Ten years ago, on the eve of Mothers’ Day, I gave birth to our firstborn son. His entry into the world made my husband burst out laughing with joy and my heart explode with wonder. I’ll never forget the “magic moment” when his tiny newborn frame was laid upon my chest. Life as I knew it had changed forever. I was a mom now; it was as if everything I did from this point on carried so much more weight and meaning.
The next six years brought three more babies and three more of those “magic moments.” Those moments were tucked into long days and short years, first steps and first words, mundane moments and sleepless nights, lots of laughter and deep sadness, hanging on and letting go, needing a break and getting a breakthrough, losing my image and finding myself, painful frustration mixed with deep, life-changing love.
I’m in no way an authority on parenting, but I have gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom as I’ve “failed forward” on this beautiful, paradoxical journey of motherhood. Here are ten rays of light that have illuminated my path on life’s most difficult and rewarding endeavor: Motherhood.
I’m nobody’s savior.
I used to think I had to be Jesus to my kids and save them from the world that was out to destroy them. I couldn’t save myself and I sure as hell can’t save them. It’s not my job. It’s my job to facilitate an experiential relationship with God by having one myself. Before they were my sons and daughters, they were His. I don’t have to save them; I just need to let Him save me. As they see Him at work in my life, it will light a torch for them to follow in their own walks with God. Many times moms are compelled to save their kids from the pain meant to lead them into the arms of the Ultimate Comforter. It’s so hard to watch our kids go through pain. But pain is a part of life and we should practice walking with our kids through pain rather than saving them from it.
Connection is greater than control.
So many times I want to control my kids’ behavior. I want them to stop being jerks and making me look bad. I want them to knock it off, watch their mouth, clean up their messes and get in line. In essence, I want to control them and make them do what I want them to do. The truth is, I can’t control them and trying to will only damage our relationship. I’m not saying I shouldn’t have expectations for their behavior—I most definitely do and should. I’m saying that when I truly connect with my kids first, I ultimately have more influence in their life. They then want to contribute to the atmosphere in our home in a positive way. Our pastor taught me that discipline without relationship leads to rebellion. When I try to control my kids, I’m after the “results” of their behavior, not the heart behind it. Connecting with them on an emotional level enables them to feel safe, loved and known. When they are connected to me emotionally, they care how their behavior affects my heart and vice versa. They don’t NEED to be controlled because love enables them to control themselves.
Perfection is overrated; conviction is underrated.
In our Pinterest-perpetuated world many of us are after a picture-esque life that only exists behind an Instagram filter. I’ve wasted so much time trying to measure up to an unrealistic standard instead of sinking into the conviction of my heart and parenting from that place. Perfectionism is a lie. Conviction leads us to the Truth. No matter who we are or what we do, we will never be enough for some people. That’s why we need to do what feels right for us and make decisions that keep our personal sense of peace intact, regardless of how it looks to others.
Fear is our enemy.
I remember the moment I was delivered from an intense amount of fear when it came to parenting. When I had our first two children, my anxiety and worry over their safety was tangible. Every time I went anywhere without them I was worried sick. I would have visions of something bad happening to them and feel paralyzed by fear. Many times, my fear was manifested in anger. In the movie Frozen there is a song sung by the trolls that says “People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.” I was constantly scared and constantly raging as a result of that fear. One day, God spoke to my heart and said “Did you ever dream you’d have a blonde-haired, blue-eyed son?” The answer was no. Both my husband and I have dark hair and eyes, as do both sets of our parents. I assumed our kids would follow suit, yet our son was blonde, with sky-blue eyes. God continued “No, you didn’t. That’s because I made him—he was my idea. I will protect him and take care of him.” Something shifted in me and fear started loosening it’s grip on my heart. God’s love casts out fear and His love for me and my children began casting out the fear that was controlling my life.
Parenting my kids means re-parenting myself.
I say often that my kids teach me way more than I teach them. Our third child, Brinley, went through a terrible stage when she was between two and three years old. She would scream and throw tantrums like I had never seen before. These tantrums would last for hours and I felt completely helpless and at the end of my rope. I would eventually lose it and yell out of my own anger and rage. During one of these episodes, God spoke to me and said “You don’t get through one of her tantrums without throwing one of your own.” Ouch. It was true. From that point on, I would talk to myself and validate my own frustration instead of acting out of it. I’d say things to myself like “I know this is hard, but you are the parent and you have to bring peace into her chaos.” To this day, I’m still not perfect in it. But meeting her tantrums with love and peace rather than allowing my own temper to flare changes everything. Instead of letting her tantrums cause me frustration, I’ve allowed them to teach me more patience, strength and peace.
Moms: We need each other.
Moms. Get you some mom-friends. Parenting is hard. You need women in your corner who GET IT. Women who know you love your kids even when you are so freaking annoyed with them. I spent the first several years of motherhood gping it alone. I let my fear of being judged as inadequate by others shut people out. My heart was closed-off to friendship out of fear of rejection and life was so dark and lonely. When I begin to let people in, my life started to explode with color again. I felt loved, understood and supported. There is so much to be said for that!
Repentance is everything.
The best thing I do as a mom is repent when I blow it. I have cussed at my kids, disciplined out of anger and acted a damn fool. While I’m so not proud of that, I know that God can use my brokenness as a springboard for His goodness in their life. Every time I blow it, I apologize. Most of the time, it’s with tears in my eyes. I tell my kids it’s not their fault that I lost it. That no matter what they do, I should always control me. I tell them that there is nothing they could do to make me love them more or love them less. I tell them I’m a human being and I make mistakes, just like they’re human beings who makes mistakes. We connect in this place where our humanity intersects and Love covers us with His healing restoration. If I’m proud of anything as a mother, I’m proud of the way I honestly and humbly repent when I all-too-often blow it.
There’s no award for having the cleanest house.
I decided a long time ago not to stress about my house. I try my very best to keep it altogether, but if you stop at my house unexpected, there’s a good chance you’ll find laundry in piles, dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor. My fridge stinks and my cupboards need organized badly. But you know what? I try and I’m learning daily how to balance it all in a way that feels right for me. The dishes, laundry, floors and fridge will be there indefinitely, but there’s only so much time I’ll have the opportunity to play barbies, stack blocks and build train tracks with these four precious souls. I wish I was better at managing it all, but I’m not. I do know that I try my best and hope my kids remember the times I set aside my to-do list to engage with them on their level.
So much more is caught than taught.
When my oldest was four, my second child was two and our third was a newborn. Life was wildly busy and my husband was doing a lot of travelling. I was buried by the demands of raising three babies and pulling the weight of the household. I felt so much shame for not “having it all together” and being more gracious in handling this abundant load I had been given. One day, I was slapped in the face with just how tangible that shame had become. During one of my husband’s trips, my four-year-old had thrown his sister’s favorite toy and broke it. I cried because I was so frustrated and angry. My son looked up at me with tears in his big blue eyes and said “I wish I was a better boy.” Gut-punch. What a weighty load for a four-year-old to carry! No one told him he wasn’t enough. I certainly didn’t think he needed to be “a better boy.” But how often did I wish I was better? A better wife… a better mom… a better Christian… a better woman. That shame of not measuring up had fallen on his shoulders. Hearing my wonderfully adequate, much-too-young son utter that shame-filled phrase sent me on the journey of addressing my own shame and finding wholeness. More is caught than taught and, whether we like it or not, we lead by our example.
Loving your kids well means loving yourself well.
I see so much of myself in my second daughter, Quinn. I see so many of my qualities—both good and bad— evident in her in increasing measure. When she was very young, I was having trouble connecting with her and I couldn’t figure out why. One day as I was writing in my journal I had a lightbulb moment. I couldn’t connect with her because I rejected myself. I wasn’t rejecting her, I was rejecting the parts of myself I saw in her. This broke my heart. I had to repair the relationship I had with myself if I wanted to love her well. Loving well comes from a place of being loved well. Regardless of whether or not anyone else loves us, we can choose to love ourselves. And more importantly, we can connect with the source of Unconditional Love and receive His love in such a way that changes everything.
In conclusion, ten years ago, the responsibility of motherhood opened the door of an amazing, hard, hope-filled and wondrous journey which daily continues to unfold. I hope you connected with these nuggets of wisdom I’ve expressed here and I hope you’re keeping your eyes and ears open to what motherhood is teaching you. Do you have something to add? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.