What do you choose?
A couple years ago I was at home, cuddling my sick baby, and quickly typed out some mothering thoughts on my old blog. I shared with my friends on Facebook and went on with my day.
That post, “Kids Aren’t Expensive But That Other Thing Sure Is” ended up being shared by parents, blogs and websites all over the world. Everyone had something to say, and most said it strongly. When it comes to parenting there are no neutrals. Everyone feels their choices intensely, keenly aware of how important parenting is to a child’s life. Those who disagreed with me let me know that I would definitely change my mind as my children grew.
Well… they are growing. We added another child to our family, so we now have 4. And in these two years, I only feel more deeply what I wrote that day. Our children need much less than what we tell ourselves they need, and need such different things than what society has made priority.
It goes without saying that every child needs food, shelter, medical care. In a situation where those basic needs are harder to come by, different choices are a necessity. For many families, those are real concerns, and not to be taken lightly.
For others, though, the “expensive” choices that comes with children are just that – choices.
College, for example (one the top arguments made against that original post) despite what many people think, is not a must! In fact in this ever-changing modern world, there is reason to believe that it’s no longer necessarily an asset. There are jobs, trades, professions to be had that lift our hearts, pay our bills, and provide for our hobbies but don’t saddle us with thousands in debt, don’t put us in a box of someone else’s idea of education.
There are different choices to be made as far as education, jobs, hobbies, travel, activities for our children, parties and holidays. As parents we have the choice to live intentionally, guided by our own beliefs, hearts and values, without being tied down by a consumerist world whose goal is only to buy and sell.
We can choose to make love and memories the focus over money spent and giant packages.
We can choose to eat and live simply on a daily basis, so that when the time comes for something special, it is of more value to us.
We can choose to “do” less and live small, to make room for the tiny humans that have brought such incomparable good to our lives.
We can choose to turn away from the pressure of a world that is constantly calling out “Do this, do that!” and we can do what brings joy to our own parenting and to the hearts of our families.
Sometimes I think that our photo-filled, “adventure-seeking” world has forgotten how to live, because we’re all too busy running, impressing, buying. There’s this constant expectation that to be fulfilled we must be EXCITING!! Travel! Get a hobby! Try new things! Start a business! Be this, be that! And while we’re all running around trying to do everything and be everything, life is passing by without anyone actually living it.
Excitement and adventure are good – one part of a well-balanced life.
One part. Not the whole.
Excitement without rest becomes stress.
Adventure without routine becomes monotony.
Self-focus without generosity becomes narcissism.
Here, in my heart and my family, I am always looking for the balance. I’ve learned to say yes to some things and no to others. I’ve learned that calm in my own mind and soul inevitably trickles out into my home and the hearts around me.
We can choose to put value on people over things, memories over stuff, and find ways to live and love simply.
As parents, any choice we make becomes a permanent part of our children – for better or worse. They are involved in every choice we make, and one day will make their own.
Sometimes the choices we make are ones that earn applause, and sometimes they are choices that cause doubt or disappointment.
The point is not to choose what someone else chooses – nor to argue with their choice. The point is to build a life that brings you joy, one that fills your heart.
I want my choices to be ones that help their bodies, hearts and minds grow.
I want them to feel the freedom to build a life of courage and love, based on the path they choose to travel, not based on the man-made and ever-changing dictates of the outside world. I want them to know that life will not always be easy – that sometimes making one choice will meaning sacrificing another. But I want them to know that their lives are their choice.
I want them to know that it’s ok to be happy with less – and it’s also ok to want more. I want them to take ownership of whichever choice they make, and not blame a different lifestyle, education, or person for how their choice turns out.
I want them to do their best – and to know that when they fail, they can try again.
I want them to know that change takes courage, a quiet courage that often goes unnoticed, but that they can choose to change their path, and build a different kind of life.
I want them to understand that their choices must be made in confidence, because there will always be voices around doubting, discouraging, mocking.
I choose love. I choose joy. I choose a life without fear, a life without bitterness.
What do you choose?