Friday, October 26, 2012

Random thoughts on my current stage of child-rearing

1.   When they were very young, I remember feeling a lack of personal space. My own body was not my own. Little people were either inside, feeding from, climbing on, tugging or sleeping on my body. That was tiring but my body is by-in-large my own again now.

A new invasion has begun however – inside my head. Someone is always talking, asking, challenging, requesting, debating or singing. I can’t hear myself think! It’s the mental, not the physical space, that I feel a lack of now. Sometimes I fear my head might actually explode from the continual mental multi-tasking. Yesterday, I was driving in peak-hour traffic when someone in the back asked me if there were any numbers that when spelt produced a palindrome. I nearly sobbed.

2.    When they were little, they were intense and tiring and in a lot of cases this was beyond their control. They needed feeding in the middle of the night – not their fault. They were too little to put things away properly and clean up without making more mess. They delayed me in all sorts of ways that they didn’t realize were irritating and difficult. They lost shoes and left jumpers in odd places. But they were little and what was required on my part was patience.

Now they are older, they know better. They can keep track of their stuff, be on time, help out, put things back and be considerate. And they choose not to. I think I had a secret idea that they would get with my program as soon as they were old enough to understand it. Surprise! That’s not how children work.

As this has dawned on me, I have felt a great well of resentment rising up. I resent that I have to tell them that again. I resent that they are still doing that. At times, I’ve dearly wanted to let loose and tell my offspring exactly what I think of them. So what I need now, perhaps more than patience, is self-control. What I don’t need is to be constantly talking to myself about how awful and hard-done by I am. The marathon goes on and it doesn’t help to sit down and moan in the gutter or stand in the middle of the road and have a fit. Instead, I need to exercise self-control (and gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, patience) in continuing to correct, remind, discipline and encourage without blowing my top about their failure to comply. Even if it is their fault. And I feel terribly guilty writing this because we had a shocker of an afternoon/evening yesterday and my level of resentment was sky high.

3.   I think it’s time to resign. Not from mothering in general but from that idea of motherhood I had before I actually became a parent. Wasn’t I going to be a lovely mum? Full of gentle wisdom, cuddles, book-reading and baking. Able to calmly explain and correct while sympathetically wiping away little tears. Turns out that I’m just as selfish as I was before I had kids. And even if I thought I was the perfect mother, worshiping my own achievements wouldn’t make me happy.

The reality is, I’m going to continue to be bad-tempered, easily distracted, grumpy, self-centred old me. That real me has been loved, rescued and bought by Jesus. He was able to do perfectly everything that I am unable to measure up to so that I could be set free.  Free to care for my family with lots of stumbles, mistakes, tenderness and occasionally even deep-felt love.

But, oh, this is an intense phase we seem to be in at present! And my ever-faithful husband is going to be busy away from home for most of this weekend. Send chocolate.


Sarah Cooper said...

I know what you mean! Thanks for the encouragement to be self-controlled int his stage, I need to hear that.

Karen said...

I keep a secret stash of chocolate in my pantry and fridge (yes, I do have a lot of it!) for times when my husband is away from home.

And I am definitely with you in this stage of wondering why I have to repeat myself so many times. And wishing that I wasn't standing in the middle of the road having hissy fits so often....
Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone and the reminder about what's important.

Anonymous said...

Can totally relate to palindrome (or whatever it is). My kids are learning things I didn't learn until year 11, or, in the case of palindrome, ever! Sigh. Thank goodness for Google. Had to look up 'product' the other day for maths. I vaguely recalled it but just had to double check! Fleur

Deb said...

Thanks, Sarah.

Deb said...

He's only just left and I've already consumed the first bar. That doesn't bode well for my healthy food habits this weekend. ;)

Deb said...

Even when I Google it, I'm not always believed. Sometimes I remind them I am a qualified teacher. They often give me a look that suggests they think that could only have resulted from some kind of clerical error.

Susie said...

Great to be challenged again to think about this whole motherhood thing! Thanks Deb.

Anonymous said...

"The reality is, I’m going to continue to be bad-tempered, easily distracted, grumpy, self-centred old me..."
I totally get the sentiment here and the reality-check of describing what our lives look like. I feel like I hear this kind of thing a lot from mums with primary school and high school kids.

I personally somehow don't feel comfortable in describing my sinful state as a fait accompli. Like I get in bad moods and shout at my children but I feel like I shouldn't and need to apologise to my kids and try to not do it tomorrow.( even though I will because I'm a sinner.)

Do you have any comment about that? I 'm conscious you're a more experienced, thoughtful mother. I guess I still *do* want to be the gentle, kind mother (although it doesn't come naturally and my kids drive me crazy.) But I want to die trying. Am I being naive?

Deb said...

That's a really good point. There's a fine line between being honest about where we are at and excusing on-going behaviour that needs changing. I don't think you are being naive in wanting to be a kind and gentle mother - I think you are reaching for an excellent goal. That's what we are called to do and every day is a fresh beginning in that endevour.

I guess what happened for me was that, prior to having kids, I had imagined the kind of caring, patient mother I would be and I assumed knowing what I wanted to do would result in me doing it. It didn't really occur to me that my sinful self was going to find it really, really hard to do that. That's not to say I don't want to still strive for those things. I do. But perhaps what I really want to resign from is the idea that the goal of my mothering is to perfect my own performance.

Constantly measuring my successes and failures against this ideal I have in my head is futile because I will never perfectly measure up for starters. And secondly, if I look closely at my motives, I find when I'm keeping a close record of my performance, I'm actually creeping steadily towards legalism and self-righteousness. Sometimes I suspect I'm more grieved about how I'm "failing" to be that perfect mother than I am grieved that I've disobeyed God and hurt my family when I've let my temper go unchecked.

Mothering has helped me see in all sorts of new ways how much I need saving from myself. Grace has helped me to understand that trying harder won't fix the problem. Trusting in Jesus' work to forgive me and give me a right standing before God is what takes away that burden of performance. This sets me free to pursue growing in love, patience and gentleness towards my family. The key is that I pursue it on the basis of what Jesus has done for me, not on how good I think I can be.

I'm not sure if all that makes sense. I agree wholeheartedly with the desire to daily keep chipping away at those things we do that we ought not to. I'm just keen to remember that the pursuit should be about God's glory not my own. That's why I think it's helpful sometimes to reflect on our failures and remind ourselves of God's grace shown at cross so that we pursue excellence in mothering from that perspective and not from the pursuit of an idealized form of ourselves.

Thanks for your comment! It was great to think through these things again. :) A really helpful reminder for my own mothering today.