I spoke with Ana on the phone, and I’m convinced that her vocabulary has doubled since we left. Yes, in the span of three days, it has doubled! I don’t tend to notice these things when I’m around her every waking moment. Nana sent a picture of Emma wearing what look to be hot pants. They aren’t, of course, but apparently, she’s growing out of her clothes. The girls left town and are growing up! I miss them so much…

I’ve managed to get a lot done. Completely reorganized closets, finished the laundry, did all the ironing, and helped Wes with a myriad of tasks for church. The children’s wing has been under construction and remodeling since we arrived, and the old fellowship hall is now housing three classrooms and a resource room. It’s time to paint, put down carpet, and decorate… which I have absolutely no eye or talent for. But since I know this, I’ve been visiting other churches in the area to get some ideas, researching some ideas online, and looking at building supply stores to see what’s out there. I can’t begin to tell you how many wonderful children’s ministers/children’s directors we’ve met and how amazing they’ve been to help give us ideas and encouragement along the way. I think we have a better idea of what might work best at our church now, after seeing how other churches have designed their own spaces. The last pastor’s wife did some painting and remodeling in the nursery area ten years ago that people still despise today, so I’m prepared to get some criticism. That, my friends, is probably my most profound statement thus far as a pastor’s wife — I’m prepared to get some criticism. Ha!

I have a confession to make before I tell a little story. A few months before Emma was born, I found a little monkey backpack with a super long tail for Ana. (Which Wes’s aunt, Cindi, gifted me with when she visited Okinawa!) I’ve always had a problem with “child leashes,” but I reasoned that this wasn’t like a child leash since it was a backpack, and it wasn’t like I was going to use it to restrain Ana, just to help me keep an extended hand on her while tending to Emma at the same time. I’ve yet to have to use the tail on the monkey backpack, as Ana is really good (so far, knock on wood) about holding onto the side of Em’s stroller when I ask her to.

All that said, today we saw a daycare full of little ones Ana’s age wearing child leashes. Not cute monkey backpacks, but actual dog leashes, with big dog collars around their waists. And the workers were actually pulling them along. I could hardly even stand to watch. I started crying after we saw this and told Wes that if I ever saw someone put a dog leash on my babies, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from making a scene. Am I being a hypocrite? Am I being too sensitive? Keeping your child within arm’s reach for safety purposes — okay, if you let them walk at their own pace and don’t use it to yank them around. But putting a DOG leash on them and dragging them around because you’re too impatient to let them go at their own pace? Break. My. Heart.

Maybe this rubbed me the wrong way because I see some of myself in this. Ana has recently been sitting on the potty (TMI probably, but there you go), and while I should probably go her pace and let her sit as long as she wants to, if there’s no progress in about ten minutes, I’m quite done with the potty and take her off. And with Emma, I get really impatient with her continual need to crawl everywhere and get into everything, begging/pleading with her on some days to just sit in one spot and play without having me chase her all around the house. But what else have I got to do? (I’m really not being sarcastic when I say that.) What is so important that I can’t let my kids be kids? Why do the meaningless things I want to do sometimes rank above the God-given task of loving on and raising my children with patience and perseverance?

Another example. Ana has recently started doing “crafts.” (And I use that term VERY loosely.) I kid you not, it took her ten whole minutes to cut one sheet of paper with a pair of scrapbooking scissors the other day. Those little fingers are so tiny that they couldn’t hardly get a grip, even with me trying to guide her hands. (I need to get her some Ana-sized safety scissors.) I sat there, helping her, struggling to not think of how much time I was spending doing something that she won’t even remember ten minutes after finishing. Why was I even doing this when Elmo was just a remote click away and could entertain her while I worked? (For the record, I showed some restraint and didn’t turn Elmo on. And Ana made the most hideous craft ever, after an hour at the kitchen table. But she was excited!)

I don’t know why I mention all of this. Just a reminder to myself, when I see other children yanked around impatiently that I’m guilty of withholding the best for my children, ie letting them be themselves at their own pace and in their own way, because I’m selfish with my time and energy. It’s easy to think this way when they’re not here and I’ve got time to myself. I hope I’m able to remember it when they’re back. It’s ironic that the babies I wanted so desperately and cherish so much… I don’t appreciate them and treat them as the invaluable gifts of God that they are in the everyday reality of toddler-paced tasks. I’m really praying to see and experience these days with God-given patience and a better understanding and appreciation of where my girls are now and how I can serve them and teach them just as they are.

Do you ever feel like this?

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