On looking past the mess & seeing beauty in bits

This is a guest post by Jennifer L.W. Fink of Blogging ‘Bout Boys.

a hot mess, microwave, coffee

The house was a mess.

Boys #2 and #3 had been home sick for the better part of a week. Blankets, couch cushions, plastic cups and candy wrappers littered the living room floor. The kitchen counter was stacked high with two days’ worth of dishes; I’d had deadlines, on top of sick kids, and something had to give.

I find myself in these circumstances constantly. I’m a divorced mom of four boys – ages 14, 12, 9 and 6 – and while I generally find a way to tame the chaos that composes my life, any one thing has the potential to throw the whole system temporarily out of whack. Two nasty cases of croup close on the tail of two unplanned days off of school, in the midst of a busy work time, had nearly overwhelmed my coping mechanisms. I was in survival mode: Do only what is necessary.

My kids were fed. Their fevers, controlled. Stories were read. Homework, checked. My work was…keeping me up late at night. I wasn’t sleeping much, or well, and my head was spinning. So many to-dos swirled around in my head that I was in a state of constant, low-level anxiety.

Then Boy #2 picked up his phone and started taking pictures. Three days on the couch, it seems, are enough to inspire some creativity in the average, gadget-loving American boy.

“Look at this, Mom,” he said.

I looked up, briefly, from the pork chops I was frying in an electric skillet. I was prepared to nod and move on. Then I saw the pictures he had taken. My son had managed to extract bits of beauty from the clutter and chaos that was our household.

I stopped, stunned. My house just as messy as it had been. No one have moved the blankets or couch cushions or plastic cups. But my son had managed to focus, to crop the scene so that his eyes only saw beauty.

I’d forgotten how to do that. As a parent, I’m so focused on the big picture that I frequently miss the pieces. I’m so concerned with helping my kids grow into good people that I obsess over the here-and-now: the not-so-great report from the 1st grade teacher, the bickering between my boys and the fact that none of them have a clean room. I worry over all the things I have to do to correct and improve those imperfections, and somehow miss the beauty that is right in front of my eyes. I forget to narrow my focus to see the small acts of kindness my boys extend to one another. I forget that they’re almost always respectful in public. And I forgot to enjoy the hugs and the kisses and the laughs that exist amidst our imperfect lives.

My son reminded me to change my focus, by showing me beauty in bits.

Jennifer FinkJennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes frequently about parenting, health and education. Find her at bloggingboutboys.com and jenniferlwfink.com.

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