Loved is Best

I hadn’t realized just how judgmental some moms and mommy groups can be until I became one… Although to be completely honest, I can’t say that I have always been without blame either. It’s ridiculously easy to find a poor mom at fault when you see her raising her voice in the store and chasing after a strong-willed child who refuses to listen. Then you become that mom; and you suddenly realize that all the patience, loving discipline, and prayer in the world doesn’t create a perfect son or daughter overnight.

It takes consistency… patience… consistency… patience… consistency…

Yeah, well, you get the idea.

Nate and I always used to joke that we were going to have a stubborn child, since we both have a pretty good dose of it ourselves. But man, we had no idea. So here I am, that mom at the store with the child who’s knocking things off shelves or having a tantrum in the carriage.

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And I am dealing with it by enforcing time-outs or taking away treats, but it’s not like I can wave my magic princess wand and suddenly tame my wild stallion of a son. Quite frankly, my son will probably never be tamed. (And trust me, if I had such a wand, I wouldn’t be wearing a hat so many days to hide my curls-gone-wild).

I truly believe that God is going to use this fiery, passion of Brady’s to do amazing things. So it’s not my job to break him but instead to guide him to make better choices, as he grows into a young man. But again, no wand… So, you know, consistency… and patience… and consistency…

But I see those faces… The faces of women who don’t have kids. Or those faces of moms who are raising sensitive, quiet little souls who demurely walk alongside the carriage with perfect attentiveness. I definitely thought that was going to be me, but it isn’t. And it’s not because of anything I did.

Every…single…child… is SO different.

And as adults, we should realize this and – in doing so – understand that raising these children amidst their differences will look different.

They will have different strengths. Different weaknesses. And those strengths and weakness include both the physical and the emotional side of things.

Some children will happily sit and play by themselves, while other parents succumb to turning on the television or ipad to get things done. Some children easily switch back and forth from breast to bottle, while others never adjust to that transition. Some kiddo’s are sensitive and need an extra dose of confidence, while others need to learn a lesson in humility. Some little ones live in a household that requires a mom to work; some moms desire to work; some moms long to stay home. Some women master cloth diapers, and others enjoy a good, dirty-diaper slam dunk into the trash can.

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So why are we playing the “I would never let my kid use electronics” game… Or jumping on the “those breastfeeding moms are always so better-than-thou” bandwagon… Or turning up our noses at moms who send their kids to school or who decide to teach at home. Or criticizing how much or how little time a mom is spending with her kids.

Why are we fighting each other when we’re all on such a different journey with one common goal: to love and care for our children?

Let’s face it, mommy guilt is cracking the whip enough. We don’t need fellow moms criticizing our choices just because our choices are different than theirs. Can we all just realize that different doesn’t always mean better or less than?

It just means different.

Not a competition

I try to feed my kids as healthy as possible and – when I can – serve meals that are from scratch. But guess what, my three year old ate two popsicles, goldfish, and a handful of blueberries for lunch. Yeah, I tried breastfeeding for as long as I could, but – last Sunday – I woke up and realized that ‘the girls’ were done and that my body was so malnourished from being sucked dry that my nails were literally cracking to the quick. Formula it’s been ever since (and – wow – how freeing every single day has been since then). I love a clean house, but it gets trashed at least once a week.

(Okay, fine, a few times a week, but who’s counting…).

Speaking of cleaning… I work from home; and I need to organize, dust, vacuum, tidy, and we’re-having-company-over clean every…single…week in order to prepare for the lessons I teach. Do you know how hard it is to clean your house to this level when you’re also caring for a baby and a strong-willed child? Yeah, I totally let Daniel Tiger and Curious George do the babysitting when I’m rushing around getting things done. And many times – GASP – I also turn on the ipad for a bit of creative learning with Elmo.

It’s my reality. It’s what I have to do in order to get what I need to get done… while also keeping my mischievous little boy out of harms way.

occasionally one has to scrape one's self off of the floor, peer about with crazed eyes, and remember this fact

That’s it!

We moms are SO hard on ourselves, however, that we live to be edified by others. We so effortlessly find flaws in our efforts that a differing opinion or way of doing something is only confirmation of our greatest fear: we might be falling short. We desperately want to be told that we’re doing the best of jobs. And so our insecurities are heightened when we see others living life differently.

Then the mom judgment begins. And we begin to take sides.

You want to know which side I’m on? I’m on the side of fed is best… clothed is best… diaper changed is best… educated is best… LOVED is best.

We’re all moms walking on our own, unique journey. Not one of us has walked in the shoes of the women next to us, so who are we to judge? And who are we to feel belittled by another’s choices?

We are ALL rockstars for loving fiercely, passionately, and selflessly. And just imagine how strong we could be if we looked out into the crowd and realized that the audience looking up at us consisted of other moms who – instead of judging us – were applauding in support and admiration. xoxo

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When Being Mommy Hurts

There’s no easy way to explain the fierce love that a woman experiences when she becomes a mom.  I was trying to explain it to Nate the other day, and he kind of just looked at me with a slightly confused (or maybe concerned) look on his face.  It just doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to explain it.  But to a mom, it’s reality.  And quite frankly, to every mom reading this, I needn’t go on.  They know what I’m talking about already.

They just get it.

I guess if I were absolutely required to express these emotions and feelings with the help of words, I would say this:  when I became a mom, it was as though a small, treasured piece of me left my body.  And that piece of my heart began to beat on its own, protected only by a beautiful, tiny person that it now lived in.

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This happened the moment I set eyes on my baby boy.  Suddenly, my own self came second.  My whole world (my whole need to protect, and nurture, and care) began to revolve around someone else.  But it didn’t feel like self-sacrifice.

Because that little someone else was a piece of me.

When Brady was in my womb, I constantly prayed over him, worrying about every little thing that could go wrong, and dreamed about the day that he was born.  Then, and only then, would I stop worrying; because then I would physically be able to hold my perfect baby boy in my arms.  Then I could physically protect him with my super-human, mommy strength  and always know that he was okay.  Because I would make sure that he was okay.

But once he was born, I quickly realized that my womb had been a safer place than this world we call home could ever be.  At least then I could carry him in perfect warmth and protection.  At least there, no hurtful words or angry bullies or harmful environments could touch him.  He was safe inside his mommy, soothed to sleep by the sound of my voice and rocking of my movements.

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But suddenly, he was living in this often hurtful, cruel world.  Suddenly, that small piece of me was detached and wasn’t always with me.  Suddenly, I was forced to sometimes leave that piece of my heart with someone else and to trust that he was being cared for the way that I would care for him.

It’s terrifying.  Absolutely terrifying.

My little guy is only two, but there have already been moments that have made me want to whisk him away to a safe place where nothing hurtful can ever touch him.  Kids have already been mean…  He has already faced challenges that made me want to swoop in and solve a problem that he needs to solve himself.  He has learned that sometimes life hurts.

But he is still so sweet and innocent.  Still such a baby.

As he grows, I will have to learn to slowly let go.  To trust that I raised him to be confident, even when the bullies taunt.  To know that God will continue to guide him, even when he isn’t snuggled in my arms for a Bible story.  I will have to be strong enough to let him take flight on his own, knowing that I taught him right from wrong.

As a mom, I look back on my own life with a new sense of respect for everything my parents faced, from letting me cry when my first job overwhelmed me to letting me travel thousands of miles away from home for college.  They knew that fire makes gold burn only brighter.  They knew that those hard moments were only molding me into a stronger, bolder, more confident woman.  They knew that quitting wasn’t an option, and so they guided me and stood with me.  But they didn’t hide me.

They held my hand and let me step out, so that I could learn to shine.

I’ve already come to realize that being mommy is going to hurt sometimes.  Because that little someone who holds a piece of me will hurt sometimes.  And every fiber of my being will scream out to protect and shelter.  But sometimes I’ll have to let go of my baby’s hand, even if it may result in cuts and bruises.  Sometimes I’ll have to trust him to someone else’s care, so that he can learn independence.  I’ll have to watch him attempt challenges that test his endurance, patience, and will.  And sometimes, I’ll have to watch him take a leap, even if he may fall.

Because he may also be ready to fly.

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He’s only two, but I already know just how hard it will be for me to ever see my little guy struggle or hurt.  But at the same time, I also know that the hard moments only strengthen us and prepare us to be strong.  To be confident.  To be leaders.

Sometimes, it’s the tough moments that propel us to greatness and to a more meaningful life than we could have imagined.

One thing I know for sure is this…  As fiercely as I love my baby boy, there is One who loves him even more.  And so I can only raise him the best I can and then trust him into the arms of the Savior who can – and will – always be with him.

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Reboot

“Sooooo, I know this is super last-minute, but I’m calling to see if we can make going out tonight happen.”

Before my friend Liz had even finished her sentence, I had come up with a million reasons as to why I had to push off a Mom’s night out once again.  The house was a mess…  Brady’s in a clingy stage…  I had cupcakes to decorate for company the following night…  The house was a mess.

No, seriously, the house was a mess.  My neighbor had popped over unexpectedly to drop off fresh veggies; and with slightly widened eyes, she murmured, “Oh my” as she scanned the chaos.  In my defense, I was smack-dab in the middle of decorating cupcakes and feeding Brady.  So there were pots bubbling on the stove, meatballs flying through the air, a puddle of milk on the floor, powdered sugar coating absolutely everything, and dishes overflowing the sink.

I knew I had to say ‘no’, but yet I found my lips unable to form the word.  I really, really needed the night out!!!  I was getting to that point where my nerves were shot, and I needed a reboot.

So we left it at this: I would call her in an hour or two to see if I could get some things done.  If I felt as though I’d finished enough projects, then I’d be able to go out for some fun.  I immediately set out to decorate the cupcakes and settled Brady in his highchair to eat dinner. I made good time and did my best to ignore the fact that Brady had discovered that cooked spaghetti sticks to the wall when thrown hard enough.

But then I took a meatball to the face.  Thwack…sliding down my cheek…oozing down my arm…  lands – splat – on my bare feet.

Brady laughed.  I swallowed the urge to cry from frustration and as-calmly-as-possible said, “No. No, Brady, we don’t throw meatballs at Mamma’s face.  You have to go in time out.”

Oh, wait, he’s covered in spaghetti sauce.  I can’t move him until he’s clean, at which point he’ll have forgotten what he did.  

I reached for my cell phone and dialed.  “Hi, Liz?  Yeah, I’m ready to go just as soon as Nate gets home.”

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since becoming a mom, it’s that there never really is a convenient time for ‘me-time’.  There’s always something that needs to be done.  Mom guilt will always say, “You need to do more before you take time for yourself.”  You need to get on top of this or that…  You need to have an organized house… You need to get caught up on laundry… (Ha, ha, that’s hilarious).  You need to figure out the complexities of the universe…

Something.  There’s always something.

And this isn’t just for moms.  We women in general tend to run on empty, because there are so many things pulling at us.  And we feel as though we need to be able to juggle it all.  We tell ourselves that we’ll rest once we’re done; but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that ‘done’ doesn’t exist.

Busyness is just a part of our lives.  But at the same time, just as we’re so good at penciling in appointments and responsibilities into our planners, we need to make sure we set aside time to reboot.  To pour into ourselves.

I really am learning that I am a better mom, wife, and friend when I make time to put aside all the responsibilities once in awhile to just live a little.

Oh goodness, the night out was just what I needed.  Sometimes, it just feels nice to be able to walk without bending over to hold a tugging, chubby hand.  Or to be able to have an actual, adult conversation.  Or to sit and eat dinner without having meatballs thrown at your face.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade the tugging, and the flying meatballs, and the constant singing of Winnie the Pooh for anything in the world.  They all come with being a mom to the cutest little boy who stole my heart forever…  But still, a mom needs me-time every once in awhile that reminds her that she matters too.  That she is actually still a human being.

It’s ridiculously easy to forget that sometimes.

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Liz and I ate dinner at Panera and then found ourselves at Old Navy, where I fell in love with this sundress.  It’s so light, stylish, and the perfect transition piece for fall (since it’ll be really cute with a jean jacket or sweater).

Love, love, LOVE!  I’ve really been into knee-length dresses lately, because they’re nice and cool for the hot days.  AND I don’t have to worry about throwing an outfit together.  They’re more grab-and-go, which is really convenient for a busy mom like me.

Sooooo, yes, I did make the purchase and brought this one home with me.  🙂  (I would have brought Liz home with me too, but her little ones would miss her).

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Still, I’m SO glad she called and suggested a mom’s night out, so that I could have fun with her for a few hours.  A few hours was all that I needed to feel calmer, more collected, and rested.

Until next time, Liz.  Until next time!  🙂