17 July 2006

Finding the Right Track

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but our neck has been HOT. I mean, muggy, oppressive, steamy hot--the kind of hot you usually see in movies about the deep south, where everything seems sticky and alligators lurk in the mist. THAT hot. So we've been swimming a bit lately--last week, Charis, Judah, and I went to the pool with Yia Yia and Auntie M, and Aunt Beth and Gideon, and yesterday, we went to a nearby lake with Uncle Tim, Aunt Beth, and Gideon, and our friends Tim and Tanya and Katie and Travis.

Now, Charis is generally a fan of water. She is thrilled to take a bath; she makes a beeline for her kiddie pool every time we exit the house, regardless of the fact that she may have both clothes and shoes on. She just loves it--that is, unless her feet can't touch bottom. So when we were in the pool, for the most part, she clung to us like a magnet to a refrigerator. Ditto for the lake. She was just fine walking around in areas where the water was up to her tush, but get her much further than that, and she was a little tiny bit on the terrified side.

JUDAH, on the other hand, seems destined to be a fish. He kicked his little legs and pumped his fists the whole time he was in the pool, almost willing himself to swim. If I weren't such a skittish person, I would have tried to let him slip below the surface--I've heard that infants naturally hold their breath, and I've always wondered if that was true. But because I am not entirely willing for my kids to be guinea pigs in my own little experiments, I refrained. He seemed equally as pleased to be in the lake. It's fun to see their different personalities and likes and dislikes shine through, even at such tender ages. I know that, even months from now, I'll look back on this and think, that was NOTHING.

It's all one big learning experience, isn't it?

A couple of days ago, and, to be honest, even now, I hit it. I stumbled into one of those moments where I think I should just chuck it all and go back to work and let some more competent people raise my children. I mean, I know every mother feels like this from time to time, and I guess this was my moment. I just felt like the laziest, least qualified, most unmotivated lump of a mother. I questioned God's wisdom in granting me children. I couldn't tell you what precipitated this feeling, but I know that I fell right into its snare, clutching my list of faults: I let Charis watch too much TV, she doesn't have a balanced diet, I don't stimulate her brain enough, I am boring and unimaginative and lack creativity and energy, I am not spiritual enough...and on and on and on. Here's the thing: I do genuinely try to be a good mother...most of the time. But sometimes, I feel like I can't gear myself up for another day of trying to shape my kiddies into model citizens. On those days, I give in quite easily when Charis asks to watch her Pooh dvd, I aquiesce when she pleads for candy or her pacifier or (gasp!) a can of pop, I make up my own words to her books so the story ends sooner, I entreat her to play with her toys (rather than color pictures with her). I set Judah down for oh, sooo many naps, I let him linger underneath the play gym as long as he will stand it... On those days, I feel awful. I feel like my kids have been shortchanged. They deserve better, I think.

What's the answer? I am sure that I paint a much bleaker picture than is actually true. I was relieved today when, talking on the phone with my sister-in-law, she said, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I think I'm just really lazy." I know I am talking myself off the ledge here, so bear with me, but doesn't every mother feel like an utter failure occasionally? Doesn't every mother want to crawl in a hole sometimes, and wait until her kids are older--much, much older--to resurface? I want my kids to have and be everything--I want their clothes to be beautiful and spotless, I want them to have all the educational and imaginative toys they can stand, I want their minds to be sharp, I want them to excel at everything they try, I want them to be strong Christian leaders, I want them to be kind, helpful, respectful people. I want to have someone else teach them all of that, because some days, I don't have the first clue how to do any of it.

A friend of mine seems to know how to do it. She has some significant parenting challenges--challenges that would do me in--and she handles them with such beauty and grace. It is always inspiring to me. She takes her boys on treasure hunts around the neighborhood to seek out valuables such as pinecones and rocks. Who thinks of that? She learns how better to parent them and meet their cognitive, physical, and emotional needs. Who has that kind of energy? She is so godly, and handles each roadblock with such wisdom. Who has that kind of faith? Some days, I wish I could be just like her. But more than enything else she's said or done, one thing she said has really stuck with me--she said that, in the midst of some very difficult days, she has to remember that her first job as a parent is to prepare her kids for eternity.
"God has placed this gentle reminder on my heart: my first job as a Christian mother is to prepare my children for eternity. This life on earth is gone in a blink of an eye compared to eternity. Even if [my son] never catches up and is never like his peers (and possibly [his brother] too), I am still able to teach them about God's everlasting love and the gift of salvation that can be theirs. No matter what their future on earth holds, I know that if they accept Christ as their savior and spend eternity in heaven, they will be made perfect and whole. God never promised that parenthood would not have its share of heartaches and burdens (children who get caught up in drugs and alcohol, children who reject Christ, children who die untimely deaths, etc). I know that God has a wonderful plan for each of my children."

Doesn't that put it in perspective?

Charis may never be a swimmer. She may never go Ivy League. She may develop an imaginary friend named Pooh to compensate for the shortcomings of her boring mother. Judah may never love to read. He might not find a cure for cancer. He might fake sleep so he doesn't have to endure another session of "Who's That Baby In The Mirror?" because his mom can't think of anything better to do. But. If I do my job right, and focus on showing my kids NOT what a fantastic mother I am, but what a wonderful Savior they have--a Savior who loves them so much, He gave his own life so that they could live, a Savior who is unconcerned with the amount of flashcards they can do in a minute, but who knows their hearts and wants them to come and live with Him forever--then I am not a complete failure after all.

I am not entirely sure how to go about this, either, but I suppose prayer has a lot to do with it. I know God will give me what I need when I need it (and often not a second earlier). I believe that He sent His Son to bridge the gap between a fallen and sinful world and His outstretched arms, and I want my children to know it.

I suppose that love has a lot to do with it too. Charis may never be able to list all the presidents in order (I can't), and Judah may never feel comfortable with the inner workings of a transmission (I'm not), but if I love them as an extension of the Savior, I guess I'm right on track.


Grandma Donna said...

Well, Cori,
You seem to have come full circle in this posting. You do neat stuff with your kids--that's not an "every moment" kind of thing, either. They may not remember any specific special moments (but they probably will because you have a way of making teachable moments special) but they will remember that you had time for them, that you love and support them, and that you care enough to make the rules stick.

Your true job, as you said near the end, is to show them Christ, to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus, and to prepare them for a life of productive independence. You can pray for them, read to them, play with them and love them like Christ loves us-unconditionally and sometimes in spite of ourselves.

I can tell you're a good mom by looking at your children. They're happy (at least most of the time), Charis shows real curiosity without fear, she loves being with you and Abe, and she is relatively obedient (come on, she's 2--she has to see if the boundaries are really the boundaries). Judah is a more serious child at this early age than Charis was (at least I htink so from what I hear from you), but he smiles more and more (probably because Charis is not beating him on the head with her shoes and toys as often since he outgrew the colic) and he is secure--you can tell because he adapts to others easily. Cori, you can't ask for any more than that.

There will always be people whom you believe to be better parents than you. Do you see them with their kids 24/7 or just glimpses from time to time? There will always be people whose children are less well-behaved than yours--that doesn't mean their parents love them less or care less about the outcome for their children, or that they are not as good a parent as you. As you said, after you put things in perspective, you must simply lead them to Christ and be the best example of Him that you can be.
You and Abe dedicated Charis and Judah to the Lord. A lot of people were there pledging with you to bring them up in the nurture and admontition of the Lord. You have many people praying for you and your children, and tons of people who support you in your child rearing efforts. If there were not days when you want to "chuck it all and go back to work, leaving child rearing to those who know what they're doing," there wouldn't be any reason for you to rely on God for direction in raising them up in the way they should go. If you didn't see the things you believe you could/should do differently, you wouldn't self-correct your actions and attitudes. I have faith in you! I love you! And having seen the fruit of many parents' labor (in the classrooms over the past 30+ years)I can honestly say that you're on the right track.

Marcy said...


You just wrote so well about what all of us feel at times!!! I don't know how many times I've said to John, "I think I'm just a lazy mother!" And I love that you wrote this because you're one of those people who flash through my mind on one of those days when I'm telling myself, "So-and-so would never let their kids do this, and so-and-so would never let their house become this messy, and so-and-so . . . and on-and-on . . ."

Oh, Cori, I SOOOO hear what you're saying! There's so many things we think we ought to be and ought to do . . . it drives me crazy at times. What a hope and peace, though, knowing that our kids are HIS kids, and ultimately, He's the one taking care of them. If we would just take the time to leave them in His hands, do our dog-on best to love them and show them Christ, and be okay with that . . .

Also, I've learned something over the last few years that I shouldn't need to make me feel better, but it does. When I look at someone and think they're handling everything so much better as wife, mother, housekeeper, whatever, and "why can't I seem to do everything they do?" there are usually other factors to take into consideration. Like, oh yeah, I guess she does have a housekeeper clean her house which would allow them more time. I don't know if that makes sense, and I don't promote comparing ourselves to others at all, I just mean that we really shouldn't because, like your mom said, we just don't see it all from where we stand anyway.

I loved seeing you again and meeting your beautiful children, and I'm so glad Mary's vomit and screaming made it into your blog :)

Love you,