Are you a young mom, who wonders how your children are going to survive your imperfect parenting? Have you been too hard on yourself and feel you’re always messing up? Well, I’m here to give you hope since that was me twenty years ago:
I saw someone ask an excellent question on Facebook.
“To all the moms out there, if you could recommend ONE book for a mom-to-be, what would you suggest?”
I remembered the day I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I was going to be the Mother Teresa of all moms… then God laughed at me.
I had a horrible fear that I would mess up along the way and determined to get my parenting skills perfected before I ruined my future kids. I dove into a stack of parenting books a mile high.
The question on Facebook took me back to the days of my own parenting when we had three in diapers at once. My husband Vance and I were continually chasing a wild-child around trying to overrule their wriggling body to be able to change a stinky diaper. We eventually forgot who’s diaper we had changed last and decided once they were really saggy-we would swap them for a clean one.
We were just too exhausted to care anymore.
Then we had two more kids: because having three munchkins in three and a half years wasn’t bizarre enough, we had to add in two more in the next four years. We were now up to five kids in seven and a half years.
We were a circus act… no lie.
By the time we had Eythan, our baby of the family, we had long surpassed the baby books and how to raise the perfect child. We now filled the tub once a week and dunked every kid in the same bath water. Eythan had two sleepers, one was green, and the other blue. He pretty much lived in those two sleepers till he was almost one year old and his toes were ready to pop through the bottom. I had a few moms comment that Eythan always seemed to be in the same clothes.
Ya, I know, but he’s still breathing.
Aryanna, who was a year-and-a-half older than Eythan, would have to feed herself because I was busy nursing a baby. We would hand her a bowl of spaghetti, and by the time she was done, she may have gotten a few strands in her mouth, but it was usually up her nose, on top of her head, or on the wall. When she was two and was thirsty, she learned to search for a plastic cup: since drinking from the toilet was faster than waiting for mom. When Eythan was old enough to toddle, Aryanna taught him this nifty trick too.
Charity and Devyn, two of our middle kids, had also learned to fend for themselves. When I was pregnant with Eythan, Charity was five and had often made lunch for four kids while mom napped on the couch. Devyn, my cuddly child, was beginning to complain that he wasn’t getting the hugs he used to get now that two more kids had taken up my lap.
I was the dream mother…in my dreams.
Ron and Christine Williams, good friends of ours who lived with us for three years when Eythan was born, would help Vance and me with our clan. After I wrote my book, Beauty from Ashes, I was on speaker phone with them one day when Ron commented that I left a chapter out of the book. I was confused. Then I asked him what he meant? He said, “You forgot the section called, ‘How I Never Sat Down To Eat A Meal‘ ” The three of us were laughing-oh, the good times we all had together!
Without Ron and Christine, I wouldn’t have survived!
When our family went out in public, eyes were rolling. We were barely able to keep up with the five directions our kids were going in. Have you ever seen the movie, Cheaper by the Dozen? When we went to the theatre to watch this film, I was laughing so hard I had tears strolling down my cheeks.
Tom and Kate Baker are the parents of twelve children, and when Kate signs up for a book tour, Tom volunteers to hold down the fort while still working at his own busy job as a football coach. Kate is an incredible, organized mom. When Kate changes her role from stay-at-home-mom to newly-published-travelling-author, her family realizes what an excellent mother and wife she is.
Two scenes in this hilarious movie were identical to my own life:
In one view, the family’s car is shown, and there were food wrappers and garbage lining the front dash. I had that van: just worse. It was so bad my nephew hopped in one day when he was about six, plugged his nose, and told me, “This van is a dump!”
I laughed all the way to our destination.
My van WAS a dump! If we were ever stranded in a snowstorm, we had enough food to feed our family for a week…out of our van. When people bragged someone could eat off their kitchen floor, I would pipe up, “Ya me too, I’ll give you a fork and knife, and you can sit down to eat a meal…off my floor.”
The other scene was when the family was in a hurry to get through breakfast, and Kate takes a stack of toast and starts throwing a slice at each kid- around the table- like a frisbee. I thought I was the only parent who did that… obviously not. At this point, I am the only person crying and snorting in the theatre, and my kids are staring at me.
Long gone was the Mother Teresa dream.
I was a humbled mother with high hopes: that God would be gracious to me for my efforts in raising a clan of kids to love him and be kind to other people.
Our home was full of imperfection, baskets of laundry, snotty noses and three levels of messes…
But there were heaps of love.
I loved my kids more than life itself. I was a helicopter, overprotective, peanut butter-covered, exhausted mother. I had so many holes in my mothering it looked like a piece of swiss cheese- and smelled like one too.
I left out the most significant part of why we were in such chaos most days. Our oldest son, Kyle, had severe autism. You probably think I was a bit crazy by now and you’re right I was…
I was crazy about my kids!
I was a mother with good intentions-but poor organizational skills. My marriage to Vance was a mess at the time but has since blossomed beautifully. Today my kids are lovely adults and still imperfect- but to our delight, come home regularly.
The only redeeming quality I had as a mother was: I loved my kids with all of my heart and begged God regularly to be gracious to my children for missing out on a perfect mother.
When Eythan stood at the front of the church in his tuxedo this summer waiting for his bride, Jazmin, who has terminal cancer, to walk down the aisle, I wasn’t thinking of dirty diapers, worn out sleepers or kids drinking from toilets.
I remembered how God had been gracious to this mother. He gave me compassionate children, who loved their mom… despite her faults.
A mother’s love and prayers can overrule all the parenting books and perfection this world recommends: I am living proof of that.
So, to the young mother:
Give yourself room to makes mistakes like every other mom. Your kids will survive your mishaps and imperfections: if your relationship with them is sprinkled with lots of love, hugs and kisses.
There are no perfect mothers. There never has been… and never will be💗