It seems that a lot of my posts lately have been about children… And well, that’s just where I’m at right now – in the thick of it with mothering. And loving it. Well, most days. :) But truly, being a mother is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.
I was laughing to myself the past few weeks, thinking of what real-life mothering actually is as opposed to merely thinking about it one day in the far future. And how having children erases any bit of pride in my conceps about child-rearing!!
Now, I think there is a LOT of good in thinking about having children and what you want your home to be like prior to being there. There’s got to be a vision, a goal to work toward, or else you’ll flounder. You have to know where you’re going so you can aim toward that direction. I’m a firm believer in having a purpose and vision for one’s family.
But what I was laughing about was my unrealistic expectations of my children. And how wrong I was to expect that of them, as well as other children [not just my own].
These are some of the ideals I was upholding, not even so long ago. I didn’t realize the adventure that children bring along with their little selves!
My Kids Will NEVER. . .
[taken from a journal entry on 8 October, 2008, wherein I only had one crawling child, and wherein I had several unwanted experieces with various children. These are all actual accounts. My own comments now are in parenthesis.]
1) Don’t EVER let children jump on someone else’s bed. We had [event] at our house a few weeks ago, and at the end when everyone had left I went through the house cleaning it up. When I got to our bedroom [OUR master bedroom], I was furious: just that afternoon I had washed the sheets on our bed, fluffed the featherbed and down comforter, and made the bed. [There are few simple pleasures in life better than a freshly laundered bed]. Those little kids had jumped all over our bed; flattening my hard-fluffed bed as flat as if I hadn’t washed them it in several weeks. Needless to say, that did not leave a good impression on me…
2) Definitely potty-train your children before 3.5-4 years old, so they don’t go around peeing on the kitchen floor of the [place away from home], and babies crawl around IN IT. This makes for very disgruntled mommies of those babies. And if your child would ever dare do such a thing, then by all means, clean up the puddle.
[Speaking of adventures with children, Olivia was born in the car under this Hampton Inn sign!]
3) If, at a ladies luncheon, there is a shortage of food, do not let your 3, 5, & 7 year olds repeatedly fill their plates and eat to the fullest, especially when the pregnant lady for whom the luncheon is in honor of [this wasn’t me; it was my friend] does not get enough of food, and when many of the ladies present have not even yet had firsts, much less seconds or thirds. [Most of the ladies went to Burger King after this because we were sooo hungry! Due not entirely to the unmannerly children, but also to the shortage of food by the caterers.]
4) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT allow your children to play in the church nursery at any time [especially not along during a church service]. Not to make 5 [F.I.V.E] trips back and forth for books which lie mere feet away from mothers trying to put babies to sleep [which was me] because the trips back and forth wake them up everytime they’re almost sleeping. Not after church, for even though the service is over, I guarantee you not many mothers want their child rudely awakened by “monkeys” [I was kind enough back them to write it in quotation marks that day] in the cribs all around them, lights on full blast.
[end of journal entry]
Along with these, I had visions of a perfectly clean house all the time. Really.
Really, what was I thinking??? If that is really my goal, that’s really shallow.
Because what does that offer God in eternity? “Well, God, yes I got frustrated at my children a lot because all they wanted to do was play and make a mess, but let me tell you, I KEPT A PERFECTLY CLEAN HOUSE.” When I think of it in those terms, really, an immaculate house isn’t the end goal. Yes, there are things that even children can learn about keeping things tidy, and I would like to blog about that one day in the future [about how to manage messies with small children – not that I’ve attained, but just talking out loud about tips that I’ve learned from other women in my short time of being a mother and what has really helped me]. But this time I’m blogging about letting go of unrealistic expectations.
What really gets me about my above journal entry, is that within TWO AND a HALF YEARS of writing that, my child[ren] has done points 1, 2, and 4 of the “My Kids Will NeVeR…” as well keep my house at a continual state of crumbs-on-the-floor.
I remember when Zoe was a baby, just beginning to feed herself easy finger-foods. I had placed her in her high chair and given her graham crackers while I was making dinner or busy with something. After a few minutes I checked up on her and was aghast to see cracker crumbs all over my hardwood floor!! Up until this point, crumbs rarely reached my floor. No kidding. But at that moment, I was struck between the eyes with the disturbing thought, “My house will never again be the same, until decades from now when there are no more children…” And that was a very true thought. Because since that day, crumbs of all kinds have perpetually been on my floor, regardless of whether I sweep or mop every day.
I remember when I was potty-training Zoe’, and she peed on the floor – not of our own house, which would at least have been better, but at the home of someone who had graciously invited us to supper. Not only that, but her little friend, a little younger and crawling, got all wet with her pee!!!! It was a deja’ vu of that instance not too long before [and the same poor little boy who crawled into both “accidents”!] and I saw my journal entry in my mind’s eye in bright red letters. Not that I had written it in bright red, but what I had written was haunting me. No, my child wasn’t 3 or 4, she wasn’t yet 2, but still, I had no control over the urine on the floor other than profusely apologizing to my friend and cleaning up the mess. I couldn’t control my child’s bladder!
And I’ve found my child playing in the nursery after church, much to my chagrin… Not just once, but several times [although I’m not aware that there were any sleeping babies at any point].
And just last week, on the way home from a friend’s house where quite a few ladies were working on a project for a widow’s banquet coming up, Zoe informed me that not only did she jump on the guest bed in the house [!!], but she did so after she was told not to by some of the other children [!!!!!]. Again, I saw red-letters somewhat mocking me, and the “perfect” children I was going to have…
I will say, there is definitely a difference between kids that are out-of-control, and kids that are just being kids. But I think that I’ve too quickly acted like, or thought that, children need to act like adults instead of simply being a child of 4 years old, or whatever the age is.
I’m not saying the children in the above examples are without excuse, and the model child that I would like for my children to emulate. These really are not what I want my children to be known for. So, while I TRY to train my children not to jump on beds, not to pee on the floor, not to be little pigs at other people’s dinners, and to play in areas other than the church nursery on Sunday mornings, there are also other things,
important things, to remember…
… that children don’t judge other people like we do. If they see a house with toys all over the floor, they don’t think, “What a lazy woman.” They think, “Oooooh, this looks like fun! Can I play too?”
… that some of the best memories of a young child’s life as in little, sometimes “messy” moments –
– like “houses” built with couch cushions and blankets [one my my FAVorite memories as a little girl, thanks, Mom!! I know I made an awful mess with only about 20 blankets =D], or houses out of large boxes
– or making dirt puddings outside, and climbing dirt hills in the yard before the flower beds are formed [even if they go ‘necked’ without asking, because if they ask the answer will surely be “no”
– or making chocolate chip cookies with flour everywhere…
I guess I’m seeing in me that the the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with messies for me can be a control issue. This is one little area of my life that I want to go exactly as I want, even if not many other areas of my life are turning out that way. So I’ve tried to control my children’s messes. I’ve tried to control my life, wanting my house to look as clean and messy-free as it did before children. Somewhere there’s fear involved in control issues too, I think… Fear of what so-and-so will say if they’d see my house looking like a hurricane blew through? Fear of being talked about [like I’ve heard some other moms talked about] who didn’t have every single toy picked up when Mrs. ______ stopped in unexpectedly? Not sure what all is involved in all these OCD tendencies…
But my heart has been experiencing new freedom as a mother the past few weeks. I’ve always enjoyed being a mother; my first baby was honestly not even an adjustment [although my second one was more so]. But now instead of just enjoying my role, I’m feeling empowered in my role. Not that I do everything perfectly – far from it. I apologize to my little daughters many times in the course of a week!
I guess I’m recognizing some of the lies that satan tries to tell women – that he’s tried to tell ME.
One of those lies being that a MOM [working mother, stay-at-home-mother, a housewife, a homemaker, a giver of life [physicially, spiritually, emotionally], a place of safety and refuge for her family, source of empowerment for her husband, a wear-of-many-hats [chef, laundress, housekeeper, landscaper, fashion designer (hey, all of us dress ourselves and our kids every day!), interior designer (and all of us do some form of taking care of our homes, though it varies in personal preference and style)]is worth less than a career woman, or a single missionary woman in China, or…. On and on satan’s lies accuse, until we are powerless to live the flourishing life that Jesus offers us…
Jesus says… “Do not live by a spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND…” He calls us to be empowered, to live passionately in all areas of our lives whether it be woman, wife, and/or mother. Listless, fearful, enslaved living is not part of His design for us!
This is not to discredit the very difficult times that God allows us to go through. I recognize, in my own life and in the lives of people around me, that there are incredibly difficult dark nights of the soul to walk through. I’m not saying that in those times we just have to grin and bear it.To flourish is not always to feel vivacious and alive. But true LIFE means JESUS… To hold onto Jesus even when it feels like everything around us is going wrong.
I did a study on the word “Hope” several weeks ago. I had been feeling so low emotionally, and honestly, was going into 2011 feeling like there was so little to look forward to. What was I going to hope for in this year, I wondered to myself? I’m a Type A personality that thrives on goals and lists and future events. This kind of personality has its strengths… and also its grave weaknesses.
So I pulled out the Strong’s concordance and researched every word used for hope. I didn’t realize that “Hope” was used to many times in the Bible. Over a hundred times.
And in every one of those hundred-plus times [except two, and those two were used to describe someone who is not a believer in God and how empty their hope is] the word “Hope” was talking about God Himself. I don’t feel like I can accurately describe all that went on in my heart after that study. But I realized that Life is God. And Hope is God. And God is Hope. And God is Life. If all we have left is God, we can still have Hope. In fact, that is really what Hope is. It’s so simple. It’s so hard to grasp.
Hope says, “God, I feel crushed by [life’s situation], and I want [particular thing/event/situation to happen/change], but even if it doesn’t, You still give meaning to my life. YOU ARE the meaning of my life.”
This has really hit home in my heart since that study. That God is my purpose, God is my Life, God is my Hope; even if I don’t know what the future holds for us, even if I’m at home with my children day after day. There is meaning! There is purpose to my days!
My heart rests in that knowledge. And I am a better wife and mother for it. More restful. More at peace with myself and God. More trustful of His sovereignty… And like all of life, I’m sure I will need to be reminded of this many times over in the course of a lifetime! So easy it is to forget what once felt like a thunderous truth…
Okay, so I started with “My Kids Will NeVeR…” and I end with… a thinking out-loud of what God has been doing. Not sure how that fits together, but there it is.
I wish for you today HOPE – that heart knowledge that God is enough… and more than enough… for today. For tomorrow. For ever.