I can do anything quietly, huh? I know, one of the mysteries of life, I guess. But I digress.)  I’ve actually been suspecting that something like this would come along and derail me. I am, after all, forty-three years old. What was I thinking — running, at MY age!

But then I remembered that a friend who I was actually going to see that night had suffered joint discomfort associated with running. I figured I’d see what she recommended. As it turned out, what she said was not at all what I had expected. She recommended that I run “barefoot.” I was a little taken aback. So, I mentioned that I didn’t feel comfortable running the streets of my neighborhood in bare feet. But she assured me that I could do “barefoot running” without losing the shoes. (To many of you, this is probably not a revelation, but I’ll go into a little more detail for anyone, who, like me, had never heard of this phenomenon.) It’s a style of running, wherein you don’t need expensive running shoes (bonus!) — it can be done in (and I quote) “five dollar water shoes from WalMart.” It has to do with where on your foot you land with each step. When running in bare feet or with minimal foot coverage, you tend to run using a mid- or forefoot strike. And this, reportedly, is why it minimizes the impact to the joints. The calf muscles take the brunt of it, and cushion the joints.

I’m not interested in entering into the debate surrounding this controversial subject, I only wanted to find a style of running that won’t be damaging to my knees in the long-term. So far, it seems to be working well. That is, except that my calves were screaming at me all week — pleading with me to put those blasted sneakers back on and let them die. But I’ve stood firm. Well, sitting is about all I can do firmly this week, though I’m hoping to be making more progress someday. Soon

Post Script. 
Another friend yesterday advised me just to try running an entire mile without stopping. She sounded pretty sure that she thought I could do it. And guess what — I just did! In fact, I just went out and ran an entire two miles! I’m actually pretty excited. Of course, I was running pretty slowly. I mean, if I ran any slower, I’d have been going backward.  But … I did it. Without walking. Yay me!