The students were graduating and Erik and I were able to join in together for part of the ceremony upstairs in while our children played quietly and independently below on the deck.
Jude was in the shade, in the pack n play with a bag of age-appropriate toys.
Catherine, Camille, and Jack each stayed on the deck... and played... without any intervention from Erik or myself.
At one point, a little girl even toddled around them. I was curious how our kids would change with Ainsley's presence. They were polite - interacting with her when she came near - but they stayed on their mats. After we listened to a few students share, Erik and I went down to the deck and encouraged the kids and then let them loose to run around on the tennis courts!
This kind of thing doesn't happen all the time, but it was in part due to these magic carpets we call mats.
If you've read some of my previous parenting posts, you understand our situation
in a family this size,
with children this young
and this close together,
each day is full of needs: it can be full, demanding, and intense. We have times of chaos, frustration, and friction. When I feel a lack of peace, love, patience, these are clues that something's wrong. Many times I pray: God, You've given us this family to express You. I can't imagine that You would want these words to characterize our home. Can you show Erik and me creative ways to bring about love, peace, and kindness into this part of our day?
We know we won't get it perfect, but we ask "How do we give our kids a childhood home that expresses God by functioning in a meaningful, peaceful, unified, and loving way?" This is our question nearly everyday.
First, we recognize and want to instruct our children as they learn
that they are indeed individuals...
and also individuals who are part of a group called a family,
and also in our case living here at Ravencrest Chalet, we are a family within a community.
Because of this, we all have to learn to work together to make life and our home function in a meaningful, peaceful, fun, and organized way. Each member should feel valued and an integral part of our family as whole.
For example: how can I feed Jude while ensuring that the older three are both safe and meaningfully engaged in a task? How can Erik and I both participate in a situation when we don't have a sitter? Can our kids function independently when necessary?
Out of these questions, mat time was born. Magic carpets flew into our world. Here's what's working right now...
1. magic carpet - my Aunt Melinda made special, unique blankets for each child
2. carpet bag - my brother Jeremy and sister in law Emily sent each child a small, durable, monogramed bag
3. special things - books, crayons, stickers, crafts, toy cars (for Jack), and treats reserved for this time
4. instructions - Enjoy your magic carpet... stay on it quietly until mom and dad say you can get off
We started these mat times for a few minutes at first and gradually worked up to about twenty or thirty minutes each time. We would try to make it fun and meaningful for them, and tried to end by having some personal time with each child to talk about what they did before they put their bag and mat away.
Then again on Sunday, Erik and I spent a hour together cleaning up from the week's activities. This time the kids were inside, playing similar to the day before. Erik pointed out that this activity enables us to do life together as husband and wife - such as Saturday morning chores - rather than dividing us in one cleaning and the other entertaining the kids.
I don't know how long magic carpets will be a part of our lives, but right now they represent God's help in bringing about a constructive and meaningful time for each individual as he/she functions within our family and community.
This kind of structure might not be necessary in your family, but I hope you're encouraged that God can give ideas to bring about His peace in the rough places of our days as we seek Him.