Monday, January 30, 2012

Bedtime conversations

I had a migraine tonight so the awesome Husband took over parenting duties with the Baby Girl.  They had a Daddy-Daughter date at Wendy's (where Lila managed to dump an entire cup of water on herself and then declare, "I soaked, Daddy.") and then, because he's so very awesome, he cleaned up the disaster zone left by Hurricane Lila/Ruby while Lila played with her "Sesame Street Guys."
I found this the other day after I had put Lila down for her nap.  Evidently her Sesame Street Guys needed a nap, too.
I was out of commission right up until bedtime, but I wanted to be sure to say goodnight to Lila so she would feel like her world wasn't completely falling apart.  You see, upon further reflection of our day from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks a few weeks ago, I have a suspicion that part of the problem was that I hadn't been very accessible to her for the 48 hours previous.  The two days prior to that day, I had been teaching all day and in bed with what I thought at the time was the flu, respectively.  So tonight I wanted to end her day with our normal routine since she had to share me (and all of her stuff) with Ruby today in addition to my reclusive migraine-induced behavior.  I was determined to do what I could to prevent a second installment of One of Those Days.

Oh, and in regards to one of those days, we are doing much better.  The weekend following the Day was rough, but I went to bed that Sunday night and prayed a prayer of hope that tomorrow is another day and that the Lord's mercies are new every morning.  And true to His word, that Monday was tons better.  I am grateful to you, sweet friends, who affirmed and encouraged me as a mom with your comments and emails and phone calls.  

At some point during my conversation with my parents that Friday night, I tearfully blubbered, "If I could make the choice to do one thing perfectly in my life and do everything else terribly, I would choose raising Lila as the one thing I would do perfectly.  She's that important.  She deserves that."

What mom doesn't feel like that? Of course, that choice doesn't exist.  But, as my friend Kerri encouraged me, our imperfections allow our children to see first hand the redeeming work that Jesus Christ does in a heart.  And boy, does my broken life allow for lots of hands on experience in that department!

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine and I were talking about how moms (ourselves included) can be so judgmental of other moms.  And we concluded that judgement and comparison does no one any good (duh).  A different friend once shared something she heard in a sermon: comparison always leads to carnality.  When you compare up, you end up feeling less than, insecure and even ungrateful; when you compare down, you end up feeling prideful, judgmental and self-righteous.  There is no healthy comparison.  

When I see a thin, fit mom with her angelic child dressed in a hip little outfit or when I look at blogs of people who have amazing style and decoration sense, I can't help but feel bad about my lingering baby weight (can I still call it that two years later?), my naughty little girl and my house decorated in unfolded laundry.  On the other hand when I see a mom with her screaming two-year-old at Walmart at 11:00pm (for shame!) or witness a preschooler demanding a candy bar in the brattiest voice you can imagine, I can't help but congratulate myself on giving Lila boundaries and setting her up for healthy sleep habits and a cavity-free (and unspoiled) life.  Never mind the possibility that the mom with the two-year-old in Walmart might just be there because she's picking up some tylenol for her sick (and therefore screaming) kid, or because she's a single mom who works two jobs and 11:00pm is the only time she can run to the store for groceries.  And never mind the possibility that the mom of the bratty kid is just as appalled by her child's behavior as I am, but she's too exhausted to discipline her kid because her husband has been out of town on business for the last three days and she's spent.  

The truth is: most moms are doing their very best with the tools they have and most moms fear that their best isn't good enough.  There is absolutely nothing more terrifying than motherhood.  Nothing.  The responsibility of shaping, protecting, discipling and training a child is the most nerve-wracking and self-doubt-inducing thing a person could possibly do.  And to make matters worse, the results of our blood, toil, tears and sweat (yes, I'm quoting Churchill) are walking around in their own independent bodies to be admired or judged by the rest of the waking world.  Heaven help us.  Literally. 

We have no other option but to trust God to fill in the gaps.  An example that comes to mind happened when Lila was about eight months old.  I was picking up a few things for my classroom and Lila was being really wiggly, so as I shopped I set her down to let her move around a bit.  Once I had found all I needed, I picked her up and got in line.  I noticed she was drooling a ton, but I attributed it to teething.  It wasn't until I was strapping her in her car seat that I saw a flash of white in her mouth.  I immediately stuck my finger in her mouth and fished this out:
I kept this little disc as a reminder that the Lord holds Lila in His hands

It's one of those little plastic discs that holds a sales tag on the edge of a shelf so that it sticks out and catches your eye.  She must have picked it up and popped it in her mouth in the few minutes I had let her crawl around in the store.  I sat in shock for several minutes, holding that innocent looking disc in the palm of my hand, tears springing to my eyes in a mix of gratitude and fear of the what ifs.  I wondered what could have happened if I hadn't noticed it when I did.  What if she had choked on it while I was driving and, in her rear-facing seat, I couldn't see what was happening?  

That fearful moment will be permanently etched in my memory.  Along with the time I got her out of the car in our driveway and realized that I had driven seven miles with her unbuckled in her car seat.  I had been to lunch with my cousin and had her unbuckled in her car seat, snapped into the stroller.  When I had gone to transfer her from her stroller to the car, I had forgotten that she wasn't buckled in the seat and then driven all the way home with her vulnerably free from the car seat's restraints.  In those moments, it's clear to me that no matter how attentive I try to be, no matter how much energy and time and prayer I put into worrying about doing it right, in the end Lila's health, happiness and survival isn't in my hands because I just can't do it perfectly.

So here's what I propose, when you find yourself sizing up a mom because her child is putting on an impressive performance of Rebellious Toddler in Target, or judging a friend of yours based on her parenting decisions, remind yourself that she is doing her very best and that her deepest fear is that her best isn't good enough.  Remember that little adage and whisper something encouraging to her.  Tell her she's doing a great job.  Tell her that parenting is hard (especially in public).  Tell her that second-guessing and worrying is a natural hazard of the job.  Affirm before you advise.  Encourage before you judge.  Because she's doing her very best and no one wants her best to be enough more than she does.

But I digress, this post was supposed to be about a conversation I had with Lila tonight.

So, after Daddy had snuggled, rocked, sung and prayed with the Baby Girl, I went in to tuck her and pat her back.  As I bade her goodnight, here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: Goodnight, Sweet Girl.  See you tomorrow.
Lila: trying to form her question Um, where, uh, where, uh, uh, uh, where tomorrow come from?
Me: giggling Tomorrow comes after you sleep.  When you wake up it will be tomorrow!
Lila: Oh.
Me: kissing her hand I love you so much.  See you in the morning.
Lila: I love you so much.

Oh, my heart.  My poor, poor, Mommy Heart.

Thank you, Lord that tomorrow comes after we sleep and that there are new mercies waiting for us when Tomorrow wakes us.  And thank you that I get to wake up to this little face:

And to all you moms out there, you're doing a great job.  Parenting is hard.  All you can do is give it your best, and even when you don't or can't, it's okay.  The Lord will fill in the gaps.  He's cool like that.


Caley and Patrick said...

Amen Kelsey. Amen.

Colleen said...

Beautifully said! Thanks for the encouragement!

Katy said...

oh wow, tears in my eyes for that great encouragment. Thank you! love you Kelsey!