Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bumbling Along

Tonight, the four-year-old took two hours to fall asleep. "I'm scared," he said. Husband was gracious enough to lie beside him the entire time. When he finally emerged from the darkened room, his energy and zest for life had drained considerably. When we began to converse, we bickered. It took us a while to work out how to vent our angst and frustration on something other than one another. 


It is so easy to project a perfect image as a blogger. It is easy to make it sound like the marriage is perfect, like the parenting is perfect, like the kids are perfect. It is easy to sift through all the bad and only write about the good.

After all, what mom in the trenches with her own little ones wants to hear about the four-and-a-half year old who wakes up surprisingly grouchy on some mornings? Who yells at his little sister, so in love with everything he does, "Don't look at me!!", leaving mom and dad surprised and clueless, feeling like bystanders at the scene of an ugly drama? No, uh-uh. Better to regale fellow moms with stories of success. So, I wait until the situation feels "under control" and then blog about the success.

Yet, is there such a thing as "success" in parenting? Success implies some sort of perfect, measurable outcome. And that is not what I'm striving towards. 

I'm in this parenting gig for better reasons than that. I want genuine, wholehearted, whole children who follow God and live in His love. And that means messy messes getting sorted through slowly, clumsily. It means that when the grouchy four year old manifests, I take a long, hard look at, well, at myself. Am I trying to be perfect, and so getting angry with my child for not also being perfect? Am I falsely believing that parenting is some sort of "weeding" process, where, when I pull enough weeds, a perfect little flower of a child will emerge? 

What is my job as mommy? The answer: discipler, nurturer, not model-child maker. 

So, the messes are ok. I will blog about them sometimes just to remind myself of this. The messes are opportunities to grow, to learn, to give and receive grace. They are chances to focus on the things that really matter, like matters of the heart. Contrary to public opinion, you can't get to the inward by trying to control the outward; you get to the inward by allowing messiness to seep out, to escape, to walk all over you. You take your child's hand, and you face it, together.

Mommy eyes always open with grace. Now, they see a precious little guy working through a new stage of development. Can I love him through it? Can I teach him constructive ways to handle those feelings? Is my walk with God genuine and grace-filled enough that he knows he can run to Him with His feelings, with his out-of-controlledness?

Messiness is all over our house these days. Sweet little one and a half year old girl has trouble at night. Sometimes, her sleep isn't long and restful. Mommy gets tired. Mommy growls when woken the fifteenth time in one night. Mommy faces her selfishness. Mommy lets daddy help her out when she needs a catnap, letting go of her fantasy of supermom. Always, the little girl leaves trails of destruction in her wake. Bottle of shampoo? Dump it. Cereal in a container to eat? Spit it all over the floor, then rub it around with your hands. Sometimes, I mentally scream at the never-ending cleanup multiplying before my eyes. 

Why am I sharing this? Because, just like our kids, being perfect is not the best way to learn and grow as a parent. The way to learn is by making messes, by not knowing what to do, by stepping outside of ourselves, looking in, and asking, "Why am I doing this? What really matters? What is my child going through on the inside right now? How can I show grace and compassion? How can I teach my child best?" Often, teaching looks messy, like helping that little man walk through an issue, or helping the little lady wipe up the water she dumped on the floor with a towel for the hundredth time.

So, obviously, I'm not perfect. I don't always give the best advice, and sometimes I have no idea what I'm doing. But where would be the adventurous walk with my Father through life, if I had some perfect method for raising my children? Where would be the falling into His arms at the end of the day, asking Him for wisdom and guidance? Where would be those amazing revelations of His vast wealth of love for me in my messiness if not in the loving of my kids through theirs? 

Fall into His arms, momma, and don't be afraid to be human, or, for that matter, to let your kids be.

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