Recently, I was at the dentist with my five children. Yes, you read that right, I have five children. Currently, they are 12, 9, 7, and two 5 year old boys. Anyway, we were at the dentist. My oldest was getting his teeth cleaned and the younger 4 were playing in the waiting area. A mom with two children came in and sat down next to me. As we were watching the herd of children play in the small area, she turned to me and said, “Do you have FOUR children??” The shock people experience at finding out that your family is larger than normal still amazes me….but that is a post for another time. “Actually,” I corrected her, “I have five…all boys.” It is at this point that the shock really takes over. The face is amazed, you hear the audible gasp, “Oh my! You have your hands full!” Well, of course, but don’t we all have our hands full, really?? She is quiet for a moment and then she looks at me and asks, “Do you mind if I ask you how you manage?” Now, I am not sure if she is thinking, “This chic has to have some awesome organizational tips” or if she is just wondering how I am not mad at this point, but I am sure she was hoping for a mind blowing response.
Unfortunately for her, I gave her my life’s best advice on the matter: “You just have to learn to lower the bar.” I realize that in today’s world of Pinterest parties and perfect Facebook vacation pictures that this is neither a common nor a popular philosophy, but it should be! With each child that comes along the ability to keep up the perfect standards we place on ourselves erodes. My house is NOT clean….ever. It is what I affectionately call clean-ish. I do my best! I have my kids pick up after themselves, but there are FIVE of them….FIVE. They outnumber me by 4! I leave the room clean and if each one gets out one toy, it is a mess again. Thus, I lower the standard of what I consider clean. Gone are the days of cleaning, leaving, and coming home to a clean house.
Laundry is another nightmare! When I think of laundry, 1. I want to throw up, 2. I am grateful that I don’t have girls who ( I have heard) change their clothes multiple times a day. CAN YOU IMAGINE??? I have at least two loads a day simply because everyone wasn’t naked. If they were changing clothes during the day, I would have four. I would NEVER catch up!! Who am I kidding? I am never caught up anyway! If I am being honest with you right now, I have 9 baskets of clean laundry in the basement that I have to fold. Hey! Don’t judge me! The holidays are a super busy time. Again, lower the bar! The expectation is CLEAN clothes. They are clean! The expectation is not FOLDED clean clothes. I used to feel horrible, but I do enough laundry for it to qualify as a full time job, so now I don’t.
My kids behavior is another good place where the bar must be lowered. Now this isn’t to say that I allow my kids to run around acting like little jerks, but they are also not going to be quiet in a restaurant or still at church. They will be quiet-ish and still-ish. There are five of them. That is a decent amount of sound even when they are talking quietly….and they don’t really come from quiet people, if you know what I mean. I guess I could harp on them and break their spirits and demand that level of behavior, but for me I would rather they be kind, compassionate, and full of grace than quiet and still.
My point is that we have ridiculous expectations for ourselves. Life is not perfect. It is messy, chaotic, and complicated. We must learn to prioritize the things in our lives that are most important. For me, folded laundry and matched socks are NOT IT. (SHHHHHH! A made bed isn’t either). There is only so much time that we are given; 525,600 minutes per year to be exact! For me, I want to choose to focus those minutes on building memories and relationships with those I love, instead of trying to have the perfect life. Having said all this, my challenge to you is: Embrace the movement! Lower the bar!
Action expresses priorities. –Mahatma Gandhi