I think a lot of moms-of-young-children feel less than perfect much of the time. The constant tiredness and feelings of coming up short can perhaps make them feel that their children are getting a very sub-par childhood.
Jameson’s not really old enough for me to feel like I can speak from my own experience of working through those feelings, but I thought I’d share a few peeks into my own childhood as an encouragement. I find these little vignettes to be quite comical, actually, when I compare my mom’s story with my own.
Anyway, read on:
As the story goes (correct me, Mama Dearest, if I’m wrong), my brother (#4 baby) was born shortly after I turned 5. That meant four children, 5 and under, for my mom to care for. Believe it or not, back then, Superwoman Darlene wasn’t a seasoned mother. In fact, as the story goes, Dad would come at night to find Mom crying on the couch while we ran around. (Correct me if I’m wrong, MD.)
Mom finally said, “All right. Either these kids learn to work, or this is the end of me.”
From my side: Life was peachy-keen. We played dress-up and baby dolls and once in awhile, drew make up on our Cabbage Patch Kids with markers. That didn’t make Mom very happy, but it was fun while we were doing it.
One day, Mom showed us a chore chart. We would do a month of our daily chores, which we would track on different charts around the house. Each day of completed chores would mean we could move our little shoe magnet up the Magic Beanstalk she had carefully drawn, and eventually, we would reach the top, where various treasures lay. (I think lay. Lor?)
This was great fun, as much fun as building forts. We would count our five finger chores in the morning, spin our little pie-chart diagram to see who set the table (I loved to arrange the silverware perfectly evenly, and make sure the teddy bear plates were straight!), and unload the dishwasher. And then, oh joy-of-joys, Mom would stand and watch us move those little feet farther and farther up the beanstalk.
This introduction to responsibility is one of the highlights of my childhood. Who ever would have known it all happened because of one distraught mama crying in total desperation on the couch? Not me!
A little while back, Bri and I were visiting Mom, children in tow. Eventually it was time for Bri to pack her young into the minivan and put them to bed. Unfortunately, as often is the case with small children, they were a bit emotional about having to leave Nana and Uncle Merrick. Mom, having compassion on Brietta, volunteered a young aunt to go home with her and help with bedtime. Said Mama to me as they left, “I always dreaded bedtime. Trying to get everyone dressed with their teeth brushed at the same time, and always with a baby wailing in the background… Uh. I dreaded it.”
My side: Bedtime as a little girl was so much fun. We would all dance around the bedroom as we put on pretty nightgowns Grandma made for us. Brushing teeth was so much fun, especially because we had to climb on a little wooden stool, and it was sort of like a stage — we even would sing at our reflection in the mirror. This all probably took much longer than necessary, but it sure was fun.
Mama would be helping the younger ones and helping us remember to move along to the next chore. She would take our hair things out and run her pretty hands through our hair “to give it a rest,” she always said. Sometimes she would even braid it loosely, and we would feel like old-fashioned little girls. Some nights she would read a chapter book to us, and sometimes she would tell a story about growing up in apple country. She made it sound so wonderful that to this day, I want to live on an orchard when I grow up. Out would go the lights, and then our favorite part: she would sing to us. Daddy told great stories, but Mama sang great songs. Then she would leave, and we would whisper and tee-hee until we finally fell asleep. We liked that about our Mama: she didn’t mind us talking a little before bed.
Yes, bedtime has lots of wonderful memories. Who ever would have known that our dear Mama heaved a sigh of relief and fell into an armchair, exhausted, when we were all finally bedded? Not me!
Most recently, the era of hockey injuries has been on my mind. Dad was severely hurt, in deep depression, and leaned heavily on Mom for support to make it through. Mom, of course, encouraged him like a champ, and in her spare time, took care of all 7 of us for over a year. She schooled us, disciplined us, trained us, and kept us all quieter than ever, since sound threw my Dad into a tailspin. Upstairs, a husband who had to sit all day in the dark, listening to Pachelbel’s Canon because he couldn’t handle anything more stimulating (no offense to all you Canon lovers out there.) That’s the part I knew. What I didn’t realize was what bad shape he was in. Anyway, he was upstairs, and downstairs were 7 kids who were, well, seven kids. No further elaboration necessary.
My side: For about a year, Dad had some memory and thinking problems, so he stayed upstairs, quietly sitting in the dark, progressing from boring classical pieces to Rush Limbaugh on tape. We didn’t visit him much, so it was super-exciting when he would join us occasionally for dinner. Of course, his head hurt a lot, so Mom would give us all a little pep-talk about saying absolutely NOTHING at dinner. We loved having Dad with us, and it was kind of fun to figure out how to ask for the salt without really asking. Eventually Mom would help Dad back upstairs, and we would all burst out saying all the things we’d been holding in. What a fun game! But the very best part was Christmas Eve, when Dad sat with us for the whole evening. And because I was the oldest, I got to read the Christmas story that only Dad has ever read. Boy, did I feel special! He smiled at me while I read it, and it was one of the proudest moments in my oldest-child career.
Who would ever have known the struggles my parents were dealing with while we happily played who-can-be-the-quietest? Not me!
So, some glimpses. The amazing thing about children is they’re totally self-absorbed. That means that chances are, they won’t even notice you crying on the couch. And if they do, they’ll just wonder why you’re not getting them a drink fast enough. I’m not sure selfishness is ever really a good thing, but once in awhile, it works in the favor of a young mom. :)
But I am truly amazed at how human my parents always have been. I suddenly realize, “Hey! I’m not perfect like they’re not perfect! That means I have a chance of being a blessing to my children just like they were to me!”
God doesn’t wait for us to be perfect. He can use us as we are, just as long as we stay willing to follow Him in the best way we can.
In the words of the good doctor, “Leave room for humanity. But leave no room for laziness.”
Pursue hard, do your best, stumble, and pick yourself up. He’s bringing us somewhere, and it’s somewhere good. It’s maturity, perfection, knowing Him. What a relief that is to know!