Sometimes I’m having a rough day… I got some bad news, or am feeling extra emotional or vulnerable. After all, mothers are humans too. Maybe I’ve had an argument with someone and it seems too difficult to even attempt to patch things up. At times like this, I invariably look at my kids and see them having fun, playing, enjoying the simple things in life. The thought comes to me, “How are they going to do when they grow up and have to face these things that life will surely bring them?”
My hope and prayer has always been that they will be able to see their lives and face their future with a positive attitude, one of hope and overcoming. There are those throughout history who have had an easy life, but never made a name; they remain unknown. Then there are others who faced great difficulties; the deck of life seemed to be stacked against them, yet they overcame. They didn’t give up and they are known and admired today.
I want my children to grow up to be “overcomers”—those who do not see themselves as helpless victims to every obstacle: someone’s bad attitude, their own “bad-hair” day, or any negative person who might come along and give them a hard time. I want my kids to grow up to smile in the face of adversity, knowing that the sun will shine again and that things will start looking up. I want them to refuse to accept defeat when their heart tells them that anything is possible.
Then I realize that a lot of that is up to me. How do I handle adversity, bad news, a grumpy co-worker, or a tiring flu? Do I play the victim and blame circumstances or others? Or do I try to smile, even if through tears or a million “what-if’s” bombarding my mind? Do my children see me “going under”, or “rising above”?
We all know that our children will eventually be at the point of making their own decisions. There is not much that we as parents can do about that then…but there is a lot we can do about it now, while they are with us. Today, when they are our little shadows, following us everywhere, watching and mimicking each action and attitude, let us work hard to help them develop positive attitudes, by manifesting those attitudes ourselves, with positive actions to match.
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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My Mother’s Love is Priceless
By Surunda Franklin
Someone special to me is my mother. I am the firstborn of six siblings. My mother told me that she wanted two children and my father wanted four; they both got what they asked for.
When I was eleven years old, I began having excruciating headaches. She took me to see many doctors trying to get me help but no one knew what was wrong with me. Some said, “Maybe it is her eyes,” and others said, “It might be her menstrual cycle beginning.” One doctor suggested seeing a neurologist at Semmes Murphy Clinic. The doctor ran many tests and found nothing.
He told my mother there was one other test he could do but it was life threatening. My mother and father discussed the situation and spoke to a minister. They took his words and had the procedure done.
When the doctor received the results, he told my parents that I had a pituitary tumor and it was mandatory that I have surgery. During the surgery, part of my pituitary had to be removed. The operation went fine; afterward, I had many doctor visits and cobalt radiation treatments.
On one of my doctor visits to remove my stitches, my mother mentioned to the nurse that it looks like she missed a stitch. The nurse told her it was only the scar of healing skin. My mother continued to watch the area on my head and noticed it was not healing and that it was sore to the touch. She immediately took me back to the doctor.
The doctor examined my head and said that a stitch had been left and it was under the skin and need to be removed. A nurse came in and proceeded to remove the stitch. It was so very painful, I could hardly keep still.
My mother held my hand and I squeezed hers. The stitch was out before I knew it.
Months passed and it was time for another checkup. When the doctor was examining my head, he noticed the place where the stitch was had still not healed. Many procedures were done to examine my head. When the doctor got the results back, he told my mother that I would have to have surgery to remove the bone from my head because it had become infected.
My mother came to me and said, “Your father and I love you. It is going to be okay.” I held onto those words as I went through another surgery and the bone on the left side of my forehead was removed. A metal plate was put in place of the missing bone. It was defected and not long afterward, I had to have surgery again.
Through these frightening and life-threatening issues, my mother was with me every day. She told me many times, “I love you and I will not leave you.”
After going through many surgeries and treatments, I am alive today thanks to GOD and my mother loving me and determining to keep me alive. That is why my mother’s love is priceless.
About Surunda Franklin: I am a devoted homemaker with four beautiful stepchildren and a great husband. I live in Jackson, TN, and have lived here all my life. I am five feet, with light brown skin, and long black hair. I got married for the first time in February of 2013 and I am enjoying life.
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I am reading Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers, by Marlene Bagnull. Each short chapter focuses on some of the unique struggles that writers face, many of which apply to me. I find myself making notes in the margins and I spend time answering the questions at the end of each chapter.
The chapter I read this morning, though, fit better than most. Last month I decided to start waking up early, trying to get a hold on the day by starting it off right by reading and praying … maybe writing if I have a few extra moments. I knew I needed to get my priorities and directions straight before everything else started to struggle for my focus and attention.
This past week, I hadn’t been doing so well. I had only managed to get up early the first few days of the week, and when my son started waking up early with me, I gave up. After all, the idea was having time alone, not extra time with a son whose first words (within a nanosecond of waking up) are either, “Can you make me breakfast?” or “Can I watch something?” – not my idea of a quiet morning.
Yesterday evening, after my husband left for work, I was finding myself irked at the mess indoors, and overwhelmed at a few things going on in my life. I sat outside to just think and pray (outside being at the top of the stairs right outside the front door). The challenge of living in an apartment, for me, is having no place to let them “run amuck,” as my sister so aptly puts it. No backyard to be assured that they’re safe. So they’re either inside where noise is automatically ten times louder, or outside with you, meaning you’re not doing what you need to do.
Within minutes my youngest son noticed me. “I’ll just come outside and play down there.” He pointed to the area of dirt and mud at the foot of the stairs. I don’t mind dirt, but a neighbor recently managed to somehow spill oil from who-knows-where in that same spot, creating a mixture only too full of germs, which I tried to explain to my son. “I don’t see any germs,” he said. Within moments his brother and sister were outside as well, ready to get in on whatever action was coming.
“Let’s go into the pool area,” I suggested. They could play in the dry leaves at the edge of the pool and I could sit and pray at the far end, still keeping an eye on them. I forgot, though, that the lock to the pool gate had been changed and my husband had the key, on his keychain, in his pocket, on the way to work.
I took a deep breath. Why did everything I tried to do have to be so difficult? I just wanted a bit of peace and it was turning into a circus. The two older kids lost interest and went back inside. My youngest, ever-present shadow, followed me as I went back upstairs and sat down once more. He ran up and down the length of the apartment buildings, and then down the stairs at the far end. He didn’t come back up. Two minutes passed. I finally followed him. He had found dirt – his idea of heaven. This dirt wasn’t so dirty (if you’re a mom, you know what I mean) and pretty soon all three of the kids were making dirt piles, driving their cars through the dirt, or sliding their cars down the railing of the stairs where I sat, still trying to think and pray a bit.
Then a neighbor came outside, her son running to join my trio. The mom and I began to talk, and did so for the next hour until the sun had sat and it was time to de-dirt the kids in the tub.
That was the story of one evening, more like half an evening – a microcosm of a typical day, which is why this morning, when I forced myself to get up early because I need that time alone, the chapter I read spoke to me so clearly. It was titled, “First Things First.”
The prose-prayer at the end, I felt, was something I could have written yesterday. It goes like this:
Father, I have so much to do
and not enough hours in the day to do it.
I know that’s only partly true.
I do have enough time
to do the things you want me to do.
But, Lord, how do I sort out what they are,
when everything screams for my attentions?
I’m exhausted from rushing—
uptight and irritable.
Please forgive me and help me.
Help me to learn from your Son.
People were constantly pressing in on him.
He could have been consumed—burned out.
But Jesus took time to be alone with you.
He made you his top priority.
I must learn to do the same,
especially when I’m feeling pressured.
Help me to be still and know
that you are God.
Even as you created and hold together the universe,
you can bring order to my life if I will let you.
Thank you, Lord.
What a fitting prayer. What a fitting chapter. I have begun to understand why, when as a child I woke up early in the morning, I would see my mom sitting in her chair, coffee in hand, reading or praying. When I asked her what she was doing (as only a child would), she would answer, “I’m spending time with Jesus. I need this time to get me through the day.” I didn’t understand then. I’m starting to understand now.
Only with me, it’s chai instead of coffee.
Chai with Jesus. It has a nice ring.
It was, as usual, a busy morning. In an attempt to get ahead of the game, I woke up early to have a bit of quiet time and then fit in a smidgen of work before waking my daughter for school. My two boys were both home with me, so after getting her off to school, I read them some Bible stories and then we did “school.”
Aiden was very happy with a new science activity book and we did page after page until midday—every project executed from the position of my lap. He didn’t even want me to get up to make chai. By lunchtime, I was starting to get antsy, thinking of everything I needed to get done within the next ten or so hours before the moment I collapsed into bed, too tired to even fall asleep.
After lunch, my son asked, “Mommy, come sleep a’ me?” Interpretation, he wanted me to lie down with him until he fell asleep for his nap. Okay, he was up early, I thought to myself. He should fall asleep pretty quickly.
I said a short prayer with him before his nap. Then he started quoting a verse that we often say after prayer time at night. I said it with him and then he looked up at me expectantly and said, “More God?”
I didn’t understand him at first and asked him to repeat himself. “More God,” he repeated.
“More verses?” I attempted an interpretation.
“Yes,” he answered confidently. I started quoting the Lord’s prayer and he said it with me.
He then repeated the other verse in his two-year-old lingo: “Words of my mouth and tation o’ my heart, cept’ a my sight, Lord, my strength and my adeemer.”
It took a little while, but he finally fell asleep. His words played again in my mind though.
As parents, we always have more than enough to do, bouncing from parental duties to work to projects to cleaning and back again, hoping to make some kind of lasting difference while we’re at it.
We try to teach our kids about God, about prayer, but it’s often on our timetable. There are those times, though, when our kids’ hearts are open and their mind hungry.
“More God,” they are asking.
Maybe not in those exact words. Maybe they express it in a question, sometimes even a complaint.
What they need in response is the same thing we, as busy adults, also need: “More God.”
More time with Him, learning of His Heavenly ways. More time sitting at His feet, partaking of His nature, imbibing peace, joy, love.
It is that one thing that can’t be taken away, no matter how busy or trying a day.
It might have been mid-winter, but my son was still asking for his usual: juice. I told him to get me a cup and I’d get him the juice. I knew that his two-year-old self wouldn’t be able to reach the cups in the dish drainer, but wanted to see what he would do. He first peered into the couple of mugs on the kitchen table, which bore remnants of my morning chai.
“This one’s dirty,” he observed, and took it over to the sink. As he reached up and put it in the sink, he noticed something: a cup! His favorite cup. It was there in the sink—dirty.
“That cup, Mommy?” he pointed to it.
“I’ll get it for you,” I said.
“No, Mommy, I get it!” He insisted. I paused to let him realize that he wouldn’t be able to reach it, so that he would let me get it for him.
“Pick me up, Mommy?”
He wouldn’t be outdone by the fact that he couldn’t reach the cup. He still wanted to get it, and to do it himself. The fact that it would have been easier for me to pick up a two-ounce cup rather than a 30 pound child didn’t register in his mind.
I picked him up and he picked up the cup, then, holding it tightly in his hand, sweetly asking once more, “Juice, Mommy?”
I wondered—as I poured the juice into the empty cup held by my expectant toddler—how many times we carry on similarly in life. “All by myself,” is the motto as we push full steam ahead with our plans and goals.
We see the little rocks in our path and feel that we are larger than life when we heave them out of the way, not realizing that Someone has lifted us and is helping us on every step of that path. And when we finally look around and notice Who has been carrying us all along, it’s hard to relinquish that “cup.” We hold it tightly—feeling we have to pull our share of the load.
Like the old farmer walking down a country road, carrying a heavy sack of rice. When a man driving by saw him struggling, he offered the old man a ride. The old fellow gratefully accepted and sat down in the vehicle, the sack of rice in his lap.
After a few moments, the driver said, “You know, you can put down your sack now.”
“Oh, that’s alright. You’ve been awfully kind to give me a ride. I’ll do my part by carrying this.”
All the while, Someone is waiting to lighten our load and lift our burdens, enabling us to reach our goals, live our dreams, and fulfill our destiny.
Perhaps we could stand to say, “Pick me up, please” a little more often.
It wasn’t a plan. It wasn’t actually even something I really wanted to do at first. More than anything, it was necessary at the time.
I enjoy being a mom. I enjoy teaching my kids. In fact, I had every intention of educating them at home. After all, my mom had done it, why couldn’t I? There are all kinds of pros for home education, such as being able to teach your children according to their particular learning style, recognizing their talents and proclivities in order to help them build stronger skills in those areas, being able to spend more time focusing on areas that need a bit more attention, and many more!
I never had much practice in early childhood education. I felt that those who teach younger children need a certain skill set that I personally lacked—an enthusiastic and playful nature. Once they reached a certain age, I was confident in my ability to teach. I was privileged to have friends and other experienced mothers who spent a lot of time with my daughter during that “early education” stage. They gave me flash cards, fact cards, math dots and storybooks; they referred me to some great educational websites; they taught my daughter songs and verses.
It was August of 2010 and my daughter, Jessica, had reached the stage that I was actually comfortable in teaching. She was in the middle of second grade, and was doing remarkably well. Then everything changed. We had been in the planning-to-move-across-the-world stage, planning to make the big step in November, when we were suddenly—and somewhat rudely—informed that my husband’s visa would not be granted, because I was not living and settled in my home country.
“Moving as a family sometime at the end of the year” rapidly changed to “moving with my kids as soon as possible”. Once we arrived in the States, it was necessary for me to gather as much “proof” as I could of the fact that I was here to stay.
The plan was, in fact, conceptualized on the way from the airport to my parent’s house, as my dad drove and I began to doze after a 28-hour journey without sleep. He mentioned that my sister was very happy with the school she sent her kids to, and that he would be happy to cover the tuition fees for that first year for my daughter to attend. My first reaction was, “No, Dad. We couldn’t ask that of you.”
A few days later, I met my sister and she told me also how great the school was. My dad repeated his offer and we met the teacher and principal of the school. Within two weeks of arriving in the States, my daughter was enrolled at Faith Baptist Academy, and we had our first “proof” towards my husband being able to join us. In the meantime, my father drove her to school on his way to work. My sister looked after her in the afternoons until my dad was able to pick her up in the evenings.
My husband was able to join us within two months, and Jessica’s education at FBA continued.
Yesterday evening was the school’s awards ceremony. My daughter had been sick pretty much the whole last week of school and barely finished her last test on the last day, a few hours before the ceremony. I wasn’t exactly expecting what took place, nor was my daughter.
She was actually quite embarrassed and reluctant to step forward time and again to receive certificates for the highest scores in nearly every subject, and the highest GPA in the school. I kept having to encourage her to go up, whispering to her to please smile, and assuring her that it was almost over.
At the end of the ceremony, a few friends and acquaintances came up to congratulate my husband and me, as parents, mentioning that we must be proud of our daughter and that we must be great parents. All I could think of was: it really wasn’t us.
It was my dad, who made it possible for her to attend.
It was my sister, who took care of her so many afternoons, on top of taking care of her own kids.
It was my friends and co-workers from India who spent so much time teaching her from the time she was just a baby.
It was the great and inspired teachers at the Academy who pour their time and effort into every child who attends, and has attended, that school.
And it was Jessica, who woke up early every school morning, overcame her timidity at meeting new people, learned the new study skills needed, and applied herself to keep plodding along until the year was done.
Most of all, it was God, Who gives gifts and talents to everyone, as unique and varied as each individual is. Some children might “walk away” with awards; some might not receive even a tiny bit of recognition, but each one is special and gifted in His sight, created for a unique and divine purpose. Our task, as parents, is to encourage our children, love them, pour into them as much as we can, and be open to new opportunities, even if it isn’t what we originally had in mind for them. Who knows? It could be something even better.
(Photo taken by Joel Rockey)