Often I reflect back on our young, naive, dare I say foolish time of life. I smile now thinking of how desperately we wanted children, how much love we had to give, and how we were going to do a really good job as parents, filling in any gaps that we experienced as kids. Our parents did a good job, but now we would add our own enlightened ideas and be much better parents. Are you rolling on the floor laughing out loud yet? You should be.
It is an egotistical, yet common thought to think that one can do a better job than their parents, but it is a nurturing, passionate mother lion love that pushes you to do the best job that you can when you become a mom.
And then one day you face the reality of the situation, and it changes you forever: Much of your child’s life is simply not under your control. There is heredity, personality, individual choice, and dare I say it, God’s plan for this child who you think is yours, but who you realize is merely someone with whom God has entrusted you. That is both a sobering and freeing day. It is a day in which you can free yourself from taking too much credit AND too much blame. It is a day that makes you get on your knees and say “Ok, Lord, what do you need me to do with Your children? In fact, what do you need me to do FOR Your children? And while we are on the subject, what do you need me to do in my own life to support what You are doing in Your children’s lives? Ah, now we are getting somewhere.
When we were young, my husband says we had the illusion of control. We managed their feeding, sleeping, health and hygiene, quality time, TV, friends, and teaching. But then there were neighbors, mean kids on the little league team or at ballet, or health or personal struggles that we could not manage, much as we wanted to. After our exit from the Wonder Years of 0-6, things got more complicted, as our beloved Chinese teacher used to say. That is when we realized that so much of our work as parents was done from 0-6 and that after laying as good a foundation as we could, we needed to accept that our new role would not be protecting our kids from all things sad, but helping them deal with whatever comes. This realization is a game changer for parents.
For some it is difficult to change roles from manager to support staff. I did not always do this well. It did help that we believed that God loved our children even more than we did and had a plan for them. And that sometimes that plan included…gulp…painful disappointments. How I hate painful disappointments (not that I enjoy unpainful ones…).
Looking back I see that my prayers for my kids have changed. I still want the happy, easy, smooth road. But I also want something more. I want my kids to know how to navigate the difficult roads that will come their way. I want them to know that God is always there, even when they feel alone, and how He is crazy about them (even more than we are.) So how do moms teach that? Well, it ain’t by cutting off all their bread crusts for them.
For many years I have been able to mentor young moms who wanted to know how to be a good mom. As if I knew…I was reading, seeking advice, observing, and praying just as they were. However being just a bit ahead on the road, I could offer them some encouraging words, such as “cheer up, things get much more difficult” and other bits of wisdom. So this next group of posts will be about being a mom. It is murky water indeed, as there are about a million different opinions about how to do it right. I won’t say that I did it right, but I will share some funny and sad and honest stories that might help someone out there.
Not to frustrate my dear readers, but if you are looking for the best way to potty train, you will be disappointed. I prefer to share principles rather than methods and steps. If you can get a few good principles under your belt, you can usually figure out how to apply them, when to override them, or even if you should discard them as you grow and mature. (And of course you can find plenty of how to’s on the Internet; why reinvent the wheel?)
I will begin next time with one of my all time favorite teaching tools, the negative template. It works in 9th grade English, and in learning how to be a mom. And don’t think it has not occurred to me that perhaps I will be your negative template. That’s ok; if my mistakes help you, then I am almost glad I made them. I said almost. Till next time.