Some people say it, “Keep your spouse above your kids” or “Make your marriage priority over your kids.” But I like it said, “Date your spouse” because it gives me an easy action step. Plan a date. Once you become parents it’s easy to start to feel like business partners running an enterprise (aka a house and munchkins) but dates remind me of us. Dates are where we get to have fun and eat food without someone asking, “How many bites do I have to eat?” Where we get to talk about stuff other than teething trials and potty training mishaps. Dates are the memories that glue us together and keep us from losing our sanity.
But on to the second best parenting advice I’ve received. This piece of wisdom came from a sweet friend who happened to be my former neighbor. Surely, God knew I would need her in my life so he planted me next door to her for several years. A few months ago she had watched our girls one night so we could take the aforementioned best parenting advice and go on a date. After that night, she wrote me an encouraging letter and shared a piece of wisdom an older mom had given her back when her kids were younger. She said, “Don’t worry too much about things you know will change with time and guidance–potty training, shutting down at bedtime, picky eaters who don’t want healthy food. They will not be 18 and still wearing a diaper and eventually they will crash from lack of sleep. But concentrate more on issues of the heart.”
I read those words and felt lighter, like someone who’s just arrived at a warm coffee shop and shrugged off three layers of winter wear. Concentrate more on issues of the heart. Some things I just need to let go of. That isn’t easy for a mom who struggles with perfectionism, but it’s necessary.
When I was seven months pregnant with Charlotte, Lydia, out of the blue, started waking up around 5 AM. I was exhausted from being in the final weeks of pregnancy and, at the time, I was the furthest thing from a morning person. I got so mad and frustrated at her waking up early until I finally realized, several weeks in, I just had to accept it. I had to change my expectations. A month or so later, she resumed her normal wake-up time, but I had learned a life-changing lesson.
When my girls walk across the stage at graduation or when my man walks them down the aisle or when I watch them hold their own children, I won’t care about when they potty trained or whether they ate broccoli without complaining or how many times they came out of bed every night with one more question and needing one more hug. I will care about their hearts. Are they loving and kind? Are they compassionate and fighting for injustice? Are they brave and trusting? Those little hearts are being shaped right now. And I must let go of some things so I can concentrate more on issues of the heart.