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Posts Tagged ‘Mothering’

Being a Mom

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Is there anything better than being a mom?

Don’t get me wrong, there are those days when I shake my head and bury my head in my pillow, while asking the Almighty what on earth I was thinking IMG_2181those three nights when I only asked for a back rub.

Most of the time, I cannot believe how blessed I am to be called “mom” by my favorite three.

As I was chatting with a woman, pregnant with her first child, last week, I realized how much time has gone by, how many experiences I have had and shared, because I am mom.

From the moment I first was confirmed pregnant, to the first moves detected from within, to those first indicators that their exit was soon to take place.

From that first eye to eye investigation of each other, to the eye spy games, to the first time I got a stink eye from them.

From the rocking them to sleep, to wresting them back to bed for the umpteenth time, to trying to wrangle their sleepy heads awake on a school day.

From the stories read in cardboard books, to the stories shared in novels, to the stores shared on social media.

From the first attempts at latching, to the first solid foods, to the meals they have made for me.

From counting toes, to counting steps, to counting kilometers on a hike.

From first steps, to first bike rides, to first time behind the wheel.

From preschool, to kindergarten, to graduation.

From tears of joy, to tears of sorrow, and back again.

From prayers for their safe arrival, to prayers shared over meals, to prayers made in faith.

IMG_2182These three have changed my life, my trajectory, me in every conceivable way. They have made me softer, harder, more consistent, more flexible.

The stretch marks, across my tummy, were the first signs of the stretching that being a mom would require. They were the predictors of what would be required of me, for the rest of my life. I have been stretched in such a way, that I have been changed, marred, tattooed by mothering.IMG_2183Recently I was talking to a friend. She shared with me that it was an anniversary of the loss of her baby … her only baby. In an instant I had whispered “thank-you” to my God for the three that He has allowed me to spend life with.

It is easy to forget, it is easy to get so consumed by living, that we forget about the blessing of life, as a mom.

I remember well those (five) times when life within, ceased to continue to grow. I remember the heartache, I remember how it seemed as though the world stopped spinning.

Today, I choose to remember those (three) times, when life was birthed … and it seemed as though the world stopped spinning … because I became a mom.

 

 

 

 

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*Though written three years ago, Momma Guilt continues for this Momma … I bet it does for us all … and continues to the end of our Earthly lives.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was growing up. And this little girl had dreams, aspirations, hopes and goals for her future. She dreamed of one day getting married, having babies, and doing it all just like she has seen on TV.

Unfortunately, she was born in 1969, and the TV moms who she  had modeled for her … were perfect!

There was June Cleaver, who, other than the obscure name her son Beaver had … was perfect.

Then there was Marion Cunnigham, who was ALWAYS making homemade goodies, not only for HER kids, but for all their friends!

Then there was Clair Huxtable, she made the concept of working mom look so easy! And she even had her, always loving, obstetrician hubby, who did most of the cleaning and cooking!

Ah, and then Caroline Ingalls … that woman could fix a fence, mend a sock, and chase Laura all over the prairies, and still get an enormous homemade dinner on the table, with enough to feed the weary traveler!

And, finally, Jane Jetson … even in space-time animation June Cleaver lives … and in size 8 (I have worn size 8, by the way … it just had a ‘1’ in front of the ‘8’).

All of these women had the same things in common …

– they were all slim … I am green with envy

– they were all pretty … so much to aim for

– they all were perfectly accessorized … this is where my love of my (faux) pearls originated

– they always made their hubbys happy … sigh

– their kids always loved and appreciated them … momma guilt!

The other day, I found myself deep in the mires of MOMMA GUILT … ever been there, ladies?

It had been a busy week, with another busy week to come (and so on, and so on, and so on …). So, Saturday was full with a To Do list that had no hope of getting done.

While hubby was finishing up his sermon (because he had spent the week dealing with ‘immediate’ stuff), and hoping to get some yard work done, I was to take our son to a birthday party, and get a few errands completed.

I got very few of those errands done, as I decided to throw in ‘dress shopping’ … grrr! I had hoped that the few ounces I’ve lost would make that a more enjoyable process … NOT! I think what I would need to lose is the whole, freaking, left side of my body! But, I digress!

Then it was time to pick my son up from the party … and I was scrambling … because I was late … again!

When I got there I was pounced upon by son … ‘mom can so-and-so and I get together today?’ Now, I admit, I hate lack of planning, on a good day, but, when my To Do list is long, my brain cells cannot even begin to think about adding more to it! So, I said … ‘NO.’

And this is where momma guilt began … Not really, of course, because that is with me ALL the time! You see, I have this dream in my mind of getting the ‘Mom of the Year’ award … and I have had that annual award … on January 1, until 12:01am, when I blow it. But, I digress … again.

Lets just say the ride home was very quiet … and I felt it! When I did try to converse and soothe, I was met with ‘but Mom …’ And, my momma guilt let me feel the full weight of his sorrow. Not because his present sorrow was so valid, but because my momma guilt is so close to the surface for me when it comes to my son.

– I was home fully with my daughters … I started back to work before my son entered kindergarten.

– I taught my daughters how to cook, to sew, to read … my son, not so much.

– He is eleven, and I still haven’t taught him how to ride a bike 😦

– I have rarely gone on school field trips with him … his sisters … many!

– I rarely play any ball sports with him.

Wow! Can I wallow, or what? Suffice it to say, that on this particular day, EVERY violation, every failure, every fault I have ever made, in the life of my son, I remembered and felt. Also, suffice it to say, I threw my own pity party, lasting most of the entire day! And, my To Do list … not so much got done.

Once I had shed my guilt-ridden tears, went out on my own (that is the key … on my own) to get groceries, had a good dinner (thanks to the grocery store providing fresh bread and roast chicken), talked to my mom on the phone (I don’t need to tell her whats happening … just hearing her voice makes me feel better), and played a very neck-and-neck game of chess with my son … the day was seeming brighter.

It’s amazing how taking the time to see how his video game system works, and playing a game with him seems to help us to reconnect once again.

I know I will never get that elusive ‘Mom of the Year’ award, but the good night hug (that just about asphyxiated me), along with an eye to eye, ‘Mom, I love you so much,’ from my boy made my momma guilt fade …

Take that June Cleaver, Marion Cunningham, Caroline Ingalls, Clair Huxtable and yes, even you Jane Jetson!

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*although I wrote this three years ago, and my house of adolescents has become a household of teens and young adults, the same realization of what has past can hit me hard, and out of nowhere. The same level of learning continues for this, sometimes longing to be needed, mom.

He walked through my bedroom door,

my once little boy.

But as I watched him just brush his hair,

in my bathroom mirror,

 it hit me,

my youngest child

is no longer a baby.

And my heart sunk,

As I realized, that part of my life, so far, is past.

There is a sense of longing that comes as I realize that I am no longer a mom to ‘babies’ or even ‘children’. Oh, I am still a mom to minors, but my minors have all reached the edge of the abyss known as adolescence. And this edge is where I say farewell to a part of my life, that has been all-consumingly present for over eighteen years. My adolescent kids have all reached the stage of not needing me.

There are times (many) over the past eighteen years, when I would have given anything for them to need me less. I can so easily remember those ‘touched out’ days, those sleepless nights (they do still happen, but just when they get ready for bed, and they slam the bathroom door), those stomach virus weeks, when ‘the bucket’ would be transported from one sick kid to the next, and then around again, and again, and again.

I do love the parent-pre-teen/teen relationships. Truly that is what I was looking for when hubby and I decided that we wanted to have children. I feel so bad for our kids … as neither hubby or I are ‘baby people’. One would thinkg that our kids would have had one ‘nurturer’-parent. Honestly, when I see someone holding a newborn I just feel sorry for them (did I just say that out loud?), I mean, I am happy for them, but I know they are in the midst of a stressful time of life … and man, I’m glad it’s not me! To me, going through all of the stresses of babies and toddlers is worth it, if I get to, finally, live in a house with pre-teens and teens (and really, they are just like toddlers … they are just too heavy to pick up, place in their bed, and shut the door … same ‘hissy fits’, same growth spurts, same level of curiosity, and a beautiful sense of wonder … you just need to look harder for it). But, I digress …

Our youngest is almost twelve, and, although in private he will still hug me, and give and receive ‘I love you’s’, he is ‘moving on’ through the doorway to his teens, to be followed by adulthood. And, I have to say, it makes me feel a little sad, a little lonely, a lot … unneeded (and I need to feel needed).

For in this regard, his moving through that doorway signals the end of that, very defining, very demanding, very all-consuming part of MY life (and really, it is all about me). And I think I am needing to get my head wrapped around it!

The process of this ‘end’, of course began when mothering began … but it seemed so very  f a r  away. Then last summer, about half of our dinners together consisted of only hubby, the boy and me (as our daughters both have ‘gotten a life’). This was shocking to me! And, much of the time, one or two, or three of the kids were gone away overnight! My goodness … my nest is beginning to empty!

But, there is a flip side to all of this. This past year our family ‘adopted’ a local university student, who we fed, watched hockey games with and fed again (it is so gratifying to feed a ‘starving’ university student … they eat anything! And talk like you can cook like Jamie Oliver). And then we rented our suite to a delightful young lady, who we encouraged to join us for many mealtimes, for rides to church, for laughter and chats. And, last summer, our pool was frequently filled with the laughter of not just our kids, but many of our neighbors and friends. And dinners, well … truly it is feast or famine for numbers sitting at the table. Sometimes three, sometimes thirteen.

So, the dynamics of our life are changing. And, so I too need to learn to change … my expectations (and, frequently, my meal plans … at the last minute). I now have the privilege of ‘mothering’ others … who need a hug, a home-cooked meal … a house with a pool, on a hot day. It’s a new kind of being needed.

And, one day, that too will cause change, and adjustment, and introspection. And, if I am ever going to be wise, I will lean to accept the change, and seek within it a new kind of being needed … a new kind of wonder.

“Cause babies don’t keep, we’ve learned to our sorrow.”

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That season that many of us fear, dread and deny it’s existence is upon us. The season, of course, is swim suit season.

The thought of baring, normally covered up, skin, stretch marks and cellulite to the unassuming public is enough to force a woman to lock herself in a closet with a good quality dark chocolate.

A number of years ago I felt I had to confront my fear of baring almost everything about myself. I had two daughters, of seven and three, and a toddler son. We lived across the street from a public pool, and they could not go swimming unless I accompanied them.

Would my self consciousness concerning my body image keep my kids from the cool of the pool on a hot summers day? Would my stretch marked naval gazing keep me from fun with my kids in those precious young memory-making years?

I decided I would not be ‘that mom’ who would let her body image detract from meaningful experiences with her kids. I would purchase the first suit that would cover her well, and I would (literally) dive into summer with joyful abandon.

I was thrilled to read a post at http://www.incourage.me, just last week, by Lisa-Jo Baker, called, “You Are More Than Your Swimsuit.” I hope you enjoy it, and her challenge, as well.

“My kids officially smell of summer. And to me summer smells like sunscreen.

From the moment the gates of our community pool crank back open again, our kids will swim, dive, splash, lather, laugh, lick ice cream and live at the pool.

And I know for many of us, that is the exact same amount of time we will spend trying to hide, cover up, conceal, suck in, and disguise the very bodies that gave birth to these kids.

These bodies that stretched to accommodate sets of feet, brilliant heads and minds, beating hearts, and flexing limbs. These bodies that are round where some say they should be flat; soft where some say they should be hard; and full where many others are running on empty.

These bodies that are winsome and wise with their wrinkles that wink back at the world and share more inside jokes and delicious life experience than could possibly squeeze into the tiny, polka dot bikinis of our youth.

These bodies that are in the service of the King who sculpted them out of sinew and His own Spirit.

These bodies that bend low and pick up socks and broken hearts, wipe crumbs and tears and walk the long, lonely hall ways of two a.m. – rocking babies or waiting up for teens.

These bodies that are the sanctuary for tired kids and continue to carry them and all their hopes and dreams deep here under our rib cage. The place that aches when they smile; the place that spills over with wonder at all this eternity walking around with skin on.

These bodies with wrinkled hands from years of serving meals or making art or sewing or digging gardens and planting bulbs.

These bodies that have born children through our words or blogs or hundreds of hours spent mentoring the next generation or bringing babies home from broken places – all the incredible, miraculous ways our bodies mature and our hearts explode the limitations of skin and muscle.

These bodies that tell the story of miracle and wonder and wink from wide hips and wrinkled steps at the tiny life guards who don’t know yet that living life unguarded in the wide open expanse of opening your life up to others is the best way to be beautiful. They will grow into it. They will earn their own scars.

And we will be there modeling what brave looks like for them. Every step of the way into the deep end of the pool with miniature daughters clinging to our necks. Or with other wrinkled sisters who still swim on fearless. With joy off the diving board and loud laughter trying to out race our sons.

“You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dented body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

~Life-changing wisdom from Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches.

Let’s not hide this summer.

Let’s spend it all. Lavishly.

All this life we’ve been gifted with.

Let’s spend it down to the very last delicious drops of summer – because you are created for more. Much more than your swimsuit.”

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One of our kids was maxed out! You know, more assignments than time, more bills than money, more work than hours to rest. This child was down, discouraged and dreading the next day to come.

I was left feeling powerless. There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances. There was nothing I could do to tangibly assist with all that was needing to be done, without acting as a rescuer … and we all know that, that does not help long-term. There was nothing I could remember from all of those parenting books. I was feeling powerless, and yet I felt such a desire to lessen the load for this child.

So I did all that I could do.

I prayed.

I prayed that this child would sense God’s presence.

I prayed that this child would put all trust and faith in Him (because we all tend to grab the steering wheel of life at times).

I prayed that this child would find a way in the busyness of life to take a Sabbath rest (don’t we all need that reminder?).

And I prayed more specific things for this child.

And I prayed every day, multiple times a day. It seemed that the more I prayed, the more this child was in my consciousness to remember to pray.

And just a few days later, this child came home telling me stories … stories of answered prayers.

This child did not know that these stories were ones of answered prayer, until I shared that. But, this child did not know the weight of that reality like I did.

You see, I pray for my kids each and every day. Most days, I admit, I do so out of robotic habit. And most days it seems the answer is

“wait”

But, this time I prayed differently, I prayed out of the desperation of a mother’s heart. There was simply nothing I had any earthly power to do to change the circumstances, and so I bowed to the One who I knew was the ONLY one who loved this child more than I do. I humbled myself, and offered my child up to God, in desperation.

God’s answers do not always come this quickly, or this joyfully, but we do need to remember that, on our knees (physically, or mentally) is the best way to parent.

And the prayer offered in faith
will make the sick person well;
the Lord will raise them up.
If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

James 5:15

 

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Crying it Out

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“Mom, did you let any of us cry it out when we were young?”

There it was, a child to parent question, that can zip my lips faster than crazy glue.

It’s not the only one. There is also,

  • “did you have drug-free childbirth?”
  • “did you breastfeed all of your babies until they were one year (or two, or six)?
  • “how do you feel about circumcision?”
  • “did your kids watch TV as preschoolers?”
  • “did you get your kids immunized?”

My daughter’s question was a fair one, a reasonable one, after all she is a Psychology student, and numerous psychological theories deal with issues of nurture and attachment. But, I was not ready to talk about such theories … I am still, and may always, be living the motherly existence of being chased down by momma guilt.

Momma guilt is a most powerful, dark and destructive force. It can erase the ten good things a mother does with one newspaper article, one crime drama, one conversation with a mom who ‘did it all right’ and is currently wearing the coveted mother-of-the-year crown on her perfectly coiffed hair.

I wrote about Momma Guilt a couple of years ago, especially in regard to those perfect TV moms, that so many of us grew up with.

But, the TV moms of the past have been replaced by the scientific study, or the psychological theory about development and attachment (or the mom next door), and they are so convincing with their charts, their studies and their scientific process.

But what they tell us (and I still keep needing to remind myself) is what they know from their studies, their theories and their observations … today. The results tomorrow might just be different, they might point us to a very different direction.

They are also only telling us one side of the child nurture and rearing process … that of the child, not taking other circumstances into account, such as physical or mental health of the mother, familial circumstances and support (including the role of the daddy), family or cultural history.

The difficulty with being a mom is that no matter what investment we make into the lives of our children, we will indeed make mistakes, and some of them will be whoppers! We will say things, do things and make decisions that will result life-long effects in how our children see themselves, others and their place in this world. We will hurt them, we will make decisions that leave them deficit in areas, we will over-do things that will leave them ‘damaged.’

And, if that is all we consider about our roles as mothers, we will have enough momma guilt to carry our bodies six feet down.

But …

we do what we do, as moms,

with the greatest of intent.

with the most deep desire for success of our children.

with an immeasurable amount of love.

and we know, from the moment that we hold that perfect personification of our heart’s beat, that we simply are not qualified to do justice to our child.

but, that does not stop us from putting more effort into the task,

than we put into any other in our lifetimes.

Today, my three earthly children are speaking to me

each one has hugged, or been hugged by me

I am satisfied to say that today … just today, I am a successful mom,

no momma guilt needed.

And my answer to “Mom, did you let any of us cry it out when we were young?”

“I’ll let you know later … when you are a mom.”

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This is not Mother’s Day, but …

One day last week, while driving my son home, I mentioned something about a girl being pretty, and he quickly responded, “well if I thought she was, I wouldn’t tell you because you would take it too far and use it against me.”

And here it was, in one moment of a light-hearted conversation I was humbled … to tears. Now, normally I would have held it in, and my child would never know how his (or her) words ripped at my mother heart. This particular day, though, his words pulled the cork holding the waiting rapids back behind the dam, and all watery hell broke loose.

The salt water cascaded from my eyes, and in no time at all, they were leaking down past my neck … face forward, blurry eyes trying to focus on the road ahead.

Silence.

Then I could feel it … the shocked stare of the one whose quickly chosen words made the fatal blow.

As I put the van in park, the man-boy hand touched my arm …

“Mom, go ahead. You can say it.”

“Say what?” I just didn’t know what my lines were to be.

“Tell me that I was wrong to say that.”

“No. You are not a child, I cannot tell you what to say. But … your words, they hurt. They hurt so much, because … (ugly sob) because I love you kids more than (another ugly sob) more than anything, and if what you say is true, then I have blown my life’s calling, and I have hurt you more than your words have hurt me, and (ugly sob) and that is just not something I can bear knowing that I have done to you.”

The man-boy reached his arms around me, forcing my head onto his shoulders … as has been done so often, but in reverse.

“Mom, I didn’t mean it. I just didn’t think …”

And there, in a moment … my ‘baby’ was speaking words of comfort, words of love, words of strength into the momma who lives to do the same to him, for him … and who, like my son, says words I don’t really mean … and they have brought sadness, and sorrow and tears.

It might not have been a silly conversation about a girl. It might not have been with a son. It might not have been in the van …

but all moms could tell similar stories of hurtful words from their kids, and hurtful words spoken to their kids. We all have times when we “just didn’t think …”

Later I saw this video.

I hope that it speaks to you, encourages you, absorbs some of the guilt of inadequacies, and wipes the tears.

This is not Mother’s Day …

but this is for you, moms.

http://www.faithit.com/moms-kids-video-confession-touching/

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