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Top five ways to not follow top ten lists

The top ten ways to live until you’re 100!

The top 15 things for a happier marriages

The three glaring mistakes you are making in the kitchen.

The top 7 ways to have sexy knees!

The ten unhealthy secrets hiding in your feet.

(I legit saw that last one on Facebook the other day, by the way).

There are a million articles, websites, blogs, books, etc out there for a better marriage, better kids, a better life. You can’t go anywhere, both in the real world or online, and not see something that promises you a secret to the best THIS or the top ten ways to achieve the best THAT. It’s everywhere.

I should know. I have pinned a lot of them.

Ever since becoming a mom, I gravitate towards articles written about kids and babies. Any additional insight that can help me figure out schedules, behavior, discipline and retaining sanity, I keep stashed away on my Parenting board on Pinterest. Once in awhile, at my wit’s end, I will peek through the articles searching for that one precious nugget that will fix all my parenting problems.

My current predicament would be my son. My cute, always-smiling, constantly-eating, tank of a son. The predicament is a common one: getting him to sleep through the night.

Please spare me any tips. I’ve heard them and tried them all. I’ve read the books. Read the websites. Tried everything. Sound machines. Cooler room. Warmer room. Cereal before bed. Extra bottle before bed. Tweaking his schedule this way and that way. Crying it out. This kid still gets up at 11pm and 4am to nurse, smile sweetly at me, and then roll right back over in bed and go to sleep on his own.

He is an anomaly.

In light of culture’s obsession with babies “sleeping through the night,” the fact that I can’t “fix” this makes me feel like a failure. In its entirety, the waking only lasts barely longer than ten minutes, after which we are both snuggled up back in our own beds asleep. In many parts of the world, this would be considered a huge success. No rocking, singing, walking around the house here. Gavin loves being stretched out in bed alone, rolling around until he falls asleep.

This begins to wear on me every once in awhile. The other day, after a night of nearly hourly wakings (but mom! How will I learn to crawl if I don’t practice all night long?), I sat in tears with my coffee and bible, which is typically the place I end up at my wit’s end. Why I don’t just START OUT THERE, I don’t know. I don’t have time for common sense.

I knew my bible wouldn’t tell me how to get Gavin to sleep more but I knew it would have something for me. I have been praying for wisdom but have not been seeking it. Been begging for patience and not exercising it. Been asking God what 12-step program there is for getting Gavin to sleep, for dealing with both kids when I’m so tired, for simply getting them to do what I want them to do. I wanted it to be simple, clean, easy to enforce. Mess-free so I could get on with my life.

Instead, I found this:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

I stopped. There it was. The answer is there is no formula. There’s no mold. There’s no 12-step program. Parenting is tricky. Kids are unique. Life as a family gets messy. As much as I wish there was a simpler way to keep it all under control, God suggests a different way. He tells us to bear with each other, be gentle with each other, have compassion, be patient and kind. Why is it tough to remember that most with our own family? Why does that seem harder to me than a program or formula?

Gavin sleeping
Ima just sleep here on the couch.

I think it’s because It’s really easy to feel, as a parent (and as a person?), that each and every day we miss something. There are so many things the world makes us feel we need to KNOW and DO and TEACH our kids that it’s tempting to sink into bed with regret.  I would rather see that list of things we need to cover and I want to see big, red checkmarks next to each one. (How many of you make a list of things you’ve already accomplished just to see things checked off? You can’t match that kind of satisfaction!! Haha). And if I can’t, I feel I have failed. We stress and we make lists and we pin and we scroll our facebook feeds, bitterly rolling our eyes at all the perfect pictures when our own life can feel like such a mess. This leads to more yelling, more stress, more frustrations. WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE YOUR FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK, I want to yell at my kids sometimes.

So what does God say about Gavin waking up at night? Have patience. Have compassion. Remember I am loved. In humility, count my blessings. (I will take exhaustion any day over some of the problems and heartbreaks some of my friends deal with on a daily basis…and for whom I often pray for in the nighttime hours). It’s a matter of perspective and it’s God’s way of making us better, softer, more open to loving others.

Learn to love the mess. It’s not going to be easy to exercise patience and forgiveness with little people who are mostly irrational and don’t know how to live (or sleep) yet. When I start feeling panicky about how we don’t fit into that perfect, everything’s-wonderful, family mold, I take a deep breath and remind myself God calls me to love my kids over everything else. The wisdom for discipline, the energy for the long days, and the joy of gratitude will come from focusing on that.

I have had the best moments with my kids when I ditch the plan…when I toss the lists out my window, when I apologize, when I forgive, when I LOG OUT, when we talk openly about things, when we go with the flow, and when I look in my heart and to God, not to anyone/anything else.

So no. As I parent, I certainly don’t want to miss anything. But it’s not checkmarks I’m looking for. It’s moments.  Instead of falling into bed with regret, I want to soak up those precious twilight moments, the sweetest ones with my kids. I want to be completely in that moment.

Bedtime is a sacred space in our house. We read stories, recap the day, talk about who we should pray for, and we bow our heads together over blankies in the soft glow of night lights. We say our apologies for our grumpiness or mean words we said, we talk about how to be better tomorrow, and we snuggle (Every good day…and let’s be honest, any bad day…should end with snuggling. Actually, most days should start that way, now that I think about it. We should all snuggle all day all the time!! Ha).

“The thief comes to kill and destroy: I have come that they may have LIFE and have it to the FULL.” ~John 10:10

EDIT: This was written a couple months ago. Since then, Gavin still wakes a couple times a night but is no longer eating. He is pulling much longer stretches of sleep. Can’t say I figured out the magic trick, but it is better!

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