Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Encouragement for the “New Mom"

My firstborn, Thomas, turned five this winter and gave me pause to reflect on my first five years of motherhood. My gut reaction was to feel awful about all I’ve messed up. That sounds terrible, but it’s the truth.  Learning the ropes of the mommy vocation has been uncomfortable for me, even gut wrenching at times.  It’s been humiliating (the fit in Wal-mart) and humbling (calling my mom or texting a friend with “help. please tell me what to do”) in between all the joy I’ve felt in seeing these three unique and beautiful little souls sprout up before my very eyes.

If there is one good reason I blog, it’s because I want to encourage moms. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how many tantrums, teething all-nighters, or vomit-catching blankets I’ve handled, I will always need encouragement just as much as the mom who is holding her brand new baby this day.  

So if I share these encouragement tidbits with you, know that it’s not because I’ve mastered them & want to pass them on along with the excess baby onesies. It’s because these are the good gold nuggets of hope I cling to on those dirty, dig deep days that bring me to my knees in prayer to Jesus as I’m pushing poopy crib sheets into the washer. 

1. Plant the seeds

Moms (and dads!) are seed planters. We plant and plant and plant and plant these little invisible seeds every day. We sit with doe-eyed junior and read the board book and say silly things like “turtle starts with ’t’…can you say ’t’?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “is any of this getting through to you?” And sometimes we say “do you understand a damn thing I’m saying to you?” No we don’t. We don’t cuss in front of our kids. 

But when you’ve reminded Suzie to say “please” and “thank you” no less than 1,337,878,976,962 times and she has yet to remember on her own, you just start to wonder if any of your efforts are sticking. They are. But some of those seeds sit in the ground for a long time (we’re talking grow a Duck Dynasty beard time-frame) before they poke back up out of the ground again. Keep planting the seeds. Most of them will grow something, eventually.

Sometimes the seeds are things for us, not them. I was so deeply selfish with my first that I was annoyed that I had to sometimes hold him when I ate. How dare this kid come between me and my food?! I’ve planted a lot of seeds since then. Now I’m much less selfish and just get annoyed when the kids realize I’m eating the rest of breakfast in my bedroom with the door closed, locked, bolted, and barred shut by a dresser. 

2.  You are not alone 

Let’s talk Satan’s lies. Here’s what Satan absolutely loves, loves, loves. He loves for you to think that you are alone. He wants you to bury your head in the sand and think that you are the only mom ever who: hasn’t read a single parenting book, can’t seem to get dinner on the table without it coming out of a box or a bag, hates reading to her kids, is depressed, is anxious, is depressed and anxious, has no idea what she’s doing, let her kid cry it out, let herself cry it out, nursed too long, nursed too little, yelled today, yelled while she was nursing today, and who wasn’t ready for baby to come home…like, at all. 

I promise you that whatever you are facing today with your sweet pea (who might be acting more like rotten cabbage meets poltergeist), you are absolutely, positively not alone. The second you remember this is the second you are on your way to moving on to a better place (where you aren’t hiding out in the bathroom with your cell phone). Reach out to your village. Phone a friend isn’t just a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire assist. It’s a freebie available to all of us playing Who Wants to Be a Mom Who Doesn’t Run Away to Florida Sans Family. Actually, that sounds fabulous! Well, you understand what I mean. But really, any takers on a trip to the Keys with me?? All to say, you are not alone. Remember this. It’s 100% true. 

3. Celebrate the good. Deal with the bad. And move on. 

Oh boy, is parenting a messy business or what?! Right when you have figured out how to get your 1 year old to take a nap mid-day and you dang near feel like a magician for that epic accomplishment, your 3 year old discovers her divine ability to say no and stomp away from you. In public. With parenting, you don’t get fully caught up to speed or that sense of relief from being finished with something.  

When I have this awful feeling that I’m in the wrong head space as a mom, I remember this motto: “celebrate the good, deal with the bad, and move on.” It’s something that my sis-in-law, Moira, said one time and it has stuck with me ever since. Specifically, I think about the balance with the three parts of this. Sometimes I’m doing too much celebrating (sending my mom 1000 photos of the kids and fun things Thomas said). Sometimes I’m focusing way too much on the bad. (Dark place, my friends. Much crying and even more chocolate).  And sometimes I’m just stuck and need to move on with things regardless of if the space we’ve been hanging out in as a family has been really great or really awful.  

4.  By feast (not by force)

Thomas didn’t sing his ABC’s correctly until he was already learning how to read, just this past year. He couldn’t count to 10 (consistently) until he was 4, but just a year later he’s doing addition and subtraction problems for fun.  He’s five now and drew a robot a couple weeks ago out of a how-to drawing book for kids much older than him, but he didn’t start drawing (or having any interest whatsoever) anything other than a few scribbles the first 4 years of his life. And let me just say, that the drawing one might have been the most difficult one for me.  I can’t even fully describe just how absolutely uninterested he was in anything artistic.

I found the robot!

These somewhat backward breakthroughs makes it sound like I taught him these things while I’ve been at home with him, but that just isn’t the case. Certain things clicked with him in a much different order than what’s deemed “normal”. What a dumb word “normal” is.  It’s good for your kids to have a little weird in them.  That’s often our cue to what makes them so special. 

Sometimes, we are discouraged because we want our kids to either be ________________ or we want them to do x, y, and z.  The problem, wonderful problem, with that is that they are so extraordinarily unique.  We can’t force them into these molds that we had pictured in those days after seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test. Your kid done broke that mold. That mold is shattered, flushed, and long gone, girlfriend. 

We should be gentle with ourselves and with our children in what they are learning and what they find interesting.  Dare I say it. Relax! I think it is great to invite them in to read and to see nature and to watch basketball games and to do the million wonderful things that we would want for them. But we also should watch and wait some too.  They often go at their own pace. They often fly when we are least expecting it. And we shouldn’t get discouraged when it’s not as we had thought it would be. We can add to the feast. They’ll eat. And you’ll have the communion of sharing the table together. But please, please don’t despair as I did when your 4 year old stands up with all the other kids at day care and is the only one who can not for the life of him (or those hives breaking out) remember how in the hell to get from 1 to 10.  

Much love from your fellow "new mom"!