If you have read other posts, you may already know that Mom Lessons are mostly what I learned by doing things the wrong way. Like most of you, I did not have an internship or “student mothering” stint in my education, (though being a mom was the most important job I have ever had). Of course I did learn a bit from the negative template, as we saw last time. But it is not enough to know what not to do; one has to know what to do, or at least know what the end goal is.
So a good question I like to ask moms is…What is your goal for your child? Think about that for a minute while I share a short anecdote from my younger years.
Before I was married, a roommate of mine suggested that most problems in marriage boiled down to difficulties in one of two areas: expectations and communication. We were both engaged at the time, and I was not sure if what she said was true; it seemed like an oversimplification. However after 32 years of marriage I have often thought of her comment in light of problems we or our married friends have encountered, and sure enough, they did seem to fit into one of those two categories.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program: mothering goals: When it comes to motherhood, our role centers around two equally and sublimely simple ideas, that of providing and preparing. I have tried to direct my mom actions toward those two driving principles, (but it wasn’t always pretty.) It seems obvious that our job is to provide for our children; but we must bear in mind that we can never provide everything our child needs; only God can do that. Some moms like to become their children’s all in all; I would discourage that. Sure it is quite normal for an infant to have you as the center of the universe. However don’t get too comfortable with that feeling of power; it is fleeting I assure you. We are to provide for them without putting our own needs and wishes before their welfare. This is tricky business for the fallen creatures we are.
And as far as preparing them for life with its challenges and surprises, we may have to learn how not to provide too much assistance, which seems to be more difficult these days. My goal was to prepare my kids for adulthood by providing what they need to be successful, while at the same time preparing them to stand on their own two feet one day. I wonder if the helicopter moms know that doing everything for your child, removing all obstacles, and giving them everything they want is actually leaving them ill-prepared for the real world that they must inevitably live in. (By the way, one of my sons is a marine officer who flys helicopters, so I suppose that makes me an official helicopter mom; there must be a cute sweatshirt for that.)
I am guessing that these moms have good intentions, (which you know where those lead). For such a high stakes venture as motherhood, we need to have good goals to go along with our good intentions. Take my sentimental Italian grandmother as an example. She used to tell the story of how she would give one of her kids a lickin’ as she put it, but then after they fell asleep, she would sneak into their rooms and quietly weep by their bed. When we were kids we thought that was especially funny, perhaps because we wanted to picture our own strict dad getting a lickin’, and because we could not fathom a grownup admitting to feeling such regret over a most likely well-deserved punishment. We could not imagine our wept-over Dad sneaking into our rooms with tears of sorrow and regret, (although we saw this soft side of him with his grandchildren of course.) As an older mom, I now love that story, and rather than making me laugh, it makes me smile in motherhood solidarity. It demonstrates in such a vivid way my grandmother’s commitment to do what was right for her children, even though it broke her heart.
While I tried to keep providing and preparing on my horizon as I went through my mom journey, some days these principles were overridden by pure survival. You know what I mean; the days when your kids all come down with chicken pox, the washing machine has flooded your first floor, and the fleas are jumping out of your carpet quicker than you can “apply the flea treatment to all upholstered furniture and every inch of carpet, as well as wash all clothing in hot water to ensure effective treatment.” (We called that day Black Friday I. Black Friday II occurred much later during the teen years and although not as labor intensive as Black Friday I, it was so much more difficult.) As the old adage says when you are knee-deep in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your primary objective was to drain the swamp. So as you try your best to provide for your child and prepare him for life, here are some things to keep in mind. Feel free to post on your fridge.
1. Your job is to provide for your child, and to prepare him for adult life.
2. You are going to make mistakes, but most mistakes will not scar your children for life.
3. Even though you think you know what you are doing, unexpected things will come up that leave you completely nonplussed as to the right thing to do.
4. God loves your child much more than you do, and is available to help.
5. Dare I say it? Your child, extra precious as he or she is, isn’t perfect either.
6. Providing and preparing involves a lot of sacrifice.
And cheer up; when they grow up and have kids, they will come to appreciate those sacrifices, and the fact that you did not rush in to gratify each and every desire they had. For example my siblings and I now see why our mom did not permit us to chew gum, say bad words, act disrespectfully, or stay up late to watch It Takes a Thief. (Though that did not stop me from sneaking into my parent’s bedroom to watch my then heart throb, Robert Wagner, on their tiny black and white TV, with the sound set on barely audible and me standing next to the set for an hour to watch my show.)
I hope you now see how simple mothering is. You only have to remember two things, and wait about thirty years to see good results. What could be easier than that?