Camille climbs up and down on our chairs observing the shapes of bowtie pasta, the vivid color of sundried tomatoes and tasting the seasoned chicken. Catherine asks Patti to cut her pineapple into kid-sized bites. The girls are feasting on Patti's company; they are busy, inquisitive, verbal. They want to participate.
Patti's and my conversation is like verbal patchwork. Strings of words. Patches of thought here, scraps of ideas there, woven over and under Catherine, stitched around Camille. Patti, a mother of four, understands and seems to enjoy the textures of chatter and energy created by our girls. She has come with no other agenda than to be with us.
I am relaxed. For the most part, who I am as a mom and a friend feels seamless in this time with Patti.
I don't always feel relaxed when I'm with people and our kids. As our kids are growing, I am finding more situations in which I feel fractured in my roles as "Mama" and "Sarah." Like when Erik and I are in the middle of a time-sensitive conversation and the kids' wants won't seem to wait... Like when I'm on the phone or Skyping and the kids seem jealous for my attention, competing for my eyes and ears. My kids know when I have tuned into a station other than CatherineAndCamilleFM. They tend to either fight for my attention or suddenly take a field trip to the Land of Everything I'm Not Supposed To Do.
My motive isn't to escape our children, but I do recognize God has given me different roles other than mama. I am primarily Erik's wife. We believe a significant thing we can show our kids is not only are we "Dad and Mom" to them, but we are also "Husband and Wife" to each other. I also function as a friend to others. I love each role. I just don't know how to "do" them when they overlap.
By and large, I'm the one who needs to grow here. For me, to give undivided attention has been one of the greatest ways I can say I love you. Eye contact... hearing a person out... time... these are significant to build relationships. This is tricky when I have two - almost three - small children making endless requests for Mama while I need to function in a different role. When he experiences his wife in this tension, Erik is very patient and understanding. We sympathize with each other because we both know what it feels like.
Still, I'm willing to learn, to change, and to grow.
Secondly, our children will grow. Obviously, they are little (2, 1, and 0) and are learning tremendous amounts already. But for my part, I want to teach our children well. I want them to begin to recognize and respect the relationships around them.
Please pray for me as I seek God about this... that I would be patient with my children's childlikeness but teach them through their childishness... that God would give me communication "keys" to unlock passages of understanding within our children... that He would show me practical ways to love my husband and children and others - especially when they overlap.