“Just slow down.”
Whenever I hear those words I’m immediately reminded of my father-in-law. He’s a kind man. Gentle. His faith has guided his family whether he realizes it or not.
The evening before my scheduled c-section, he called to pray over our family and our two little girls on the way. The peace and comfort I received from that phone call calmed my nerves and put me at ease throughout the whole process.
Fast forward 18 months I didn’t expect to hear those words from our girls' pediatrician.
There I sat in the doctors office, overwhelmed. Frustrated. Having no clue what I was doing. You see one of my toddlers didn’t want to walk. She finally did, but now she was on a food strike of epic proportions. We managed to have two amazing eaters, until 17 months came around and my spirited little Emma refused to eat anything but pouches.
I read the books. The blogs. Did all the googling you could imagine. Nothing worked.
Then it happened. My pediatrician said that perhaps I just needed to slow down and eat with her. That’s all any child wants- her parents attention.
Queue sucker punch right to the gut.
She was right.
Life with twins and work and marriage and friendships and obligations is constant. Most days, if I take a moment to breathe I feel like one of the balls I have in motion surely will drop. My bend toward perfectionism tells me I can’t stop. Must. Keep. Going.
But that’s a lie we tell ourselves to stay busy.
Simply pausing to eat meals with my daughters hasn’t done anything but improve my days.
Before I was reminded to slow down, I tried to squeeze in laundry, dishes, meal prep, emails, returning phone calls, you name it. When my girls sit down to eat 4 times a day that is literally the only time of the day, besides their nap time, that they are still. So, I tried to maximize that opportunity to get things done.
But my children aren’t concerned with my to-do list. They want to know that I’m paying attention. That I’m not just present, but connected with them.
Meal times have gone from a food fight to giggles. Before, as I was cramming in my daily chores, I dreaded meal time because it meant more to clean up. Now, although there is still plenty to clean up, we have fun. I notice Emma’s cheesy grin, how Addie chants “apples” until her applesauce is gone. The little things.
And yes, it requires me to get up a little earlier to unload the dishwasher, prep dinner or send a birthday card out in the mail. But it has also brought me peace. And laughter. And smiles.
A simple, yet painful reminder that my girls just want me was all I needed to give in to what I knew was right. Being enough for my girls is all I’m supposed to be right now. Everything else will fall into place- and it has.
The funny thing about this lesson is that it has taught me all that I was before and had to leave behind for motherhood wasn’t bad- but it also wasn’t the end all be all. Breathing in the daily routine of toddlers won’t last forever. They start school in less than a month and my heart already hurts to think that they will be off on their own discovering what they like, what they were meant to do and how to find their way. It makes me sad, yet proud.
I want these girls to grow up fearless. Lighting the way for each other. Being kind. But I know that it all starts with me taking an interest in the mundane. In the little things.
Breaking bread as a family is now an untouchable time during our days. It can be chaotic, it never goes as planned, but it is a time where our focus is on our girls and the gift that they are to us.
And the days when I fall back into my old patterns of busyness? Well- those are the days I’m scraping applesauce off my floor and the blinds. Little ones are smart. They are full of spunk. And they have remarkably good aim.
So I’m trying. One day at a time. To slow down. Breathe. Take in those little giggles. Take in their preferences. To listen to their sweet little babbles as they share their food with one another.
On days when I’m at my limit, these simple words echoed by my father-in-law sink in. And it finally all makes sense.