the Eyres. You might think I'm joking, and I guess I kind of am, but I hear their names spoken and wisdom touted in virtually every type of parenting circle I find myself in. For the longest time, when their names came up, I felt like I was on the edge of the circle, with very little to contribute, because I hadn't read anything of theirs. But no more! Now I can speak my opinions with the best of them.
There are certainly more well-known books by the Eyres than this one (Teaching Your Child Joy has been on my to-read shelf for years), but it just so happened that a friend recently reviewed this one on Goodreads, it looked interesting, my library had a copy, I was almost ready for a new book, I was feeling that familiar feeling of motherhood insanity, and I thought, "Hey, I haven't read anything by the Eyres yet!", and before I knew it, I was halfway through the book.
Richard and Linda Eyre are the parents of nine children. As I already said, if you live in Utah, then you've almost certainly heard of them. But even if you live in a different state, or even a different country, chances are good you've run across their names. For years, they have spoken all around the world on the importance of strengthening the family. They have also written numerous books and made appearances on national TV.
A Joyful Mother of Children is a little bit different than some of their other books because it is specifically geared toward mothers (although, of course, much of it can be applied to both parents), and it was written by just Linda (rather than co-authored by the two of them).
Over the past five years, I've read my fair share of parenting books. The ones that are heavily anecdotal almost always begin with some sort of disclaimer, such as: "Please don't think we're perfect. Let me assure you, we are far from it!" So when I began this book, I braced myself for this kind of statement, and sure enough, there it was in the preface, right after introducing all their children: "We are truly blessed with this wonderful family. But before you draw any conclusions about a perfect family, please know that we struggle with life just like everyone else."
I don't know why this type of disclaimer irks me, but it really does. For some reason, just the fact that they're saying, "Don't worry, we're not perfect" always leads me to think, They must think they're pretty close to perfect or they wouldn't feel the need to point out how imperfect they are. They probably think they're doing their readers a favor by assuring them of how normal and flawed they are, but why do they have to tell us that? Can't they just show us?
The reason why I feel the above statement is completely unnecessary in this case is because Linda Eyre does show us: the book is full of funny, relatable, down-to-earth, heartwarming stories that show how normal and realistic her life is. And I loved all these stories: they made me laugh or grit my teeth or want to cry because in the few short years that I've been a mother, I've already had similar experiences.
My knowledge of the Eyres wasn't completely nonexistent before I read this book. I had seen them interviewed a couple of times and had a general impression of their philosophies. I could also tell that they were extremely organized.
That trait definitely came through in the book as well. In order to successfully raise nine children, you probably have to be at least a little bit organized, but the Eyres took it to a whole new level, beginning with about fifty million meetings. For starters, Linda and Richard each have personal Sunday Sessions, where they each retreat to their bedroom alone for an hour of planning time for the week. They also do a monthly Five Facet Review together where they discuss how each of their children are doing. They also do another meeting on the first Sunday of every month where they give "reports" on their responsibilities (Richard is the General Partner for things outside the home, Linda is the General Partner for things inside the home). She also gives her kids one-on-one time with Mommy Dates. And they have a monthly family meeting where the older children are invited, and they share schedules, make plans, check up on goals, etc. Plus, she describes several other meetings that happen less regularly.
So, yes, that's a lot of meetings. And that's exactly what kept going through my head as I was reading: That's a lot of meetings. But, I have to admit, I am implementing several of them (the monthly Five Facet Review, the personal Sunday Session, and the Mommy Dates). I'm especially excited about the Five Facet Review because it sounds like a fun date to me (go out to eat and talk about our kids), and I think it will help us stay on top of problems and concerns.
Another section that I really liked was the one about continually expanding your horizons. When I first became a mother, I felt like my horizons were shrinking, and I was getting dumber by the day. But since then, I have found ways to continue to push myself and learn new things, even as I am a full-time, stay-at-home mom, and I love it. One of the things she mentioned was that after we learn something new, we then have the opportunity to teach it to our children. (And as my kids have gotten older, I've found that this is actually one of my very favorite parts of mothering.) She gave some suggestions for how moms could teach their kids in various areas (art, music, dance, literature, etc.).
Her section on music particularly intrigued me because she gave several suggestions of classical works that interest children, and it was kind of a wake-up call for me: I need to expose my children to good, uplifting, cultivated music, not just catchy kids' tunes (though those have their place, too). One of the pieces on her list was Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," which I actually mentioned in my post yesterday. I checked out a recording of it from the library, and Aaron and Maxwell have fallen in love with it. It gave me confidence to try out some other classical works on them as well.
I loved the title of the book, which is based on a scripture in Psalms that reads, "He maketh a barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord." I loved the emphasis on finding joy now--not after my children are well-behaved and my house is clean, but right now.
At one point when she was talking about enjoying the little (or, as the case may be, big) things, she said, "...anyone can experience those unexpected twinkles of joy that make a magical moment. At these moments, you feel true, deep joy because of a great new insight, a beautiful prospect, or a glimpse into the radiance of another soul. They are the magic moments when life seems better than you ever realized..."
Soon after reading that passage (maybe later that very same day), I had one of those moments. And because I had just read about the importance of recognizing those moments, I noticed it, and it lodged itself (I hope permanently) in my memory. It was on one of our first truly warm days of spring, and the boys were reacquainting themselves with all the things they could do outside. They had their shovels and were digging in the dirt. I was in the kitchen when all of a sudden I heard a piercing shriek. I raced outside, sure that someone had gotten hurt. But it was just Aaron racing across the lawn shouting, "I found a worm!" and Maxwell and Bradley huddling around him in an excited circle. As I looked out at them, it really did seem like a perfect, magical moment.
The more I look for them, the more I am aware that my life is literally packed with those little magical moments. Sometimes it's really hard for me to maintain that perspective when Bradley has thrown his cereal and milk across the kitchen again (which, sorry, but no matter how I look at it, I don't think that one will ever be magical--for me at least), but I really am so, so grateful that I get to spend all my days with them. Dealing with the cereal-throwing is more than a fair trade if I get to be a bystander on the worm exultations, too.