Perhaps this post is a tad premature – we’re still in the early stages of creating this ritual. But my excitement for how our evenings have shifted is so great, I can hardly contain the words. Also, a strong sense that no one in this world does things exactly as I tell her gives me freedom to offer a jumping off point as opposed to the solution to change your entire life, forevermore.
- I hate bedtimes. It’s my least favorite part of the day because I have the least amount of patience and they have the most energy to ignore what I say. Long before I read Glennon I referred to bedtime as a lifesize version of whack-a-mole , making the ordeal excruciatingly long. I know this is normal for all small children but it doesn’t decrease my frustration. I’ve added our foot and breath practice after all stories are read, teeth are brushed, potties are visited, blankies are found, drinks are drunk and prayers are prayed. I turn down the lights so afterwards I give a kiss, a hug and walk out the door.
- I’ve tried to become a tad better about using my DoTerra oils to enhance our health. This became an easy place to began to integrate oils, specifically OnGuard (feet) and lavender (forehead), in our routine.
- I recently shared how a shift in my own sleep has made a world of difference to me personally so I began to examine what would translate well for the children. One of these things is rubbing the head and feet – the body’s positive and negative poles – before bed to help release the day’s work.
- I appreciate the sentiment of taking “a few cleansing breaths” yet I’ve always lacked the practice. Because children’s imaginations tend to be stronger than our own, I decided to use the breath practice as an end to our day to help on multiple levels. For me, this becomes a spiritual practice as much as a physical one, a practice anticipate shifting and evolving as they and their understanding of the world and God grows through the years. We still say our prayers so our breaths are an active anticipation of God’s work in our lives.
The Foot Practice
Most of the time, these are one-on-one moments, but at times of flying solo in the bedtime hour, we do the foot rubbing as a group and the breathing in individual rooms.
First, I lather my hands with a few drops of neutral oil (coconut will work) and just a drop of OnGuard. I rub each foot individually – I pull on their toes gently, rub my thumb on the top of the foot between each of the toes, rub all over the bottom with close attention to have a few long strokes down the inside of the sole, and I use my knuckles to rub from to to heel to give the entire foot stimulation. I end each foot with three light fingertip strokes, toes to heel. This takes only a few minutes, but my kids are very receptive.
Instead of telling you anything about reflexology and the benefits of rubbing your tootsies, I’ll let my brother-in-law Chad explain it. He’s got more education and training. I’m just telling you my kids love it.
I also use a drop of lavender on my thumbs and rub their foreheads, down the sides of their face and under their eyes – all around the sinus cavities. Because we’re all fighting off a massive amount of mucus, they found this very helpful, especially before bed, to help clear their breathing.
The Breath Practice
I chose 3 breaths because I love random rules and the numerology involved with Christian and Jewish prospective favors 3 and 7, but 7 seemed like a lot (for me, I will be doing this x4). So choose your number.
The first breath, I ask the kids to gather in the day. Reach down to the toes, out to the fingertips and up to the head and grab all the pieces of the day. All our words, all our thoughts, all our frustrations and fears. I tell them that as we take a deep breath in, we gather those together to make a ball in our center, and as we breathe out we imagine them leaving us. We envision the day leaving us like smoke coming out ears (H boy loves that imagery). Sometimes I ask if we need to do it again, just in case we missed any spots.
For the second breath, we breathe in God. We replace the day with God’s presence. I tell them that we breathe in God and as we breathe out, imagine God sitting down in our heart, living inside of us.
For the third breath, we breathe in Jesus. I know, a tad redundant theologically, but I wanted 3 and this started on the fly. So we breathe in Jesus and as we exhale we imagine him moving down to our feet, so he is present wherever we go the next day. We imagine him moving into our hands, to be a part of whatever work we do. We have him go up into our heads with our thoughts and what we see, hear and say tomorrow. We’re bringing Jesus into our days by visualizing his presence throughout our being.
One morning, after having added our breaths to bedtime, the beginnings of an argumentative ride to school was in the works. I nipped it by offering to do our breaths, which the children gleefully agreed. On this trip, we did God & Jesus in the same breath and for our third breath we breathed in kindness, asking it to infuse us. Then we talked about how if we’re filled with kindness we would be able to show it to other people. We talked about the ways in which we could be kind to others and I asked them to look for ways that morning to be kind. A really good mom would ask them on the way home how they did, but I have lackluster follow through skills.
I like the idea of expanding the practice to include a quality (in my mind, that would be the fruit of the Spirit) for the kids to look toward. Sometimes broad, sweeping generalities are tough for our little minds to grasp, but smaller chunks of familiar ideas are more digestible. So if you decide upon your own practice, you might use one of these qualities or intentions (as my yogis would say) to include.
My bedtime practices have not completely absolved me of bedtime frustrations. Someone inevitably bounce out of bed to ask something. Yet we all end the day in more peace – including me. They relax, knowing the sun has set on our day. It’s become a punctuation mark to symbolize that this is done and tomorrow we begin anew.
I hope it blesses your family in its own unique way.
In my working world I was that girl who demanded the feedback on how to do my job better. I would celebrate my victories but even more, I wanted to learn what it took to take my work to the next level. I would spend probably more than appropriate time at my colleagues’ desks asking them questions, recalling situations or having them talk me off the ledge. Daily I would do this. At lunch time, we could converse in the cafe or after the kabillion meetings and group calls we were required to attend. I had instant messaging windows open constantly for chatter about this, that or the other. While worked “independently without much direction” I did so in a “team environment.”
SAHMs often have a team – it’s typically a spouse, and all prayers to the heavens for those who fly solo – but the feedback isn’t immediate. I might text an unlucky friend about the day’s woes or even a few highlights, but the lack of sharing physical space changes things. Presence matters. I don’t want to have to schedule a coffee date 3 Tuesdays from now to rant about the crayon on my wall – I want to march 20 feet away and find willing ears and resume my day with weight lifted, feeling validated.
The desolate loneliness of staying home with children isn’t only about missing adult interaction but also the lack of timely and appropriate feedback on our work. For instance, I once spent the first quarter of nap time in a loud discussion with the 5-year-old about how mommy’s job isn’t just to give him what he wants, but to help everyone get what they need – in this instance, rest. I was shouted at, name called and eye rolled. The feedback was neither helpful nor thoughtful.
When I think about the ways my kids do offer feedback, I live in extremes. I hear “I love you” no less than 63 times a day. Within the same breath, they might scream at me that “I’m being mean” when I ask them to put shoes on as the mercury dips below 60. Often, I go completely ignored. Repeatedly.
For a person whose love language is primarily words of affirmation, these conditions make it especially tough terrain.
Of course, I do have people tell me “you’re doing a good job” but I sometimes resist, and not out of false humility. They see me at my best, with an audience. What about when I loose my shit before breakfast, ranting like a lunatic because of the 400th apple core left on the coffee table? My boss wouldn’t stand for my behavior. Where are the voices in my life with that reminder?
Right now my life’s work is raising these little humans. I’ve invested my working hours and energy into this gig and I want to give it all I’ve got – as much for my own sake as the children’s. What I want to know is not if I should be doing more crafts (because I won’t) or if I yell too much (because I do): I need the side-by-side learning offered in most work environments. I need co-workers who dealt with similar clients who were never satisfied. I need a meeting where someone brings donuts because she knows we’re working hard but still have miles to go.
We’ve never purchased those door locks that go on kitchen cabinets to keep toddlers out. Our current house came with a few in the bathroom and I find they really only frustrate me and seldom fend off a child. Instead, our approach has always been to try to teach, as the kids age, how to interact with our things. Currently Mr. M loves to open the cupboard doors to my small appliances and bang them shut. An annoyance, for sure. If we give him a few minutes, he’s usually over the entertainment and moves on. If he lingers, we send him toward the drawer filled with his own kitchen goods where he is welcome to play instead. We don’t lock the doors, we simply try to teach the children which ones are appropriate to open.
So, as I’ve been mulling over the possibility needing to make a decision, the popular Christian notion of asking God to close doors has come into my path several times. Obviously, I welcome all of God’s power to do this, and perhaps that’s the course it will take. If an opportunity doesn’t make itself present, then I need not worry about “which door.”
Yet I’ve decided to do the work of wrestling while I wait. Perhaps the excessive mental work seems needless, but in honesty, I decided that my relationship with God is no longer at a toddler stage. By now he shouldn’t have to Michele-proof the doors but rather have taught me which ones are appropriate to open. With hope, if I’m tinkering in an unwanted area, I will bore of it in due time or otherwise God will remind me of where I’m welcome to play and keep me safe.
I’ve spent some time recently reading 1 Samuel, the story of the rise of King David – beginning way back when Israel had no king, then had the wrong king, and I’m currently in the part where David is escaping with his life from King Saul because everyone and his son knows that David will wear the crown before long.
In what appeared to be a boring chapter (23) of reconnaissance, I noticed the way in which David interacted with God and sought direction. David heard of a town under siege and asked God, “should I go defend it?” instead of waiting to be told. And God answered, yes. After he saved the town, Saul decided to corner him in the walled city. David heard about this and asked God if Saul was coming. God answered, yes. David asked if the city would hand him over to Saul. God answered, yes. So David fled the city.
David’s pattern of watching and listening to the world and then inquiring of God’s wisdom and will seems to be different than the pattern of sitting and waiting to hear God call out from the heavens, “Go!” After God confirmed that Saul was coming and the city would hand him over, David didn’t even inquire what to do – he simply left. He didn’t need God to tell him which door to open. God provided the information David needed to make a good (and life-saving!) decision.
God calls to each of us in different ways, and perhaps uniquely at different points in our life, which is to say that “shutting the door” is always a possibility. We can give God ultimate veto power. But is that what God wants of us? Is this the approach to living he desires? Is he content to mothering a toddler, still learning what she is allowed to play with or is there hope that we will someday reach adulthood and know where to find the blender and when when to put away the spices?
Perhaps the will of God isn’t always the mystery we believe it to be when we seek the wisdom of God know the character of God.