Parenting has been something that has really made me peel back rigid layers of myself. I thought parenting would add layers of certainty and strength. Turns out you need to allow your weaknesses to exist in tandem with your strengths as a mother.
If I had it my way my kids would blindly obey me, eat all the dinners I make, never argue and start folding their own laundry. And I say that knowing full well that I would hate being this parent. My kids would never learn to develop their own independence, listen to their bodies, seek toddler-style justice and just be, well, kids.
Of the lessons I’ve been learning about being a mother, there were some I learned against my pride-soaked will. One of those hard lessons I learned when we first had Lenayah.
She was the opposite of her laid-back, happy, older brother. She cried all the time, never settled for longer than twenty minutes, fought and arched during nursing and was just so inconsolable. I would later find out she had esophagitis and that going off gluten and dairy helped ease the symptoms. Even past the diet change she still struggled to move past her first four months of fighting for comfort.
I dreaded being alone with her because I felt so helpless and depleted. All of my anxious tendencies and my own incompatibility with discomfort were exaggerated under the stress of being her mom. She wasn’t at fault for this, I just hit a wall in how to deal with it.
The worst time of each day was bedtimes. I would be in her room rocking and nursing her from 7pm to 11pm. I would run through every possible combination of comfort techniques I could think of. All for the sake of trying to help her settle to sleep for longer than twenty minutes. My head was scrambled with thoughts about my inability to parent. I was consumed with frustration that I couldn’t help this poor baby. My role of wife, of woman, of friend was being swallowed up by all of my tension and desperation to have some of my old self back.
A white-knuckled grip I had on how I thought parenting should be was twinned by my constantly clenched jaw. And then God started to whisper some softness and grace into my life. Through rocking, and bouncing, and shushing, and swaddling I heard, ‘you can’t always fix it, sometimes you just have to be there for them’. So I just sat with her. Just held her through our tears. I was at a loss, not because I was a poor mom, not because she was broken, but because there are some things you just can’t fix. Sometimes you can only hold hands through the tough times rather than find a shortcut to an easier road.
If you ask most parents they will say they want their kids to be ‘happy and successful’, of course we all want that but what does that ‘goal’ do to our parenting? Our culture has an unwritten rule, ‘good happy moms make good happy kids’. Moms buy into this and it can cast a shameful shadow on those times we will (inevitably) struggle.
I know I only have toddlers, I’m just beginning to get my feet wet in the parenting pool. Even if this was the introductory lesson in ‘Things Won’t Always Work Out How You Dictate They Need To’ it’s still been one thing I learned with the kind of tension that tethers you to where you are rather than freeing you up to move to the next step in getting through the day.
I know there are some of you who probably had this lesson on lockdown. We all have our own system of ideas being challenged in our parenting. Every mom has her own advice to offer others, which I think is a beautiful thing. Every mom is different and every mom can share something of value with another. Like these fellow moms who are writing along with me today on a parenting lesson they learned the hard way…..
Sarah at Sarah on Purpose
Jac & Juli at Two Fun Moms
Louise at Talk Nerdy to Me
And tell me, what is a parenting lesson YOU learned the hard way?
Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram with my exciting momlife, my husband’s inability to selfie and glamour shots of any plants that are still alive in my garden.