Loving the Little Years: motherhood in the trenches by Rachel Jankovic has been on my To-Read list for some time.
At just over 100 pages, it’s a quick read. Which is just about perfect for a book written by a mom-of-littles (five kids, five and under!) for other moms-of-littles.
I have to say that I’m seldom impressed by parenting advice from parents who are not yet finished parenting, or who have less than at least one decade of parenting under their belts. Loving the Little Years is not so much a book of advice, but an “I’m right there with you!” account from one mother to another.
Rachel Jankovic shares her thoughts, along with some practical tips from her own familial chaos. She knows what she’s talking about, because she’s livin’ it every day!
My favorite take-aways from this little gem:
Chapter Four: Fruit of the Spirit Speed Quiz
Every day we get a sheet of paper with math problems on them. Except instead of basic addition and subtraction problems, they are little tests for our patience, for our peace, for our kindness. It is a regular fruit of the Spirit speed quiz. They are easy, basic, Christian living challenges brought to us daily by our children, and the allotted time is our waking hours. Sometimes sporadically through the night.
Rachel goes on to encourage mothers to stop and recognize the growth in our own lives, and especially in the lives of our children. As we diligently discipline and train, our children do make progress. We can forget that sometimes, because as soon as they master certain skills and character traits, they move on to new challenges that can drive us crazy.
She urges us to notice the little mile-markers on their path to sanctification. She implores us not to give up, to recognize that they will get it eventually (after lots and lots of repetition).
One of my favorite parts of the entire book is found in this chapter, where she describes a possible report you might deliver to your husband upon his return home from work:
“Child number one was a huge pill all day. Child number two was crying and fussing and fighting with child number one. Children three and four were just as bad, but I don’t know what they were doing, but everyone was terrible, terrible, terrible. Nothing was good all day. Twelve percent for everyone. An F minus for the whole class. We failed, flunked, bombed out, and were ugly, ugly, ugly today. The only thing left for us is to cry ourselves to sleep, because nothing can fix the kind of mess we’re in.”
She goes on to surmise that “you know exactly who needs to be spanked, and it is you. Because if you are the teacher and none of the students are succeeding, you need to be doing a better job.”
If that were the only part of the book you ever read, you might think the author to be unhelpful and judgmental. But knowing these words were penned when she herself was the mother of five children five and under, in conjunction with the encouragement offered throughout the rest of the book, assists the reader (me!) in recognizing the truth of her words.
I can definitely relate to this hypothetical end-of-day-report! Knowing that I only have myself to blame when I allow myself to feel that way is a bit of a downer, but I have to admit that she’s right. Rachel made me laugh out loud while piercing my heart with truth. This has challenged me to check my attitude and hold myself responsible. I haven’t always succeeded, but at least it’s a step in the right direction!
Chapter Five: Spirited Riders
I love the analogy she uses in training her kids to control their emotions: feelings are like horses and they are the riders. I won’t steal all the thunder from this chapter, but here are two favorite excerpts…
Sometimes parents can discipline behaviors over and over and over like we are playing whack-a-mole. There is a sin! Get it! This can be very frustrating when it doesn’t seem to be helping anything. We think we are being so diligent! But the real problem is that the child doesn’t know what to do with it.
The goal is not to cripple the horse, but equip the rider.
Chapter Eight: Watch Your Language
In this chapter, Rachel explains why and how she eliminated the word “overwhelmed” from her vocabulary.
God gave me this to do. I may not be overwhelmed about it. I can try as hard as I can, and maybe fail sometimes. I can try as hard as I can and fall asleep at the dinner table. I can try as hard as I can and be completely burned out at the end of the day. But I may not be overwhelmed. Actually, I may be overwhelmed, but I may not say that I am overwhelmed! The words have a real power over us. If you say it, you allow it for yourself….When God gives us children, it is work that He is giving us. Work that comes with huge attendant blessings and bonuses, but work nonetheless…It was time for me to adjust to the workload God had given me.
This post is already long enough, and I don’t want to give away all the good parts of Loving the Little Years. I’ll just end by stating that Chapter Three: Picky Chickens, was one of my favorites. It’s especially applicable to our family, on several levels. 🙂
Thanks, Rachel, for encouraging us to Love the Little Years!
Kathleen Henderson is the yankee behind the homestead. Follow along as we grow real food and three boys while renovating a 20-acre farm in northern Virginia. Do you love homegrown food, Paleo-ish recipes, and natural living? You’re in good company! Let’s grow together…