Sometimes, although I completely celebrate and appreciate the blessing that motherhood is, the responsibility can overwhelm me. The bulk of the day-to-day parenting role in our family is mine. And I am completely honoured and humbled by the joy and learning that it has brought to my life.
No matter what age you are when you start planning your family, no matter how practical you are, I doubt you could ever really anticipate the depth of love you feel when you hold your beautiful new child in your arms. How could you possibly know how many times your heart will break for your children when they experience the harshness of the world around them? How would you comprehend the ongoing, far-reaching connection that never dissolves?
As my children experience struggle in their life, I’m very much aware of how that struggle will shape them and how even if I could protect them from every challenge – I wouldn’t. I know how life can kick you down but there’s so much empowerment and self-worth derived from picking yourself back up, of weathering storms, of relying on your faith, of taking action to make your situation better.
I have never been over-protective, in my estimation anyway. I have been accused of being too lenient with my children. I remember before even becoming pregnant reading a book called, Your Child’s Self-Esteem. I tried to do everything right. Don’t we all have the best intentions? I think the one ideal I set for myself as a parent was to encourage my children’s individuality. Cookie-cutter children without imagination were not my hope. I tried to build them up, to be their champion, to have their backs but I did so acknowledging their responsibility in situations and trying to be real with them. When a child brought me their scribble-drawings I focused on something I liked about it, the colour they used or how they filled the paper, but I avoided saying it was the best thing I’d ever seen. I didn’t talk baby-talk to them but I did sing them lullabies.
Now as all but one of them are in their 20s, I’m surprised by how strongly I’m still affected by their choices and by how they are living their lives. I kind of imagined they’d all be independent by now and my role would be more of just love and encouragement. I’m not complaining. I’m happy to be needed and consulted and to be their mother. But sometimes, when I’m up to my eyeballs in my own stress, my own problems, and I feel as though I’m drowning it’s hard to provide what they need. Is it selfish to think this way? Perhaps. I always love them, I always feel honoured to be their mom and to be invited into their lives. But how do I throw them the lifeline when I’m having trouble treading the stormy waters myself?
Maybe all they need is someone to hear them and understand. Maybe they don’t need me to solve their problems but just to listen and to believe in their abilities to rise above, to move forward, to actively choose for themselves the life they want, and maybe my role is to let go of the life I dreamed for them. Happiness, independence, joy, comfort – I’ll always wish these things for my children. I’m sure each one will walk their path uniquely and I will trust God to guide them and I will trust them to learn what life will teach them along the way.
So maybe when I’m drowning in these stormy seas, the one thing I can do is show them faith. Perhaps I need to be an example of peace. And when I do become upset, perhaps I need to show them that I can forgive myself for opening the valve and letting some of the frustration go. Perhaps my best option at this point is to show them the dignity that exits in being vulnerable, making mistakes and dealing with the challenges that seem to pop up like hurdles. We can trip, fall down, even cry but if we get up and get over that hurdle, maybe the next one won’t stop us in our tracks for as long.
I’ll probably always wonder if I let them down as their mother, if I taught them all I could, if I was and am who they need me to be. One thing I am sure of, my children all know I love them with all my heart and I hope that’s enough for there to be peace.