Sunday, July 22, 2012

My babies' marbles, and seizing the day

a post by Jenni {aka Mom}
I'm linked up over at The Modest Mom. Click over and take a look at all the great posts linked up today :)


Years ago on a radio talk show - before we were married, if I’m not mistaken - my husband heard the “marble illustration” for the first time. We’ve heard it in modified forms over the years.

The basic premise is this:

We’re only given a certain amount of time with our children. The average American parent interacts with their children primarily in the evenings and on the weekend. If a child lives at home from birth through age 18, that child’s parents will have 936 weekends to spend with that child. We ought to think of each of those weekends cumulatively as marbles in a jar, and as each weekend expires one marble is removed from the jar until finally the jar is empty and we’ve lost our opportunities.

The encouragement was to prioritize time with your children. To go ahead and give him that birthday party because there’s not always going to be a next year. To spend Saturday building the treehouse with your son or taking your daughter out for ice cream instead of playing golf, working overtime, or rotting in front of the TV -- because you only have so many opportunities to do so.

As a Christian homeschool family, we’ve expanded on this idea as it relates to our lifestyle. We are blessed through homeschooling to not only have weekends to engage in a fun activity with our children, but to have full weeks of interaction with them.

Of course, none of us are guaranteed that number of weeks. Children die every day, as do parents. We’re only given the hope that we have that many weeks. We may have even less.

A while back, as I saw our boys growing older and as I became aware that we were rounding the corner to the home stretch of parenting them at home, I decided to make a real, literal marble jar for each child. 

I think it would have been less effective to have made the jars when the boys were little, because the perception at that end of the race is so different. However, making them now when the hourglass is noticeably waning was profound for me. I’m acutely aware that our time together is short, and I admittedly needed accountability. It’s far too easy to switch on auto-pilot and coast along (and things rarely work out well when we do that).

To think that these jars hold only about half of the 936 weeks, so though Bird's is full his marbles are half gone. I can't imagine how empty Bo's jar would look if those same marbles were in a jar twice this size. 

But that doesn't depress me. It doesn't make me mourn the fact that they're growing up, nor does it make me want to cling to them tightly and keep them babies. It also doesn't excite me. It doesn't at all make me joyfully toss out the marbles one by one, just counting the days until I can "be rid of" these "burdens". No. Both those are sinful tendencies we might have. 

Seeing these jars and watching the marbles decline emboldens me and motivates me to do my best. I've only one race, one shot, and I want to do the best I can. I have messed up royally in the past. I have stumbled many times. Seeing what remains in the race motivates me to get up and just keep running my best from where I'm at.

Every Sunday I remove a marble from each of their jars. I take a moment then to reflect on the week that has just passed and to pray for the week ahead.

Our “marble goals” are so much more than making sure to plan a fun activity, though we do have plenty of those. My husband and I have deeper goals, bigger goals. Goals we share and goals that are individual to each of us as parents. Goals for the family as a whole and goals for each child individually. Goals and choices that seem little are often those that make the biggest impact in the long run, either positively or negatively.

Here are a few of the “marble goal questions” I ask myself as mother each week:

·         Was I loving in my interactions with my children? Did I control my temper? Did I discipline them when they needed it? Was I patient as they were learning? Was I kind - or did I allow my adult troubles or moods to overflow atop my children? Did I demonstrate care, love, and kindness to them each as individuals?
·         Was I diligent as a mother and teacher? Did I encourage good habits? Did I assist them in overcoming bad habits now, while my children are young? Was I their advocate in overcoming bad habits and obstacles, or did I simply nag and condemn them? Did I take advantage of real life learning opportunities? Did I follow up as I should?
·         Was I fun? Did I play and laugh, or was I all serious sour-puss all day every day? Did I listen to their stories? Did I allow them to explain their intricate Lego creations and those things that were important to them?
·         Did I take the time to interact individually with each child? Did I shut the laptop and put down the Smartphone when they needed to talk to me? Did I pay attention to their lives, moods, and needs or tune out as much of the childishness as possible so I could focus on “more important” things?
·         Did I let them see my passion for Christ? Did I prioritize Him by seeking Him first, having my time with Him, speaking of Him, and taking my joy in Him? Did I encourage my children in their walks with Him (those that are believers), and did I keep the Gospel in front of them so that they have every opportunity to hear it and be saved. Did I let them hear me pray, see me read God’s Word, hear me share Christ, see me serve in our church? Did I demonstrate a servant’s heart? Did I serve without complaining?
·         Did I set a good example for them? Did I model what I want them to learn? Did I practice what I preach, and admit and apologize for my inevitable mistakes and hypocrisy?

There are many things I could add, but you get the idea.

I encourage you to imagine your child’s marble jar, and keep that image in your mind. We’re only given so many weeks. Let us treasure that time, steward it, and use it wisely.

{Click on over to my personal blog, if you'd like. I've been mulling over this marbles metaphor for months - that's a mouthful! - and I have shared some of my thoughts there regarding the marbles of the Christian's life}


  1. Hi there!

    I love this idea and I'm trying to figure out what size jar I will need. Can you tell me where you got your jars, or what size they are? Also, where did you buy so many marbles in all the same color/style? Thanks!

  2. Hi! I apologize for the late response! I don't check this blog often anymore. The jars I used are half gallon or 2 quart size. If you were to make a jar for a younger child you'd want gallon sized jars. I found these with the neat swing lids at an antique store, but any place you buy canning jars should have good, basic mason jars you can use. I bought our marbles at Oriental Trading. It was the easiest place I could find enough bags of matching marbles. Sometimes the dollar stores have them, so I recommend checking there too. :)