7 reasons I love being a mom

It was my turn soon.  All the other mothers were saying such sweet things, exactly what you might expect.  What was I going to say?  Not what anyone expected – or even what I expected, but there it was.

When my youngest was 6 months old, I went to a new Bible study at a church other than my own.  It being my first one, I didn’t know exactly what to expect other than learning more about the Word and enjoying fellowship with other women.  After singing and prayer,  a smaller group of moms gathered in a large room ready to get to know each other.   Sitting in a big circle, we were asked to share why we loved being mothers.

What do I like about being a mother? A deep breath.  (Please don’t think this is weird…) 1 “I like to touch them.”  No one said a thing.  I explained.  “I love to comb their hair, give them hugs, tote them around on my hip, hoist them when they reach up their arms and say, “Up!”, rub their backs as they fall asleep on my shoulder…”  I didn’t need any other examples.  The women supplied them.  Suddenly everyone was nodding their heads and saying how they loved tucking them in bed at night, wiping their tears, putting on band-aids.  Touch is a beautiful gift and I’ve told my children often how important it is to be held and hugged and touched.  Not everyone is ‘touchy’, but children need it, and as a mom, it was a pleasure to hold them every chance I got.

2.  Watching them become who they are meant to be.  We can nurture and introduce but they find their niche and we parents get to revel in their exploration of sports or music or theater as was the case in our house.  Having a variety of interests is healthy and I’m doubly pleased when a good friend or mentor introduces them to a new passion and another layer of interest is added.  Sweet indeed.

3.  They make me laugh.  Their baby books are full of hilarious comments (one child at prayer time, “Dear Lord, I’m nervous about tomorrow but I guess I’ll serve you in the storm.”) but the laughs don’t end with their preschool years.  Two of my kids are feisty while funny and the other is so dry!  All sharp minds, it’s funny what they pick up on, how they twist it for a laugh and how light-hearted they make a home.

4.  I get to teach them.  Thankfully, I had two of my kids as students in class but I also teach them skills in the home and with people.  All began chores at the age of 6, they all do laundry and dishes and a few can cook a little bit.  They’ve learned to listen, to sympathize, to try to walk in another’s shoes.  They’ve helped their family with their time, sweat and sometimes money.  I’ll be oh so proud if they’re giving adults.

5.  They teach me.  I hate to admit it but I can sometimes feel sorry for myself.  Usually it’s when my extroverted self is thwarted from doing something that will stimulate me.  My extroverted oldest son once had a group of “friends” go out of their way to exclude him, make it obvious to him and then ditch him quite rudely.  All this on his 16th birthday – a Friday night no less.  If anyone could have felt sorry for himself, he could have, but he didn’t.  We didn’t know about the backdrop to his evening for many months but his attitude and behavior that night was astounding.  He was gracious, patient….everything I wouldn’t have been were I in his shoes at his age.  That example has stuck with me and I try to emulate him.

6.  They’re gracious with my limitations.  Everyone knows that no one is perfect but sometimes we moms would like to be for the sake our kids.  But, like everyone else, I have limitations.  I can’t tell you how many times my kids said, “It’s okay, mom,”  when I apologized for behavior that wasn’t up to par.  Each time, they hugged me, ‘let it go’ and moved on.  I wish I could be everything to them, but then I’d miss out on the grace they freely give me.

7.  It’s a supreme honor.  I look at these children and wonder, ‘how blessed am I that I get to be their mother?!?’  Growing up, I never expected to marry or have kids but I’m so thankful that God had something else in mind for me.  It’s a huge responsibility and one I haven’t taken lightly, ever.  But they make this life so much more joyful.  They encourage me and stimulate me and fill my heart with more goodness than I thought possible.  Thanks, guys.  You and your dad are life’s greatest gifts.

Moms know best

It was too quiet.  Usually her pencil flew across the page, eager to write with me.  Today, however, was different.  She sat morosely, sniffing, pencil frozen.  I tried my hand at light-heartedness -silence; I showed her my poem in progress – silence; I nudged her with an idea – silence.  15 minutes later, the situation hadn’t improved.  Time to text mom: “Please come now.”  We waited under a heavy blanket of awkwardness.  All smiles, mom came in and daughter burst into tears.  She didn’t want to do poetry and listed the reasons why it was too much to surmount.  Wise and patient, I was privileged to watch this mom calm her daughter, listen to her, empathize with her and then to tell her that she WAS going to do it.  I was surprised, but pleasantly so.  Willing to forgo a lesson that was pushing too many buttons, I set it aside as this mom insisted that her daughter push through her fears and uncomfortable perceptions and work harder.  I was impressed.

So often, I see how we parents are too quick to give our kids a pass on something that the child deems too hard.  In actuality, it is my firm belief that our kids are much stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for.  This mom knew that.  Happily, she’s not the only one.  A few years ago, Terri knew that her son needed one-on-one instruction.  She was right.  Schooled that way, he blossomed and covered two year’s content in one year (and the next and the next).  Pam knew that her son needed a boost, someone to encourage him and hold him accountable.  Laura knew that after a year of single instruction, her son needed a peer group.  Bethany knew that though her son felt he couldn’t work at a certain level, she put him where he’d be challenged and now he’s so proud of the work he is capable of doing.

These moms knew best!  What I value about them is that they know their children.  They know when to push and when to back off; when to wait and when to nudge.  Allowing your child to make some of their educational decisions is considerate; but making the tough ones for them based on what is seen in them is wise.

My own son is a little smarty-pants and a fantastic reader (I burst with pride) but he won’t sign up for a challenge.  So, I created one for him.  It was as simple as handing him a fat book with a “Here.  Read this.  I give you a month.”  His eyes gaped at Roots – the most obese book on our shelves.  Other adults, feeling sorry for this kid’s poor predicament, lamented that even they, great readers that they are, hadn’t read that book.  I toyed with the idea of letting him off the hook, especially since it was paired with his lack of verve.  But I remembered these moms I admire and kept the expectation that he would finish it.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He did.  And now I hear him referencing it proudly.  And as for my student who cried over writing poetry?  She dug deep and found that not only could she do it, but she did it so well that her peers admired her for her skill.

My kids aren’t old enough quite yet to realize how their mom has them figured out.  True, they surprise me sometimes, but I want to be the first one to say “You can do this.”  Sometimes we need to give them the mercy of bowing out of something, but more often then not, when all that seemed too hard is said and done, when they’ve listened to their moms, they’ll see that mom was right.

My dear child…please learn this as soon as possible

Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if things went how you imagine them?  In your ideal world, every dog would be friendly, everyone would want to be your friend and dinner would always be chicken – served up hot and exactly when you want it.  The fridge would always have your favorites and you’d never spill on your best shirt right before leaving for school.  Sigh.  Let’s muse on that for a moment.  Done now?  Good.  I have something to tell you.

Here’s a little secret you need to know:  you will be inconvenienced.  It’s true.  Know how I know that?  Because it happens all the time.  Lately, you seem to buck more than usual at it but it’s quite important that I help you lean into it now.  Not that you pout when you don’t get your way.  Thankfully, you’ve never been like that; but you’re the more subtle type.  You like to propose something different; something more to your liking.  I get it. That’s not so terrible.  But sometimes, being inconvenienced is just unavoidable.

We adults have become inured.  When something goes smoothly, we celebrate and offer up a thanks; when they don’t, we’re not terribly surprised.  Kids, on the other hand, gripe and snort a little more.  So I thought I’d give you a heads-up.  The truth is, you’ll be inconvenienced a lot. That roommate in college might be tough to live with; the baby you adore won’t sleep as much as you’d like her to (I know this in advance because she has your genetic make-up), you and your girlfriend will cross communication wires sometimes.  The movie will be sold out, the cookies will flop and someone will need a ride at the worst time.  It happens. What I care about is what happens with you when it happens.

See, sometimes when life throws you a curve ball, it’s a great opportunity.  At the moment, it doesn’t feel good and you are tempted to go another way, maybe a grumpy way, but choosing a peaceful stance is wise.  Let things ride.  Don’t freak out.  Look for another option.   I only know this because I’ve tried the freak-out way.  It doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve also tried the ‘Okay, Lord, what do you have for me in this?’ way and it’s always better.

So when I was up at night, walking the floor with you, your smile made it worth it.  When you had to take another bus home, you made a 2nd grader’s day.  Someone gave us a rain check and we had a blast hanging out with someone who needed a place to go.  Were we initially inconvenienced?  Yes, but the alternatives were equally lovely.  So, dear child, don’t set your mind too firmly on your first plan….there might be something even better right around the corner.

 

I wish my mom had shown me…

….many things, actually, like how grandma made the most amazing pie crust I’ve ever tasted but mom’s been gone for almost seven years and grandma even longer.  Sigh.  Beyond the secret to the pie crust, I ache for many other things that I wish she had shown me.  Since my mom was not very articulate, she probably still wouldn’t have much to say, but I find myself wondering about how she felt in the stage that I am in my life.  So I’m left to ponder.

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I wish she had shown me that….housecleaning’s a lot of work.  Clearly, I’ve discovered that.  For better or worse, I was raised in one of the cleanest houses I’ve ever encountered.  In fact, it wasn’t until I went to someone else’s house in high school that I realized that not everyone was living like this.  We never lost anything, were never late and never saw a mess.  (I’m not exaggerating.)  We opened drawers and clean clothes appeared.  We opened cupboards and everything had space and was neatly arrayed.  Martha Stewart would have been impressed.  However, I honestly would have preferred to have a more realistic idea of how much she did to keep a peerless house.

I wish she had shown me that …. mom’s don’t have to be home all the time.  All three of my kids are teenagers and I’m just getting around to the idea that it’s okay if they’re home and I’m not.  It didn’t reach manic stage or anything, but if my kids were home, so was I.  It was/is important to me.  But it’s also important for them to see their mom prioritizing something other than their schedules.   I have a life, for sure, but I want to spend as much time with them as possible, too.

I also wish she had shown me that ….hospitality should cast a wide net.  Maybe she wasn’t confident in this area, but I rarely remember having anyone over.  We’d have my aunts and uncles and occasionally one of us kids would bring a friend over for a bit, but that was it.  I wish she could have known the joy of other people’s laughter, their ideas, their points of view.  Slowly, I invite more and more people over and I realize that the girl missed out.  So, I enjoy them on her behalf.

I wish she had shown me that ….it’s possible to return to joy after experiencing hurt or disappointment.  She never mastered that, or frankly, came close.  I needed to learn that one and would have been a happy witness.  My arms are open wide to the one who can teach me this.

Usually, parents want for their kids what they themselves never had.  Though my mom certainly had her share of goodness, she deserved more.  I wish I was more mature when she was alive so I could tell her that.  Next post: what I’m glad she showed me!

I’m too afraid to be courageous!

Aside

Eleven years ago, on the eve of their 3rd & 1st grade years, I was putting my two little boys to bed when I heard a sniffle.  My oldest son was holding back a few tears.  “What’s the matter, honey?”  I couldn’t imagine what could be bothering this high-energy, highly social little guy.  “I’m worried that 3rd grade will be too hard for me,” he managed.  Apparently he’d been told that the stakes would get much higher, the homework tougher and the challenged more numerous and was now, rightfully, afraid.  He was convinced he didn’t have what it took to manage the coming days.

After ineffectually trying to convince him otherwise, I tried a new tactic.  Telling him he had what it took to face the school year hadn’t worked so here’s what I suggested:  “Let’s freak out.” Eyes wider, he asked, “what?”  I launched into fear-laced moanings of all the things he couldn’t do during 3rd grade: he’d fail, he’d not be able to swim, he’d not make new friends….soon he was joining in.  From the above bunk, our eavesdropper joined in.  We laughed as this little dynamo face-planted during recess, got forgotten on the bus and even received a wedgie from a 4th grader.  Oh, the horrors.

Seems cute when an 8 year old does it, but we adults are no different, really.  In my quest to keep ‘courage’ at the forefront of my mind this year, I was piqued to listen to a conversation recently about people’s main motivation.  What do you guess?  Money? Nope.  Accolades, accomplishments, pride?  No again.  What motivates most of us is fear.  That’s right, fear.  Think about it.  Deep down, so many of our decisions are made because we want to keep our fears at a distance.  I’m not criticizing it…heck, I do it myself.  Why did I watch my kids so closely when they went outside?  I feared they’d be snatched.  Why do we say ‘yes’ to things we don’t want to do?  Fear of what others will think.

For our 3rd grader, it took emphasizing everything that could go wrong to realize how ridiculous it was to worry.  If we’re in a good frame of mind and with someone who loves us enough to let us express ourselves,  we could easily launch into our fears with our finances, our relationships, our jobs.  But I learned something in that moment all those years ago that I need reminding of now and then: “Courage is the complement of fear.  A (wo)man who is fearless cannot be courageous.”  Courage and fear are like ying and yang: close bedfellows.

We cannot have courage unless we first have a taste of fear.  Firefighters and police officers can tell you this.  So can kids going to a new school, you beginning your retirement or someone going to the gym in snug yoga pants. We won’t have any reason to exercise courage unless we’re a little freaked out.  Ever witness someone make a speech when they’re pea-green scared?  That’s courage.  Ever have to stand up to an angry, intimidating person?  Fear could keep us from doing lots of things, but courage allows us to follow through.

So my year continues with looking at my fears but not shrinking from them, knowing that courage wraps itself around those fears, ready to lift it up and out of the way.  It’ll still be there, circling back around for more, but in the meantime, I’ll choose to laugh while I freak out, then move on to face those snug yoga pants.

How to appreciate a teacher

All over the country, the school year is winding down.  Kids ache for pools and play dates, moms seek refuge from lunches, alarms and homework checks.  Most everyone is longing for a different routine (or, a lack of one).

Teachers, too, enjoy their summer break but some of us will miss your child an awful lot.  Parents are doing a great job raising kids and I, for one, have enjoyed the fruits of those labors.  Throughout the year, I have laughed daily with them, listened interestingly to their stories and observations and cheered them on to better work.  I have challenged their ideas, absorbed their critiques and tempered their moods.  They’ve written me notes, drawn me pictures, texted me questions and tagged me on Facebook.  All this time and energy your child has received has been done joyfully.

No doubt your child has had a teacher that has earned a thank you, but you’re not sure how to.  So, how do you thank a teacher?  Well, parents ask me so I thought I’d share with you what I share with them.

1. Take a cue from your child.  My students know I like my chocolate dark, my cake layered and my notes specific.  My favorite thank-yous are hand-written notes from the kids that recount some happy moment, an inside joke we share or a favorite memory.   I save them and take them out to reminisce.

2. During the school year, my evenings are spent grading and planning and my lunches are rushed affairs, often gobbled while standing up, walking to the printer or returning an email to a parent.  A gift card to a coffee shop or lunch spot is perfect because summer is when we catch up with friends or former students.

3. Since most of us are those who love words, a simple & sincere word of thanks is often more than enough.  A warm squeeze, big smile and a thank you is appreciated.

Teachers are always investing in kids’ lives and more than likely they’ll spend a good deal of their summer reading, gleaning for ideas and thinking about the fall and how to make it an even better year. Even if you don’t have kids in school right now, it’s never too late to thank a teacher who you had years ago.  As I tell my kids at the end of every year, I’ll always want to know how you’re doing.  I’m sure that’s true for your kids’ teachers, too.