Of Grace & Growth: The Power of Present in Hallway Seasons
By Sydney Dorr
I don’t like hallway seasons. Right now I want to skip the whole “becoming” a mom-of-three and get to the part where I’m a mom-of-three and good at it. And while I’m tempted to put all my thought and time into the end of the hallway, trying to creating the perfect environment for welcoming the Littlest Dorr, I’m learning that the best way to prepare for new growth is staying present in each moment. Turns out, the hallway offers lots of opportunities for preparation.
I love making lists. I have a master list of everything I need to do before the baby comes. I have a list of the freezer meals I need to make. I have three separate hospital bag packing lists for myself, husband and new son. I have a list of the postpartum care items that need to be assembled in a cute basket in my bathroom. The lists are useful, but sometimes they become a means of escape. When my kids or house feel overwhelming, I pull out my notebook and work on a list. On the page a fantasy world develops in which my baby is welcomed into a home where every detail has been carefully attended to and nothing in my life is forgotten or out of place. But if I put down the pen and reengage with my real life, I get better at overcoming instead of being overcome. I grow in my ability to reshape my reality instead of escaping from it. And that’s a useful skill when my reality will be THREE kids yelling at me simultaneously.
Having a baby at the end of the summer makes me want to tackle All The Projects. I’m organizing everything from the medicine cabinet to the kitchen. I’m fixing chairs. My front door will be painted and entryway redecorated. My house will be cleaned and sparkly. But there are other urgent projects calling that have more profound long-term benefits. Someone needs me to read them a story. Someone else needs to snuggle. They both need me to mediate a fight. My right-now kids need me to connect with and guide them in our right-now life. And connecting now with two will go a lot further in maintaining peace when there are three than a medicine cabinet free of expired Tylenol.
I’ve also become a little obsessed with our routines. I’m working on things like more chores and less TV, doing the dishes right after breakfast and getting my two-year-old to sleep through the night. I get frustrated when my kids don’t cooperate exactly with my routine because this is how Mom is going to stay calm and kind, people! Except, not really. I do want to get the toddler sleeping through the night, but every time the routine fails, I have an opportunity to practice patience and kindness in the midst of chaos. And more chaos is what’s coming, flawless routine or not.
In this hallway of growing a family, the lists and projects and routines are helpful; my laundry room is ready for the cascade of baby clothes that is about to descend, the freezer meals will save me some time and kids picking up their own toys is a beautiful thing. But I can’t let them lure me into a fantasy world or count on them to be the magic key to a peaceful transition. When I walk step by step through the hallway, I allow the present moment to stretch and shape me; I grow in kindness and self-control and creativity and perseverance and connection. That’s worth more meals than my freezer can hold, will give me more delight than a pretty door and will sustain me when the routine goes to hell in a handbasket.
I don’t know what hallway you’re walking today but there’s a good chance you don’t love that space. You might be tempted to put all your attention on the door at the end. I encourage you to look around, take a deep breath and see what opportunities for growth the hallway offers. Then take a step.