With Mother's Day coming up, our APM team wanted to do something a little different this week, something a little nostalgic:) These are two essays on motherhood written more than 10 years apart, one in 2006 and the other in 2017. I've closed out this post with a few little nuggets I've learned along the way. Whatever phase of motherhood you're in, I hope they put a smile on your face.
I am an intelligent, fun-loving woman, full of promise and brimming over with goals. I must remind myself of this from time to time because these days I am more defined by the role of mother, or, to be more specific, stay-at-home mom. Actually, being a mom is one of the above-mentioned goals I am blessed enough to be living out at this time in my life.
I am awakened each morning to little hands pulling off my covers and saying, “Get up, mommy. I want milk ple-e-ease, mommy.” That is, if I’m not already awakened by my 8-month old, who, at the moment, does not sleep through the night. There are days I don’t get showers and days my face sees no makeup. Shaving my legs and fixing my hair have become a burden. Who has the time? My daily outfit of choice is track pants and a t-shirt, but at least I try to match them. And my poor husband. I go to bed so tired I am barely able to climb into bed. My left arm is usually throbbing from holding my precious, but less-than-content baby much of the day so that my right hand can do all that needs to be done. It is winter now, and we are stuck in the house much of the time. This has sent my two-year-old into some sort of withdraws, and I have concluded that “bouncing off the walls” is a literal phrase.
I never expected this “job” would involve so many aspects of my body, mind, and soul. I am physically exhausted. I am constantly thinking about and analyzing the way I deal with arising situations. Did I get in enough mommy time? Did I get in all the food groups? Did I discipline effectively? Did they get enough story time, enough developmental time, too much tv? Two loads of laundry done, just three to go. What, the hamper is full again?! Dinner…hmmm…I hate cooking. And the weekly trip to Wal-Mart has become a 2-hour ordeal now that my two-year-old has to walk. Such is my life.
How, then, can my heart be so content? How can my face be moved to smile so many times during these trying days? How can my soul be so fulfilled and so full of love? How can one little giggle, with such tiny hands touching my face and staring into my eyes, send my spirits soaring. How can I go from being so frustrated with my strong-willed two-year-old to only moments later thinking my heart might burst with love? His precious little arms thrown tightly around my neck and his little voice saying “I love you so much, mommy” melts the very core of my soul.
No one can ever know the extent of the depths of motherhood until it is upon her. So right now my other goals will wait. When these little feet walk into the doors of kindergarten and these chubby baby legs grow into little boy legs, then I will pursue the other things inside of myself. Then I will look back to these days and smile. Then I may even long for tiny hands and toothless grins and cuddles galore. I’ll realize that it was a fleeting time and worth every sacrifice. I’ll know that I invested all I had into these little people, and I’ll have no regrets. I’ll realize that this is one part of my dream-come-true.
Fleeting and worth every sacrifice. Motherhood.
That little boy who was pulling off my covers and begging for milk now stands a head above me. Those chubby toddler legs are covered in hair, and that toothless baby grin is studded with braces. I’ve traded tiny hands and toothless grins for strong hugs and handsome smiles. Instead of “I love you so much, mommy” I hear “hey mom, love you” - and the words still make my heart feel like it’s going to burst out of my chest. Instead of little baby arms wrapped tightly around my neck, I get big boy arms wrapped tightly around my shoulders - and I want to hold on for dear life. Instead of strong wills and bouncing off the walls, I get teenager attitudes and pubescent mood swings. And another precious bundle of joy joined us along the way. She, I might add, has made my seemingly “strong-willed” oldest son seem like a complete pushover;)
Oh, the perspective that comes when looking backwards. While our kids are young we struggle with not wishing it away. We guiltily want to get past particular stages (don't we do that in life too?!), while at the same time we desperately try to enjoy it because we’ve been told it passes quickly - you’ve heard the sentiment, spoken to you by the sweet elderly woman in the grocery store or at church:). I'm sure someday I'll say it too. I have only recently realized just how true this sentiment is because I now have a son in high school. This is the first time I feel like I’m not waiting for a stage to pass, but rather grasping at a stage to remain.
As our children grow, so does our to-do list. It becomes never-ending, and the questions inside our minds are relentless. What activities should they be in and how often? Am I allowing them time to be kids and time to be still, while also providing them with character-building opportunities for achievement? Am I balancing work, family time, church, and extra-curricular the way God has intended for my family? Is the fact that I lose my temper here and there going to damage them for life, or is the humility I show when I apologize setting them up for reality? Am I playing into the comparison game, or am I embracing who I am and who I am not?
And most importantly, am I showing my children who Jesus is? Am I teaching them a Biblically-based value system, especially when it contradicts that of our culture? Do I strive to display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and do I use it as a learning experience when I mess up? Do I tell them when I don’t know the answer and encourage them to pray about things, to instill in them a realness of relationship with their Creator?
Some days all I know is that I love them, and I hope I showed it.
In this season, my kids have witnessed my emotions more times than I care to admit, and there have been more apologies to go around than ever before. They’ve witnessed my husband and I clinging to our faith in God’s promises, and they’ve experienced the peace that surpasses feelings and understanding.
Truthful. Honest. Human.
By the grace of God.
When the season comes in which we have to release our children to the discretion of their own wisdom and choices, when we have to release them to be led by the Jesus in them, we realize every moment spent with them, mundane and exuberant alike, was worth it.
My children were and will be the greatest thing I ever invested in, the greatest ministry I ever accomplished.
Words of Wisdom Learned Along the Way...
I still have so far to go, as I am just embarking upon parenting teenagers in high school. But for now, when I look back over the last 15 years, there are a few things which stand out to me. There are a few little nuggets of wisdom I can share in humble confidence, keeping in mind the indescribable grace of our loving God, Whose grace equips us to lead our children and Whose grace covers the mistakes we are sure to make.
1. Pray pray pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for God to make Himself real to your children. Pray that your children will KNOW God personally and desire to know Him more. Pray that God will protect your children’s hearts, minds, and bodies. Pray that your children will be a light in the darkness around them. Pray that they will remain faithful. Pray that your children will be attracted to Jesus in others before anything else. Pray that your children will be confident in who they are in Christ. Pray, pray, and pray some more:)
2. Model and encourage personal relationship with Jesus. Include your kids in your relationship with God and encourage them to seek Him for themselves. Prayerfully and age-appropriately, allow them to feel ownership in some of the decisions of the family, teaching them to seek guidance by the Holy Spirit personally in the process. Give your kids a glimpse into your own process of seeking God. Teach your kids to pray and read the Bible by modeling it for them.
3. Create a culture of openness in your home. Again, prayerfully and age-appropriately, talk about everything. Be purposeful about it. Be purposeful about maintaining a relationship with your children. Be a safe place for your children to share their thoughts and feelings and questions. Ask them questions. Be in their world. Know what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.
4. Create a culture of Jesus-centeredness and mission-mindedness in your home. Pray you will see people the way God sees people so you can teach your kids to see people the way God sees people. Teach your kids to fight offense at a young age, and model humility. Teach your kids to weigh everything according to Scripture, centering everything around Jesus. Teach your kids that the unseen is more important than the seen. Teach your kids to seek God in everything they do, so they will KNOW that when they seek God, God will show up.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Oh God, thank you for the blessing that is motherhood. Give me the wisdom to do my part to shape them into the people You created them to be. Thank You for your mercy that is new every morning and Your grace that is sufficient in my weakness. Amen.