This past Sunday, my eldest child turned 7. She is smart, beautiful, caring, and compassionate. She wants to be a teacher because she loves being in charge. Oh and helping people too, I’m sure. She sings and sings and sings, and she is over the moon for both the guitar her Papaw got for her birthday and the forthcoming piano lessons he promised. She loves the spotlight and people cheering for her. She also recognizes how good that feels and wants to share it with others. She dotes on her brothers and regularly encourages them when they do something well. She looks out for peers who are loners or outcasts and deliberately engages them and tries to make them feel special. She refers to the special needs class at her school as “those kids who are really just like us but sometimes need a little help.” She sees people for their potential for good. This child is gifted and called by her Creator, and good heavens I feel so unprepared to be her mother.
But here I am, her mother.
I admit, I don’t have it all together. All 3 of my children remind me every day how much I don’t have it together. But I have learned a thing or two in the last 7 years of officially being a mom. So, to honor my Princess’s 7th birthday, I give you:
1. How much detailed information I could actually retain while simultaneously not remembering anything. You know, the way I remember the exact dosage each child can have of Infant’s/Children’s Tylenol based on their weight at the last well-check (thank you, Tylenol, for combining these into the same concentration for infants and children!), but I can’t remember how many ounces are in a cup. Or how I know exactly when each child pooped last, but I can’t remember when I last showered.
2. Poop can be projectile. Yeah, non-parents, you heard me. All the parents out there are laughing at the non-parents for their horror at this fact. This was one of my first lessons as a new mom. The day we brought Princess home from the hospital, my in-laws came for a visit. Hubs was showing Grandma the nursery, and Papaw watched while I changed my first diaper at home. Little did I know, as I gently lifted her legs to wipe her with a freshly-warmed wipe from the warmer (that thing got tossed before child #3 ever saw daylight), the pressure on her belly triggered a violent reaction that literally sprayed poop all over my shirt like a squirt gun. I dropped her legs, and my first instinct was to rip my poopy shirt off right there! I got about to the top of the full-panel maternity pants I was still wearing (and continued to wear for 5 or 6 months) when I remembered my father-in-law was standing right next to me. Thankfully he found all this to be hilarious and kept an eye on the poop-gun while I ran to the bedroom and changed.
3. How much of my life would revolve around poop. Meconium. Little yellow seeds. Pea soup. Baby food poop. Teething poop. Diarrhea. Constipation. Chronic constipation. Glycerin suppositories. Manually pulling out poop that gets stuck. (Yep, done it more than once. Those last 4 may be related…) Potty training. Oh the potty training!!!! Trying to remember when everyone pooped last and who needs how much Miralax today. Then I get pregnant again and I have to add myself in that mix… Seriously, guys. POOP IS LIFE.
4. Having a child just like me is actually quite terrifying. My daughter is totally a better person than I am, and I thank her wonderful father for that. But in a lot of ways she is just like me. I thought that would be so cool, to have a little mini-me, but it’s actually scary as heck. All the problems I struggled with, insecurities I took years to overcome (and some I’m still working on), the hard lessons that were so painful to learn… I get to watch all that roll out in third person. The difference is that I know the outcome, and in hindsight I know the solution, but I can’t do anything about it. She has to walk that road for herself, and as beautiful as her little life is, watching your kid go through hard stuff is WAY harder than going through it yourself.
5. How selfish I really am. I wish I could tell you that I’m the kind of mom who had kids and turned into this domestic diva whose world revolved around the children. Really, I do. If you are that mom, I so admire you. But the truth is, I’m not. I’m a stay-at-home mom who sends my kids to preschool for the mental break. When they are home, I
once occasionally sometimes often lock myself in the bathroom and pretend to be pooping so I can be alone for a few minutes. The kids are used to all the poop in our life; they just accept it. I catch myself looking at Facebook instead of listening to my kids. I turn on the TV when I don’t feel like playing. I don’t always make the kids brush their teeth before bed when I’m too tired to deal. I forget to read to them. (Is 20 minutes a week okay?) I forget our family devotions. I yell. Marriage and parenthood have both taught me more about Christ’s love than anything else ever could… including my dire need for it.
6. How little control I actually have. As in, like, NONE. That helpless feeling when your baby is crying and you don’t know what is wrong. When they are sick and can’t take medicine or blow their own nose. When you witness kindergarten injustice and can’t fix it for them. When you get that diagnosis, or that bad news, or that lost promise. If there is one thing I have learned through 9 1/2 years of marriage, 8+ years of ministry, 7 years of motherhood and 6 children, it is that I am not in control. At first that is so scary. We spend 9 months of pregnancy (or years of trying and waiting) preparing to be the perfect parent, then when we get there it’s like this punch in the gut: you don’t actually know what you’re doing! But with years of experience also comes acceptance and even rejoicing. I am all too aware of my propensity to mess things up. In fact, just about every time I take the reins and try to make something happen or work on my own terms, I fail. FREEDOM comes when I realize that I don’t have control, but I know who does. Parenting has caused me to rely on Jesus literally every day, because I honestly have no other choice.
7. Stewardship matters. When my father walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, the preacher asked the standard, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” My dad’s answer was far from standard though. He explained (as we all cried) that I was never his to give away; I have always belonged to the Lord, and he and my mom just tried to be good stewards. That tear-jerker wedding statement became the center of my parenting: these children belong to the Lord, and I am just a steward. I have written before about Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and how important it is to wisely care for that which has been entrusted to us. How much more so must we care for the children in our homes! Those tiny humans won’t always be tiny; in fact, one day we’ll blink and they’ll be moving out on their own. My job right now is to prepare them for that day. Every day matters. Every choice matters. Thank God his grace is sufficient to cover our shortcomings! But we have to keep looking to Him for the wisdom and discernment we need. Because when we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ve got to admit we can’t do it alone.
This list is obviously not exhaustive. I couldn’t contain in a week of chatting (and my friends know I can chat) all the miraculous, frightening, hilarious, wild things I have learned in 7 years of parenthood. I am so thankful for a wonderful husband and amazing children to make the journey more enjoyable. What would you add to the list? Share in the comments! I would love to hear from you.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!