“Lucy, it’s time to get your shoes on. We need to get going.”
“I don’t wanna wear these shoes,” and she throws them across the room.
I sigh, willing myself to stay calm. It took me 15 minutes to convince her to wear socks. If we don’t leave in the next five minutes, we are going to be late to preschool. I pick up the shoe and try again to help her put it on. “Jesus loves me, this I know,” I start humming, in an attempt to distract her.
“STOP SINGING MOMMY,” she screams.
My “official” writing times used to be Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 9:30-11, when Lucy is in preschool and my first grader is in public school. Distraction after distraction sprouted like weeds and demanded that I fight for this time. The sea of clutter around my desk also threatens to drown me, and prioritizing what to write and when is beyond my paygrade because, well, I have no deadline. Accountable to no one, yet. Do I start sifting through the chaos, vacuum and start laundry to please my husband, or ignore it and splash words across the page?
Then there’s Facebook, the mother of all distractions.
Sarah Young writes, “Your struggles are part of a much larger battle, and the way you handle them can contribute to outcomes with eternal significance. When you respond to your troubles by trusting Me and praying with thanksgiving, you glorify Me,” (Philippians 4:6 in Jesus Always, March 21).
And since I’ve allowed some weeds to choke out my writing time, I’ve tried to grab snatches of time while Lucy is watching KidsPBS on an “off” day of Thursday.
Goal number one: organize and create my external environment. I have neglected this ever since moving to Des Moines nearly four years ago because when Lucy is home, which is 95 percent of the time, she is emotionally and physically tethered to my side. When she sees me carefully going through boxes, she mimics my every move by grabbing whatever catches her eye out of a box and carrying it to the far corners of the house, making the tedious job of organizing even more difficult. So I give up – temporarily – until a “better time.” When she was a baby, she was high maintenance, and I was too exhausted to do anything beyond tend to her immediate needs. For the first 24 months of her life, I didn’t turn on a computer, let alone write.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Step one. Hang inspiring artwork on the bare walls. Step two. Create list of writing topics and publication dates. Reshelve books scattered all over the house. Stack ones I want to skim through for inspiration on the left corner of desk. Books books books. Books on the craft of Writing, books by Anne Lammot, Ann Voskamp, Julia Cameron. Books from a successful Des Moines author who I really need to reach out to. Some people call books my addiction. I call them my lifeline.
Going through unpacked boxes, I discover Lucy’s baby book. Empty. And the medical form, documenting my labor and delivery, June 23, 2017. Her weight, height and reflexes. An odd mix of both guilt and gratitude sweep over me. Another project. It’s not too late. After all, this book covers from birth until five years. Lucy comes scampering in, grabbing a random assortment of sticky notes on my desk. They were in a certain order; reminders and do to lists. She flings them all over the floor.
“Momma . . . I wanna sit on your lap”
I am not a fast writer. My pace is the turtle, not the hare. Slow and steady. So when I hear the advice to grab 10 minutes here, write for 20 minutes there, take half hour while the kids are watching any children’s programming on Iowa KidsPBS and write as fast as you can, it’s like putting cookies into the oven and urging them to bake faster than the required 15-20 minutes as indicated on a recipe.
“Mommy . . . I need some milk.”
I’ve also been told not to feel frustrated about a very minimal volume of writing, whether personal journal writing or blog publishing while taking care of small children. They need me to present with them now. They won’t be this young forever. Enjoy this time. Delight in your children. Cherish the toddler years. This is just not the season in life where a lot of deadline writing can happen. Give yourself some grace. It’s okay. Today is one of those days, however, when I want to smack that logic.
Writing stops as I pour Lucy some milk. She yanks on the bottom of my sweatshirt, moaning, and then jumps up and down. Where in the world does she get all this drama from? I give her the cup and she gulps it like she hasn’t had any fluids in days. Then she flashes me her wide, wrinkled-nose signature smile. “I wanna watch Hero Elementary.”
I quickly slice up an apple and she munches. If she will give her attention to a half hour of this Kids PBS, I can snatch some uninterrupted writing time! I flip on the program and she settles happily on the couch.
I dash back downstairs. No, that’s not okay. If I can’t establish a writing practice now, when my kids are small, it won’t happen later. Life will not slow down just so I “have time” to write. If I don’t discipline myself now to write for a certain amount of time on certain days, then irritability, self-pity and depression will nudge their way into my emotions, and I become impossible to live with. My poor husband.
“Mommy! I have to go potty!”
“You know what to do, Lucy.”
“Mommy! I want you to come with me!”
“You know what to do,” I say, raising my voice. “I will be with you in a minute.” I pound away at my laptop for another five minutes, bracing myself for her tantrum. To my surprise, she did exactly what she was supposed to do. I remind myself how much I longed to be a mom ten years ago and what amazing gifts my two children are, and if God gave me children, then he has equipped me with knowing how to deal with them.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9)
I set up some large legos and magnetic tiles on the floor upstairs. “Lucy, this is what you can do if you get bored of Hero Elementary. Why don’t you come play with me?”
She pushes her platinum blonde hair away from her face and eagerly accepts my invitation. “Mommy build me a castle!”
“Honey, I want you to build me a castle. Or would you rather color in your Mickey Mouse book instead?”
She nods emphatically.
I lay out her crayons and head back down the stairs. What’s my word count now? Well over 500. Good progress.
“Mommy! I can’t find the purple one!”
I march back upstairs, locate the missing crayon, return to the computer, yank the power cord from the outlet and carry laptop, mouse and cord upstairs and re-situate myself with laptop on coffee table, sitting Indian style. If she can physically see me, she’s not as likely to shout out for me.
“Mommy . . . what are you doing?”
“I’m working, honey, what are you doing?”
“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
“Lucy, you just had some milk and some apple slices. No more snacks until lunch time.” I check my watch. 10:30.
Another signature grin. “I wanna sit on your lap.” I lift her into my arms. She throws her arms around me. “Mommy I love you.”
How can I resist that? I shut the lid of my laptop and shower her with kisses.