When I look at pictures from a few years ago when we had one baby, I cringe a little bit. Not because we were bad at being parents, but because we were incredibly naive about a lot of it. I will openly admit that I have a pride issue when it comes to parenting. I don’t read parenting books because I like to think I have a better understanding of my kid than some author somewhere. I google things that only end up scaring me (such as, reasons my son was born with a birth mark on his tongue). I ignore advice that is unsolicited, whereas if it’s from a woman I’m related to, I take it rather seriously. All in all, I went into this whole deal thinking I would be enough, I would have strong enough instincts to do everything right, I wouldn’t need a parenting book.
Pregnant with my oldest, I refused every birth class. I thought it seemed useless, especially since I was planning a natural birth. My idea of preparation was eating a lot of Peanut Butter Snickers. I had a birth plan, at least. I do remember, though, a vivd moment in the middle of intense contractions, thinking, “I have no %&$*ing idea how to breathe through this @(*#.” Because, confident me, didn’t take a lamaze breathing course.
I also thought breastfeeding would be a piece of cake, until I realized Liam was a floppy blob of a human, I was sore from pushing said blob out of my body, and I literally had no idea how any of it was supposed to look/feel like. I nursed him until I gave up after three weeks. When I was pregnant with Asa, I studied and researched like I was taking the GRE. Still, gave up after three weeks because that crap was hard. I stuck it out when Finn was born, and I have nursed him since day one. Lesson learned: research can actually be helpful.
These are all logistics, though. Things that matter a minuscule amount of time in the grand scheme of your kid’s lives.
I executed a lot of parenting in the early days with a lot of mistakes. I learned more than I thought was possible, sometimes in the most ungraceful ways.
And here’s the kicker, the thing that flipped everything in my stubborn parenting mind:
Nothing about this is about me.
Which doesn’t seem to make sense, you know? Parenting is me parenting my boys.
Everything about this is about Christ.
That is what matters the most in the big picture of parenting. On days when I am thinking of myself, I spend more time on my phone, more time ignoring my boys, more time being frustrated that I have to wipe a runny nose for the 456th time that day. On days when I am thinking only of them, I spend more time worrying, fearing, wishing they would always be little and fit in the crook of my arm or on my lap. It is a delicate balance that I cannot master on my own. I want them to be healthy, I want them to learn, I want them to have a clean nose. And I also want a minute of silence to think, I want to be uninterrupted when I’m typing out a blog post for this little space, I want to eat my lunch without someone trying to steal a bite.
However, when it is a day I have handed to the Lord, things change. Circumstances do not. Still lots of runny noses, interruptions, stolen bites of food, Facebook browsing on my phone, frustrations, joys of watching them learn. The balance is easier to determine. It is no longer a battle between feeling validated as a mother and longing for a moment to sit untouched and uninterrupted. It is an understanding that I can always do my best, and it’s because of Christ in me that sometimes trying is enough. It is a peace that reminds me that when I seem to be failing them, I am not, because Christ never fails. When I am frustrated and worn, He is solid. When I sit in the bathroom for undetermined amounts of time just for the “solitude”, He restores me.
From the minute each of my boys breathed their first breath, I was their first glimpse into eternity. And that isn’t because “Hey ho, look at me, Mrs. Holy and righteous, pure and blameless, perfect and joyful!” It’s because Christ is in me. It’s because of Him, what He has done in the past, and what He will do in the future. And that means laying down my pride, ridding myself of the thought that being a parent means it’s all about me.
Take a deep breath. The days are long and grueling, sometimes every day is the hardest. Jesus has got you, sister. He sustains you. He restores you. He isn’t going to fail even if you feel like a constant failure. You are a great mother because of the mightiness He places in you. His mercies are new every morning. Amen? Amen.