He began as a small seed, bedding down in the lining of a wall, flooding my body with hormones within days of the beginning of his life. It happens quickly, the way a baby takes up space, filling the uterus, pushing its walls out and above the pelvic rim, into the abdominal cavity, shoving organs out of the way, legs and arms beating the drum of his coming arrival. Before I ever had to make room for a baby in my life, I had to make room for him in my body, and I was given no choice in that matter. He just took over.

I wish I listened to what my body was doing for those nine months because it would have better prepared me for the first few months of Small One’s life. Children take up space, real physical and emotional space, and I can happily throw my heart, time and plans open and submit to this takeover or fight it the whole way. 

For the first few months, I kept trying to have the same life I had before Small One existed. Frequent trips out, complicated cooking, lots of time online until I discovered that I was just trying to escape facing the deepest truth about motherhood – loving my child means sacrifice for me. It means my life has to change.

I’m not sure where these ideas came from . I suppose on one side there are people who say that we can’t lose our identity to our children, we can’t let them sideline our careers and plans. But I can’t say that the Christian subculture I came from gave me a better set of ideas – don’t be a child-centered family, I could take my children anywhere, she told me, they were so well behaved, children need to know that they aren’t the most important thing in your life, your marriage is more important of course.

So here I am, almost one-and-a-half years later and finding myself somewhere in this middle ground of making room for him, my son who comes alive with joy when I play hide and seek or run after him or growl at him during meal times. 

I made room for him physically through breastfeeding, even when it was inconvenient for me, even though it took an emotional and physical toll that at times were too much to bear, but I made room for him in my body. I make room for him physically now through generous cuddles, rough and tumble play, and carrying him even though he’s getting older and heavier.

I make room for him in our home by letting him open drawers and take out things (that eventually he has to return), by having few places and things that are “no no nos,” by giving him a space of his own for creation, reading and play.

I make room for him in my schedule by playing to his strengths – not many trips out to shops and meetings, lots of time in the park, time out of the stroller, walking while holding my hand, meandering wherever he wants in the park, picking up leaves. I keep my days as simple as possible so that when he is awake, we spend our time together. I have one chore per day (laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, admin on Wednesday, and so on) plus our daily meals and trips to the grocery store for produce. I have days for the computer and days off, I blog, I check email, we Skype with family, I read and that is basically it.

I have tried to simplify my life as much as possible because it gives me freedom to enjoy my days with my son. He’s involved in most of my home life. He washes the dishes with me, sweeps the floor with me, unloads the washer and loads the dryer. All of these tasks happen more slowly than it would if I did not have my little helper, but I make room in my day, in my schedule for it because this is the best way to teach my son the good nature of work and to include him in my life.

I have not trained Small One to be good in public, to sit quietly while I chat with a friend and drink a coffee, to “behave” in church. When I want to go out, I time it so that Husband is home or I get a babysitter. Small One and I do go out and sit in cafes, sometimes with friends, but these outings happen twice a month or so. It is not our norm. Why? Because in my inching daily toward knowing and understanding him better, I do not believe that these are the things that he loves, and so I make room in my life, I make allowance for that, not because I want my life to rotate around my son’s but because I love him and desire to create an atmosphere for him where he can thrive.

Am I losing some things because I have chosen to spend this season of my life this way? Obviously, the answer is yes, and I don’t need to write a list because most of you can guess what those things are. But here is my bottom line. These years with Small One are few and precious, and I will not miss a moment of it because I need to have a cleaner apartment, more loads of laundry finished and have “my life” on “my schedule” in “my time.” No. I have made the decision to radically slow my life down to make room for him, and it gives me the daily freedom to enjoy him, to enjoy being a mother and to enjoy this season of life.

It started in the summer when I read Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider and thought to myself, We have too much stuff, I need to clear everything out. It continued in the early fall as cleaning out our apartment – or trying to, anyway – helped me to see the clutter in my soul and schedule, so I did an internal clearing. The momentum picked up when I read Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and saw how simplicity in my inside and outside can impact my son’s life. And I suspect that November will be no different, being thankful for all things keeps me focused on the simple, the small, and now I’m re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books and yearning for a simpler world.

I’m trying to think through these things this week, to “make room” in my life for more intentionality, less stuff, more deep investments, less shallow, more time, less plans.

So here’s the thing. I love stuff. Clothes, memorabilia, books, decorations that look good, photobooks, kitchenware, dishes. Oh dishes. I have to stay away from those aisles with beautiful plates, cups and serving bowls because they bring my little heart so much joy. I love buying books for Small One and toys that he will enjoy. I love a variety of music. I love making plans. I love knowing a week in advance what I will do during the weekend, what will happen this time next year, what will we eat for Christmas dinner. I like knowing with whom I’m catching up, where, when, how.

But all of these things that I love take up space, very literal space but also space in my mind and in my heart. You know where I’m going, I think. If it needs room to exist in my life, it is taking that space away from something else. 

Silence. God. Time. Blank walls. Husband. Thinking. Quiet. Small One. Peace. Joy.

When my life is crowded with things, people and plans, there is no space for the deeper things of value to thrive.

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of all time, and before we start with the question-asking and finger-pointing, let’s go through my cultural history.

I am not a United States of American.

I am not so into the random, colonial slaughter of native peoples.

I really do not like candy corn.

I believe that pumpkin and sweet potatoes are some of the most wonderful veggies around, and their versatility in the dessert department only makes them that much more wonderful.

I think that if sage stuffing were involved in more matters of international relations – pork-free stuffing, people – we would be well on our way to world peace.

I spent a few Thanksgivings in the U.S. and enjoyed it, but it has only been in the last few years that I grew to love and appreciate this holiday. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a naturally thankful person, I guess you could say I err toward the melancholy and moody way of looking at things. People don’t come to me to look for pep and cheer, but when it comes to intensity, there’s no shortage here.

Thankfulness only survives because it is a discipline I choose to make a part of my life. It is the daily choice to see my circumstances differently, and it is the daily choice to hunt, to investigate, to aggressively search for the gifts God is giving me.

We invest daily in lifestyles and attitudes, and when we see something “big” in our lives, it is probably the thing that received our greatest investment of time and energy. I hope that one day a lifestyle of thankfulness will be so dominant in all areas in my life because I spent the years planting the seed, cultivating the soil, watering the plant and weeding the garden.

These are the years for this work because these are the years that are not easy. There is nothing easy about pregnancy, post-pregnancy, baby and growing baby on top of marriage, moving, learning languages and a host of other things. But cultivating an outlook of thankfulness when life is not easy gives me fuel to keep me going because joy is the cleanest, greenest, purest fuel of all. The best thing to keep my life going. The best gift I can give myself. The best gift I can give the people around me.

So for this November and every November to follow in our family’s lives, we celebrate Thanksgiving, reminding ourselves that today we can choose to be thankful and culminating in a Thanksgiving feast. Yes, we are a German-Sri Lankan/Filipino/American/Australian family. Yes, we live in Switzerland. Yes, we celebrate a wonderful, unique United States of American tradition even though we are not from the U.S. ourselves.

It is good to take a month of the year to remember that there is always a reason for which to be thankful

The centre piece on our dining table for the month, the Thanksgiving Tree, an idea from a very creative and clever friend. We write what we’re thankful for on the leaves and hang them on the tree. A daily reminder that all is well. 

When I look back on my life, I see pages of history littered with vows I made. I will never… I hope to… No one will… This will not….

The words that we speak and the vows that we make are powerful things. Yes I have often used it for harm in my life, but today how about I do something good? Would you like to join me?

I’m closing this month of looking at comparison by making these vows.

I am thankful for myself, for the unique way that God created me, formed me and gave me a purpose.

Today I will choose joy by being finding the reasons to be thankful in all my circumstances and relationships.

I will choose peace by accepting who I am and the stage of life I find myself in. There is no need to look at anyone else.

I will choose my future by dreaming my dreams, not the false ones created by comparing my life to other people’s.

I will choose the relationships I have, not the ones I wish I had with the people I wish they were. I will choose to see the good in the relationships I have, the unique ways these people bring joy to my life and I to theirs.

I will choose freedom, I will excel in my skin because I don’t need to live my life according to an artificial standard.

I will not make my child the collateral damage in the comparison game with other parents. I will accept him as he is, and I will give myself the freedom to parent him in the way that is uniquely suited for him.

Today I will choose not to compare myself to other people. I will choose to embrace who I am, who you are and the life we have been given, for it is good. 

Thanks for joining me as I wrote almost daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.

The Scenario

The building dryer breaks, leaving you with four big loads of laundry that need to dry and only two drying racks. Not to mention your son doesn’t have enough warm clothes to wear for these wintry October days.

The Solution

You pull out the two drying racks, leave baby’s clothes in the dryer while you run it multiple times in the hopes that by evening after at least seven hours in there it will be marginally dry. You hang the remaining laundry on the racks in the living room.

The Attitude

And here is where you have choices.

Choice 1 – Complain

I can’t believe the dryer broke, God only knows we pay enough rent for this apartment, and they can’t even keep a dryer running. 

Choice 2 – Compare

I’m sure no one else’s dryer breaks. Most of my friends own dryers, what’s wrong with us. I can’t think when there’s no space in my living room this is driving me crazy. 

Choice 3 – Thankfulness

For a way to dry our wet laundry

For the joy on Small One’s face when he first saw the racks with laundry on it, like he thought I was surprising him with a game. 

For the endless rounds of hide and seek we played in, around and through the drying clothes.

For those giant eyes lit up in wonder as he walked through the drying rack, under the sheet, like he was enjoying his own tiny cave.

For the way he couldn’t stop wandering in and out of the drying laundry because the game never got old.

For an idea of how to build him a fort in the future. 

For how he scurried under the drying racks to be sneaky and get away from me even though I knew the whole time where he was going. 

For the squeals, for the giggles, for the laughter that came from his heart. 

For the freedom it gave me to play, to just play with my son. 

Thankfulness works. It is the only thing that can change our attitudes, our outlook and our character without changing our circumstances. 

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics.