(I posted this to my personal family blog, but wanted to share here, also. Anyone following both blogs, now you know)
A few reflections. Some sappy, some silly.
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot
So true, right? I mean, I’d spent every one of my teenage years babysitting, and most of that time was for a large family (7 kids!). Then I went to college and spent summers working with kids. Let’s not forget the years I spent being raised by a lovely mother. All those things add up to: brilliant ideas about raising kids!
And then Chickadee was born. We came home from the hospital, and suddenly changing diapers (which I’d done only about 1,000 times already) was a daunting task. And good grief, HOW does one put clothes a tiny wiggly thing without breaking the precious wiggly baby?! Thank goodness I had my own mama there to hold my hand through it all or I think I may have fallen out of my recliner in a half-dressed, sleepless stupor and cried for days with the baby. Mom-you gave me a great start at motherhood. I’m pretty sure those first few weeks would have been crazy hard without your help.
Those were just the first few weeks. Those are the easy times, cuz, you know, the baby is just darling and only needs to be fed, burped, changed, and loved. There is no discipline, no teaching manners, no chasing naked toddlers through the house. That’s when it gets interesting. Toddler and preschool days are days of mystery, insanity, joy, laughter, tears. They are the days which demand routine but half the time, the only “routine” that is predictable is that you can count on your child to behave unpredictably exactly when you thought you could count on them to be sweet and mild in public. Or when you spend a week working on a no-fail sleep routine that is carefully tailored to your family and your child’s temperament, with references from all 597 baby experts and the books you’ve read… only for your child to spit on the routine and scream, ask for 7 drinks of water and 12 hugs, make up their own monster who lives behind a tree in the yard (We won’t ever forget the “WHITEY-WAH” made up by Chickadee), ask deep theological and philosophical questions at 9:13 pm, and then generally defy all “rules” of getting a child peacefully to sleep by 8pm.
There are the body-painting days, too. “Let’s paint a picture!” I said. “It’ll be fun and crafty and we’ll have quality time,” I thought. And then Sweet Pea ate the paint. Then the girls caked paint on their hands and arms, making themselves gloves. Then Sweet Pea used ranch dressing as body paint and broccoli as her brush.
Now, with Firecracker being kiddo numero cinco, I’ve learned that all that matters about being a Mama is to love. (cue the “awwwwww….”) There are too many books and theories; too many experts spouting off on *the* way to raise a child. I pretty sure that as long as we genuinely love our children, we’ll figure out what we need to do in the details.
Because, (duh), Love solves everything. The Love that matters is the Love of God which directs (or should–I slip up just as much as anyone) all my actions. So, if love on Tuesday means letting the kids go nuts with paint and be creative, and then we cooperate and clean up the mess together–great. We’ve been creative, had quality time, and learned about being responsible in cleaning up after ourselves. If love on Thursday means tough love and cleaning toilets for talking mean and nasty to siblings, so be it. On Friday it means family pizza and movie night. And on Sunday it always means getting up and dressed for Mass, because if I as a mother don’t share what I know to be true about Jesus and God’s Love for us, then I fail. All those theories of parenting, the books by experts, the how-tos? They don’t matter if there’s no love.
(You ought to know what’s about to come next.)
Nothing matters more in being a mom than the way I love.
“13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails…13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13 1-8, 13
With love, we can cry with and for our children. We can laugh at the silly things, and laugh instead of cry at some of the exasperating things. With love, we can bear the visits to the ER, the nasty dangly loose teeth, the late-night cries of a child being sick. With love, we can climb mountains together, build sand castles, dig up worms, buy insects to engage our children in discovery. With love, we can cheer at games, comfort after falls and failures, help with math for the 87th time before the same skill “clicks”.
Being Mama is non-stop, tough work, and tough love (meaning, it is often tough to love an selflessly and unconditionally as being a mother demands). Being Mama is joy, fear, hope, and more joy. Being a mother is a blessing. I love and cherish all the moments with my children, every day–not just on Mother’s Day (because, let’s face it, there are years when other days are better days with our kids than the “holiday”). I am looking forward all the coming years, the lessons I’ll learn, the ways love will make me grow, and the ways my children will bless my life.