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.

What? I can’t hear you!

I think my second son is absolutely hilarious.  On more than one occasion I’ve been in my kitchen chuckling at something I heard him say in another room.  This nugget not so long ago:  his little sister needed some clothes washed (that’s his job) and he’d been derelict thanks to his baseball schedule. So she shouted from her room, “Hey!  Do the laundry!  I’m dyin’ over here!”   Instead of getting mad, which is not his style, he throws out a “What?  I can’t hear you; it’s dark in here!”   How can you get mad at that?  It’s so funny!!!   Beside being great for his ego and my mood, it gives me food for thought.

 

I’ve written about listening before since it’s a favorite topic of my husband and me.  Recently we were at a meeting where, among other things, we were encouraged to do considerably more listening than talking.  Someone later said, “Did we really need that?  Shouldn’t we be doing that already?”  That amused me, too, because the very fact that we DON’T listen well warrants the need to have such presentations.

Because this hits my radar so frequently, I can tell you unequivocally that we humans are terrible listeners.     Not just poor or we-could-do- better, but terrible.  I’ll be at the whiteboard giving step by step instructions slowly when a student will look up and say, “What are we doing?”  When I tell them I JUST said what they needed to know, they’ll weakly say they were writing their name on their paper…and add somewhat defensively that they can’t do both at the same time.  To which I’ll counter, you can’t listen and write your name?  Nope.  Wow, so you won’t be having music on when you drive?  Of course they will.  But that’s two activities at once.

Think where we’d be if we couldn’t do two things at once.  I get the whole mulit-tasking isn’t really accomplishing two things, it’s one, but we CAN listen for cars when we’re jogging, CAN hear the baby crying in the back of church while we’re listening to the sermon, we CAN hear the timer go off when putting in laundry.

But beyond the annoyance of someone who isn’t listening to you when you’re literally standing 3 ft away from them, how about the sadness of those who don’t listen to the more important things in life?  At that presentation, we saw a demonstration of what it’s like to be a good listener.  The demonstrator drew out a story and asked very intuitive questions.  Not just the expected banalities that bore us all.  Glennon Melton recently said that “Questions are gifts.  It’s the thought behind them the receiver feels.”  And she’s exactly right.  When you’re blown off or you share something and a friend never asks about it again, it doesn’t feel good.  It’s more than being self-centered; it’s wanting others to care about you and to show it by listening.

Glennon also said, “If we really want to know people, we need to ask questions that convey ‘I’m not just checking the box here.  I really care what you have to say and how you feel.'”  I recently worked with someone who literally never asked me one question about myself.  Didn’t know I had kids, volunteer, went away for a week…never asked.  She’s motivated me, though.  Someone I’ll see soon just started a new job, I’m going to ask what her favorite part of it is so far.  Another woman is going to be a grandma again.  I’d like to see the ultrasounds and share her joy.

This is not hard work!  Make it your goal today to ask someone something deeper than ‘how was your day?’  Verbal grease works for many situations, but if you really want to show you care, don’t claim you can’t hear them just because it’s dark 🙂

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.

 

We all need a shove sometime

I loved summer as a kid.  Summers meant playing outside with neighbors, spitting watermelon seeds, running around the Recreation Center while dozens of church leagues played softball, stopping at the open-air ice cream shop on the way home, mosquito bites and lots and lots of swimming.  A natural swimmer, I was always called a fish.  None of us took lessons; we just jumped in and figured it out.  But as easy as swimming was, diving was something entirely different.  I just couldn’t do it.

So there I was, one summer morning on Big Star Lake in Baldwin, Michigan where we rented a cottage for two glorious weeks every July of my childhood.  Rocking at the end of the dock, my brothers shouted personal remarks of the un-encouraging sort.  My dad, never a patient one with kids, decided he’d had enough and stomped up behind me.  Knowing how he works, I warned him that this time I was going to do it.  I was just going to dive in.  Any second now.  K…in a few minutes.

My thumbs were intertwined, my knees bent, my ears squeezed between my shoulders.  “I’m gonna do it.  I’m gonna do it.”  This was the day.  Or not.  “Oh for pity’s sake, just do it already!”  This did not help.  I decided to make a show of it to appease my dad, but I knew that I wasn’t going to do it, but… I rocked for his sake anyway.

Then, I was sucking lake.  With foot on my rear, (I’m not making this up) he gave me a good, hard shove.  My entrance into the lake was not the lovely arc I had hoped to have but more of head-first plop.  This did not thrill me, but I did dive and the first time didn’t have to be pretty.   A few summers ago I had the joy of diving and diving and diving from the dock in Lake Chelan with my two sons.  Oh it was fun and I have to say, my dives were quite graceful.

As much as I didn’t like it at the time, sometimes a good shove is exactly what we need.  Not many of us are going to ask for it, but when it comes to kicking us out of complacency, sometimes we need a friend behind us giving us a good shove.

Many times we find ourselves on a dock of some sort, about to be pushed in.   I think God needs to put us in situations like those because there’s no other way we’ll jump in.  (Ever avoided a dock altogether?) We all have standing-on-the-dock experiences.  Maybe it’s a new job, a life transition, a big move.  It’s scary but this is where we switch to autopilot and let God take over.

When I look back at my dock experiences, often I’m standing there in position, rocking, saying “I’m gonna do it; I’m gonna do it,” with absolutely no intention of doing it!!  So often we need to get shoved out of complacency or inactivity.  But, we argue, talking about it with friends is so much easier!  That’s when I pray someone gives me a shove!! After the fact, I’m so thankful.  It’s so much better to have done it.  Even if we’re sucking lake, we did it.  Might not look pretty, but who cares?  The next time will be better.   Graceful, even.

I don’t want my kids to be happy

I read it again today; heard it on TV last week.  Here’s the scenario: child gets in a bind, struggles, must admit vulnerability, turns to parent for support.  Then, amid sappy music (even if provided in your head)…

 “But I tried so hard!  I just want you to be proud of me.”

“Honey if you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

“Really?”  They sniff.

“Really.  That’s all your father and I ever wanted for you.  We just want you to be happy.”   Big hug.  Wipe a tear from your own eyes.   Gag if you’d like.

Now before you accuse me of being a grump, I have to protest with the weakness of these parents’ goals.  Happiness?  Really?  That’s it?  It’s not just in media.  I’ve heard real, in-the-flesh parents say the same thing. Sure I want my kids to be happy but if that’s the chief goal of their lives, they’re in for some shocking moments.

The truth is, happiness seems to be our default setting anyway.  We all will naturally choose it, so let’s push ourselves and our kids just a little bit more.  If my only goal is happiness for them, then they won’t reach beyond an elementary level in anything, won’t leave home with domestic discipline, won’t stretch themselves in academics, will always have homogeneous relationships…

I want them to try harder, be uncomfortable sometimes, take a risk, feel awkward, be confused, see injustice, feel empathy.  Which of us adults have escaped any of that?  Don’t these make us better, more sensitive  people?  I want my kids to check their own preferences at the door sometimes and go out of their way for another.  I want them to be moved to action when angered by something grossly unfair.  I want them to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.  I want them to work harder and more ethically because it’s the right thing to do; not because their boss is watching.   I want them to push themselves to understand, not just know.

I could go on and on.  Will any of the aforementioned make them happy?  Maybe not immediately.  These actions will build over their lifetimes and as they mature, they will see that God does not wish for their happiness exclusively, either.  They’re meant for something far higher than mere happiness.  They will know their purpose when they become the created one the Created One created them to be.  (can’t take credit for that great line, but I quote it here aptly.)  And that might involve some unhappiness along the way; but it will also mean their lives have more depth and breadth and that, I think, will make them, their parents, their peers, and their God very happy indeed.