‘Tis the Season

I’m on my 2000th day of cloth diapering, give or take. We started cloth diapering when our fourth was born. Our sixth isn’t quite two yet so I figure I have at least 200 more days to go. Taking into account all of the non-cloth diapers I changed with my first three, and the months during which I had two in diapers, I figure I’ve easily changed over 30,000 diapers. Thirty. Thousand. Surely that can’t be right?

diaper laundry

One of 600+ loads of diaper laundry I’ve washed in the past 5.5 years.

Here’s the thing about changing a diaper, though. There is a certain comforting certainty that accompanies it. A certainty that at that moment in time, there is nothing else you should be doing. Even feeding your kids isn’t that straightforward. When it comes to a hungry child, you might wonder, is he getting enough to eat? Should I stop breastfeeding because it is so time consuming and steals from my other children? Did I serve enough vegetables this week? Should I buy organic? Whole milk? Skim? Raw? Goat? Are eggs good for you again? Is butter? Are we done with the kale propaganda?

But changing a diaper is a pretty immediate need and uncomplicated process.  So when I ask, “Is this really what God wants from me? To change the 30,000th diaper?” the answer is yes. No way around it. Change that diaper.

There’s a scene in The Greatest Movie of All Time, The Sound of Music, when Maria, when questioned by Mother Abbess about the most important lesson she has learned, answers, “To find out what is the will of God, and do it wholeheartedly.”

Now, I am not Maria Von Trapp. I roll my eyes and sigh a lot, and the sarcasm comes just a bit too naturally, and I often snap and lose my patience. Also, I can’t play the guitar.

no toddlers

Note: NO TODDLERS. And I bet, save for thunderstorms, they all sleep through the night.

But she’s onto something that can help all of us. Maria’s Rules for life:

  1. Find out what is the Will of God
  2. Do it wholeheartedly

Sometimes step one is easy. Like that time a few weeks ago when we were visiting the cathedral in Savannah. We were sitting in a pew waiting for our group to regather. The priest appeared and walked right into the confessional, which we just happened to be sitting next to. “Sacrament of Reconciliation in Progress” says the sign he set out. Ok, I get the message. Sometimes God is not subtle.  In I went.

Or, when there’s a baby with a dirty diaper depending on you, it’s pretty clear what your job is. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s a comfort knowing just what it is I’m meant to be doing.

But what about when you’re sitting on the floor with a 3-year-old and her doll and you’ve changed that doll’s clothes about 37 times? Or when you’re on minute 45 of rocking a baby that Just.Won’t.Close.His.Eyes? Or when one of the Big Kids asks for another never-ending game of Monopoly? I often ask, is this really the best use of my time? THIS is what I’m called to? And if I decide that yes, this is what my child needs from me right now, and it is God’s will that I do it, then it’s Step Two.  Can I do it wholeheartedly?

Wholeheartedly? Every time?

No, not every time.

Wholeheartedly. How? How do you put your whole heart into folding laundry and dirty diapers and momtaxi service and refereeing arguments about Pokemon battles that take place entirely in your kids’ imaginations?

Well, gratitude is a big part of it. Give thanks for the meal you had as you’re cleaning up after dinner. Give thanks for your home as you scrub toilets. Give thanks for transportation and extracurricular activities as you load up into the car for the fifth time in one day.

Yeah, I know. That sounds trite, and you’ve heard it before. It helps, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Really, it has to be bigger than just “thank you for my laundry”. I think what helps me, what makes my best days, is the acknowledgement of the season I am in, and that God has had His hand in placing me in it.  And it’s not to say “enjoy it while it lasts” (I try, though). It’s more of finding comfort in the certainty that THIS is where God wants you. Yes, down on the floor changing doll clothes. Yes, kneeling by that baby’s bed at 2AM trying to get her back to sleep. Yes, spending three hours at a track or swim meet to support your kid in a race that lasts minutes. Yes, reading Olivia for the 74th time. Yes, passing GO to collect $200. Yes, pregnant again and starting all over.  Yes, done with babies and having to take that crib down. Once I tell myself that – Yes. This. Here. Now. – I find I can more easily put my heart into it.

I find that my eyeroll-y and sarcastic-ish “Lord, give me patience” turns into a more sincere, “Yes, Lord, give me patience. Help me to change this doll’s outfit with a smile and with enthusiasm, because while I care not a whit what she wears, my 3-year-old clearly has strong opinions, and in addition is likely treasuring this time we are spending together.”  Because just as surely as you need to change a diaper to care for a little one’s body, so also do you have to care for their hearts. And these little things add up. God did not call me to the religious life, or to extended mission trips in third world countries, or to start a nationally recognized non-profit that reaches thousands. But He called me here, to this moment, to this beautiful, precious child currently losing her schmidt because her York peppermint patty has a tiny crack. So I will do my best to put my heart into reassuring her that life goes on. I’ll say yes to another bedtime story and let the dishes wait a few minutes.  I’ll play Monopoly and get into it. I’ll put my heart into the little things, enjoy the enjoyable ones, offer up the poopy diapers. Because on the days I can lovingly live out the vocation I’ve been called to,  every minute can be a prayer.

Whatever parenting season (or like me combination of seasons) you are in, whether it’s the pregnancy sending you to the bathroom twice an hour, the sleepless but snuggly newborn stage, the stubborn toddlers, the energetic school agers, tweens, teens, grandchildren or foster children in your care, be confident in the notion that your calling is to nurture them, body and soul. Whatever form that takes, recognize it as God’s will. Do it wholeheartedly. And please, remind me to do the same.