What will they Remember?
There’s something in us, as parents, that feels like we need to make fall magical.
The apple cider.
The pumpkin patch.
The hot cocoa bars.
Do you ever find yourself wishing you were that mom with the peppermint stir sticks for the hot cocoa or the caramel syrup for the apple cider?
The invention of the internet has done many wonderful things for our culture, but perhaps one of the most invasive has been the pressure it creates for moms. If you’re like me, it feels so incredibly overwhelming to think of all the things I’m not doing for my kids, and I’m faced with it at every turn, every corner of the internet. My Pinterest, Instagram, email, and Google Ads bombard me with ideas and how-tos and DIYs for everything you could possibly create, produce, or schedule. There’s so much pressure around making the fall and all of the fall holidays—everything from now until Christmas—a magical time for our kids.
If we’re not carving a pumpkin or having a photo shoot in our flannel and tall boots, I feel like a failure. How am I going to send a cute Christmas card photo if we don’t schedule that shoot right now?! If I’m not careful, I’m prone to carry that attitude with me straight into the Christmas season, and before the clock strikes twelve on Black Friday, I’m already an anxious mess about how I’ve failed, am failing, or will fail my six boys before year’s end.
A Perfection We Cannot Attain
But here’s the thing: when we succumb to the pressure, when we commit ourselves to the relentless pursuit of Instagram and Pinterest perfection, when we measure the success of parenting by the boxes checked on our seasonal to-do lists, we are striving for a perfection we cannot attain.
For what, exactly? And to impress whom? We must ask ourselves why we’re doing these things.
Is it because we’re hyperaware of the short eighteen years we have before our children flee our nest and we’re intently focused on making the most of that time, or is it because it’s what the world expects?
Is it because we’ll be spending quality time together with our loved ones, or is it because we’re addicted to followers and likes?
Is it because our children will enjoy doing these activities, or is it because we’ll feel better about our parenting flaws if we balance them out with Insta-worthy wins?
Is it because they bring us joy, or is it because we want to appear joyful?
Tone Over To-Do Lists
We have this ideal in our minds of what it means to make memories with our kids, and I think we sometimes forget what they’ll really remember when they look back on their childhoods.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. As the mother of six boys, one of which is a college junior studying abroad this semester, our kids don’t remember the cocoa bars. They don’t remember the photo shoots (at least maybe not as fondly as we’d like to think). They don’t cherish packing an entire season’s worth of fun into the last possible weekend in October. They certainly don’t remember peppermint stir sticks.
When my homesick son, halfway across the globe, looks back on his time at home, he’s not remembering those things. He’s not remembering specific, photo-worthy, nailed-it moments.
What does he remember? He remembers the tone of our home. He remembers how it feels safe, how the conversations are rich. How it’s accepting and loving and how there’s always a hug at the end and beginning of each day.
Can you believe that? That’s what he remembers. That’s what he craves. The hug from his father first thing in the morning and the hug from his mama before he goes to bed at night. When he’s missing home, that’s what he misses. When he’s remembering his time at home, that’s what he remembers.
When I hear those words, I can’t help but think of all the time I’ve wasted feeling anxious or pressured or less than because I didn’t check everything off my magical to-do list for the eighteen years he was home. All the effort I put into striving to make his childhood picture-perfect. All the striving I did to prove to others—to prove to myself—that I was nailing this motherhood thing.
Striving Leaves Us Limping, Surrender Brings Grace
Endlessly chasing approval and affirmation isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. And the same angst that drives us to secure belonging and acceptance through posting the right things on social media, doing what’s widely accepted, checking all the boxes on every single seasonal list, and being the most likable versions of ourselves accompanies us into our lives in Christ. Left unchallenged, this angst leaves us limping along—lacking the joy, hope, peace, assurance, and transformation we expect to experience as believers. A worldly means of favor was never meant to deliver an otherworldly means of grace.
And friend, if you are the kind who is gifted in these areas, who finds joy in and excels in the planning and execution of all the details—that’s amazing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending your time in that manner. When you’re operating in your strengths and using the gifts God gave you to love your family, that is honorable and good! My strengths do not lie in these areas, and the world’s pressure to perform and conform is what pushes me to these things, which produces the resulting anxiety and feelings of not being enough.
But, if you’re like me, and all you can offer this season is a surrendered heart and a tone and environment at home that says, “We will rest, we will love one another well, and we will lay our strivings down,” that will be more memorable than a well-crafted cocoa bar or a perfectly decorated home.
Putting Rest on Display
As moms, it’s easy to get lost in our strivings for perfection and miss the incredible undercurrent of tone and rest in our homes. At the end of the day, what speaks more and speaks volumes is how we display what really brings joy into our home, not who or what we display on our mantles and doorsteps. It’s not my perfect menus; it’s the richness of conversation around the table. It’s not our framed family portraits; it’s the warmth of my arms squeezed around my sons. It’s not themed décor that brings the magic of fall; it’s the crispness in the air and the pull we feel toward each other.
As a mom, sometimes I think that all of my striving will produce joy, when really, if I put on display that joy comes from resting in the Lord, that might shape my kids more than anything I could possibly create, produce, or schedule this fall.
The pressure’s off, friend.
Let’s put the calendar down and put on display a rest that brings joy.
Meet the Author:
Ruth Chou Simons is a Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning author of several books, including her newest book When Strivings Cease. She is an artist, entrepreneur, and speaker, using each of these platforms to spiritually sow the Word of God into people’s hearts. Through her online shoppe at GraceLaced.com and her social media community, Simons shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and art. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure. Connect with Ruth at her website or on Instagram.