So maybe this is a good indication of how many times I have to “check” myself as a mama, but every week or so I like to unburden myself of the times I’ve gone a little awry.
Last week was sort of a crazy week. We were displaced from our house for five days. We spent a couple in a hotel and a couple with some friends who were gracious enough to host us. In summary, we did not have our usual routine and we were around other kiddies, a lot.
At the end of the week I was so weary. I love my house. I love to be at my house. Fine, I admit it. I’m a homebody. I actually schedule days in our week where we don’t have anything. Like, at the beginning of every week I look to see what’s already scheduled and map out two days to stay home. That doesn’t mean we stay inside our house, but it does seem to balance the fun of motherhood [playdates, going to the park, shopping (even if it’s groceries, I’m weird)] with the responsibilities I have to my family [a clean house, clean clothes, a sane mama]. So to be away from my house for a week kind of stressed me out.
And it brought about a realization. And I think it’s one a lot of other mamas share with me. I have a problem; it’s kind of a secret. I am a comparer. I don’t want to do it. I know it’s wrong. I’m not a Judgey McJudgerson. I’m not looking at anyone else and saying what they’re doing is right or wrong. I’m… noticing [and worrying about my kids]. For example:
A few weeks ago we had our Parents As Teachers (PATs) evaluation for Lucy. I was nervous because Landon had his last month and landed in the “Needs Improvement” column on kind of everything. Physically, he doesn’t want to walk yet. Communication-wise he prefers a good grunt over a “mama”-yell. You name it and [according to the evaluative tool being used] he was lacking. So I started to think of Lucy at that age [comparing]. I started to think of the other kids his age we know. Counting up how many are walking. How many are talking. When they started to show their skills. [comparing]. I started to question what I was doing as a mom to cause him to fail [because really, it felt like I was the one being given the “Needs Improvement”.] Am I not pushing him to walk enough? Should I spend hours in his face saying words so he can watch my lips move? Should I read to him more? I’ve read the parenting books, I need to get on this. Right?! No. No, Beth. As Lucy says, “Chill out!”
So I was trying to relax about Lucy’s test. My kids are healthy. They’re happy. They’re safe. And they’re loved. We got this. So, willing myself not to be a pageant mom, I sat back and watched as our [amazing] PATs helper asked Lucy questions, had her stand on one leg, listened to her pronunciation, drew shapes with her. Lucy nailed it. She really did. She was “Above Average” across the board. So I asked her teacher if I was doing something wrong to have one child succeed so much and one so challenged [man, does this read selfish or what (me, me, me)]. And Kris, our PATs helper, was so sweet when she answered with a gentle, “no”. Kids are different. Kids do things in their own time. And I know that. I need to own that. I need to relax.
So the next time we have a playdate and Lucy’s friend knows all of her shapes and colors [Lucy calls everything blue. Colors, shapes, doesn’t matter. The answer is blue.] I need to be okay with that. And that’s where God’s grace came in this week. I’ve been reading “The Mission of Motherhood” by Sally Clarkson. What a perspective-changer. Motherhood isn’t about raising the smartest, best mannered, most popular kids. My kids aren’t a challenge to overcome; they’re God’s children and my greatest task is to lead them to Him.
Mrs. Clarkson said on motherhood, “Now most of the time I stay home. I spend a great deal of time doing things that will need to be done over and over again -washing clothes, cooking meals, cleaning messes, correcting attitudes, teaching, and training- over and over and over again….I have given up my personal rights to the priority of addressing my children’s needs first. When we choose to sacrifice our own goals and desires to serve our children, we, too, are furthering his eternal work. We know that, through our labor and love, over time he will faithfully build our children into a righteous heritage.”
So she says, “If we focus on intellect, social status, or wealth, it’s almost certain that we will eventually feel we don’t quite measure up. How comforting it is, then, to realize that the goals God has called us to as parents are accomplishable. Any parent in any station of life has the ability to reach his or her child’s heart for Christ and his purposes. All that God requires from any of us is a desire to serve him and a trust that he can make up the difference for the things we lack. The Lord would have us know that he is the one ultimately in charge of our children. He will use our willingness and our efforts, then fill in the gaps of our inadequacies, to prepare their hearts for what he has in mind.”
What a relief. God knows my weaknesses. He’s got this. When I embrace motherhood. When I shift my efforts from trying to figure out if my kids are on the right track- if they’re measuring up to eachother and everyone else- to just loving them and leading them to Him. Spending my efforts on being the kind of servant that I want them to be. Showing them patience, loving them unconditionally, and having right responses to the surprises life brings.
I’ll end with a quote from the book, one the author’s son said to her during an ’emotional crisis’: “Mom, when you are happy and content and easygoing with life, even if it’s not all perfect, we feel good. We don’t need everything to be perfect; we just want you to be happy. But when you start feeling like a failure and overwhelmed with life, it makes us feel guilty, as though it’s our fault and that we haven’t done enough. We feel like we have disappointed you!”