I once heard it said that anything worthwhile in life has to be fought for. A good marriage, a strong family, friendships, intimate relationships with your children, a good reputation at work - all these things are wrought with opposition. Don't you feel this? Nothing worth having comes easily. And lately, I feel this most poignantly in my parenting role. I need and desire to fight what feels like an uphill battle, and the battle is demanding. But at the same time, it is a fight I look forward to, and one I face securely, because I know God equips me to do whatever job He gives me. I don't feel a call to press on in my job as a mother because it is necessarily so difficult, though it is a lot of the time. Rather, I feel compelled to take up my weapons, so to speak, because of the constantly growing realization that my job is so incredibly important. Parenting requires much more of me than I ever could have imagined.
But here's the deal; I have always known that the job of being a mother is incredibly important. What's challenging is that the specific ways in which I need to understand and apply that truth keep changing. What I have understood, planned, and executed in the raising of a three-year old boy remains about as relevant as the latest piece of computer software, which is to say it is valid for only a handful of months. Sometimes much less, like when they're tiny. Isn't it just maddening to feel like you are always fighting to stay on top of who you are, who they are, and learning how in the heck you can all thrive together?
When I had baby number one, I quickly learned that motherhood required more of my energy and physical body than I could have ever imagined. Not too long ago, I was at my wits end trying to come up with a wide variety of foods that could be neatly cubed. "How many things at Trader Joes are already kind of bite-sized?" was a question that provided keys to my success. In the same period of time, I would catch myself calculating how many times I'd wiped down the high-chair (Oh my gosh, four times a day times 365 days, that's over 1400 times a year!). And now, my mastery of such chores no longer matters. Now that they are getting older and less dependent on me physically (who knew a 7 year old could happily assemble breakfast for herself at 6:30 on a Saturday morning while I slept in?), the requirements are totally different. Here is yet another opportunity to put things in perspective: whatever season you are in, whether good or bad, it will soon pass. I'm starting to get it, after nearly 8 years of being a mom. That dreaded feeling of "This is the way it will be forever!" is just an illusion. I'm ceasing to be surprised at the way each season morphs into a new one, and that I am required to morph with it.
Today I am seeing a new season approach, and I am leaning into it. It is shaping up to be about knowing my kids and seeing who they were created to be in the larger scheme of things. For instance, I am realizing that my daughter most likely has the gift of mercy. Though she is still a child and far from perfect, she also has an unusual capacity for compassion, particularly for the needy. What a revelation to realize in a new way how she is a person, a unique creation in her own right! For her, helping the less fortunate is a question of how she can, not if she wants to. Mercy is not my gift, so I know God is showing this fact to me, pointing at it, asking me to water what He's planted. Me. I can't depend on the public school system, the church, or anyone else to really see my child. I am her mom, and that makes me the most powerful influence in my children's lives. It is so critical that I fight for her, shrewdly and consistently, with the weapons of love, truth and grace.
My new season is not only about nurturing my children's strengths, but also having the wisdom to limit much of the white noise in our lives that does not apply. For instance, before I had kids, I decided they would each be required to play a classical instrument, at least for a while. I realize now that that notion is great in concept, and ridiculous in practice! Yes, I'd love for my daughter to learn to play piano at some point. But God help me that I never put my agenda above His; my children are His first, anyway. Letting go of my somewhat arbitrary, self-imposed standards on non-moral issues is one big battlefield for me.
As with all seasons of my mothering, God is fully providing what I need, showing me where I'm coming up short, giving me new tools and ideas, and most importantly giving me His eyes for my children. I now recognize when a new season is starting; I experience a familiar peeling back of a blind spot, a view of one of my children in a new light. "Wow. That's what you're doing, Lord. I had no idea." It's actually beautiful, the way He grows a person (kids and self included), and that is why I can lean into Him and lean into the change. He is such a gentle and loving Father. It makes the fight so much easier, and so much more exciting, knowing He's on my side.