There’s a word that comes to my mind probably daily when I survey life in our family at this stage: scrappy. We have snatches of calm, pleasant, smooth life – a half hour here, a few minutes there – but the vast majority of it displays scrappiness of one sort or another. The 4- and 6-year old get into fits of silliness that have them ignoring mom and them fighting with each other, ending in tears and correction. We don’t get home in time for the baby’s nap so she starts to melt down. The toddler has an potty accident or a tantrum or starts throwing food off her tray. Somebody won’t stop whining or interrupting or throwing a fit (or all of the above). The floor was immaculate 19 minutes ago but now the carpet almost can’t be found for the junk strewn all over it. If you have multiple young children yourself, you didn’t need to read through those examples because you could insert five of your own, probably just from today.
It’s just so scrappy – such a scrappy life at this stage. So often there’s nothing smooth-sailing, orderly, or Potty Barn Kids about it. The chaos can (and should) be well-managed and directed, and appropriate structure and correction can provide reprieve and areas of calm and regrouping. And don’t get me wrong, lots of fun can be have in the midst of the scrappiness, so long as the mom has made up her mind that she’s going to plow through it with enthusiasm, a sense of humor, and a thankful spirit. But scrappy it will remain, as long as the children are present, numerous, and young. And all of us are going to have “panic room” moments sometimes in the midst of it.
Moms have different temperaments and dispositions, and different tolerance levels for scrappiness. Some downright enjoy it and thrive on the chaos. Some find it grating and exhausting and have to work hard to find coping mechanisms and adequate energy to face it. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m extroverted and activity-oriented, which is one reason having multiple young children at the same time appeals to me, but I’m also administrative and productive – and both those traits are enormously frustrated by the scrappiness of our daily lives. I notice when we gather as a group with several other moms and kids, especially if we’re trying to get something done (like at a field trip or in a co-op meeting), that some moms are absolutely fine for things to be falling apart in every corner, seeming to pay it no heed whatsoever. Other moms – and I’m in this category more than the first – are frustrated or irked, to say the least.
But the scrappy life is part of childishness. Life with kids is scrappy; it just is. We’re dealing with small people who are just learning to manage themselves and make their way through life; who have significant needs in terms of food, sleep, and clothing (anyone else perennially have a missing shoe in their house?); and have abundant but inconsistent energy. We were just as scrappy as they were when we were their age.
So let’s chalk it up to lessons in perseverance, shall we? “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) The trials the scrappy life are small in the grand scheme of things, yes, but they’re never-ending and crazy-making nonetheless, so let’s suck the spiritual meat out of this bone and apply it to our lives…
Or how about the cultivation of gentleness? “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” A mom who can maintain a gentle and patient spirit in the face of scrappiness is a mom in whom the Spirit of Christ is hard at work – as we all aspire to become.
And most of all, a prayerful spirit leaning on Christ for strength. “God, give me strength and joy to not just face the scrappy day that will undoubtedly face me tomorrow, in some form or another, but to relish it and my children in the midst of it! Help me glorify you through the scrappiness.”