Message to a Younger Me

Mar 20, 2013

It’s official. The Cushatt family has entered the Twilight Zone.

Friday, the littlest of our littles—twins—turned 6. I made cupcakes for the classroom, birthday cake for the family, pizza AND macaroni and cheese for dinner (carbilicious), and wrapped a ridiculous number of gifts. The children ate sugar, the adults drank (imaginary) martinis and the teenagers complained about how they “never had birthday parties like this” when they were growing up.

Whatever.

All in all, a good day. Now we’re safely on the other side of the birthday insanity. Except for one teensy, weensy detail:

As of Friday, we now have children ages 21, 19, 16 and … (wait for it) … 6. 6. 6.

Gasp!

If you didn’t choke on your bagel, something is wrong with you.

When it comes to our kids, we have one of drinking age, two voting, three driving, and three more who make me shake with fear. At least until May when the oldest 6 turns 7. For now, we’re anointing door frames, stenciling Bible verses on the walls, and taking communion at dinner.

Okay, maybe not. But I wouldn’t turn down a prayer or two, if you feel so inclined. We need all we can get.

Ever since the littles joined our family almost two years ago, I’m asked the same question again and again:

“How do you do it?”

Good question. Easy answer.

I don’t. WE do.

It’s takes the entire family (and some outside help) to make this work. And some days it doesn’t work. Not at all. When everything falls apart, we call it day. There’s always tomorrow.

All I know is we couldn’t have done this 10 years ago, even 5. We’re different now than we were then.

We’ve changed the way we view family, the way we do family.

Now we’re the anti-parents, the ones who DON’T stay up all night making Valentine’s boxes and DO sometimes skip homework to play outside. We’re the rebels who refuse the wide, fast river of “give-your-child-everything-so-they-feel-good-about-themselves” and “sign-up-for-every-activity-so-they-don’t-miss-anything.” Being tardy to school isn’t the end of the world, but missing a night of sleep just might be.

I wish I could go back and give my younger self a peek through these older eyes. Maybe I could save her some of the heartache and sleepless nights, help her enjoy more and worry less. If I could whisper in her ear, I’d say …

Do today, today and tomorrow, tomorrow. Make a list if you must, but write it in pencil. Regardless of popular (flawed) belief, you can’t control it all or do it all. Take one day at time. What doesn’t get done today can be tackled tomorrow. Or next week. Maybe next year. But don’t try to save the world on a Monday. You’re human, not divine. Cut yourself a break.

Everyone contributes. Responsibility isn’t something you teach a high school senior, right before they head off to college. It’s something you dish out in servings from the moment kids eat off a plate. Everyone contributes. Laundry. Conversation. Dishes. Dreams. Dog poop. Everyone. It’s a little thing we call teamwork. And it will impact every one of your child’s relationships.

Tell the truth, keep your word. When it comes to hills to die on, this is your Mount Everest. Lying isn’t tolerated. Promises are absolutes. All the other lessons you try to teach won’t matter if your “yes” and “no” aren’t bedrock. In a culture of gray, integrity is the family’s black and white. Cheat this, and you fail.

Family meals and a good night’s sleep matter more than you think. Every day you’ll be tempted to join this, sign up for those, register for that. It will all seem important, and you’ll wrestle with what to do. But extracurricular activities and packed calendars aren’t the priority. Emotional, physical and spiritual health are. Eat food that doesn’t come through your car window. Gather everyone around a table. Get more sleep than you think you can afford. Teach your children what setting boundaries looks like. It matters more than you think.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

 

18 Comments

  1. Stacey Thureen

    Great words of wisdom to a young mamma like me! 🙂 Thanks Michele!

    Reply
    • Michele

      So much still to learn … we press on.

      Reply
  2. Kelly Combs

    The best parenting advice that I give EVERYONE (which I got from John Rosemond), is “If God – who is perfect – did not have perfect children, what makes you think you can?” This just blessed me to no end to know that my children may fail sometimes, but it isn’t a reflection on my parenting. I do the best I can. Ever. Single. Day. I am the most intentional mom I know. But I still blow it. They still blow it. And we keep going. Cause we’re not perfect, even if “our Father” is.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Such great advice, Kelly. I’ve been thinking about grace lately, how we say it with ease but don’t really know how it works out in daily life and relationships. Somehow I have to become a woman of grace, who allows herself and others imperfection, in order to teach and lead my children to be the same.

      Reply
  3. Deanna

    Oh, how I loved this! My children are 25, 22 and 6 (only one of those and we could still use prayers, ha!) and we, as parents and a family are continually changing too – and my prayer is that we hold on to what’s important, real and lasting and release our hearts of the others. 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele

      Oh, wow … 25 to 6! An even bigger spread than us. Prayers going up for you, too.

      Reply
  4. Jenny Mosier

    As usual, you speak my heart with such eloquence!
    If I only knew then… But I didn’t, and I’m learning that that’s okay.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any shortcut. The only way to know these things now is to go through them then. So we blog about it, instead. 😉

      Reply
  5. stacy

    Oh how you speak to my heart! Seriously, lay awake at night and try to convince myself we am making the right choices. I just told someone last week that if I could have a conversation with myself when the kids are in high school and college, and know it was all “okay” I’d be completely at peace with my choices. Thank you Michele! My future self thanks you for your gentle nudges. And my current self thanks you for the extra sleep I will get!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      The not knowing is agony, isn’t it? We try so hard—and then lose sleep when we fear our efforts won’t be enough. We just have to do the very best we can, and pray A LOT. Then let the rest go. Somehow. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Lorie Hartshorn

    Love this! My kids are 23, 21 and 20….I can’t imagine the 6,6,6 – wow! Everything you said is so true. I wish I responded this way in my younger years as well – with God’s grace I had a few of those days 🙂 He is faithful to us and our families. Prayer is key to survival – and to flourishing!!

    Reply
  7. Leslie Gabbert

    Hi, Michele! Isn’t God amazing to give us a do-over! I love your blog. So glad to have found you. Many blessings and Happy Birthday to your littlests!

    Leslie (Mama to 23,22,20,18,9 and 2)

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, Leslie. I’m so glad you stopped by here. What a crew you have! 23 to 2. Wow. *this is me saluting you*

      Reply
  8. Stu McLaren

    Loved this post Michele and as our 2 year old continues to grow I can see us facing many of the challenges that you outlined.

    This was a well timed post so thank you for openly sharing 🙂

    BTW – Every once in a while you should also treat yourself to some “Chicken Fried Chicken” 😛 LOL

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks, Stu. You have a beautiful adventure ahead of you!

      Reply
    • Michele

      Back at ya. 🙂

      Reply

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