Yesterday was one of THOSE days. We started with a Doctor appointment at 12:40. While we were there, I started to feel that my youngest child should be seen as well, so they scheduled him for 2:00. We ran to Wendy's for lunch, then back to the doctor. This new appointment cut into my grocery shopping time because we had to be to the orthodontist at 4:00, so we hurried through the store with mommy on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As the clock inched closer to the time that we must leave the store, my children discovered the bulk Valentine candy and my feeling of panic skyrocketed as I tried to rein them back in and redirect them toward the check out.
Just then, an older woman placed her hand on my arm and smiled knowingly. As she opened her mouth to speak, I braced myself for the inevitable admonition to enjoy the moment. "Your little girl is about to lose her pink bow." she said instead.
When we got home, I discovered that one of the bill envelopes that had been sitting on the console of the Suburban waiting for me to drop them in the mail was missing. After searching every inch of the vehicle, we determined that it must have fallen to the floor and been kicked out in some parking lot.
A few minutes after that, I walked past the bathroom and found my two year old sitting in the sink with the water turned on.
Tell me, really, must I enjoy EVERY moment of mothering my children?
I wrote the following story about a year and half ago but did not publish it on my blog for two reasons:
1. I did not want to offend anyone - particularly an older mother who might be inclined to say to younger mothers, "Enjoys these years, they go by so quickly." Or people who do not believe in spanking, although this article is not about spanking.
2. I did not know if anyone else could relate. I thought that maybe I solicited more of those comments because I have so many children. (I have even felt at times - usually moments when we are in public and the veins in my neck are bulging - that I have to justify my right, or prove my ability to handle this many of them!) This week a facebook friend (a mother of adult children) shared a fantastic article on THIS EXACT SUBJECT! I was shocked to see that the article had received hundreds of comments!
"WOW!" I thought, "EVERYBODY can relate to this!"
One night at Bible Study, as we sat around the table sharing prayer requests, I told the story of the events that had unfolded in our home the previous weekend in which we had to deal with some serious “foolishness bound in the heart” of one of our children. I told how, later that evening, the offender had been putting away the dishes, when he suddenly said that he likes his dad. I already know this, but in light of the events earlier that day I questioned him about it, wondering the reason for the comment at that exact moment. He told me that some dads beat their kids if they don’t get their chores done.
I was amused, and joked with him about maybe taking up that approach on the days that they needed more “encouragement” to stay on task!
Soon the other children joined in the conversation, noting the results of some research about spanking that they'd heard on the radio. Since my children were being serious, I had become more serious during the conversation and explained to them that the purpose of spanking (or ANY form of discipline) was to give a child a negative consequence for a poor choice so that they would learn to make better choices in the future –
…that it is supposed to be for the benefit of the child, rather than as a way for the parent to vent frustration.
They told me that grown children whose parents had abused them, would not take their own children to visit the grandparents, but that children who were spanked in an appropriate way to correct naughtiness turned out to be much better people as adults.
At that point my eight year old turned to me with a smile and said enthusiastically, “Mom, you should spank us more!” All seriousness was thrown out the window as the children and I erupted into laughter.
As I finished my story, I asked the ladies to pray for wisdom for me and my husband as we attempt to navigate the waters of parenthood, stating “Parenting is hard!!” to which one of the other mothers in the group, whose children are now in college, turned to me and said, “It goes by so fast.”
I am not sure why, but at that moment I found myself speechless. I guess that I was not sure whether she was reminiscing about her own children as she listened to my situation, or if she felt that I was wishing these struggles away. One thing that I am sure of is that her intentions were not to offend, she was merely pointing out to me the obvious fact – that what seems like an eternal moment now will be a page of history sooner than I would like.
I hear those words from people all of the time. Sometimes I wonder if I hear them more than other moms because I have so many children, or if it is just so important that older parents feel an urgent need to impress it upon the minds of those of us still in the fray. One thing is certain, though, as my oldest child quickly approaches his teen years and my last tiny baby cuts teeth and changes clothing sizes, I am reminded of the speed at which time flies more and more each day. “Slow down!” I want to shout, as if it could make any difference.
The thing is, we are not wishing these years away. We don’t tell our kids to “grow up.” We know that our time with them is limited – and that is exactly why we need wisdom – we only have one shot at this “parenting thing” and we don’t want to look back with regrets. We want to get it right the first time – and that means attempting to use all of the “teachable moments”.
We have great plans for our children;
to love God,
make wise choices
and have wonderful lives that would carry on into eternity.
We hope to give all of the necessary guidance to accomplish that goal.
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
I am slowly learning that it is not about doing that "parenting thing" perfectly. If we could, we would not need God's Grace! It's about bringing our best, and allowing God the freedom to work through us and IN us - since parenting is as much about bringing US up into maturity as it is our children (though most times I think that it would have been smarter on God's part to mature me first and THEN make me a parent!).
I know that my own mother was not perfect and that she berated herself often for not being good enough, but when I look at her, I see success! She tried really hard. And that counts for something. When it is all said and done, most of our children will forgive us for our parenting mistakes - after all, GOD forgives us! And maybe, just maybe, we will look back over our lives and remember mostly the good things.
Then we can be old ladies who minister Grace to a young mother in a supermarket!
photo credit Motherhood My Journey