When Mr. K and I became parents for the first time, no amount of reading, talking and planning prepared us for the life-changing experience of having a child. I loved everything about being a new mom but it was the most demanding job I ever had. My faith, patience, and stamina were tested daily and relentlessly. I remember saying over and over again, “Am I doing this right?!” Each time I figured out potty training, bed time routines, or discipline techniques, a new phase would come along with each child and I felt like I was learning how to parent all over again.
God met with me early in the mornings during my prayer time to give me wisdom. God encouraged me in the middle of the night when I changed and fed my babies. We had frequent meetings in the bathroom where I shut myself in to have a minute to think and breathe and pray, “Jesus, help me!” until little fingers wiggled under the door and little voices said “Mommy are you in there?” And He did help me.
Little by little my exhausted self-consciousness was chipped away and what remained was a single-minded focus: parenting with a purpose. Each day I worked on teaching the kids how to resolve conflicts, to speak kindly and work together with patience and love. I stopped thinking so much about “am I doing this right” to “how am I going to teach the kids good character?” It was a subtle but tremendously important shift in my perspective and this is what I learned. Time has a way of moving forward whether we are ready or not. Kids grow into adults with or without our best effort, and there is no guarantee of how they will turn out. Being a mom is a responsibility that needs lots of help and prayer and grace.
I hope God meets you where you are, in the chaos or the quiet of your home. He has words of wisdom and encouragement for you. This time will pass. There is no better mom than YOU for your child, so be brave! Have faith! All will be well!
This is a post I wrote a few years ago, but I wanted to re-post it as we will celebrate 30 years of marriage next month. Adult children are a blessing beyond anything I could have imagined when they were born. Praise God!
When our three kids were much younger, I got through the hard days by asking myself, “In twenty years what will it matter?” Well, Hubby and I have passed that 20-year mark on the life-long journey of parenting. Our two girls are in college and the little baby boy is 16 years old and 12 inches taller than me. We have passed through diapers, tantrums, and spilled milk at the dinner table. We are completely done with the heavy duty parenting of babies, toddlers, tweens… and almost done with teenage years. It is a great spot to look back and see how far we have come.
Obviously, the kids don’t know about the sleepless nights I spent feeding a newborn every 2 hours; the worry over fevers and finances; the loop in my fatigued brain saying, “Am I doing this right?” They remember an inflatable pool on our cement patio; donuts on Saturday mornings and wrestling with daddy before bedtime.
Now we look back at twenty years worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and realize there are no more bath nights and bedtime stories. The training wheels are done, tiny black tap shoes were sold at a garage sale and the tooth fairy will not visit anymore. They are having adventures on their own, but we still have a little more family time to treasure on our journey with our three young adults walking tall beside us.
When people earnestly say “It takes a village to raise a child,” I know they mean it. But their actions seem to change the sentiment into, “It takes a village to raise MY child.” It can be disheartening to hear entitled speeches and media posts filled with people living for themselves without a thought for their struggling neighbor.
I’ve been blessed to work with so many unselfish people over the years. Moms who work full-time yet still become president of the PTA. Men who coach soccer, baseball and football even when they don’t have a child on the team. People who work in service organization to support schools and donate countless volunteer hours to students. But there are many people who look to their own family and do only what serves their own children.
There are kids in our “village” who don’t have elders to help them. That is when neighbors, teachers, friends and other capable and kind adults can step in to say, “I will help you.” Very early on in our parenting, a wise mentor told Mr. K and I that if we were blessed to have our family, then we ought to see how we can bless other children who didn’t have our same network of support. Parenting is hard work. It becomes harder still when we feel isolated or overloaded with stress and that is when we need each other most.
Politics and policies don’t matter to children who need the help we can give them today. Be aware of what you can do with what you have for the people in your life right now – especially those who cannot help themselves. To paraphrase a famous quote, let’s not ask what our village can do for us, but what we can do for our village.
Early in my marriage I had exactly what I prayed for, a loving husband and three beautiful babies and yet I often cried in frustration. I was so fearful of making a mistake with the huge responsibility of raising three helpless children who depended on me for their survival and development. Was I going to damage these precious blessings with my impatience and stupidity? These thoughts really weighed on me and I felt I was not passing the Good Mother test. I prayed constantly and sought wisdom from the Bible and read every parenting book I could get my hands on. And you know what I discovered? Fear is a paralyzer.
Parenting out of fear creates reactions with uncertainty rather than actions with confidence. Whether we have parenting worries or financial problems or any other out-of-control feeling, fear makes us grasp at decisions in desperation rather than in confidence.
Once I let go of my frantic need to do EVERYTHING RIGHT ALL THE TIME, I had many choices for action. Confrontation with a loved one is an opportunity to connect. When I had a tantruming 2 year old, I learned to model patience, teach love, and show grace. Running away, even mentally, doesn’t help anyone. As much as I wanted to shut myself in my room, pull the covers over my head and eat cheese and crackers in bed (who does that?) I learned to face problems with faith and courage and the support of Mr. K. There is a solution to most every challenge though the best answer may not be an easy one.
Fear is a paralyzer, but faith is an energizer. Let go of what cannot be controlled and cast any anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). I’m still learning how to deal with fear, but when I look back on all that God has taught me and Mr. K by relying on Him through the trials of parenting, I see how I have grown in wisdom and faith. The kids have turned out pretty good, too.
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.