28 Oct
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When Serving Seems Like Taking

“You’re always helping and never with us.”

Truth from my nine-year-old filled me with guilt, even if “never” was a bit of an exaggeration.

We were talking about the upcoming annual fall festival at the elementary school my two youngest boys attend. I was telling them about some of the games and how they’d have to help daddy get costumes together before they came up to the school that night. I’d already be up there helping. That prompted the small outburst from J. It’s true. I only have one memory of walking around the school enjoying the festival with my kids. That was the first year when it was dubbed a family night by the school. As parents and teachers, we want the children to enjoy a fun evening at school, but in order for that to happen, parents and teachers have to willingly give up their time to make it happen. I can’t be the only one with kids wishing mom or dad would just walk them around the school instead of manning a game booth.

boy dressed in costume throwing a rubber chicken through a hoop at a carnival

I’m much more cognizant of what my time is used for the last six months. Our oldest starting middle school hit an emotional nerve with me. Those 12 years went too fast. I don’t want to always be the planner, organizer, doer at school or church or anywhere. I took a step back over the summer and early fall from church commitments to work for better balance for our family. I made decisions this school year to do the same. Taking on freelance work has effected what I’m willing to give the time I have left to. I had been using the word “no” more than ever. I felt I had done a decent job of being more present, but hadn’t actually asked my littles if they felt the same. They don’t.

This morning we talked about service which isn’t a new topic. They’re familiar with the importance of serving your community whether that be your family, your school, an organization, your town, your county, or your country. Life is better when we serve for and with each other. They have parents who serve on boards, teach, coach, lead groups, etc. For little people, they’ve taken time to serve with their own abilities and have been wonderful about sharing their parents. Apparently this sharing thing has run its course.

boy blowing a cup with a straw at a fall festival

Most of our commitments have one or more of the kids there with us. It’s for their team, class, or group. That’s the type of service they can get behind. We’re present with them and for them. Serving on boards is more abstract to grasp. It’s harder to see the benefit of your mom attending meetings concerning the public library. When you’re 5, 7, 9 and even 12, it’s tough to understand the idea of working for a greater purpose, or working to make something you are part of better by willingly giving your time to plan and implement.

Try as I might to explain all this and more about service to the kids, it really just boiled down to them wanting their mom and dad together with them enjoying a family night…TOGETHER. They want both parents to be part of that memory. There’s a chance they know how to pull my heart strings. A few of them have learned the ways to open the door for guilt to set in and change my course of action.

girl dressed in costume throwing a balloon at a fall festival

The last couple weeks we’ve watched friends struggle with children issues bigger than I can fathom, my dad’s increasing health concerns have plagued my thoughts, friends who are dealing with the disappearance of and search for their mother, and a friend who received health news no one wants to hear. I want to take drastic measures, buy land far from everyone and stay there together forever. It’s not realistic or plausible, but I want to hold them closer longer. I long to spend this unknown time I have with those people who mean the most, but I also want to serve others. It’s the idea of serving others while not having anyone who lives in my house feel like they’re being left out that seems to get more tricky with each passing year. Parenting is tough business. I’m both succeeding and failing simultaneously. This is why attempting to please people never works. I know this.

The give and take of time and resources for the different passions I have is an ongoing internal struggle for me. There’s much I’m passionate about. This is a constant conversation between God and I. I’m continually in need of guidance. My children are old enough now to have a say in the flow of our family. For the most part, they can articulate what they like about how our family works and what needs modifying. It looks like it’s family meeting time.


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