One of the best things - and biggest challenges - about having so many young kids, is that it's made me focus on what really matters.
Which means I've had to stop caring about a lot of things......
I used to care that my kids were dressed in nice, new-looking clothes any time we went to town. I didn't want to look like "one of those" low-income families.
Now I'm just happy if they are wearing clothes at all (Gideon), or at least have clothes on that don't have holes and stains.
I used to think I needed a closet full of nice clothes so I would have choices when I go out. After all, having lots of clothes shows the world I am classy.
I go out so little, I could wear a different outfit every time I go out, and not repeat for a year. So bit by bit I'm paring it down to only clothes that I love. (And having to finally retire my 20-year-old t-shirts.)
I used to pride myself that I was "green" before it was cool.
Now I see that sometimes it's okay to make life easier for myself, and do things like use disposable diapers. (After all, which is worse - throwing a few paper diapers in the trash every day, or wasting so many gallons of water washing tiny, incomplete loads of laundry several times per week to keep the flies from infesting the diaper pail?)
I used to care that my kids be "perfect" at church, so everyone would know what a great mom I am.
My boys' shirts are always untucked, with crooked collars. Zadie's hair is usually doing some crazy thing, and I have to pull them down out of a tree when it's time to go home. (Usually while they're simultaneously staging an army invasion with toy guns they smuggled into the van.)
Now I see that the illusion of perfection doesn't matter. What people see of my family is how we are all the time. Imperfect but real.
I used to want my kids to have a chance to be involved in all those things that kids "have" to experience: sports, reading clubs, 4-H, homeschool co-ops.
Now I see that the "home" part of "homeschool" is more important than anything else. What values do they learn by being herded to the van constantly?
I used to want all my kids to be proficient in a musical instrument.
But forced daily practicing and arguing was killing our love for music.
Now I see that having kids that sing their hearts out in praise to God is more important.
I used to care that my kids would be the brightest, most-advanced student for their age.
Then we had a delay in reading.
Now I see that there is so much more to life and learning than what is learned in the schoolroom. (How many 8-year-olds do you know that can build a deck, frame a room, and hang sheet rock?)
I used to care that my house was perfect whenever anyone came to to visit.
Now I want people to know that I'm real. My house isn't always perfect. I try to make an effort, as a way of honoring our guests, but my house always looks lived in. Lived in by 7 people. It will never be a Better Homes & Gardens feature. But people know that they are welcome in our home any time.
I used to want my kids to just blend in.
But now I want them to be spiritual leaders and be willing to take a stand. I want my boys to be men, and my girls to be feminine, and not be ashamed of how God made them!
I used to worry that everyone would think my kids are weird.
They are weird.
But so are all of us. Yet many of us shove our true selves into a box, so that the rest of the world doesn't think we are weird. I don't want my kids to be cookie-cutter kids.
I used to think that families need to go on vacations every year.
But even though vacations are fun, memorable experiences, do they really make kids better people? I'd rather teach them about saving and spending money responsibly. Which means admitting to them: vacations cost a lot of money, and we don't have a lot of money right now. So we do things fun and memorable and free - like fishing in the neighbor's pond, and searching for geocaches.
I used to care about our "stuff."
Now I see how little stuff we actually need. (Did you know you don't actually need a toaster?)
I used to think I needed - deserved - "girl time" and "me time."
I don't remember the last time I had girl time. My "me time" consists of watching non-animated television while folding clothes or balancing the checkbook.
I don't miss it.
I am living the life God called me to live. That includes my family. Do the kids drive me nuts sometimes? You bet they do. But I love spending time with them when all of us can be home together. It is when I feel most complete. (But I do still love those rare, deep heart-to-heart chats with true friends.)
I used to care what people think about me.
I still do. I want people to like me.
But I know that what God thinks about me is more important. As long as I'm following Him, living my life according to the way He's convicted me, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about me. I don't answer to them. I've lost friends and had people reject me because of this, and that has truly hurt. But I can't change that. I have to live my life for the One that matters.
So sometimes it's a good thing to just stop caring.