|Jackson and me in our Castle Rock house, 2006|
It's funny, now, to me that I started my last post with "I'm not naturally a good mother" and I'm about to start this post with "When I was pregnant, I thought I knew more than everyone else about being a mother." Funny in an embarrassed, I'm an idiot sort of way.
But you know about this lofty ideal of motherhood, don't you? The "I'm going to do this so much better than my parents did. Oh, how I have learned from their many, many mistakes. My child is going to be well-rounded, well-nourished, and very, very well-behaved." We have such high hopes for ourselves and our children. We believe the guys who wrote Love & Logic when they tell us that children will learn to behave well through natural consequences. We think we will never lose our tempers, our children will sleep through the night, breast feeding will be easy, and our babies will never, ever eat anything unnatural. And also--we are damn sure our babies are geniuses.
And then reality sets in. And often nothing is as we imagined it to be in our pregnancy daydreams. Babies cry and won't be soothed. Milk ducts get clogged and babies won't latch on. Sleep is completely elusive and you can't even remember what sleeping for more than 2 consecutive hours feels like. And that's if your baby is healthy. I had a healthy baby boy ten and a half years ago, so I cannot speak to what it feels like to worry about the life of your child. But I can speak to the reality that babies don't do what we expect them to do and there is not a one-size-fits-all remedy for the individual complexities of a 3 month old.
I think God gives us babies to show us how much we need Him. Just when we are starting to feel self-sufficient in our lives--our marriages, our careers, our friendships, our ministries--He asks us to take care of a tiny human who has major needs but cannot talk. And He gives us well-intentioned loved ones who have really helpful advice to give us, advice that contradicts what we read in Parenting Magazine or the La Leche League book of breast feeding. And we are utterly confused.
I like formulas. I love things that add up to the right answer like an algebra equation. I want one size fits all. I want to be right and I want to help others be right. Which is, you know, not how life generally works--unless you live in a math bubble. I've read the 4 gospels many times and, unfortunately, Jesus never once says that following Him means always finding the right answer and I'm not one to separate following Jesus from raising children.
So what do we do then? There is so much advice out there when it comes to parenting and so many avenues to consider, from breast feeding to baby food to vaccinations to child care and to schooling and discipline. I think the most helpful piece of advice I can give is this, "God cares about your parenting". Not that He cares that you do it "right", but that you allow Him to come alongside you, that you give yourself room to listen to Him and talk to Him about your concerns, fears, hesitations, disappointments, and downright frustrations. He will guide you and that is the main thing. Rest in Him and know that you are not alone.
This parenting thing is scary. It will put mothers over the edge, clinging to the cliff of despair by a finger. You are not alone. God has gifted many people in researching childhood and educating parents. But God is the creator of your little creature. He knows what is best for him. He knows how the two of you will connect and how you will butt heads. So don't worry so much about which expert is "right" because no one knows your baby like God does. And God knows you and your gifts and your limitations like no one else. Lean on Him. He does not disappoint.
I've had to trust my instincts and believe that it was the Holy Spirit leading me when making decisions for Jackson. I chose to hold off on vaccinations. I wasn't sure I'd vaccinate him at all. But when we moved to Texas, I decided to have him immunized against some diseases that are common because we're close to the Mexico border. For two years, I think not an ounce of partially hydrogenated soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup ever entered his little body...but I'm not quite so militant about it now. When he was sick and throwing up and had a fever and I thought it was the flu, I trusted my instinct to have him tested for strep because he just wasn't getting better--and he got on the pink stuff and felt better quickly. In 1st grade one of his teachers was convinced he had ADD but I was certain he did not...and so I had him tested for everything he could be tested for at school. And sure enough, he doesn't have ADD and is quite intelligent, he just doesn't want to spend time doing things he doesn't find interesting. And now I'm reconsidering his schooling. I think he needs to be home with me for a while and do some home schooling. What single mom has the time or head space to home school? Well, I'm trusting God once again to lead.
Some moms have awesome husbands who are committed to parenting right alongside them. But not all do. Some feel alone even with a husband. Some feel alone and are single. But all of us have a co-parent who cares. In Genesis, our first glimpse into the life of a single mom is Hagar. And as she is desperate to save her son, she cries out to God and He sends His angels to aid her. And she names Him the God who sees me.
Sister, He sees you.
So, what is plaguing you right now? Are you faced with a difficult parenting plight? Tell me about it, I'd love to pray for you.