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.
WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN
Posted by Autumn Ward
So there we were, standing on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A couple in their mid-thirties with three kids ages 5, 8 and 10 struggling to have fun and enjoy a vacation together.
It wasn’t happening.
People were passing us on either side much like water going around a rock in the middle of a stream as we argued over kids not obeying, how much money had been spent, who was chewing too loudly, and whatever else we could get mad about. To be honest, I don’t really remember what we were upset about . . . what I was upset about . . . but boy was it getting ugly (and by “it” I mean ME).
I do remember it was CHRISTMAS. And rather than having peace on earth and goodwill towards men, I was having an all out total meltdown. No seriously, I was losing it. I felt like screaming or throwing something or even hitting something (or someone). Before I knew it I blurted the words, “I’m done. Let’s just forget it and go home” and then I walked away. Yes, I turned my back on my family and walked away (not my best moment).
There are many “not my best moment” moments in parenting. Oh, we strive to be our best, do what’s best, say what’s best—all those best things great parents do—but it’s hard. Parenting is hard. And the more I try to do my best, the more I realize how hard it is.
One thing I learned during this “not my best moment” is that what I do—what you do—after times like these can actually become your best moments as a parent.
I made it about ten steps down the sidewalk and then stopped. My heart was heavy with conviction. I was wrong. And I knew it. As the rage turned into remorse I made the choice to turn around and go back to my family. I had no idea what I was going to say or do, but in those ten steps back I came up with this:
“Guys, I love you. I love Daddy. I love Joseph. I love Sarah. And I love Anna. Mommy was wrong. I was wrong for my attitude and for getting so angry. I want to have fun with you. Do you think we can start over?”
My family responded with a heartfelt, “we forgive you” and, “we love you” and then did something I will never forget. They began admitting their own contributions to the Ward family “moment.” Each one said what they did wrong and asked for forgiveness. They had followed my example.
That’s when I came up with the “wipe the slate clean” thing we do. I told them to pull out an imaginary slate (I explained it’s like a chalkboard, they got it.) and pretend to write down the things they shouldn’t have said or done and then we would pull out our imaginary erasers and wipe them away.
And that’s what we did.
On the same sidewalk where I had my meltdown, we wrote down our wrongs and wiped them away. We had a clean slate. A new start. Another chance to get it right.
“This is why Jesus came, kids. Forgiveness. God knew we could never be good enough on our own so He sent Jesus to take our punishment. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, our slates can be wiped clean. We can have a new heart. Ok, now who’s ready to hug it out and go have some fun?”
It turned out to be an awesome vacation and one of my best parent moments.
My kids are now 13, 16 and 18. We have wiped our slates clean more times than I can count. When things start unraveling in our home, tempers flare and words are carelessly thrown around any one of us will say, “Hey, we need a clean slate. Let’s start again.”
Kids don’t need perfect parents. Which is good news for you and me because perfect is not possible.
Kids do need imperfect parents who are willing to humble themselves, admit their wrongs, ask forgiveness and let it go.
When we do this we give our kids a front row seat to the gospel, the grace of God, Jesus living and breathing right in front of their eyes. Our kids are watching and waiting. Let’s make sure we give them His best.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12
About the Author:
Autumn Ward has been a writer for The reThink Group’s First Look preschool curriculum for the past 10 years and is the Creative Director for Parent Cue Initiatives. She believes every parent can be a spiritual hero in their child’s life and it’s never too soon to begin sharing God’s story of love with them. Autumn and her husband, Chad, live in Cumming, GA with their three teenage children Joseph, Sarah, and Anna.