My heart still squeezes a bit when I think of those first months of Morning Time. Partly because I was in a really bad place and partly because my kids were so itty bitty and all I wanted was to be a good mom to them.
Back in 2010 I was in the throes of dealing with PTSD. My husband was in grad school. We had zero money and three kids aged 3 and under. I had a bookshelf that was 90% twaddle and I was pretty convinced I was going to ruin my kids.
I remember feeling overwhelmed going from place to place with the boys, because someone always seemed to be pushing something on us. That “something” usually cost lots of money and it was almost always “something” we were told we needed in order to be good parents. You can ONLY eat organic, you MUST buy all these oils from plants you’ve never even heard of, and it is ESSENTIAL that your child receive chiropractic care after their infant suzuki lessons. Ok, I am being a *leetle bit sarcastic* here. But you get the point. Nothing wrong with any of the above listed things, it just felt like everyone wanted me to prove my good intentions for motherhood by dropping tons of money we didn’t have. It taught me the lesson early on that you don’t need a lot of money to be a good parent. What their hearts truly need, can’t be bought or purchased. With money out of the equation, I had to make the intentional choice to create a culture of love for my children using my words and actions. But how to fight through darkness to this place of love and light?
I’ll be completely honest and say that my panic attacks were terrifying. I often crack jokes on here to minimize things, but there was nothing funny about PTSD. My attacks came with terrible frequency and were the single most discouraging thing I have ever had to face. They made me feel like a bad mom, even though deep in my heart I KNEW that was not the case.
What does this have to do with morning time?
I never had panic attacks first thing in the morning. They usually happened between the early afternoon and late evening hours. Early in the morning, I still felt like maybe I could be a good mom. I still had hope. I wanted to make the most of it!
If you read our first post on Morning Time, you’ll remember that I mentioned the exciting revelation of preparing food for the purpose of luring my children to the same spot each day so I could teach them all at the same time. I chose the morning hour, not for any philosophical reason, but because I could survive it. I chose to feed them simply because it would make them stay. I chose to make it as beautiful as my means would allow so that it would nourish them. Those were the roots of our morning time. Pure survival with a tiny dash of hope.
When I think of beauty born from darkness, I think of morning time. It was the highlight of our days. They are the memories I pray my children stored in their hearts.
It wasn’t fancy or academically rigorous. It was simple and humble and honestly life-giving. Its where we first started bonding over stories. Its where my boys began to appreciate things like intentional meals, shared conversation, and special touches that make a house a home. Their eyes, ears and hearts were slowly opened to ideas bearing truth, goodness and beauty. They heard about honor, mercy, justice, courage, love, kindness, humility and good humor.
I would set out a vase of flowers from our garden, or whatever weeds they had ripped from the yard–roots intact! I would gather the few books I knew in my heart weren’t twaddle. The Bible, AA Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry, and a book of Aesop’s fables. On days when I had the wherewithal to make a bigger breakfast, I’d make the most out of the extended minutes and read a bit out of each book. On days when I could only offer up a few bowls of cereal, I read what I could while they quickly guzzled their food.
Some days they were thrilled and asked for “one more story!” before jumping out of their seats while I was mid sentence. This never really hurt my feelings or discouraged me. I had a feeling deep down in my heart that this was a bit like learning how to walk or ride a bike. They were trying things out, testing to see how it worked, deciding whether or not they liked it yet.
Little by little they learned to like it a lot.
My first big breakthrough was the day I discovered “Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt. This darling woman made a book filled with lists of all the wonderful stories I longed to share with my children. I now had a map for the library, an inside scoop, a cheat sheet!
The boys started to blossom as they heard these stories, but they were still jumping out of their seats too early. Each reading session was only ten minutes and I wanted so badly to finish just ten measly peasly minutes!!!
One day, I tried something new. When they left, I kept reading aloud as though they were still there. I read aloud until I finished that day’s portion. Then I closed the book and called them back to help tidy up the table and sweep up the crumbs beneath. After a week or two of reading to my children even after they had left the table, they started to squirm out of their seats, leave and return— and then linger a bit. Diaper clad bottoms would lean against chairs or dangle over the sides of chairs and my words would roll around the room while they wiggled and weighed their options. After another six weeks they started staying in their chairs until the story was done. One day the eldest chirped up, “And now for a wittle bit more stowies, Mama.” A meager three minutes a day stretched to 15 minutes after nearly 9 months of morning times. This may not sound like much progress, but keep in mind —THREE BOYS AGED THREE AND UNDER. It was miraculous! Whats more, it was a HAPPY 15 minutes.
That first year we only read picture books, the Bible, poetry and fables, and it was wonderful. Messy, imperfect, hilarious, humbling and wonderful. More than half the year was spent with no more than 6-8 minutes of morning time and we grew it ever so slowly.
After the year had passed I set my sights on doing something a bit more “official” than before. I was motivated and ready. My panic attacks were still lurking around, but the mornings were victorious. I was gaining confidence little by little. “Official” sounded good and I was almost positive that if I prayed hard enough, it would happen!
And then I found out I was pregnant again…
Stay tuned for the next stop on The Road to Morning Time— the pregnant pause.