Today I’m thrilled to welcome my friend Shonda to this space. Shonda and I are college friends (quite a few years ago) and recently reconnected. It’s amazing when God is part of your relationships, it’s easy for those friendships to grow and become like time never passed in-between. Even though we live on opposite ends of the country, I’m grateful for the way she speaks into my life and the lives of other mamas. I love the perspective she shares here. Thanks for sharing your heart, Shonda!
Life is full of seasons. I am thankful for seasons because they mean there is a beginning and an end. Change and transitions are inevitable, and we are constantly wrapping up or starting a season. This brings me peace. The “not forever” of each season encourages me to keep going when things are heavy and overwhelming. I can take another step when I know there is an end. This concept also helps me look at new endeavors with a bit more excitement rather than fear.
In this season I am venturing through, there is a consistent topic of my conversations and prayers that I call, THE SPREAD. I had our fourth child a little over a year ago and a month later my eldest started high school. I also had a third grader and a pre-school aged child. In the months to follow, it became very clear that not only having a fourth child, but having a fourth completely different stage of development child to parent, was going to take intentional planning, focus and grace to do well (or even kinda okay).
The more I looked around at my tribe, the more I realized that THE SPREAD of our children and family make-up is unique. We only have four children. Some of you laugh at that statement. But, most families I know with a 14 year span have more kids and so their kids have a sibling or two in their stage that share common pastimes, likes and trends. We have more than three children. This difference stems from the exact opposite of my last reason. We have a few friends with three kids, but a “grand finale” was not something they were going to partake in themselves and so having our fourth child created a distance in those “whole family” relationships. We are not a blended family. Our family does life with several blended families with a wide range of ages and stages. They also have a lot of other pieces to their story that is not part of our story. It’s just the two of us, me and my husband, and our pregnancies, waiting periods and age gaps.
From conversations and prayers about THE SPREAD, I am learning and stretching. And although my family story is unique and it has taken the unique factors above to grow me and teach me a few things in this season, the lessons learned, when shared somehow apply to many a mama out there.
And so for that reason, I share.
Having a teenager, an older school age kiddo, an almost school kid and a newborn forced me to be intentional about finding places and experiences that connected all of us. I found that a lot of times we were together, but not together. Amusement parks, restaurants, church and even parties often lead to the divide and conquer approach. Hallelujah for that approach! I would be long gone if it weren’t for the welcomed, “Tag~you’re it”. But, I longed for time together-together. Our family has found the outdoors to be our connection place. We are all together, experiencing, creating memories, playing and just actually enjoying being together when we are outside. I say “yes” more and “no” less on a hike, in a big field or at the beach.
I am the first to admit that as parents we have to be savvy on this one. Kids, especially teenagers catch on to a conversation starter and clam up. I have learned to do it anyway! Having a meal together and intentionally asking each child for the high and low of their day has taken a fight more than a handful of times. The noise and scramble of meal time can make conversation seem like wishful thinking. Let me encourage you mama. Do it. Make it happen. Ask for their high and low and really listen and even with a squealing baby do your best to make the other children listen too. Talk about faith stuff, hard stuff, topics that aren’t comfortable (the lows often provoke these talks) and point them to the answers. They want and need it and so do we.
I talk about birth order, family position and purpose a lot with each of my kids. Creating purpose in their spot and calling out their role with their siblings and in our family is a way for them to understand in a tangible way that every detail of who they are is important. God made them special and they were born at exactly the right time, in exactly the right place and God chose them to be where they are. I talk to my older girls about spending time with their younger siblings. We talk about the innocence and freedom there is in playing and dancing and skipping (instead of walking). I talk with my younger ones about how blessed they are to have built in mentors and friends that can help them. When they are angry with me, they go to their siblings for encouragement and wisdom. It rocks!
As important as it is for me to keep my gang united and bonded, I am constantly reminding myself to connect with each one individually as a mom, at their level, in their way, regularly. It recently looks like this and is ever morphing: car rides with only one child (this takes planning), coffee/tea runs, bed time snuggles for longer than I would naturally take, long walks, Pokemon Go-ing (yep! I do it), saying yes to playing and sitting more often, cooking meals together, movie nights and reading books. This is also a big reason why we’ve chosen to slow waaaaaay down and homeschool, but that’s for a whole different time and requires a lot more words.
Here’s to the longest days and the shortest years! Here’s to YOU mamas! Enduring, keeping on keeping on, doing another day, loving better, growing, stretching, running in your lane and breathing. What we do in our spot is eternally important. We got this!
I’m Shonda. Southern California is where I am planted and doing this life of marriage, children, friendships, and a billion things in between. But, the Midwest with its slower ways and hospitality are forever a piece of my heart and spills into all I do. I strive to follow Jesus every moment. I love to read (although I rarely finish a book). I love singing, intense conversations, loud laughter and creating memories with my husband and four amazing kiddos.