I can say with all my heart that being a mom is a most wondrous, amazing, and joyful blessing. But at times it can also be an extremely confusing, nerve-wracking, and frustrating challenge.
I used to think I was failing as a parent when I felt exhausted, overworked, and tempted to daydream about having a few minutes to myself. But now I know it’s just not easy to package things up and put a label on them. There is (most of the time) no “good” and “bad,” “right” and “wrong.”
The beauty of motherhood is in the intricacies, the mishmash of smiles and tears, the teachable moments that go in a totally different direction than you were expecting, the sweet milestones that are not on the doctor’s charts (I will always cherish that first “I wu bu” = “I love you”), the bittersweet moments watching your children grow up before your eyes, and the things you learn from your child which you would have never learned on your own.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from motherhood is that whenever I’m feeling upset, stressed, or hopeless about any given issue – with my children, my husband, my home, or myself – the reason is because I am missing a particular character trait.
It’s not that my kids are out of control, that I’m lacking what I need to live (thankfully), or that someone is out to make me have a bad day.
Patience… when the question was asked for the seventh time.
Thankfulness… when I see all the laundry I have to put away.
Forgiveness… when that spaghetti got spattered onto the wall.
Creativity… when my two year old refuses to open his mouth for tooth brushing.
If I find a way to add the missing virtue into my interactions, that moment, hour, and day can be totally turned around! I can move on with a positive attitude instead of drowning in a negative cycle that makes me question myself and my competence for being a mom.
After all, life’s challenges are not meant to be set backs, but to help us grow in awareness and in skill so that we can conquer every challenge we face.
And so for the past few years, I have been experimenting with adding activities to our days which help us develop character traits, values, or virtues, which I like to call “qualities of the heart.” I love the image of our hearts sparkling brighter and growing healthier because we are polishing and nourishing them each day with these special qualities.
Learning about qualities of the heart on a daily basis and discovering what they mean in every day life is a habit that helps me, and my children, learn and grow every day. It helps us prepare to face problems without being stalled; overcome disappointment without losing faith; love and stay present even in the midst of fear or uncertainty; learn from our mistakes and do better next time.
All this learning is a process and we will never actually “arrive” at the doorstep of perfection… but that is not the point. Life is a journey, not a destination, and we have a choice for how to take each and every step.
This year I am challenging myself to be a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, auntie, teacher, and friend, but most of all a more complete and whole-hearted person. And by sharing the journey with my family, we will all grow in character together.
For one year starting on my 29th birthday (May 24), each day I will spend a few intentional moments a day with my family developing a quality of the heart, and a few times a week I will post about some of the activities our family has enjoyed. When the challenge ends, and on my 30th birthday, I plan to do a big service project celebrating some of what we have learned.
I’m calling the daily goal The Moments A Day Family Challenge and I invite you to join me! Go to this page to find out how.
By dedicating time to focus on what is really important, and learning to identify what is at the root of our happiness (or lack of it), I bet we can all grow healthier, stronger, and closer families.
I can’t wait to get started and look forward to sharing with you. Please comment, ask questions, share your own ideas and experiences (feel free to link up, if you are a blogger!), and we can grow from this challenge together.
To everyone in our families growing big strong (metaphorical) hearts, I officially announce this blog LAUNCHED!
UPDATE: Click here to read the 1 year follow up post from this challenge – including a year’s worth of character building activities.