I remember one of my first aspirations as a child was to become a mom. I have vivid memories of carrying around my favorite baby doll, Baby Emily, so often that her hair fell off. My sweet grandmother (knowing how important Emily was to me) got her a wig. Emily was well worn and well-loved. She temporarily fulfilled some sort of longing in my soul; some deep, biological wiring that is in the heart of every mama.
I used to watch movies like, Parenthood and dreamt about my future with four children and a husband who went to work in the morning – his briefcase in hand, a quick kiss, and then he would return home in the evening just in time for a hot supper.
As an adult watching that movie, it’s clear this film is more about the reality and (sometimes struggle) of raising children, and less about the Pinterest perfect family. But, I didn’t see it that way – I just saw parents that loved their children fiercely. Somehow I missed the learning disabilities, parents struggling with pride, disappointments, unplanned pregnancies, and rocky marriages.
Someone wise once explained to me that when the Bible talks about pain in bringing forth children, it’s not just talking about the physical act of giving birth, but the entire experience.
It starts with chapped nipples, bottles, sleepless nights, and teething. Along the way, there will be hurt feelings, diagnosis’, and parent-teacher conferences. Then perhaps you end up with a prodigal child who, despite years of prayer, has made the choice to go their own way.
Somehow, I never grasped that I would be at this place of parenting – where my daughter (now 15) wouldn’t run out of the house when my car pulled up from work, and greet me with that precious 6-year-old smile; gums exposed because of her missing teeth. It felt as though things were much simpler then, much purer.
That was years before social media had left its invisible scars and the harsh reality that kids can be really mean to each other set in. It never crossed my mind that our relationship would be strained the way it is now. After all, nobody at my baby shower wrote in the pre-matted advice section about times such as these!
C.S. Lewis said:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.”
God in His grace has blessed me with two more children, 10 plus years, and 2 IVF rounds later. I’ve been given the gift of experiencing parenting through a more mature perspective. It is a reminder to slow down a bit and recognize these moments are fleeting.
I cling to memories being made; my four-year-old holding my one-year-old’s hand with such care and protection, as he learns to walk. I love watching them wake up with a new word or a new concept. I appreciate the cuddles and even the scraped knees, the preschool performances, and the mud puddles.
But, I know this time is short. One day they will begin the normal process of breaking away from Mom.
In the meantime, I relieve myself from carrying the burden of illusion. The illusion of how I thought this phase of parenting would go; the illusion of how I thought my 15-year-old’s life would look. The temptation to look around and compare myself to other mothers is a struggle every day. ‘This mom and daughter have a great relationship, this girl has a great group of friends who are all in the youth group’…and so on.
Maybe I could just try a little harder, do a little more, be a little more lenient, a little less lenient ….
However, I have come to the realization that while being a mom is a huge part of who I am, it doesn’t give me validation or righteousness.
My identity is not wrapped up in the way my children turn out.
This doesn’t mean I won’t pray like crazy, but it does mean I will leave the results up to Him. It does mean I can let go a little and put my faith into action and all things will be made beautiful in their time.
I do, however, think that my children could learn a thing or two from Baby Emily. I never remember her being unhappy or ungrateful, and she was always a great sleeper! Just ask her – I do know what I’m doing!