Continuing from yesterday’s post about 10 motherhood lessons learned in 10 years…
6. There’s a difference between consistency and dogmatism
I’m good at being consistent with discipline. A little too good sometimes. I have a tendency to “stick to my guns,” even when it would be better to show grace, which usually creates an untenable situation–in which the overtired, crazed toddler can’t deal with life without her blankie, regardless of how many times that I remind her that the rule is “no blankies in the car.” (This is a recent rule, and one I’ve only had to establish for the twins, who are my first real blanket fiends). 10 years of motherhood has taught me to better recognize the times when a little negotiation and compromise are necessary for everyone’s sanity.
7. Prayer is miraculous
I can’t tell you how many times simply praying over a situation with my children listening has altered either the situation itself or–more commonly–my attitude about it. Praying for my children is one of my deepest privileges as a mother, and teaching them to pray–while sometimes a tedious process–is so worthwhile. There’s nothing better than stopping to pray that Daddy will, against all odds, find the keys that fell out of his pocket while he was on the excavator at the new house and quite likely got buried in all the dirt he was moving, and then finding out that Grandpa stumbled upon them in the grass the next morning. Every answer to prayer is not such a clear yes, of course, but it sure is fun to share those yes moments with my kids and talk about what a good, good Father we have.
8. Repetition equals results
The runner up header for this one was “nagging is necessary,” but I thought that might be a smidge less inspiring.
The truth is, if I’d had any idea how many times I would repeat certain phrases (“shut the front door” comes to mind) before I came a mama, I might have been tempted to donate my voice box as a preemptive measure.
But the thing is, all of that repetition is not in vain. At least not if you require follow-through. Teaching my boys to fold and put away clothes properly was a painstaking, frustrating process…for all of us. The piles were precarious, the folding itself uneven and lumpy, and the whining abundant. But bit by bit, load by load, their technique (and their attitudes) improved. Now, they can fold 3 loads of laundry and put it away in under an hour, working cheerfully and (relatively; they’re still boys) efficiently.
It took a long time to get to that point, but I’m so glad that I hung in there and kept repeating, showing, and following up. So worth it in the end.
9. It’s important to forgive yourself
I know this sounds a bit touchy-feely Opra-esque, but the truth is just the opposite. It’s nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with a choice.
I mentioned yesterday that I wasn’t very good at apologizing when I sinned against my children at the beginning. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, I find myself hung up on something else sometimes (of course).
When I’ve really blown it with my kids, sometimes, I’m prone to dwell on my mistakes, to beat myself up for them again and again, to mentally label myself a “bad mother.” But the truth is that, if I’ve confessed and repented of my sin before my children and God, then it’s gone. Of course, I should strive, in God’s strength, to avoid doing it again, but I’ve also become more and more aware of how keen Satan is for me to borrow the kind of condemnation that keeps me mired in my sin, even when God and my kids have already moved on and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
10. Mom guilt is useless. Holy Spirit guilt is the life-changing
There’s lots of talk about “mom guilt” and how it’s no good for anybody, and I agree.
But we live in a society which labels all guilt as bad, when the truth is that real guilt–the kind that comes from the conviction that you’re doing wrong–brings positive change, if we let it.
I’m not talking about how you feel when you realize that your friend makes bento lunches for her daughter every day when you’re doing well to get some fruit, a cheese stick, and a slice of turkey meat on a plate. Or that twinge of guilty envy you feel when you notice that so-and-so’s girls all have monogrammed Pottery Barn backpacks while your kid is using his brother’s slightly rattty hand-me-down. Or even that stab of “am I doing this right” when you find out that your sister’s 5-year-old still naps, even though your child gave that up at 3.
None of that stuff matters. It’s misplaced “mom guilt,” otherwise known as a muddled up mess of covetousness, insecurity, and competition.
I’ve definitely felt it, but what I’m learning to listen to is that still small voice that quietly prods me with questions like: “Are you speaking truth with love to your children or just barking at them?” or “Did you say no because it was the best answer right now or because you selfishly just wanted to be left alone?” or even “Did you feel a twinge of guilt just now when you found out how much your friend reads to her little girl because I’ve been prodding you to spend more time reading with your own children, and you’ve been ignoring me?”
That guilt–or conviction, if you like that word better–is the kind that actually spurs me to spend time before the Lord examining my actions and my motives. It’s the kind of prompting that helps me tune out everything the world around me is doing and tune into God’s word because it is my ultimate source of truth, and without it, I won’t have a clue which voices in my head I should heed.
I’m sure I could write another post or two about the things the Lord is patiently teaching me through this motherhood gig, but I won’t. At least not right now.
Again, I’d love to hear your own experiences. I’ve already benefited greatly from reading the ones posted here and on social media.