I don’t know if there is anyone who doesn’t smile at the sight of baby. Fresh and new, unblemished, ready to begin life on earth. We smile at the innocence, the beauty, the miracle.
I think I began my life as a mother in a similar way. Innocent, hopeful, full of wonder and excitement. Of course, trepidation was a common feeling too. “How am I going to manage this ‘mom’ thing?”
As my children grow, I see their experiences molding and shaping them year by year. I take note of their minds and hearts working as they learn to make decisions for themselves. I try to give them helpful counsel as they learn to react to and interact with others. All too often, I wish I could protect them from hurt and difficulty, from the scars I know life will bring. Brought on by those same things I have faced and sometimes continue to face, even as a “grown up”. Sometimes I even wish I could protect my children from myself. From the fears I haven’t faced, the hurts I haven’t quite gotten over, the skewed perspectives I have. I think how nice it would be if I could do the “mom thing” from that same unblemished, perfect state babies seem to have when they enter the world.
Sometimes it takes years to realize something I encountered long ago still affects me … and my interactions with my children. The way I relate and respond to them. Not long ago, I felt hurt by a friend’s attitude toward my kids, and didn’t know why. Then I realized why it affected me the way it did. Years ago I had been hurt by the words of another “friend” who was vocally opposed to my second pregnancy and let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt me and my children were only a burden. The hurt I felt by her remarks remained in a place so deep I didn’t consciously realize it was there.
But it was. I became one of those parents constantly hovering over my children, hushing them if they became too loud, telling them not to disturb this person, and not to bother that person. Yes, it is good to help children grow in awareness of others and to understand there is a good and a not-so-good time to ask for things, but my hovering was borne of fear that I would again face—or worse, that my children would face—someone letting them know they are a burden, an unwanted load.
I was often preoccupied with making sure my children were “good” and “quiet” so they wouldn’t become an issue for someone else. But I don’t want to make the mistake of raising children in fear or negativity. Enough negative and harmful things face my children simply because we live in a broken world. My duty as a mother is to be a haven of security, peace, and helpful boundaries. Not to exude an “excuse me for breathing” mentality.
Most of all, my responsibility and privilege is to show them unconditional love. Children are a gift. They don’t need a reason or an excuse. Each child is a treasure with the potential to change the world for the better.
Seeing each day through the eyes of a child can help me remember every day is a chance to start over. Each lesson I help my children understand can serve as an encouragement to let go of past pain and hurt. Every new life ushered into this world is another proclamation that my life can likewise begin anew every day.
I know that God knows me because he says it in his Word. God knows that my name is Jessica and that I like to read. He knows it is important for me to have Godly character. It will help me obey him like King David did. He knows that I mostly have the character traits of faith, and gentleness. God even knows I would like to have the character trait of patience with others.
God helps me just like he helped David. When it comes to temptation just like David did, I can ask God to help me. God will always help me resist temptations. He helped me once when I was tempted because I saw two Hershey kisses on a shelf. I wanted to eat one, but instead I asked God to help me not to be tempted, and he did.
God had a plan for David, and he has a plan for me. God chose David to be king, because David did not think about riches. Instead he thought about God and how to please him. God also has a plan for my life. I think God’s plan for my life is for me to be a missionary, or to write children’s stories about his love.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would surf the internet for information on babies and children and what to expect from motherhood. I came across an interesting article that explained that the importance of early learning especially for infants and had flash cards for numeracy and reading skills. I was thrilled to come upon this information and started building high hopes and expectations of what I was going to do for my child. I was going to be this super mom, who would do flash cards right from infancy, never use disposable diapers, only feed her organic homemade food and basically be a perfect, flawless parent – creating a perfect, flawless babyhood and childhood for my soon-to-be-born baby.
Enter reality with childbirth and all my high aspirations went flying out of the window. My determination to not use disposable diapers didn’t last more than a few days. I couldn’t remember where the flash cards were, and used that as an excuse to not do them. And although my daughter’s first solid meals were all homemade, I relied on store-bought baby food later. I had settled to what I thought was mediocre parenting.
Then came the biggest and most painful decision of my life; I had to go back to work, leaving my nine-month-old baby at daycare. My ambitions for a perfect motherhood were crushed. What was worse was that those aspirations, dreams, and ambitions lingered in my mind and heart as failures. Although my beautiful daughter was friendly and cheerful and adjusted very quickly to daycare and the kids there, I constantly battled motherhood with feelings of incapacity, inadequacy and failure.
Two years passed and my little girl was ready to join preschool. I was confident that she would have no problems going to a new place and meeting new kids. She was always friendly and excited to see new people and never really showed separation anxiety. On the big day, in her new uniform and school bag and school shoes, her dad and I proudly walked with her to the new school.
When we kissed her and said bye she began to … CRY! We tried telling her about the fun things she would do and the new friends she would make. She calmed down a little but was still clearly upset. I couldn’t believe it and was heartbroken. The teacher asked us to say bye again and leave calmly so we did. As miserable as I was leaving her at daycare, I had a tiny consolation that she wasn’t going through separation anxiety and was happy. Now that she was upset and crying made it all the more difficult and painful for me.
But as I walked out of the gates, something happened. Seeing my daughter cry on her first day of preschool pushed something in me to be strong, not just for her but myself too. I realized this was life. I cannot predict or control everything. I could go to work feeling worried and upset for her, or I could go to work praying for her and feeling proud that my daughter has entered preschool. I could choose to be strong and positive instead of weak and sad.
That one change in thought brought a whole new outlook to my parenting and my view of me as a mother. I might not have had the opportunity to be with her at home fulfilling all those super mom dreams. But I made the most I could with every minute I had with her. I wasn’t able to do flash cards or other great early learning programs, but I managed to read to my baby every night. I taught her colors, numbers, shapes and the alphabet while juggling a full-time job and housework. I might not have taught my child to read by age two but I did imbibe in her an important love for learning. I did not have quantity but I did give her quality.
That day, as I walked out of the gates of that pre-school I realized I was a supermom! I just had to let myself feel it!
P.S. Six months after starting preschool, my daughter is well adjusted and happy!
About Sharada: I am a mother of a three-and-a-half year old girl. I am married to a caring and loving man and live in the UAE. I work as a Teaching Assistant in an American school and I love my job, but I love being a mom the most.
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It wasn’t really my idea.
It was my mom’s idea.
Well, it was her chair, actually.
It had been sitting in her backyard for years, probably serving as a perch for some of her plants.
But she was moving it on, and asked if I wanted it before she placed it on freecycle.
Of course I did! I pictured sanding it down and letting my husband varnish it and do the finishing touches.
Then I had a second thought.
What about turning it into a summer project with my daughter?
I knew she’d be more than happy to help.
And she was.
She claimed the seating area as hers to work on.
I showed her how to sand it down as we spent a couple sessions sanding.
Then I showed her that steel wool is similar to sandpaper, in that you still have to follow the grain of the wood as you smooth it down.
The wood burning was my mom’s idea too, and, as Jessica couldn’t help with that part, she had a blast taking pictures of me as I worked on it.
Her favorite part was “painting” the chair with shellac.
After it dried, we smoothed it down one last time with steel wool and brushed it with a second coat.
We presented it to my husband upon his return and she cheerfully informed her dad that she had done part of it “all by herself.”
I knew that letting her help with it had been the right decision.
I asked her, a few days later, if she learned anything interesting from the project. “Make sure you know which way the wind is blowing before you start to sand.”
Hey, you never know when information like that might come in handy.
I glanced at the clock.
Guests would be coming somewhere between two and three in the afternoon, for swimming and celebrating July 4th. In the meantime, I needed to clean the house and prepare the food.
My daughter had volunteered to help with the dusting, so after we read a story together, I told her where the dusting cloths were as I headed to the kitchen.
Nine peeled potatoes later, I went to check on her.
She reclined on the couch, an open book in her hands.
“Did you dust yet?” I asked, completely aware of her response.
She looked up at me, a little worried. “No.”
I clenched my teeth, trying not to get annoyed. Doesn’t she realize we don’t have all day?
“What are you waiting for?”
“You.” She smiled.
“I’m not dusting with you. I’m working in the kitchen. I have food to prepare.”
She sat forward. Her eyes lit up. “You are?”
I groaned inwardly. I had been planning to do some baking with my daughter over the summer, but not today.
Today I was on a deadline.
Today the food needed to taste good.
It just wasn’t the opportune time to be cooking with a child.
Hold on! What on earth was I thinking?
The answer was obvious.
“I was in the middle of making potato salad. It needs to get in the fridge early so it can get cold before the afternoon. Want to help?”
“Sure!” She jumped up, forgetting about her book for the moment as she eagerly followed me into the kitchen.
We finished making the potato salad together.
“Is there anything else to do?”
I had been hemming and hawing about whether or not to attempt a dessert. Why not?
“You want to make a pie with me?”
“Really?” When seeing the excitement in her eyes at such a simple thing, I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier.
After placing the pie in the fridge, she went on to dust while I washed the dishes. She even asked me for Windex and started washing the glass door leading to the balcony.
By the way, the food wasn’t just good. It was perfect.
Then there are the days where you wake up wishing there was a third button on the alarm clock, one in between the “stop” button and the “snooze” button, a button that states: “Go back in time seven hours.”
On mornings like that, the day seems to progress along the same path.
The youngest has a shorter nap than usual, and states in no uncertain terms that he wants to stay awake now. His temperament, on the other hand, screams: “Put me to sleep.”
The middle child is extra moody and even sports a few classic meltdowns.
The oldest gets home from school in time for the four of you to go on a nice, long walk. You finally begin to feel a bit better about the day. At least you got to fit in some exercise.
You get home and then she remembers about her homework, more than she’s ever brought home before. You wish that you could have granted her the chance to stay up a half-hour past bedtime for a more inspiring reason than that sinister thing called “homework.” And still she doesn’t finish it.
The two other children decide that they should keep their sister company and so they also don’t go to sleep until she’s in bed.
Finally, the oldest ones are asleep and you turn to the youngest. I thought he was tired, as he got up early from his nap, yet he seems to be thinking that tonight would be a great night to see the sun rise. He bounces from the pillow on my lap, to reclining against my side, and back again, as I sit on the floor against a pillow and try to get a bit of work done on my laptop.
He asks for water and I get up to get it. I get back and he’s there, lying flat on the pillow pretending to snore. “Honk-shhh” he says.
I ask, “What are you doing?”
“Naughty, naughty,” he replies, with a silly smile on his face.
I soon figured out why he was saying, “naughty.” He didn’t want the water for himself, but for his car, Sally. I quickly put an end to that idea.
He lies down one more time as I sit down, exasperated. He kisses my cheek and gives me a big hug, then sits back with a huge and cheesy grin on his face—the one he always sports when he’s trying to get me to smile. I acquiesce.
It takes a few more rounds to get him to lie down for good. By now, it’s 10:30 and my eyes—which have been hurting all day from sleep deficit—flatly refuse to focus on anything remotely resembling work. It’s time for bed.
Tomorrow will be another day, with the ups and downs and trials and victories of life…as a mother.
Am I looking forward to it? You bet! Every day is a chance to learn something new, an opportunity to be a better mother, and the priceless privilege of raising wonderful kids, because every child deserves the best!
My three young children had been quite ill for over a week. Allen got an upset tummy from something he had eaten; he was just recovering when the viral fever then came around, putting him back in bed for the next few days.
Over the weekend, their health was picking up, and by the start of the new week, I thought we could start out slowly with some school, just to get back in the groove a bit. Usually school time begins around 10:00am for them; today it was noon before we opened the school books. I tried to keep in mind that it had been over a week since their last lesson and might take a bit of time before a couple young kids would “get into it” again.
Still, it was difficult to keep from becoming frustrated, as Allen spent most of the morning either staring off into space, or crying at absolutely-nothing-in-particular. It was quite a departure from my usually happy little boy.
Jessica, on the other hand, had decided that she needed to do the whole last week’s worth of school in one day because she had been sick, and kept insisting on it, so much so that she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. I assured her that we could go at her pace today.
Needless to say, it was not the most productive school day we had experienced.
As a home-schooling mother, it isn’t always easy to find the right balance between school and life. There are some inspired and wonderful teachers and parents who turn every moment in life into an educational experience for a child, without the child even realizing that they are “learning”. Life is just one great experience after another and the parent manifests that in every moment of the day. They just make learning fun, exciting, and an unforgettable experience on a daily basis.
It is great when a parent, especially a home schooling one, can make education fun for children. Especially when they are young, they need a bit more excitement, interaction and inspiration. I have been blessed to have some of these folks teach my kids classes and songs from time to time. I often feel I can’t measure up to this class of teacher. I have borrowed a few of their ideas and tips to make learning fun. Other than that, I tell myself it takes all kinds, and as long as I am dedicated and manifest patience and love, my children will learn that which is most important.
A few tips, for those of us who need them…
Start each school day with something special. It can be as simple as a bug you found in the garden that morning, or a funny song on youtube, or a sketch of the child.
Have a “star system” of some kind, for good behavior, or great performance, or completing something in school. Be consistent and fair with the reward system and children and students will look forward to it.
Be spontaneous. You do have goals and requirements, but at the same time, a dull and uninspired child will work slowly and perform poorly. If you notice they are slowing down or lacking inspirational, introduce a new idea, or a fun break, a live class, or something to bring new vision into their day.
Most of all, strive to be inspired and happy yourself, as well as calm and patient, and every day can be a wonderful learning experience—not only for your children, but you as well. Kids are often the best teachers we have, and their exuberance and wonder can rub off on anyone, of any age. Pretty fair trade, I’d say.
Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis