Kathy likes curling up on the couch with a good movie, hates capital letters, and loves God and people with a recklessness I admire. She’s at 6 o’clock, and writes @ The Carnival in My Head.
when i was pregnant with my oldest child, who’s now 16 ½ years old, my husband and i were at a group with lots of people just starting their families. he was in the navy and we were at that age where pretty much everyone was popping out babies one after another. i’ll never forget the night one of the mommies abruptly turned to me and said “do you want to hold her?” swinging her precious 4 month old baby into my arms. i panicked. “umm, no thanks” i muttered back, with a little nervous laugh underneath. my friend looked a little stunned that i had rejected her offer. jose & i left a little bit later and i cried all the way home, feeling like the world’s worst mom-to-be. how could i be so cold toward that beautiful baby? it scared me, and for the next few months every evil “what if you really are a terrible mom and won’t love your child properly” thought rattled across my mind. little did i know that a few months later my entire world would open up & the expanse of love and care for that precious brown bundle would overtake my heart. and little did i know that that would happen 4 times again. 5 little babies to hold & love. oh, yeah, and to parent.
creating them is one thing. popping them out is one thing. those are the easy parts (yes, that is what i am saying, labor isn’t the hardest part although every woman knows it hurts like hell). parenting them, now that’s the hard part. it’s the part where i am faced with my humanity, my selfishness, my pride, my tendency to want everything to be as good as it can possibly be. but in that same breath, it’s also the place where i am faced with the magnitude of how much love resides in my heart, how much i am willing to give up for those little people’s sakes, and how deep my desire is for their well-being. parenting, a little like marriage, is the place where the sum total of all my ugliness & all my goodness somehow collide & i learn more about myself, other people, God, than i ever bargained for.
here a few that are on the top of my head:
- knock the bar off the rack. the parenting bar has been set too damn high. take a browse through any parenting magazine or the parenting section of barnes & noble and you will instantly feel overwhelmed, sure to fail. the world, in my opinion, has become obsessed with more, more, more, and it has translated into parents working themselves to exhaustion to keep up with some magical bar of parenting excellence. if i am in a group of young mommies and get them talking, the #1 thing they will say is that they feel guilty that they aren’t doing “x, y or z” enough with their child. the best thing i did was throw away the parenting magazines & begin to take that crazy imaginary “good parent” bar down a few notches.
- prepare to be humiliated. i wish someone would have told me this. i had no idea i would be embarrassed and publicly humiliated over and over and over again. tantrums in the target line. naughty behavior at a friend’s house after you had prayed feverishly the whole way there that everyone would be on their good behavior. class projects that didn’t quite have the pizzazzz they did at home when they are lined up against the professional mommies work. oh the list goes on and on and on. i know all about sweating profusely & wanting to rip someone’s arm out of their socket.
- never say never. “we would never let our kids do that.” oh, never say never. that one has come back to bite me in more ways than one. you just never know what might evolve over time. you never know the shifts that could take place. you never know you might end up in exactly the same place you were judging someone for being. if there was one word i’d take out of my parenting vocabulary it’d be “never.”
- remember they’re just people, too, trying to do the best they can. this is probably the biggest way i have changed over the years. my poor oldest child got the brunt of our wacked expectations of parenting perfection (trust me, i ask for forgiveness all the time). i had some weird light go on somewhere along the way where i noticed that i had the ability to pass on grace and mercy to grownups like it was nothing but when it came to the kids i had some unrealistic idea they automatically should do things right the first time. i think this coincided with me sort of accepting myself a little more, giving myself a little more grace and mercy, too, and somehow it became easier to let go and quit expecting so much out of them all the time.
- lighten up. we just used to take ourselves too seriously. if i have one regret in my early parenting years it is that i didn’t laugh enough. i didn’t look at my life and see it as a fun canvas of a crazy and beautiful life evolving. i looked at it more as a performance that i kept screwing up. the more i was able to laugh at myself, at ourselves, the more free i have felt. plus, let’s face it, some parenting stuff is just comical. now, with my kids getting older, sometimes in the minute of something stupid i am about to do as a parent, we will just stop and laugh at how ridiculous i can sometimes be.
- i’m banking on love. “love covers a multitude of sins” is a biblical truth that i hold on to when it comes to parenting. although i don’t think it gives us a license to just do whatever we want, i do believe that it is true, that love fills in the cracks. love prevails. love strengthens. love never fails. and love is sacrifice. love is care. love is presence. i have done a million things wrong as a mommy, but i do believe my love for them is more powerful than all of my mistakes.
so as i am writing this my kids are getting ready for school. i asked my 16 year old “how have daddy and i changed as parents?” and he said “goodly.” yeah, the escobars are really good at grammar, but i’ll take it any day.