I’ve been spoiled today. Handmade cards, a DVD made by the kids about how I’m the best mom and a box of Godivas. I was told to enjoy the day, that I deserve it. I’ve been told I’m amazing and pretty and loving and that all the things I work so hard to do have not gone unnoticed. While I’ve enjoyed all the special attention and sincere compliments, I am nothing more than a sum total of many greater parts and to end the day without acknowledging those greater parts just feels wrong.
Before I had kids, I truly thought I knew how to be a mom. After all, I had some of the greatest moms in my life, paving a path before me, showing me by pure example how to do the toughest job on earth. Surely that had to count for something.
I grew up with a mom that could only be described as amazing. She was patient and loving and kind. She listened and grew right alongside of me. She showed me how to build a child up, careful to never tear down the trust that laid the foundation. I treated my baby dolls exactly the way she treated me. I memorized the art of her mothering and committed her kind deeds to the depths of my heart so that I could someday recall those moments when I began a journey of my own as a mother.
I spent a summer with my cousin, Ann, and her sweet one year old and I learned all about attachment parenting. I saw firsthand the bonding effects of nursing and co-sleeping and baby wearing. I left knowing that if I ever became a mom, I wanted to mother just like her.
Then I had my first baby. And my entire world shifted. I realized that watching isn’t the same as doing. All those years of watching my mom and my cousin had not transferred a mystical mothering magic to me. I had to forge my own way…just as every single mom throughout all of history has had to do. Nothing prepared me for the sheer weight of the responsibilities of motherhood. Nothing prepared me for the way my soul would suddenly become so vulnerable at the sight of a 6 pound baby. Nothing prepared me for the shift in my life as I learned what dying to self truly met.
Joseph taught me how to be a mom. He taught me how to sing through my tears as I struggled with a lack of sleep and a demanding baby. He taught me how to coo and shush and rock and calm. He taught me to slow down. To be present in each and every moment. To snuggle long and sweet because these days pass so quickly. I learned the power of prayer and the comfort of turning my thoughts and anxiety towards a Heavenly Father who knows the pain and joy of parenting. Joseph taught me how to see myself for what I truly am as our faults are suddenly magnified when seen through the eyes of a child. He taught me that each of us has the capability to change when we desire it enough. And I wanted to be a better person for that sweet little person and so I began the uphill climb. Some days it’s tough, some days I slip back down the hill (I still lose my temper, I still see the ugly side of myself often) but each day I look into those big innocent eyes of his and know that the struggle to change is so worth it.
Before I knew it, a second baby was on his way and soon we welcomed our little William into the world. And I learned to juggle. I learned to hold a baby and a toddler’s hand all while pushing a cart and juggling my purse. I learned to savor each quiet moment as the quiet moments seemed fewer and further between. I learned to savor nighttime nursings with a new appreciation as they were sometimes the only moments I had to just stare at the growing baby in my arms. I watched William and Joseph play and grow and bond and I was reminded of the beauty of siblings. I learned that thankfulness to our Creator runs deep as each new day I found something new to be grateful for.
Soon our family grew again. Andrew arrived. Suddenly the number of kids outnumbered my hands…there were literally more hands to hold than I had to hold them with. And so I learned to trust. In my mothering ability and my children. I learned that I could let go of of the big kids just a little, while holding tight to the little ones and the world was still right. I learned to let go of a little control. And while it felt like my world was spiraling out of control at times, ironically I learned balance. I learned to savor the peaceful moments. I learned to appreciate each moment for the glory it held…even if it was sometimes raw and emotional and soul-wrenching. I learned that each moment is meant to glorify Him, if we allow it. And so I learned to give Him my moments and to trust that my journey was serving a higher purpose.
Before we knew it, Katelyn joined our family. And I learned that, despite my thought that I could not be stretched or pushed any further, none of my limits had been met. I learned that the human heart has the amazing ability to grow and expand and just when you think you can not possibly have enough left in you to love another vulnerable being, you can. I learned to let go a little more all while holding a little tighter to each of their hearts. I learned that no child fits the previous one’s mold and that there’s always room for another at the banquet of sibling bonding. I learned that life is beautiful…even when it feels overwhelming and exhausting and utterly depleting. I learned that peace only comes from Him and only when we fall on our knees in prayer and thanksgiving will we reap the rewards promised by Saint Paul “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7).
I’m still climbing the hill, growing a little each day. I’m still learning to trust and to let go. I’m still leaning heavily on the mothers in my life who showed me how to be a mother. I’m still falling on my knees, asking the Lord for strength and guidance and grace. Lots and lots of grace. This mothering journey is a long one. But I’m only the mother I am today because of the little people in my life and the women who marked the path for me.
As I fall asleep tonight, surrounded by little arms and little legs and fingers curled around mine, my final thought will be to turn my heart towards God in prayer and petition to ask for the grace to be the mother I’m intended to be, to guide my children to a higher purpose and, in thanksgiving, I will thank Him with my entire heart and soul for the blessing He’s given me and for this amazing gift of motherhood.