Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mama: Senior Chaos Manager

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... Colossians 3:23

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

The past few weeks have given me an unexpected opportunity to observe.

We spent a week back East with family, at Gramma's house, a time which included visits with other friends and family; then we had a week back here, but with only our two youngest girls; and, lastly, we've spent this past week at home, but with all four girls plus Gramma.

So many different situations combined with the fact that my mind's not full of academics right now means that I was able to make a lot of interesting observations about our family.

BB and I are basically quiet people. By nature, we enjoy order and simplicity. I'd say that neither of us is particularly high-energy, nor are we wildly creative in the artistic sense. It's fair to say that, pre-children, I was a bit of a control freak. BB is not at all this way - one of the many wonderful qualities he has (or doesn't have) that add so much balance to my life and thinking.

Now. There are four other people who reside in my home, you know. As I watched my girls in other people's homes, then watched just two of them in our home, and then observed all four over the past week while Gramma was here, here is what jumped out at me:

1- Three of my four children are very high energy, with a very strong, deep need to exert a lot of that energy throughout the course of each day.

2- Two of my four are wildly artistic and creative, almost constantly dreaming up stories, art projects, plays, big ideas, and so on. I realized during all this observing that these are my mess-and-noise makers!

3- Three out of four are NOT quiet people. The fourth one becomes loud in the presence of her sisters, but I took note of how really quiet she was when it was just she and one sister here last week.

What do you get when you throw this combination of people into a house together, 24/7? Well, to be very honest and frank, what you get is.....chaos. It is not a bad chaos, most of the time. Think two people pulling out items for an elaborate play they're staging who get interrupted and they leave their props all over the living room, "until later." Add to that a very busy 2.5 year old who happily pulls out toys, crayons, pretend food and what have you, then - you guessed it - leaves them where she lost interest in them. While youngest pulled out play food, third-born flips a chair upside down and creates a house of some kind in the middle of the living room, which stays in that location when its occupant moves on to another activity. (In their defense I'll say this: these girls can clean up a room in no time flat - it's great, and a huge help to know that enormous messes don't have to take forever to clean up...we do "5 minute pickup" quite often to kind of re-set the tidyness situation)

There's another layer to all this creative mess-making: the noise. The noise is made up of questions, conversations, arguments, discipline, training, reading aloud, sometimes music playing, crying and so on.

My point here is not to complain. I'm really just thinking out loud. I no longer am surprised at the chaos around me, but I have sometimes wondered what I'm doing wrong that things never seem quite under control - the people, the messes, the noise, the [barely existent] schedule - (oh, did I just say control? maybe there's some residual control freak left in me...). But, while I certainly do not do everything right, it feels good to recognize that the whirly-loud-messiness of things isn't because I'm doing something wrong!

I think all this observing us in different situations and environments has helped me see that most of my kids are pretty different from me in ways that show up as we live out loud each day. It's making me see that this is a big job and that managing it is complicated. I see how God has used and is using the varied chemistry of our crazy little family to make me a much more flexible person than I ever would've been otherwise. He uses it to make me more like Himself as I must call on Him constantly for wisdom, knowledge, help, understanding....

The other night, as some of the usual noise and liveliness (read: a bumped head + tears, 29 questions about supper, and 2 sets of muddy feet coming in the back door) swirled around us, I said to BB with a laugh, "It's managed chaos. And I'm the Senior Chaos Manager around here. That's my for-real title." And it is. That really is my job. It's not easy and it doesn't come naturally to me, in so many ways.

BUT! Maybe I shouldn't say job...maybe calling is the better word, because God has called me to this, and has equipped me for it. I'm beginning to understand why tenderness is not my top character trait. I always want and need to grow in tenderness (that gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of in I Peter 3:4), but I see that my children need a lot of firmness. Being decisive and disciplined and frank are absolutely essential as I deal with this crew.

Managing the chaos really translates into equipping the girls. I work to keep things as un-crazy as possible, and to help them learn to organize and manage their lives and thinking. Together, we face the messes and conflicts and the sins that need attention and it's my prayer that they are learning....learning that Jesus is most important, that His Word has all the answers, that loving Him and loving others sums up pretty neatly the overall Calling of God on our lives. Chaos management also includes practical things - working to teach good habits, manners, responsibility, hard work, relational skills. And I end most days with a big whew, sleep that comes fast and easy, and then a new morning with a new prayer to my God for wisdom, guidance, and for His Divine help and blessing.

I'm so thankful He gave me the unique opportunity this past month to see us more clearly and therefore understand our family more deeply.

How about you? What sort of interesting chemistry has God infused into your family? How does He use it to sanctify and change you?

A few more Mercies:

207 MK's hand on my very round belly, communicating genuine, deep love and interest in her baby sibling

208 God's timing in the little things - allowing me to get some little errands and purchases made

209 things so undeserved: my husband to me this morning: "What can I do for you today, babe?"
Photos: by BB - pictures of a little happy chaos. Gramma got the kids glow bracelets. They played with them for a solid hour after supper that night, lights all out in the house, while we adults lazed on the couch, oohing and aahing at their glowy tricks


  1. The photos took me right back to sitting in the chair in the dark!

    I don't think I've ever told you this before, but I think the girls are so creative because you allow them to make the messes. You allow them to explore their ideas. Too many of us mothers hate cleaning up the mess and won't let the kids play. (I never loved the mess.) You've done it the right way.

  2. I loved this post... a good reminder for me to study my children, to really seek to know their temperments, their talents, and their delights. It's so easy to forget to do that in the day-to-day surviving.

    Stevie's comment was encouraging to me too!

  3. Oh to let them make those hard that is for controlling me!!!

    Yes, I too need to focus on my boys as individuals instead of "the boys".

    I do know that apart, my #2 is very quiet-hard to believe I know:), #1 loves to ask questions and just "talk", #3 well just loves to follow me around-more than when his brothers are around, he usually follows them around!

    Thanks for the post!!

  4. I love this post - your ability to assess the family life and find joy and opportunities for new growth.

    Have you always been quiet and controlly? I found that after I had children, I became more introverted and desired calm and order more. I used to think I was not very neat or quiet! I am able to not freak out about the messes (because I do let my children make messes too) if we clean it all up, usually just at the end of the day.
    I admire your vision to help them manage and organize themselves. That's something that's been dawning on me and I've been hoping that I'm setting an example for my kids to follow.

    Lots of food for thought here - thanks!

  5. I would say that yes, I've mostly tended to be quietish and preferred to feel like I was in control of things...

    Having chaotic kids has made me let go, relax, roll with it, etc a LOT more. And while I LOVE super-organized neat order, I'm totally happy just to have a place for everything and to know that it can go there when it's time to clean up. We tidy far more than we actually clean at this stage of life!