That place where my noble parenting expectations, spoken but mostly unspoken, rub up against my reality like 60 grit sandpaper to the soul… that’s where I’m at right now.
And I’m learning that it’s the very place where my character as a mom can push through the muck and take deeper root and flourish, or can die a slow, painful death of apathy and disillusionment.
Because all of these unspoken expectations for my current role (and the roles I had picked out for the other people in my life) rarely walk together hand in hand, and there are seasons I become incredibly discouraged.
Like now. When the fruit of my parenting seems non-existent. When I feel like a failure watching buds of disrespect and sass and attitude and disobedience rear their ugly heads more often than I thought possible. When I don’t always see the fruit I expected to see by this time. When I literally feel completely lost as a mom just when I thought I was figuring some stuff out. Instead, I feel like a failure. I feel like I have no control. I’m second-guessing all my ideals and if anything is working. I’m humbled at my ineptness.
And I’ve been incredibly convicted the last few days…maybe I’ve really been, deep down, approaching this all wrong. I don’t have as much control as I thought? Maybe my little people aren’t projects? Maybe I’m a teeny bit prideful, looking to my children’s behavior as validation of my abilities? Maybe I’m trying too hard to do this on my own strength and finesse, and not leaning enough into the Source.
And even amidst these moments of clarity and conviction…these are the moments my emotions still vie to take over and I want to give up.
It’s embarrassing really when I take a good hard look at my weaknesses in the full light of day. I always thought I was so patient. So easy going.
Until I got married. Until I became a parent.
Because let me tell you. Those people in my life have roles I hand-picked for them. I was going to behave one way, and they were going to behave in a rational way that met my needs and gave me the results I was looking for, that I expected, that just make sense. These people were going to behave like logical, rational entities all the time (according to my definitions of logic and rationality of course), and life would be grand.
I didn’t enter marriage or parenthood saying “Please, refine me. Use this to deepen my character. Let me learn to serve. Let me learn to lay down my life for these people. Let me put aside my own agenda and give. Teach me flexibility and how little control I actually have over life. Teach me to respond with grace and patience in the muddy parts of this. Teach me to deepen my prayers and dependence on God. Teach me…Perseverance.”
But I mean, does anyone enter these roles with such a mindset? Probably not. We enter these roles with mostly unspoken expectations of everything good and beautiful this relationship is going to be for us. And I’m not saying ALL of those expectations are bad. Some of them are actually very noble and beautiful. Some of them are completely legit, and need to be addressed if they’re not happening.
But I’m learning, maybe I should begin to value marriage and parenthood for more of the deeper beauty they can cultivate: refinement of my soul, weeding out of selfishness, long-term character development and endurance if I can let God work it out and stop trying to do it all by myself. If I can let God handle the parts that don’t meet my expectations.
It sounds trite when I re-read this, like Spiritualism 101. But goodness, I need to learn this anew, particularly as a parent right now.
I’m learning that most of my frustrations are because I have an agenda. When I became a parent, I had an agenda for the tiny person who would fulfill the role of my child. Because I would read all the books, do all the things, have all the right approaches to discipline and loving behavior guidance, pray all the prayers, and then that would yield a certain, measurable outcome, without delay, definitely by the fall of 2017 and by the age of 5. A + B = C It would all work quite efficiently. Because I love efficiency. I spent my professional career optimizing every process within my control.
And then I became a mom. And I’m so thankful. I cherish these little souls with every fiber of my being. I would trade in everything for this role of motherhood. But no amount of gratitude, thankfulness, or perspective can eradicate the fact that this journey of motherhood takes a lot of grit sometimes, even in the midst of its splendor. A LOT of grit. And it’s very messy. And on top of that, it’s really inefficient. Raising little minds and souls isn’t a project that can be optimized. I’m learning just how much time, energy, repetition, repetition, and repetition it takes to train little ones, and often without short-term measurable results.
But doesn’t everything worthwhile take grit? I’m learning that anything truly beautiful, truly worth having, anything that truly brings beauty to our lives and to this world, anything really worth doing, takes endurance and is downright hard sometimes. Learning music, learning a language, finishing a degree, having a long fulfilling marriage, choosing faith in the painful times…anything that feeds the soul’s deepest needs takes grit and perseverance to reach completion.
I wish someone had explained motherhood to me in those terms early on. I wish someone had said something besides “oh it goes by so fast, make sure you enjoy every second,” or “don’t worry, you will sleep again.” Had sat me down and poured life into my soul and told me that, even in the beauty of motherhood, we must prepare mentally for the hard seasons that require endurance, just as a soldier trains for battle so they are not surprised when the conflicts start. Had given me some tips on how to handle the flood of emotions that happen when my expectations don’t sync with the reality of my days, and when the reality of my days don’t sync with what seems to be the perfection floating around social media threads. And to remember to abide in God and lean in during the dark times, and that sunshine will come again. To stop looking around and look up. That it’s a constant cycle, and learning to have courage and face the changing seasons of motherhood with grace, endurance, and perseverance is the real goal, not perfection. If we can learn that as mothers, I think we can rest and enjoy the ride a little more.
And I’m reminded, even today, I can either give up, or lean in.
I can choose. We can each choose. That’s the beauty of this journey. We can’t always choose our circumstances or how others (ahem, our kiddos) behave, but we can choose how we conduct ourselves in the symphony of our own lives, by giving it over to Him. We can channel the frustrations inward and become bitter, apathetic, disheartened. Or we can allow these situations to let us reach a healthy place of emptiness, where we are emptied of ourselves and forced to look up. To truly allow ourselves to be emptied of pride, expectations, selfishness, to be a vessel that God can actually work through, and let Him give us the wisdom and ability to get the job done the right way, instead of “our” way.
I’m so convicted of that this week. And I’m kicking and screaming inside. But I’m praying for grace with myself even as I’m learning ever more how imperfect a parent I am. I’m praying that God can do this important work of parenting through me, and that I will rest in Him, and deepen my character, and remember the long view of all of this.
If you’re in this season too, I hope you know you’re not alone. We aren’t meant to do this alone. We are in this together. I’m rooting for me and for you and for us and for our sweet little ones and all the beauty they will bring to this world as they grow.
Verses I’m clinging to today:
Galations 6:9- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
James 1:5- But if any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Psalm 27:1- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”