Faith, Life, Parenting

Unable

 

9 Crimes

There have been times when I’ve sat on the beds of my young children and wept with frustration and angst at the impossibility of motherhood.

I have cried bitter tears about the enormity of my to-do list and my ineptitude at accomplishing simple tasks.  I’ve sobbed about the big and the little things; the things I’ve meant to do but haven’t; the people I’ve let down; the ways in which I am failing consistently, constantly, relentlessly.  When I’ve been too quick to anger and too harsh in my responses I have fallen broken-hearted on my pillow and cried hot, copious tears until my throat was hoarse and my eyes were swollen and my emotions were spent.

This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

From the physical process of becoming a mother onwards, this journey has been fraught with discomfort and difficulty.

The crushing discovery that my endlessly-breastfeeding baby was not gaining but losing weight; second-guessing every decision I had to make about supplementing, pumping, formula, etc; searching for answers which – when (or if) found – were never quite satisfactory…

The panicked, prickly adrenaline rush when racing to retrieve a tot from the edge of disaster; anxiety about setting and maintaining boundaries for adventurous little explorers without sacrificing their curious spirit nor damaging the maternal bond…

The exhaustion from a full and busy day that then spills into a long night with a sick child; weariness from dealing with other stages and problems that seem interminable and unsolveable…

The heavy burden of guilt – when impatience has become the standard response; when care and prayer haven’t yet yielded solutions to a parenting dilemma; when ‘at the end of my tether’ has become a habitual destination…

Some parenting difficulties, once finished, are easily forgotten.  Sleep issues are one of these.  We went through different phases with all of our kids where they’d need a lot of help to get to sleep, or they’d have trouble sleeping through the night.  At the time that we were going go through them I’d wonder when it was that we’d last had an easy evening or a full night’s sleep, and I couldn’t imagine that it was ever going to be easier to get our kid to sleep; but once we were finally through that phase I almost couldn’t remember why it had seemed like it was such a struggle (until the next sleepless phase was upon us).

But there are other tribulations I’ve faced as a parent that linger even after they’ve been dealt with; echoes of past struggles, internal debates that haunt me; circular arguments on repeat in my head.  Did I really make the right decision about x?  Could I have handled y better?  Should I have responded differently to z?  And how is it that I’ve got a kid who does/says that?!!!

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on one problem, another one crops up.  Just when I’m about to pat myself on the back, I end up having to slap myself on the back of the head, instead.

I mean, sure, there’s joy.  Sure, there are moments where I feel like all is right in my world (through God’s grace alone).  And certainly there is love – deep, fierce, strong, tender, and abiding.  There’s humour – because, after all, they can be funny little people (even when they’re not trying to be).

But where’s that moment – as yet so elusive – where I get to feel that I am doing well at this job?

Where’s the proof that my life’s work will result in the contented, loving, productive people of faith and character that I pray my boys will grow up to be???

I have come to the conclusion, again and again, that I am not able for this challenge of motherhood.  I’m not enough.  At times, this realisation of my profound inability has dragged me to the depths of despair.

But that despair doesn’t get the last word in my story.

Today at church we heard again about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes – actually, the two miracles of the loaves and the fishes, because we were reminded that first Jesus fed 5000+ people and then later he repeated the miracle with 4000+.  Both times, a crowd had gathered to learn from Jesus; he filled their souls and their minds, but another need arose: their stomachs needed filling, too.  The disciples asked around and gathered a paltry amount of food in the face of such need: a few loaves of bread and some fish.  It wasn’t enough.

Jesus took those loaves and those fish and he multiplied them.  The people who were gathered on the sand – and, later, the people who were gathered on the mountaintop – ate their fill, and there was still plenty left over.  God turned ‘not enough’ into an abundance.

I was reminded today that what we bring to God – what we bring to life – isn’t enough; but He multiplies our offerings.  We are unable, but He is able.  We are mired in our weakness, but in His strength he frees us.

Today I need to remember to simply make my offering.  I need to remember to trust in God’s ability to multiply, magnify, and sanctify my small, imperfect efforts.  I need to take tiny, shaky steps towards the goal, and trust in Him to bring me to the finish line.

I am not – and I never will be – enough.  But God is.

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Friends: There’s simply no way around it.  Unless you’re the perfect parent, or you have perfect kids (both of which, believe me, I thought were my destiny before I had kids), you’re going to have parenting trials.  Take heart.  I have been leaning on two verses recently, in my own hour of need:

‘Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’

                                                                                                -Matt.11:28

‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’

                                                                                                -Phil.4:13

Bring your need: God will be your sufficiency.

Be encouraged, 

-Trix           x

 

 

 

 

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Faith, Motherhood, Parenting

Best of All

Best of All

Someone in this world loves me ‘Best of All’.

We were cuddled up together this morning as he gave me kisses and kisses and nose-nuzzles and squeezes and whispered sweet nothings to me – things like, “I love you SO much!”, and, “You’re the bestest Mama in the WHOLE WORLD!” (we can thank Doc McStuffins for that one…).  And I just drank in his adoration and revelled in the extra love I was getting to make up for the good-night cuddles I missed when I was out for dinner with his Daddy last night.

All my boys, as toddlers, have gone through a phase of being particularly attached to (and loving towards) their Mama.  All of them lavished me with unsolicited cuddles, and all of them were reluctant to leave my side when they had to be separated from me – and they were quick to return to my arms when we were reunited.

My first son had to be prised from first my legs and then the good-bye gate on his first morning at preschool – he was all clinging arms and legs, like some sort of reluctant octopus

My second son asked his preschool teachers, “When’s Mummy coming?” so many times that they eventually struck up a deal with him that he could only inquire about my e.t.a. three times in a morning.

My third son was happy enough with preschool, but he needed me to stay with him in the church nursery for ages, and even after he got used to it he’d make up for lost time with extra hugs and kisses when I picked him up.  At home, he’d follow me around like a little curly-headed shadow.

And now this little one is going through that stage where his world – and his devotion – centres on Mama.

Right now, he loves me best of all.  But it won’t last.

This adoration – this devotion – is a natural phase.  Some would say it’s a biological imperative – that, while children mature beyond the absolute necessity of our care in infancy, they demonstrate this heart-warming attachment to their parents to stir in us a protective response.  But I think it’s more than that – I feel that it’s also a response to a nurtured bond between a mother (or other primary caregiver) and her child.

Nevertheless – whether nature, nurture, or some combination of the two – it is temporary.

I will hopefully always be beloved by my sons; I certainly know that they will always be beloved by me.  But this stage of my being the very centre of their universe does not last, and nor is it meant to.

Their world – and their hearts – open up as they grow.  They realize that there’s room for loving and being attached to other people.  And mothers lose their singular place in the lives of their children.

As our kids grow into more independent beings – as they stretch their wings and take fledgling hops towards solo flight – they need us to provide for them a place where they know that they are loved best of all.  Because, while young children take it for granted that everyone around them utterly adores them, older children understand that there are some limits to how adorable they are (and to whom they are adorable) and therefore need the assurance that home is still a safe and loving place.  In the midst of peer pressure, negative experiences and the challenge of discerning between competing influences, older kids need to know that home is where they’re loved best of all.

It’s really easy to get into a habit of nitpicking, criticizing, or arguing with kids as they push away in establishing their independence.  But whatever we do, we need to be conscious of the fact that our actions will affect how safe and loving our kids perceive our home to be.  (And oh, man – I don’t know about you, but that feels like a LOT of pressure to me!)

Fortunately for me, as a Christian I am able to give my kids some added assurance.  Not only is home where they’re loved best of all; not only are we (their parents and family) the ones who love them best of all – there is Another who loves them best of all, too.

The Lord your God is with you;
his power gives you victory.
The Lord will take delight in you,
and in his love he will give you new life.
He will sing and be joyful over you.

-Zephaniah 3:17

God loves our kids unreservedly.  God loves our kids eternally.  God loves our kids personally.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                                                  -Romans 8:37-39

God loves our kids ‘best of all’.

And they’re not the only ones, either.  He loves us just the same.  Best of all.

No matter who we are or what we’ve done, no matter where we are in our faith – even regardless of whether or not we love him back – there will always be someone who loves each one of us ‘best of all’.  And as He’s the One who was there before time began, we can be confident that it’s not just a passing phase.

Please don’t forget that.  Please don’t dismiss it or make excuses for why it can’t be true.  Just know it.

God loves YOU best of all.

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Mother's Day, Motherhood

To All the Mamas…

swan mama by roberto fontana on flickr

 

To all the Mamas who are struggling:

It’s OK.

 

It’s OK – this job’s a tough one

We don’t get sick leave, pay, or breaks

It’s harder than it looks

But you’ve got just what it takes

 

Keep on loving, keep on learning

And slowly, over years,

You will reap the benefits

Of those worries, stress and tears

 

It’s OK, your kids do love you

They don’t expect perfection

Don’t worry that your small mistakes

Will lead to big rejection

 

One day your kids will be grown up

They’ll know you as a mother

Who mended hurts and broken hearts

And loved them like no other.

 

 

To all the Mamas who could have been, would have been, should have been – but didn’t get to be Mamas:

I’m sorry.

 

I’m sorry I take things for granted

And say motherhood’s a chore

For feeling like it’s not enough –

That sometimes I want more

 

I’m sorry for complaining

About my lot in life

When you would gladly fill it

So my words cut like a knife

 

I’m sorry for your empty arms

When mine are overflowing

For talking of the trials and joys

And all that I’ve got going

 

Don’t underestimate your value

Maternal roles you’re playing

In showing love and wisdom

In kind things that you’re saying.

 

 

To all the Mamas who’ve got it together and make motherhood look easy-peasy:

You’re welcome.

 

You’re welcome that I set low the bar

For championing ‘mediocre’

For saying ‘let’s just laugh it off –

It’s good to be a joker’

 

For helping you to realize

Perfection’s not a goal

It’s how we live and love and laugh

That makes our families whole

 

You’re welcome to see me struggle

To see that it’s still tough

Even when you know there’s no ‘ideal’

And good is good enough.

 

 

To all the Mamas who’ve inspired me, taught me, and encouraged me:

Thank you.

 

Thank you for the words

That you didn’t have to say

Thank you for supporting me

And taking time to pray

 

Thank you that you love my kids

And show us how you care

Thank you for your good advice

And for just ‘being there’

 

You’ve taught me how to never quit

To look up through the pain

To keep my eyes fixed heavenward

And laugh to keep me sane

 

You’ve shown me how to be a friend

To love and care for others

To lift and to encourage

The ones called to be mothers.

 

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Life, Mother's Day, Motherhood

Where Are My Socks?

odd socks by eren [sea+prairie] on flickr

 

As we approach Mother’s Day, it would be fitting to examine the question of ‘What Is a Mother, and How Does Her Observance of That Role Shape Her Family?’.

It would be fitting, but that’s not what I’m going to write about.

Because there are plenty of things that a ‘Mother’ is, that I am not.  Plenty of things that I should observe, but don’t.  And plenty of aspects of this role that, quite frankly, I’m rubbish at.

Let’s instead turn to some of the deeper questions that a life of devotion (a.k.a. parenthood) demands.  Of these questions, one stands out above the rest (at least in my mind).  It is an ageless question; a question asked often, relentlessly, demandingly – and some would say that a satisfactory answer to it doesn’t exist.  It is a question that has mystified mothers for generations.  I can imagine one of my sons getting up to deliver an address by my graveside sometime in the future, speaking into the void:
“Mum was always there, because she didn’t work.  She was dependable, like an old car.  She was solid, like a brick wall.  She lived a life, but now it’s over.  And although she has passed, one question remains [he turns to the coffin]:

Mum – where are my socks?

This question, asked so often in my home, is a daily reminder to me of my ineptitude as a housewife.  West works hard in his little cramped basement office to provide for our every material need, and all that is required of me is that I keep the children fed and clothed – and I can’t even manage to provide everyone with clean socks on a daily basis.

In my defence, I do wash loads and loads of laundry – and everyone does have access to other clean clothes every day; but somehow, impossibly (it seems to me), there never seem to be any socks.

A month ago, determined to address this very issue, I purchased seventeen bulk pairs of socks for my older three boys.  I also bought netting wash bags for each of them and used an indelible black pen to label the bags with their names.  I instructed my boys that they were to put their dirty socks directly into the netting bag each night, and I would take the bag (with the socks inside) for washing a couple of times a week. It was a brilliant plan (*ahem*) and one that could not possibly fail.

It failed.

I am currently missing eighteen pairs of socks and three wash bags.

Adding to the mystery of the black hole that exists somewhere between the dirty-clothes hamper and the clean-laundry baskets is the mountain of odd socks (it was this compilation of mismatched singletons that prompted me to buy the new socks in just black and white).  I laid them out the other day to see if I could pair any up, and just for kicks I counted them.  There were eighty-four single socks in various sizes, from newborn to men’s size ten.

It would be fair to say that, like the apostle Paul, I have ‘a thorn in my side’.  And in my case, that ‘thorn in my side’ is housework.

It’s not necessarily doing the cooking or cleaning the toilets that gets to me – although, again like Paul, “three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me”…   Cleaning things can actually be quite satisfying, and occasionally even therapeutic.  But those jobs that are so quickly and thoroughly undone – those I find utterly demoralising.  And what could be more demoralising than to wash the mud-stains out of umpteen pairs of socks and then have those socks disappear as completely as the dirt itself?

When I’m feeling particularly neurotic and prone to hyperbole, I complain that ‘this mess will be the end of me!’ – and if I’m ever right about that, at the gravesite you’ll find four boys and a Dad in mismatched hosiery, and a tombstone with an epitaph that reads:

ALWAYS  MISSED…

Our Socks

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Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday, everyone!  Hope you enjoy a laundry-free day.  Here’s wishing you special moments with your kids, and quality time without them as well.

xo

-Trix

PS  Have you seen my socks?

 

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Faith, Life, Motherhood

The Trouble with ‘Me’ Time

Facial

 

As a busy Mamma, everyone tells you the value – no, the necessity – of taking time out for yourself.  It would be impossible to manage the amount of giving, doing, looking after and caring for others that motherhood requires of us without having the opportunity to refuel at times.

If you read any popular magazines, particularly those aimed at women (and especially those directed at mothers), you’re bound to find articles about making time for ‘me’.  Many of them will offer advice about how to find the time, and the necessity of doing so, as well as what to do when you have given yourself that time.  Spas feature heavily in this type of article, and no wonder; what could be more appealing to someone whose life revolves around caring for other people than to go somewhere or do something that involves pampering for herself.  And I’m not trying to persuade you that there’s anything particularly wrong with that – I’m even hoping for a spa gift certificate for Mother’s Day (that’s a hint, West!) – but what I wonder is, with all the marketing of this practice, does it really live up to the hype?

Taking time away from your regular life to re-set, re-focus, refuel, restore, and relax is a valuable practice.  God thought so, anyway, which is why he created the Sabbath – and since I’ve thrown my lot in with him I’m inclined to agree about setting aside some space in my life for this purpose.

But here’s the trouble with ‘me’ time, as it is defined by the world of advertising and ‘common’ sense:

It’s all about taking away.

‘Me’ time, by definition, is time taken away from your regular commitments – a ‘get-away’ from the ordinary routine – to focus on yourself.

I am for this – I, too, am inundated in my day-to-day life by the demands of a household, extra-curricular pursuits, and the voices, noises, and needs of other people.  Somanyotherpeople. So ‘getting away’ from all of this for a temporary reprieve definitely seems to me to be a sanity-saver, and thus I am on board.

However

It’s not enough.

It’s finite.

‘Me’ time is about stripping away the stresses of life; and as soon as you step back into position, you have as much on your plate as you had before.  Any serenity you may have gained from being in a peaceful place or enjoying some pampering is fleeting once you re-join normal life.

I’ve done this calculation before, when I’ve had a gift certificate in my hot little hand and I’m working out when to go for this long-awaited pampering massage – I look at my calendar and I try to figure out when would be the best time to go so that I’d get the most relaxation out of it.  Having a massage the day before one of my sons’ birthday parties, for instance, would be ludicrous.  The very next day I’d be running around like a headless chicken, stressing out over the details and the cake…  Similarly, I’d want to avoid going for my spa session just after a late night – what a waste it would be to fall asleep on the massage table and miss it altogether!  A lot of decision-making goes into maximizing the relaxing effect of this ‘me’ time.

But then, no matter how hard I try to make that peace last, and no matter how carefully I have planned to keep that blissful feeling as long as possible – it’s over.  The tension creeps back into my shoulders, something or someone is loud, irritating, or demanding – and I’m back where I started.

The trouble with ‘me’ time is that its effects are only temporary.  It is only a temporary stripping away of those things that will inevitably catch up with us and overwhelm us yet again.

So what, then, can we do?  What could possibly be more, and lastingly, restorative and refreshing?

We can have ‘God’ time.

We can spend time in prayer.  We can read the Bible, a devotional, or an inspirational website; or we can attend a church service.  We can retreat to a quiet corner of the house (or the car!) and turn up some worship tunes.  We can get out for a walk alone and talk to God as we go.

The difference between ‘God’ time and ‘me’ time is that when we spend time with God and when we devote space in our lives to seeking his heart, we are truly restored; we are filled up, fortified and prepared to return to the demands of our everyday lives.  We are given peace, contentment, hope and joy that don’t just evaporate with the first challenge that comes our way; instead, this ‘filling up’ continues as we return to our regular routines.  When we spend ‘me’ time, we return to the fray with momentarily less; we’ve enjoyed a short and temporary shedding of our cares – but when we spend ‘God’ time, we step back into our lives with more.

‘God’ time doesn’t just take away our cares; it also furnishes us with the means of dealing with those burdens that sap our energy and increase our stress.  We return from our quiet time restored, refreshed and equipped.  Connecting with God charges us up so that our spiritual and emotional batteries don’t run on empty.

So the next time you’re craving some ‘me’ time – try some ‘God’ time, instead.

 

photo by holly on flickr.  License here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

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