Posted by: Shel | May 19, 2009

So what matters?

“So what matters?”

This is my oldest daughter’s latest question, whenever she is told something with which she’s not entirely happy.

“I told you it’s time to brush your teeth; when I tell you it’s time to do something, you need to do it.”

“So what matters?”

“When you went running by, you knocked Samuel down.”

“So what matters?”

A better translation for what she really means is probably, “So what? It doesn’t matter.” But the way she has worded it does get me thinking. So what matters?

There have been a lot of stressors here lately. My husband traveling. A new baby coming. My husband’s impending lay-off and the resultant financial insecurities. My taking on extra work to compensate. And it’s been showing up in unhappy ways in our household.

I’ve been focusing a lot on being a “good mother,” in terms of how I perceive the world to define the term. I’ve been trying extra hard to keep the house clean. I’ve been fixing meals from scratch. And while I’m doing that, the children are hitting and yelling. Things are getting broken. Harsh words are being said. The atmosphere of love and acceptance that I want for our family is falling apart. Relationships are strained. Frustration is running high. . .

“One day you’ll just decide it’s time to start spanking.”

Those words were uttered by a friend of mine, not too long after I had my first daughter. She’s a dear friend . . . but a friend with no children. Her own experience was one of being spanked and, “I turned out okay.” I can’t expect more from her, given where she is in life right now. But I knew, even then, that she was mistaken.

And so it was that I knew something had to change: I started thinking she was right. Six years and three children later, as I struggled to put my children to bed amongst screaming, fighting, roughhousing, and flat-out refusal to cooperate, I cried as I thought that, regretfully, she had been right all along. I didn’t want her to be right. But something had to change. Our family life had deteriorated to the point where I was ready to give up all my parenting ideals.

I managed to get the three restless children to sleep, and there, in the dark, watching their sleeping faces, I knew I couldn’t let her be right. I knew I couldn’t resort to hitting my children, no matter how desperate I was. I thought about the words my daughter had hurled at me a dozen times during the evening, “So what matters?”

What matters most? What should be given TOP priority?

For us, here, now, the answer is surprisingly simple: spending time with these little ones, before these days are gone forever, before this precious time is wasted on cooking and cleaning and working, before all the happy childhood memories we could have made are swallowed up in yelling and scolding and night after night of anger and frustration and tears.

So the housework will slide. The house is clean enough to function, and it’s not unsanitary; the rest can wait.

Meals will be simple. Black bean and corn tacos, chicken and rice, spaghetti with store-bought sauce.

Work will be decreased. No NEEDING the kids to nap in order to keep me from exploding because I can’t get my mountain of transcription done. The Lord will provide. He always has.

Instead, we will play outside. We will dig in the dirt; we will plant flowers. We will bake banana bread. We will read stories. And we will play just-one-more-please-just-one-more-game of Hi-ho Cheerio.

The result of this shift in thinking has been astounding and immediate. Peace is returning. Joy is returning. Not peace and joy as in perfect children who never squabble . . . but contentment – patience – room to breathe – space to handle everything and everyone that needs attention. And in the midst of it all, I will remind myself that it’s all good. All of it. Every moment is a waking meditation of the Lord’s good providence.

To everything there is a season. And this is the season of remembering what matters.



  1. Praise be to God! And Amen and Amen!

  2. Ahhh… What a wonderful realization! 🙂 You go, momma!

  3. What a wonderfully written article with beautiful insight. It’s a blessing to read. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. This is the second time I’ve come back to read this and be encouraged. . . thank you. . . .

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