Friday, May 6, 2011

Fear, Hope and Learning to Mother

(Sometimes, I freak out. This is one of those times.)

A few months ago, our Sunday School class was discussing parenthood, and one of the men in the class talked about how, when one of his children is resting in his arms, completely surrendered and trusting, he sometimes feels a great weight of responsibility.

Today, I can hardly stand up, that weight being so heavy on my mind and heart.


Sophie is growing up. Fast. Every single day, she amazes me with some action or comment or insight that I didn't know she was capable of. (Yesterday, asked about a trip to the park, she gasped and said it would be "exciting" instead of "excited.")  She sees and understands so much more than I give her credit for, I think. She is a whole person, albeit a tiny one. And I'm not sure I'd have sashayed so casually into parenting had I known the tremulation that is Parenting a Toddler.

See, she's beyond the things I felt confident about handling: She can eat with a fork (though she doesn't always), wash her hands (as long as she sings the song), use the potty alone (except when she wants company), and pick out and put on her own clothes (purple-and-black striped pants, green shirt, and pink house slippers, anyone?).

Now what?

Now she's this miniature person, saying and doing the things she sees others (me!) doing. Learning to interact with people, wash the dishes, say "excuse me" and "thank you," learning to communicate, to be impatient or unnecessarily irritated, by watching me do those things.

And oh, how I do those things.

I have shown her love and joy and fun, have delighted her with silly games and painting and fun together, modeled good manners and saintly patience.

I have also shown her rudeness, sarcasm and a quick temper, impatience and irritability and annoyance.

Last night, after we put her in bed, I couldn't get one incident off my mind, so I left baby Joel with his dad and went to talk to my sweet girl.

I sat down on her bed, scooped her into my lap, and asked her if she remembered the day before, when Joel was crying on his changing table, and she went to the forbidden pile of garage-sale-bound goods and brought him his blue music toy. (That moment may never leave me: Me snapping at her to "put that way like I told you already!" and her little heartbroken face, twisted into tears, saying, "But I brought the song for Joely so he won't cry, Mom!" I am a monster.  I recanted and told her how sweet a thing she'd done, but it was ruined by my inital reaction.)

She nodded as I described the event, and her little voice said the saddest words I have ever heard it say: "Yeah. You yelled at me."

Gut check.

Not only did I overreact to completely normal toddler behavior, but she remembered it well and was still hurt by it.

I explained that I was very, very sorry and that from now on, I would use my words to love her. I asked if she would forgive me.

"Yes, Mommy. I forgive you."

I held her for a while longer and cried as we sang some songs together and whispered love to each other.

And since then, my heart has been in quiet panic:
Does she understand "forgive"? How do I teach that?
How many other times have I crushed her little heart? How will I make it up to her?
Am I really enough for these precious babies? Don't they deserve a good mother who won't crush their spirits because she is tired and irritable?
What was God thinking, trusting me with such precious vulnerability?

And on and on, and on and on.

Fitting that it is the third week of Easter, the third week of celebrating the Resurrection. Because of the Resurrection, we live lives of hope. I hope my children will be happy, healthy, stable people, who value themselves and others, and who know and chase after God. And I hope that He will make me what I need to be so they can be what they should be.

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