ONE MARBLE AT A TIME
Posted by Autumn Ward
So I’ve started this blog post like 14 different ways (not exaggerating). It just might be the most challenging one yet. Once you know what it’s about maybe you’ll understand why.
I’ve been told there are 936 weeks in the life of a child from birth to 18. We have a visual for those weeks here at Orange in the form of a jar filled with 936 marbles. The idea is that when you count the weeks you have left with a kid, you stand a better chance of making your weeks count. As you take one marble out of the jar each week, the marbles begin going down, you see what you have left… you get the idea.
I have 3 kids and the jar of my first-born has 4 marbles in it.
One. Two. Three. Four.
A cap and gown.
A prom tux.
Graduation announcements . . .
All reminders that there’s not much time left before the infant that entered my home 18 years ago will soon be leaving as a man.
It’s not that I’m sad really. I imagine I’m feeling close to what a person feels like when . . .
a great life work is coming to a close.
the company that was once a dream is now making a profit.
the book has been written and the first copy is in-hand.
a doctorate is framed and hung on the wall.
These are dreams placed in someone’s heart that they . . .
poured their life into,
made their biggest investments in,
and waited years for a return that was never guaranteed.
Dreams this big leave you totally depleted and yet full in the most satisfying way.
It’s your passion.
It’s what you sacrifice for.
It’s what keeps you up at night.
It’s what drives you in every decision you make.
It’s what will take you to the edge of sanity and make you question why God ever thought you could do this.
It will expose every flaw you possess and bring out heroic qualities you never imagined lived within you.
That’s what parenting—and my family—has been for me. It will forever be my greatest life work.
It makes me want to cry and cheer all at the same time when I look at my son. Being his mom and getting to be a part of him becoming who he is today has been the most amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I want to shout, “I did it! I did it! Look what God used me to do! Look at my son! He’s amazing!” (cue the band, parade and confetti)
Looking back, I can’t even begin to tell you where all of my 936 marbles went.
Some were spent sitting in a rocking chair just staring at his infant face.
Others looking for Blue’s Clues,
putting Transformers together,
listening to him read his first book to me,
eating lunch with him at school,
going on all those field trips,
shopping for cool shirts.
talking about girls,
talking about God,
helping him recover from his first broken heart,
letting him chauffeur me around,
taking selfies together,
getting ready for prom . . .
It’s worth pointing out that when I look back, it’s not the “big” moments that I remember most. It’s the smaller everyday moments that stand out. I truly believe the best way to spend your marbles is by simply making yourself available.
It’s making the most of the drive to practice. Eating dinner together with no electronic devices. Helping with homework. Playing in the yard. Hosting sleepovers and listening to their stories.
We will always be our children’s parents. But things change when they move away. My son will be going away to college soon, He’ll be out on his own, putting to use the years he has spent under our influence. We had our eighteen years, and now it’s time for him to go and be all that God made him to be. After all, that was the plan all along.
God used us to help an infant become a man. And not just any man. An amazing man who loves God and loves people. This was the hope—our end in mind—that guided our choices as we spent our marbles. It’s what helped us stay focused.
Listen, parenting is hard. It is a culmination of your worst and best moments. One day you’re speaking wisdom in love and the next you’re yelling in anger. Some of your marbles will be spent restoring a relationship while others will be simply playing in a sandbox. Both are needed.
The point is to imagine the end, and make the 936 weeks you have with your child count. Because I’m telling you, it will feel like there’s a hole in the bottom of your jar, but there’s not. Time just really does go by that fast, and before you know it you’ll look over and see 4 marbles sitting there.
Now, go be an amazing parent. You’ve got this! One marble at a time.
About the Author:
Autumn Ward is lead writer for First Look preschool curriculum at Orange and author of The Easter Story, a board book for young children that tells the story of God’s gift of salvation. It was written to give parents of preschoolers a tool to help them share God’s story with their child in an age-appropriate way that hopefully will stay with them forever. Order your copy today at OrangeBooksforPreschoolers.com and receive a bonus printable page of activities to do with your own child or to share with the families in your church and community.
by Sarah Anderson
My kids have taken an interest lately in watching our wedding video. It has been a fun thing to indulge in with them. They get to see the faces of friends and family they know so well, and grapple with comprehending how they weren’t even alive yet. It’s also been bittersweet. We have been married long enough to see that the faces of those at the wedding are different from the faces we know now. People have aged. Some have passed away. Relationships are different.
Engaging in this activity with my kids compels me to be a storyteller with them. I can invite them into my rusty recollections. I can show them mental snapshots of an unfamiliar world and connect the dots in their little lives before they even know there are dots to connect.
Telling stories gets me—and my kids—outside of the now in a way nothing else can. We slow down. We pause. We abandon dishes, laundry, noise and motion, and we simply listen.
It does for them what stories did for me growing up.
My dad has always been a great storyteller, telling his best stories around the dinner table. He could get and keep our attention as kids—and now adults—like no one else, captivating us with mischievous, barely credibly tales of his life as the only child in blue collar northern Kentucky town. I remember sitting there as a kid, absolutely consumed. He had a history. Which meant I had a history. I heard stories of a hard life with difficulties and challenges I had no understanding of and no context for, and hearing them made me see my dad in a more complete and whole way. His identity was bigger than what I saw before me. He was more than the sum of his parts.
Which means stories may be more than just a way to pass the time and slow us down. It could be that stories have a deeper meaning, and matter more than we realize. In the book “The Secrets to Happy Families,” Bruce Feiler suggests that children who hear, and learn their family’s story and narrative, create not just emotionally healthy children, but stronger and more foundational families as a whole.
More than that, there is a kind of story that matters more than any other. Dr. Marshall Duke calls it the oscillating family narrative, and he describes it as a story told with ups and downs.
There is heartache and there is hope. There is success and there are failures. There are dreams and there are disappointments. But the gift of this kind of story is the sense of family that comes from experiencing everything on the spectrum. Dr. Duke says it creates a strong “intergenerational self” because “they [kids] know they belong to something bigger than themselves.”
Which brings me back to the wedding video, and how cathartic it is for me, and how consequential it is for my children. I know, it isn’t really about the video. It’s about the remembering. Taking the time to look back for my kids’ sake and my own is a gift. It isn’t just an indulgence on my part. It is history making and history forming on theirs. It gives them a glimpse into who I am—a great reminder for me— and, by association who they can be—a big dream for them. It gives them a perspective, a depth, a richness that would otherwise be lost, or missed, or under valued.
So this week, take some time to remember with your kids. Share stories. Tell them stories of themselves. Of you. Of their grandparents. Invite them into the world that existed long before them so they are more equipped to enrich the world long after them. And then dream with them about the future. Get their minds imagining what could be, after giving them sight into what was.
Bruce Feiler says this may be a secret to a happy family. I say it is a practice and a preserver of a strong family.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.