Saturday, May 25, 2013

True Mom Confessions

The other day I stumbled upon this website:  It's a place where you can leave comments, or confessions, anonymously about your motherhood experiences.  Because they are completely anonymous, people feel free to be honest without fearing judgment or negative repercussions.  As I read the first few, I have to admit I giggled to myself and nodded in agreement.  But then, as I continued to read, I began to feel more than a little disturbed.  Here are just some of those "confessions":

"Everyone is always impressed that my four-year-old can read.  Honestly, he taught himself because I'm too busy to play with him.  But, I take all the credit."

"She's potty trained, but I put her in a pull-up when she wears a snow suit.  I'm that lazy."

"I get ridiculously excited to do our taxes every year.  It's the only thing my MBA has proved useful for as a stay at home mom."

Now, I'll be the first one to say that parenting is HARD.  I can easily relate to the woman who posted that she joined a gym just for the free childcare so she could read magazines and blogs in the locker room in peace.  Or the one who fantasized about dropping her son off at the lost-children sign in the mall and pretending he wasn't hers.  I get it.

There is something to be said for being real and not pretending every moment spent with your kids is fabulous.  Because, let's face it, it's not.  We are raising tiny neanderthals who think the world revolves around them and training them one exhausting minute at a time to become productive, responsible adults who hopefully also love and serve Jesus.  It's no easy task.

However, I feel like we are caught in a trend of mommy martyrdom.  As if the world and our children owe us something for bearing and taking care of them.  We act like they get in the way of us pursuing our dreams, having "me time", or romantic encounters with our husbands.  We start treating them with contempt.  I hear it from the mouths of mothers every day in stores, parks, moms' groups and yes, even from my own.  That annoyed, irritated tone which conveys to a child that they are an interruption and your (fill in the blank) is more important than they are.  I'm not saying we should indulge our kids by giving into every request, or that play time by themselves isn't important.  They should learn how to delay gratification.  But our attitude seriously needs to change.  This is the under current running through all of the confessions I quoted above and countless others on  

Long after they've lost interest in all those childhood toys and had fun on all those great family trips, they will remember our attitudes towards them.  Did we treat him like a nuisance, or like the blessing God gave to us?  Did we act annoyed when she made messes or mistakes, or extend her grace?  Were they burdened with the expectations we placed on them and our despondency over our supposed mundane role as mothers, or were they delighted in and celebrated for being exactly who God created them to be?

Mothering is an opportunity for us to participate in the miracle of shaping small human beings with no regard for personal space, no awareness of social cues and hearts bent on evil into reasoning, rational, emotionally and spiritually healthy men and women.  It is our calling to shepherd our children's hearts toward Jesus in all of the seemingly monotonous, irritating "distractions" throughout the day.  He refines us too, in the process.  When we confess those longings, frustrations and regrets to Him and lay them down at His feet, we can parent with grace and humility, and perhaps even enjoy the children we have been entrusted to raise, instead of simply enduring the daily drudgery of cleaning up messes, changing diapers and breaking up fights.      

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Not "Just" A Mom

This year on Mother's Day, I didn't get breakfast in bed.  Instead, I got my preschooler snuggling into bed with me and my husband at 6:45 that morning.  As I kissed his cheek and put my arm around him, he said "Happy Mother's Day!" and told me excitedly that he had made a card for me the night before with Daddy's help.  This past Sunday, I didn't get pampered.  Instead, I got a huge smile from my daughter that was meant only for me as I lifted her out of the crib.  There was no parade held in my honor, no declarations about how much I do for our family. Just quiet undertones of recognition from my children, found in their giggles, laughter and hugs.  Gentle reminders that I am blessed to be not just a mom, but their mom.

Two days before, I attended a Mother's Day Tea at my son's school.  The children sang songs and we were treated to a special snack that they helped make.  Then all the moms were invited to take a look at the bulletin board in the back of the room, where the teacher had written what each child appreciated about their mom the most on construction paper flowers.  Colton's read "She plays and does games with me".  He could have chosen a million different things to say, but that's what stuck out in his mind the most.  It was an acknowledgment of the time and energy I invest in him daily.  When it's not convenient.  When I am exhausted.  When no one else sees.  When it seems fruitless.  

Rachel Janokovic wrote a post at Desiring God Ministries about motherhood that resonated with me:

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.
Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.
"Objects of cultural dislike" seems pretty harsh at first, until you consider that the abortion industry has now wiped out 1/4 of an entire generation of Americans and that society pushes more and more for children to grow up faster through media, education and clothing.  Kids' childhoods are being diminished and even obliterated today in the name of progress.

There are many days that I wonder if what I'm doing really makes any difference at all.  Sometimes all those menial, monotonous tasks and hours spent in child's play don't appear to have lasting value.  They might not seem like much to the world, but I know that they matter greatly to at least two people.  Two beautiful, precious kids that God has given me to mother.  I'm not just someone who feeds and clothes them, does their laundry and shuttles them around from one activity to another.  I am someone who invests in their lives and raises them to be contributing members of society.

And that is not just something.  It is everything.

Two of the best reasons I love being a mom.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a mother.  And a mother to a daughter, in particular.  Don't get me wrong; I LOVE my son.  I even love the fact that he is all boy.  However, being a girly-girl myself growing up with a sister and being raised by a single mom, it is definitely a stretch for me to parent a child that has a Y chromosome.  He usually wants to do some high energy activity involving bad guys vs. good guys, or monsters, or any combination of cars/trains/trucks when I'm at the pace of sitting down to color.  He will have none of it though, and that's okay because he's his own person and has blessed and challenged me in a million different ways...

But this post is about his sister.  Mostly because I don't want to miss this glorious, innocent stage of her childhood before she becomes a drama queen that has more time for boy-bands and keeping up with the latest fashion trends than she does her mama.  When I found out we were having a girl in the spring of 2011, I wept tears of joy.  I had convinced myself that I was carrying another boy and made peace with that, so when the ultrasound technician told us she couldn't find any obvious, um, boy parts I was in a little bit of shock.  The tech also told us this daughter of ours was going to give us a run for our money because of the way she was moving around so much.

And give us a run for our money she did.  After the initial two week stint of sleeping and eating like a dream, Rory kind of realized she was now living outside of the womb and put up one heck of a fight.  She wouldn't nap anywhere but in her swing, or sleep at night for more than two hours at a time.  The crying was almost unbearable.  At her two week appointment, she had already developed thrush and was diagnosed with an umbilical hernia that eventually went away on its own.  She started a weird pattern of throwing up her bottles that usually lasted about 24 hours each time.  Every 4 to 6 weeks on average, she began another cycle which had us switching from milk-based to soy formula and then back again.  At two months she got her first cold that lasted for 8 weeks, resulting in conjunctivitis, a double ear infection and an upper respiratory infection.  And oh my, was she clingy.  I couldn't even pull the shower curtain closed to take a shower without her having a meltdown.  She also pooped no less than 8 to 10 times a day, necessitating in a full outfit change.  Every. Single. Time.

I was seriously beginning to wonder if I had fallen victim to the saying "be careful what you wish for".  I loved  my daughter, but to be perfectly blunt, if she had been our first I'm not sure there would have been a second.

And then she started sleeping through the night.  Only after three nights of letting her cry it out, of course.  Her mysterious bouts of vomiting became less frequent.  She began reaching all those important milestones that made her transform from a helpless baby to a little person with a personality.

Today at 19 months, she is a tenacious toddler with the desire to explore everything and a smile that could melt your heart.  Somewhere in between baby and child, she still has that "brand new" smell that I want to bottle up and store forever.  She still has those soft, baby fat arms and legs that you just want to squeeze.  And don't get me started on those cheeks!

I love that her hair is long enough now to pull back in tiny, colorful elastic rubber bands that come in a package of 500 because of how easily they break.  I love the swishing sound that she makes as she runs because her bottom is still diapered.  The impish grin she gives me as she's about to do something she knows she isn't supposed to.  The way she copies everything her older brother does.

I find myself wanting to savor her each night before putting her down to sleep.  Because I know she is our last child. Because she's my daughter, planned and prayed for.  Loved unconditionally, just as my Heavenly Father loves me.  There is no doubt she is one of the greatest gifts I have received from Him, and I hope that she knows how valuable she is to us and to Jesus.

"You're a little piece of Heaven, you're a golden ray of light, and I wish I could protect you from the worries of this life.  But if there's one thing I can tell you, it's no matter what you do, hold to Jesus- He's holding onto you."  Hold Onto Jesus by Erin O'Donnell