Monthly Archives: August 2013
On my 22nd birthday, I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, huge, not sure how ready I was to become a mother. Two weeks later, Jessica was born, and my life was never the same again.
On my 24th birthday, I had a nine-day-old son in my arms when my friends sang “Happy Birthday.” Allen had actually been due on my birthday, but came early. Thoughtful as always, I supposed he didn’t want me to miss my own party by being in labor.
On my 26th birthday, I had recently discovered I was pregnant with baby number three. Aiden arrived on March 25th, at 4:55 in the morning, and has loved waking us up early ever since.
It’s my 31st birthday today, my ninth birthday as a mother, and although it might not be as “auspicious” a number as ten, I wanted to share nine things I’ve learned about parenting, nine lessons that motherhood has taught me.
1. I’ll never be a perfect mom.
When I was little I loved the movie Milo and Otis, about an orange kitten who got lost and his best friend, the pug-nosed puppy, that searched until he found him. The movie begins in the hayloft, where Milo, the kitten, is just born. The narrator states that the mother kitten, who just had her first litter, vowed she would never raise her voice or lose her temper. Ten seconds later, she is shouting at Milo, who is already heading toward the edge of the hayloft.
Kids aren’t static creations. They are dynamic (sometimes very dynamic) — always thinking, moving, changing, learning, and growing. And so are we, as parents.
2. I won’t always remember to pray for my kids.
I’ve read in a fair few parenting books that, yes, we’ll make mistakes, but at least we can always pray for them every day of their lives. Another miserable fail, was my thought about that. I do pray for my children, as often as I remember, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I go through a phase where I wake up early every morning and read a great book on parenting and pray for my kids before they’re even awake; other mornings I get dragged out of bed by my kids wishing for a few more moments of rest.
Somehow I don’t think God is saying, “Well, since she hasn’t prayed for her children consistently every day of their lives, I’ll simply have to curse them and their children’s children from this time forth and even forevermore.” That’s not the way it works.
3. I might not judge rightly in some situations.
Before I became a mom, I vowed that when my kids fought, I would always listen carefully to both sides and make a patient and prayerful decision on the matter. I do that … sometimes. But sometimes I don’t, and I’ll just do whatever makes the arguing stop most quickly, even if it’s not the fairest judgment.
I’m not as wise as Solomon, nor am I as patient as Job. I’m a mom, but I do think my kids will survive.
4. Saying sorry is a good thing.
I won’t always do or say the best thing in any given situation, and when I mess up with my kids, apologizing works wonders. Some of the sweetest or and most heartwarming times with my kids have happened after I just said, “I’m sorry. I should have been more patient,” or “I should have let you finish what you were saying.”
And there is nothing like hearing a four-year-old say, “I forgive you mommy.”
5. Kids can work.
I’m generally the type of person who likes to get a job done on my own. I know how I want it done, and I can do it pretty quickly. But working side by side with my kids, and teaching them how to do a job not only lightens my workload when they learn to do it themselves, but it builds their confidence and skills like nothing else can.
Lately I’ve let my older two children choose the cleanup jobs they want to do, and have expected them to follow through, and they’ve done great. I can’t exactly retire from housecleaning just yet, but they’re on their way, and it feels good not to do everything “All by myself.”
6. There’s never a bad time to tell a child, “I love you.”
My son was sitting at the table doing artwork and I told him I loved him. He looked up and asked, “Where are you going?” I suddenly felt guilty; do I really tell my children I love them that infrequently?
I still don’t say it as often as I should … but I’m working on it.
7. Kids need quiet time too.
My youngest child is the most energetic of the three … by far. He’ll jump from activity to activity and is a people-person; he loves it when I’m jumping from activity to activity with him. Unfortunately, jumping became out of character for me a long time ago. One day I was tired and didn’t know how I would keep up with his amazing energy. We have a hammock on our back patio and he wanted to play in the backyard, so I reclined on the hammock. He clambered up next to me and was still, listening, for nearly half an hour. He talked a little bit – about the things we can hear when it’s quiet.
Times of peace and quiet, stillness and listening, are growing rarer in this world of multimedia and multitasking. Learning to be still is an art, one that even as adults we often overlook. But it’s something that cultivates peace, reflection, and calmness … even in children.
8. Things never go exactly as planned.
Last year, my daughter was turning eight. I knew the perfect gift for her, a hamster. Once my husband was convinced, we bought a cage and a hamster and brought them both home the evening before her birthday. We surprised her with it that evening, and she was so thrilled. Early the next morning, before the birthday girl woke up, I checked on the hamster. It hadn’t survived the night. Animals will die. We put our cat to sleep on my ninth birthday. But I didn’t want it to happen on her birthday, when she had only just gotten what she called, “The best birthday present ever.” I placed it in a box and told the kids it wasn’t feeling well and needed its rest. My husband picked up another hamster on his way home from work, with similar markings. Buttercup the Hamster has been with us for nearly a year now.
Jessica’s ninth birthday is coming up and she’s asking for a dog. I think we’ll wait on that.
9. Being a parent is an awesome privilege.
I’m playing a part in raising immortal souls, little people who will grow up to be big people, each one created in the image of God, with a unique purpose and destiny. I can help them along that path by reinforcing to them every day how unique and special they are, and cultivating their God-given interests and talents.
I don’t know the future, or what is in store for my children. But I know that for this little while, I have been blessed to love, nurture, teach, and be a mother to three amazing, eternal souls. The best gifts ever.
Before becoming a parent, when picturing a family, we tend to visualize a “perfect” family scenario, with us as the perfect parent—ever patient, full of exciting ideas, bubbling over with love, never raising our voice or losing our temper. I think we confuse positive parenting with perfect parenting and then become overwhelmed when we can’t keep up with that unrealistic image.
A positive parent is not a perfect parent, because there is no such thing.
A positive parent is a happy parent, who takes each day as it comes. Maybe you don’t wake your child with a song each morning or remember to give him a balanced breakfast every single day, kiss his forehead and pray with him as you send him off to school with a healthy lunch, pick him up right on time (arriving five minutes early of course), smile at his daily rundown on how his day was (commenting on each thing he tells you) joyously wash his muddy laundry, pick up after him, and then put on your spotless apron so you can bake with your son and welcome daddy home with fresh chocolate chip cookies.
Perhaps instead, your kids wake you up on some days, and you groan because you really just need another five minutes of shut-eye. Maybe you snap at him for spilling his milk and you forget to put the fruit in his lunch bag. Maybe he’s the last one waiting to be picked up because you just had to take a nap. And you decide to order out because you can’t stand to see the kitchen for at least another 72 hours. Are you a complete failure at the whole parenting thing?
Of course not. Spread out a blanket and have a picnic on the living room floor, or let your child decide if he wants to eat outside. Relax and enjoy your time together, even if you must consciously push away the thoughts of everything being left undone at the moment.
Although we often tend to confuse perfect parenting with positive parenting, I don’t think our children hold us up to those same mental standards that we set for ourselves. Just try to enjoy being a parent – the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the fails and the wins – and your child will enjoy it too.
So last night, at 9 pm, the six-year-old girl from across the street ran over and called through the kitchen window for Jessica (my eight-year-old daughter), asking her if she wanted to spend the night as she was having a sleepover.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I was a little surprised. Is that the way the average family with small children operates these days? No communication from parent to parent?
If you’re a parent, I’d be interested to know your take on this — moms and dads, please feel free to weigh in on this one.
Would you send your under-ten-year-old for a sleepover at a neighbor’s house if you’ve only briefly met the parent, and it isn’t the parent getting in touch about it, but the child? Would you send your under-ten-year-old to invite neighborhood kids for a sleepover without getting in touch with those kids’ parents?
Go ahead and comment below. I’ll also post this question on our Facebook page, so if you’d prefer to comment there, that’s fine too.