It seems kind of like cheating to write a blog about “Five Ways I’m Nailing Motherhood” (the prompt over at Mrs. Disciple today) when my kids are grown. Hindsight can make all kinds of things look better.
Also, though, hindsight can give insight into the ways I changed as a mom, and maybe, it can help those who are in the trenches daily. So, rather than five ways I completely nailed being a parent (as if), here are five things I learned and grew into as a parent. By kid three, hey, I had it down. Sort of. (Yeah, right.)
And by the way, I’m going to save the best one for last. Just in case you want to stop reading. Call it just one more thing I learned as a mom. (And as a high school teacher.)
1. I moved from thinking I had to police my children’s outsides to knowing I had to guide their insides.
My Personal Warning Label: Recovering Perfectionist. Handle with Care. Liable to attempt to fix your life or rearrange you dishwasher unless restrained.
I carried that label without the caveat of “recovering” for a long time. As a young mom, I valued what other people thought. A lot. Waaaay too much. (My kids took total advantage of this. Kids can manipulate better than Donald Trump when they see an opening.)
Because I cared so much, I wanted perfect little girls who could recite Bible verses on cue (more than your kid could), got stellar grades, and never even considered pitching a fit when they could not have Choco Tacos at the grocery store. Never.
God did not give me those children.
It came as quite a shocker when I made the discovery that I could not, in fact, control my children into perfection. I could not control them into anything. God didn’t give me controllable kids; he gave me the same kind of kids he chose to have—ones with free wills and individual hearts that could be shaped and molded by love but not by coercion.
I had to make it my job to teach them to love Jesus more than to obey rules.
I had to let go of caring what others thought. You can’t care about what others think and still prioritize guiding their hearts. It’s crazy- making. Guiding hearts is messy, slow work, while creating perfect behavior for others is fairly easy. Also very dangerous. It is much messier down the road. Trust me on this.
I would rather have kids that love Jesus and people than kids who look good in the Christian comparison parade.
I had to learn that. I hope you embrace it now.
2. I moved from talking to them about being good Christians to living like Christ.
I am a preacher. I preach a lot. I like it. I can, if I’m not careful, give my kids plenty of sermons.
My kids do not need sermons. They need a living object lesson. Me.
I talked plenty about obeying God and being kind and loving you neighbor. (Unless he was weird and scary.) It wasn’t until they saw me have to decide if I meant those things that it stuck. (Fyi, not loving weird and scary people is definitely a sign of NOT meaning it.) I got caught up in teaching the truth more than living it.
Living it was hard with three little kids. Where was the time to volunteer to help someone? Where was the assurance that we would not have to sacrifice if we really DID some of those things? There wasn’t any. That was the point. All the talk in the world didn’t amount to much. Small areas of sacrifice, kindness, and moving out regardless of fear amount to a mountain of truth without words being necessary.
3. I moved from giving my children things to giving them life experiences.
We never had a ton of money, but I loved showering our kids with Christmas presents. Giving means a lot to me, and being able to give felt good. What didn’t feel good was the frenzied need we developed to go from one thing to another, from toy to game to craft kit, just doing and not caring. It didn’t feel good to be inundated with more stuff than one play room could comfortably handle, despite the giant toy box my husband made himself. Our house is not big. Our ability to handle overstimulation is even smaller.
Then we went on a mission trip. And another one. We started toning down on the things. Taking classes together. Going on expeditions and volunteering together. Also,the travel bug bit us all. Hard. Every one of our kid would prefer to travel somewhere they’ve never been over almost any “thing” they could get. (Although I suspect they would take new cars. And computers. They are now old enough to know things do come in handy when you have to pay for them yourself.)
It doesn’t get any better than raising kids who want to be with you when they are grown up.
Do life together—don’t do things side by side.
4. I moved from being a perfect mom to being a normal human.
I did not have to keep up a front for my kids. I did not have to pretend I always had it together. I did not have to prove I was always right. To this day, I struggle to apologize and admit I’m wrong. Why? Kids know. They are pretty smart little creatures. They know when we’re not being straight. But when mom puts up a fake image like that? It makes kids believe that negative feelings are bad and not to be discussed. I was raised like that. I never intended to repeat it. But I did.
It’s OK to let them see that I don’t know the answer. I make mistakes. I (gasp) sin! I didn’t realize that I was putting my girls in a prison of perfection just as surely as I had been put into one by refusing to admit that hurt, anger, and forgiveness were holy subjects to talk about and respect. We’re a work in progress on this one.
Hurt, anger, and forgiveness are holy subjects to talk about and respect.
5. I moved from thinking my job was to protect my children to believing it is my job to release them.
This is so hard. From the moment that little slimy kiddo lands on your chest, you would die for your child. You would almost certainly kill for her, too. God gave us momma love for a reason. But it gets a little out of hand, right?
I kept my kids from everything I could think of that might harm them. Bad language? Check. Violence? Check. Bullies and school shootings and too much high fructose corn syrup? Triple check. There is family lore that I would not allow them to watch Arthur because the siblings in it fought too much. (Our girls grew up rarely fighting so, hey, who are they to say my highly arbitrary gatekeeping wasn’t responsible? But seriously, Arthur?)
Overprotecting kid teaches them a few things. Things like: You are not strong enough to handle this yourself. The world is scary and the best you can do is wall it off. You don’t have the judgment to choose between what is good and what is bad when things try to enter your heart and mind. You see where this is going, right?
The fact is, it’s God’s job to protect our kids. It’s my job to make them disciples that will batter the gates of hell in this world. This is not safe. It is not for the faint of heart. It is scary as hell itself. But it is my job.
That’s the most important thing I’ve learned about nailing parenting. I have to leave it to the Ultimate Parent who knows the plans he has for my kids and can be trusted to accomplish them. Accomplishing them will almost always mean risk. For them or for me. I have to be OK with that.
Nailing motherhood? It’s a moving target. It’s a good thing we have years to hone our skills.