I have an electric bike which is a momma-must in Japan. It is absolutely wonderful. Lower to the ground, I have easier control for when my kids are wiggling around, or when they feel the instant urge to lean out and point at something.
It also relieves a lot of the effort of pedaling 60lbs of kids and then groceries!
Best of all, I get to zippy-zip-zip through the streets at decent speeds and in rank with the moms populating the streets on their errands.
It’s fast. And bring a mom with a to-do list longer than a human can realistically accomplish, I like fast and easy.
Once my oldest turned six, we allowed her to start riding her own bike. While it still keeps me on edge to have her feet from other cars and dodging crowds of pedestrians, it’s part of life here.
It’s kinda what I imagine it will be like when the time comes for my kid to get a drivers license.
My middle child is aching to be able to ride hers with us instead of being on my back seat. But she doesn’t yet have the developmental skills to be watching ahead the way that is needed here.
At any rate, I happened to be riding down the street sometime last year and was encouraging my oldest to keep up. I saw her and in that split-second glance over my shoulder, I saw that she was working hard and was trying to keep up.
The problem wasn’t her.
It was me.
I had forgotten, I had an electric bike. I had pedal power.
She was doing her best but couldn’t keep up.
Honestly, it was one of those moments that became key for me as a parent. Especially a parent on the field.
I can’t go faster than my kids can keep up with.
I can’t be doing more than what my kids can keep up with.
I need to be sensitive to their pace and not expect them to be always running.
They don’t need to always be keeping up with me.
As a missionary, our to-do lists and the variety of responsibilities can feel unending. And for us personally, we have no one physically present to share those burdens. That’s not to say we don’t have people who help. Our sending organization takes loads and loads off and are a huge all-around support in so many different ways. We have blessed with a wonderful care team in our home church. Wonderful is not a good enough word.
We could not do what we do without each of these people God has gifted in our lives.
Just that, even with that help and support, there’s still more work than we can get done, and in a foreign land each item is a mental exercise.
That’s what we signed up for, and by the grace of God, somehow things get done.
But, my kids are kids.
And God was merciful enough to show me that my pace was too much for my kids. Slow down. Let them trek on at a good pace but not an adult pedal-pace one.
So what does that look like practically?
Trying not to work (especially on mentally-taxing projects) during their home hours.
That’s hard to do, especially since naptime is disappearing for my youngest.
It also means that I need to be mindful about multitasking, especially mental multitasking.
It means realizing when I’m getting stressed out and making sure I’m not getting snappy as a result.
It means taking a break to let them sit on my lap and watch tv. That little bit of doing nothing is actually doing something for them.
It means taking a deep breath and letting them be loud, rambunctious and silly.
It means saying no or wait to work that comes my way. I can’t take on everything.
It means making sure I also take time out for myself so I’m not running myself 24-7. And sometimes that means things take longer. Email replies take longer. Sometimes I’m not as organized or put together as I’d prefer.
It means taking them aside for quiet, decompression time when I’d much rather be socializing or networking. Because they can’t handle the vastly diverse scenes we maneuver through.
I’m not perfect at this, by any means. But I’m learning. And it’s also not to say that I haven’t been considerate in the past of my kids’ needs. If anything, I’d say that I’ve always been very intentional about almost everything. It’s just that, as my load this last year has increased, this is something the Lord is reminding me of.
A friend (I can’t even remember who, so I’m sorry if it was you and I can’t remember), a few years ago, shared with me this verse:
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
The Lord, who created the world in seven days, who keeps things in motion, who orchestrates the cosmos, takes time to gather the lambs in his arms.
He gives them time to snuggle in close to His heart.
Surely I can take a cue in my minuscule workings.
If the Lord is not running His lambs at a breakneck pace, full of mental, emotional, environmental leaps and bounds, I ought not to be either.
Personally, I’m ok with that pace. I like to get things done, to be productive and creative and efficient and “working toward”.
But these little lambs following me need a gentler pace.
And so that’s where I am.
Shifting gears here and there throughout the day.
I’m grateful to have a Savior who understands and a Shepherd that teaches me His ways.