The first weeks of motherhood were pretty exciting, if I’m remembering correctly.
There were, of course, struggles. I desperately wanted to breast feed, but after many weight checks at the pediatrician and what seemed like daily visits to the lactation consultants, it became obvious that I would not be able to just breast feed my new daughter. I would be pumping and supplementing with formula after each feeding — for the duration. So, after four long weeks of doing really not much other than this time-consuming feeding regimen, I made the difficult decision to go to formula alone.
We also struggled at first in getting her onto a schedule. But that was established with a week or two of consistent routine. (And the acquisition of a good book on the subject.)
All in all, I’d say that after our sixth week of this parenting-business, we’d hit a stride that was pretty darn delightful. And I reveled in my new role as a mom. No job I ever had compared in any way to the joy I found in mothering this child. Allyson was an easy sleeper (once we all settled into said routine), an easy eater (till she hit the age of about 2 years), and a pretty nice little girl.
Then we did it all again with our second daughter. Well, most of it. Once again I tried to breast feed, but only agonized over it for two weeks this time before giving up and resorting once again to formula. And once we got her settled into a routine, life was pretty predictable, and much easier than I’d been warned it would be. (Just because you’ve had one easy baby, don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t have another.)
Really, the struggles that followed were mostly me, trying to keep up with two toddlers. Parks were not happening — at least when I was by myself. I learned such limitations by doing. And I protected our afternoon nap schedule like the soldiers guard the gold at Fort Knox. I went to bed really tired at the end of each day, and often slept during their naps. None of this getting-housework-done-while they-were-asleep nonsense for me! Being a 37-year-old mom made me keenly aware of my limitations, and I wanted to survive their toddlerhood!
Now we come to the real focus of my post. After these not unexpected battles came the ones that caught me unawares.
As we began to discipline our girls I began a journey that slowly revealed to me that not everything in life is black and white. You may be one of the billions of people alive on planet Earth today who knew this before becoming a parent. Congratulations. And I don’t say that with any sarcasm whatsoever. I, you see, am one of perhaps three people who really thought that there was a right and wrong to almost every issue that arose. I used to tell Jeff, when the girls were pretty young, that I was at a loss at times because I couldn’t tell exactly what to say or do in every situation with which my children presented me. How was I supposed to parent like that?! I wanted to be able to look over in the corner and see Jesus giving me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down when deciding how to tackle a problem with my children. But I’ve been learning, gradually, that’s not how he does things.
This subject has been on my mind a lot recently because of the Sunday school class we’ve been attending at church about raising kids. The way the fellow teaching the class explains it, there are three categories into which things fall: things that the Bible explicitly confirms as right, or moral; things it says are wrong, or immoral; and then things the Bible takes no clear sides on and we have to judge for ourselves, this would be the amoral category.
The first two categories should consist of pretty short lists. And the third … well, that’s the one that scares me. But, at the same time, it’s kind of nice to know that there isn’t always just one right answer to every parenting dilemma! We need to make the best decision we can, and move on! It’s a slow process, but I’ve been happy to be learning it.
Likewise, the other lesson that brought me up short is this: There’s not a formula that will assure that our children will grow up “right.” God doesn’t guarantee results like that. We need to pray for our kids and do the best we can and know that their lives are in his hands. It’s really between them and God. And that has been a tough pill for me to swallow.
When my Mom was 61 years old she died unexpectedly in her sleep. We were all blindsided. After that I would wake up in a panic from time to time, afraid my husband would die, or that I would die, and that we wouldn’t get a chance even to say goodbye. (This was the year before we became parents.) At those times Jeff could only remind me that none of us can control how long we live. He told me it was in God’s hands. But my immediate reply was, “Well, look how that turned out for Mom!” Then it hit me — me “letting go” and trusting God didn’t mean that I was really relinquishing control. I had no control! Nothing I could do or say could change what would happen. No, this was about my relinquishing myself to God and to his sovereignty. Not my control. How it “turned out” for our Mom was exactly how God planned it to be. And I needed to trust him with the rest of the people in my life, because it’s really up to him, anyway. This now includes my two precious daughters. And I’m beginning to realize that, if I was the one to control everything in our lives, we’d all be in trouble! The very beginning, the germ, of that trust has begun to take root for me, and I am able, at times, to trust God and not try to hang onto things over which I have no control.
This trust also makes it easier to let go of my desire to know the “right” answer to every question I’m faced with. I can trust that God has given me a brain and he expects me to use it. I’m not perfect. God knew that a long time ago, and yet he has asked me to raise these two girls of ours anyway! It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s okay. I’ll do the best I can, and trust my Lord to take care of everything else.