Thursday, April 21, 2016

From the Archives: Motherly Encouragement

We live in what is commonly described as the "Age of Information". As a parent and someone concerned with education, the vast amount of information available to me at the click of a mouse can be illuminating. It can also be overwhelming. Studies on brain development in infants, reports on educational trends, ongoing debates on child rearing styles–it can all leave a parent feeling wholly inadequate. For all its wealth of information, the digital age is often short on encouragement and long-term perspective. So it was extremely refreshing to have my sister-in-law, Grace, forward an inscription she'd found on the inside cover of a tattered parenting book. From one mother to another, the writer conveyed something I think our mother-hearts long to hear: that we are immensely important to our children but there is someone greater guiding their little hearts. I want to share these sweet, faded words with you because I think they speak to something we know deep down but is often lost in the cacophany of parenting advice and research. 

"Sometimes when you are tired it is hard to be conscious of God's grace and presence guiding your nurturing of the new life in your family. This book has helped and encouraged me more than any other when my foggy and worn consciousness cannot quite get to the truth of the situation. My biggest leap of faith has been to know that while I am a very important tool in helping my son grow into who God has made him, there are other factors in every part of my son's life that will shape and form him and God's grace surrounds him and us no matter how confused, or blind, or tired we are. 
"So don't worry about what you don't know...yet. The new situation that demands new understanding of us is also the channel through which that understanding may come. You are about to get your first glimpse of Agape love. The love that teaches us to invest our best selves selflessly with the detachment of seeking nothing in return. From the moment she is born your task is one of letting go of the thing you love most. You will have so much fun learning about this amazing love together. If you are not enjoying yourself and at least at peace, ask yourself this: What am I holding on to? And let go! It's like a roller coaster."
What a cogent reminder of our role as parents. I'm a firm believer in the importance of boiling things 
 down to the basics. While it's so easy to get caught up in checklists, educational outcomes, long-term goals, at the heart of the matter we, as parents, are here to love and care for our children. As a Christian the most important outcome for me is that my children carry on my faith, that they know God's love, and love those around them in a selfless way. What more could a parent want? The challenge is remembering this in the midst of all the distractions.

The author's ability to show that parenting should be something we can accomplish with peace and joy helps me reframe my mental state when my six-month-old is cutting his 6th (!!!!) tooth and the nights are long and exhausting. What am I holding on to? What am I allowing to rob me of taking solace in these moments when my baby needs me with a ferocity that I'm sure I'll miss in a few years? I know that being able to stop and ask myself that question will become increasingly important with each passing year. On days when homeschooling has caused tempers to rise and the threat of tears is looming, what am I holding on to? Is it that important that my child figure out the answer to this math problem right now? Or do we need to take a breather? What course of action will be more important to the development of his character? These are the questions I struggle with as a mother and they're the questions that do not have easy answers but encouragement from someone who has walked this path before me is more valuable than a dozen peer-reviewed studies on teaching styles.

When Grace first read the inscription to me over the phone, I was struck by the unknown writer's ability to speak to moms that she had never met. And it made me want to be like her! Graciousness is something one has a very difficult time finding on the mommy discussion boards, in the articles written by researchers, in the opinions of experts. Finding it anywhere is always a surprise, a gift. As she stated, motherhood is the "task of letting go of the thing you love most." Maybe it's also the task of letting go of my ideals, my expectations, my desires and leaning into hard (and happy) moments with my child. Maybe it's letting go of my desire to spout off some wise-sounding advice to an overwhelmed mom and just let her know that she's not alone. Maybe it's the daily discipline of recognizing my limitations as a mother and trusting God to graciously turn the messy chaos of my parenting into something beautiful. Yes, this adventure is like a "roller coaster" with its highs and lows and I'm so encouraged that there are people out there who will remind me that it's not all up to me. 

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1 comment:

  1. Beautiful thoughts here. I am encouraged not only by what you gleaned from an anonymous mother, but also your own reflections on them.