Too little, too much, not enough. This seem to be the common themes I hear in the conversations with other families. And as I think about it I know that for myself one of my main sources of such feeling is the internet and how I use the internet. So with a new year upon us I am wanting to take some time to reconsider the internet and my role as a wife and mum and finding a better way forward for us as a family.
Family life has no doubt always had its pressure points, its highs and lows and different cultures, different social structures have all played their part in shaping how we feel about parenting. And grass often looks greener in every other field past, present and future. We can claim that the past was free of certain pressures, today others have it sorted and if we work out a new pattern, find a new home, a new sleep routine then it will all be perfect.
Just as with schedules being there to serve us as a family so is the internet, so are magazines, so are articles written by others. And therefore I need to remember to hold them loosely with open hands to receive my place gratefully. All too often though I get frustrated and act of out a place of discontent simply because I have shifted responsibility onto the internet and those glossy magazines and articles of how to be the perfect parent who never yells, whose children always obey cheerfully and whose days are filled from moment to moment with photo capturing wonder and awe.
I am also wrestling with a sense of two sidedness to many interactions in particular on the internet. Dialogue and conversation has been replaced with the need to stake one’s own corner. I wonder if this is in part because often we are neither allowed to speak into an event/circumstance because we have never walked those exact same steps or because we might approach it from a different perspective. I need to pay heed to the lesson that Mark and I were taught of listening, then sharing what we hear before responding. Too often I can find myself preparing my response before listening. I hear the ‘title’ and I might even try and catch the subtitle but then I am off plotting my perfectly timed, wisely crafted response. I want to have something to say, I don’t want to let there be silence as though I do not know what to say once the other has finished. I want to be seen as someone with something worthwhile to say and an answer. I do this with our children too, sadly for them it often comes in a burst of frustration over a situation I have half witnessed if at all and simply which ever one has already niggled me that morning is now in the wrong. And I wonder where they learn to respond the way they do when I am like a box of fireworks that has been lit unexpectedly.
Listening, waiting and silence. I want these to be my words as I head into 2015, for our marriage, for parenting, for writing. I want to let God’s voice be given space to be heard. I want to lay down my so called rights to ‘me time’, to ‘my seat’, to ‘some thanks would be nice’. I want to hear God and love those around me with all that I have, my time, my space, my works that He has already prepared for me. I want my energy to go into loving others well, seeking justice not simply in one small corner for one small issue but for all even if my act in and of itself is one small step. I want to extend mercy rather than wrath. I want to extend grace and hope in the midst of the early years when days are filled with training and discipline on loop.
And this is where the internet and articles need to be laid to rest. To be put down and not leant upon. They interrupted the silence, they stop me from listening and they waste time in the waiting. Comments wind me up, articles inspire me, articles cause me to add to my guilt of failure. Photos reveal my discontent for where I am as I envy the moment caught on camera that has become in my mind that family’s entire life story. I need to let them what they are, just as this piece is too; one person’s voice telling sharing one small part of their story. A story through which the internet allows me to connect with, offer. But it is not responsible for my feelings. I am and I need to wake up to how I am responding and reacting and I need to pay attention to those and address those and in turn come back and listen to the voices of others. To listen, to engage, to grow. Walking away from the internet in an internet age is not going to be the answer for me but I need to put it back in its place and let God’s voice speak clearer.
So for 2015 my hope is to pick up the art of reading again. Reading pieces of work carefully crafted and lasting longer than a screen page or two. Reading for pleasure, reading to learn, reading to help me raise our children. Reading to grow in faith. Reading with Mark, reading with the family. To not fill every moment with ‘interaction, this one is going to be hard. I am coming to the end of my journey as a breastfeeding mum and I have filled my time nursing with internet browsing. None of our children have been keen on my holding a book while reading and so I have tended to use the internet as I can do that one finger out of their reach. I have done it with some justification of multitasking as I could not deal with the chaos of the house, the laundry mountain or dishes at the same time. But even then it is not constructive for the most part as there was little I could do one handed and my claim that it requires no concentration has only been re-enforced rather than overcome by my continued browsing. Not that I was expected to multitask but it was a pressure I had on myself and so rather than sit in the moment I hid myself from it all. But as I was doing that I was gathering and sewing a harvest of discontent which is growing its way up and around the place and we can all feel it rubbing up against us from time to time.
Not all has been bad, not all has been lost through the internet but a greater amount has not been gained. I need firstly to return to God’s word, and to prayer as I seek to raise our children. God’s word does not give us a neat manual of rules of dos and do nots when it comes to parenting but it draws into His story and as we watch and read of His story with His people we can learn what love looks like. We can see what it means to seek justice and love mercy. To wait, to listen. We can see what God’s heart is passionate about and follow Him into and through 2015.