I just uncovered this draft from my MANY unfinished blogs and decided it was pretty good hahaha so I decided to share it. Since this writing, my children have called me “extra” less and “salty” and “sassy” more often. I take all these descriptions as compliments because honestly my worst nightmare would be them referring to me as “nice” or “good at doing laundry.” I will take a little salt and sass any day.
My husband asked me to write two paragraphs for his sermon tomorrow for Mother’s Day. Being the wordy one that I am, that was an impossibility so I am hoping he can find a few nuggets in my many words.
Motherhood is a crazy ride. Like super crazy. It has made me into someone I don’t even recognize at times. I have never gotten it too right but I have learned a lot about myself when my heart has been broken and when it has been full. Parenting is definitely a means of sanctification if we let it.
We sat around the dinner table tonight eating my Mother’s Day dinner (barbecue- I have definitely gone to the dark side of boydom eating habits) and talking about how “extra” I am. Well, to me extra always means something good. Extraordinary. Extra awesome. You get it. To them however it means something along the lines of “we don’t get you” and “where do you come up with this stuff….” I am perfectly happy embodying their definition as well because I always want to keep my kids guessing so they seek out interesting people in their lives who are not predictable and boring.
My boys summed up my parenting in two phrases….”low level suffering” and the “world does not revolve around you.” I sat back, ate a hush puppy and was well pleased with the summary of my parenting approach. And here is why…..
When our children are young it IS all about them because, well, we are trying to keep them alive. I remember bringing my oldest home and being sure I would accidentally kill him. Sit on him, forget him in the car, or he would cry himself to death. Then the second one came and I just knew I had the perfect little family. I remember going down to Munn Park with their matching GAP t-shirts and thinking I was definitely EXTRA amazing.
Then the third one came and post partum hit me and I realized I was only extra DONE. I was weeping constantly, hated my life when I really loved it, having my first fits of panic attacks, and wondered if I would live the rest of my life locked up and who was going to nurse my baby. It was the scariest time in my life. I was undone for the first time as a mom and it made me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Why? For many reasons but it made me look at the reality that I had been a very prideful, judgmental mom who looked at those who could not keep up with me as lazy and incompetent. As I became a mom who could not eat, sleep or care for her children, I began to understand better the moms who struggled. I had to deal with my own reality- I was not superior to anyone and I needed to greatly get over myself.
Then we adopted a 12 year old from foster care and everything I knew as stability in our family was gone. In a few simple days, it was like I was living in someone else’s house. The dynamic changed. The birth order changed and now I had to change. Well, that was not how this was supposed to look. We were supposed to feel like we had rescued this child from a life of orphanhood and constantly feel like we had been obedient to God’s commands. So basically I thought a euphoric state of good deadness was destined to flow through my veins. What actually happened is that I had to face me. Me who had grown controlling and unwilling to budge when it came to my children. I had expectations and no one dared to thwart them. But now I had a child who had never been in a functional family and had spent 8 years in a group home. How was that going to fit into my little box of mommyhood?
It didn’t and it began to break me down….in all the right ways. Instead of worrying what this change would do to my children, I started being thankful that they would learn sacrifice and compassion for another human being who was only acting out of what he knew. It got super ugly in my heart sometimes and God always brought me around to thanksgiving even when I was adamant to be bitter.
So I was suddenly a mom of 4 boys and had really never liked too many guys before I met my husband. I could not relate to them, understand them or getting into their heads but God said to just love them. Even if they seemed like aliens sometimes. But no matter if we have boys, girls, foster children, adopted children….the truths are all the same.
Children need to grow up knowing there is an entire world out there and this planet does not revolve around them. They are a piece of God’s amazing story and their lives matter immensely…..but they are not the only characters in that story. Life does not exist for their comfort, conveniences and pleasure. Their lives matter to glorify God. Their lives are meant to be given away for His kingdom and it will get hard and messy but that is God’s best for them. Hence my parenting statement of “life does not revolve around you” that apparently I have successfully beaten into my children’s brains.
Then there is low level suffering. Like hearing no because they need to hear it. Without explanation. Without an apology or a reason. We have a generation of children who are sure that their parents exist to accommodate them. That should never be the case. We are parents put here to raise up adults who can live in a world where they won’t always get what they want. Who learn that because they can afford something does not mean they need it. Who value the work of caring for the poor, the elderly and the orphans. Our kids need to feel inconvenienced. That is what will bring forth a generation of adults who love well and live in truth.
Why do we stay away from teaching these lessons to our children? Because we want our children to like us? I have always told mine that they never have to like me but they must respect me. That I am not their friend but I am their parent. We also want to create the perfect environments for our children so they can succeed and ultimately we look good. We want them to be better than we were. We want them to showcase their abilities so we look like we are winning this game of Mom-opoly. Well, I have to preach this lesson to myself….it is not all about me. When they succeed or they fail, it is their journey and it is not going to kill my identity. Motherhood is a role. It is not who we are. I can speak from experience- better to figure that out now before they grow up and leave the nest. At that point, if we don’t know who we are we are left empty and alone.
I love, adore and really enjoy my children….but it is my job to prepare them to leave, not make them dependent on me. My husband is constantly encouraging their independence and as much as I have wanted to hold them back for selfish reasons, I can see how much good it has done. Our boys have gotten jobs at 15 years old because they wanted to and I have seen how they have matured because of it.
Let’s love our children well and teach them selflessness and kindness. This world desperately needs caring, generous adults and we have the opportunity to model this for them.