If you don’t blame me for this one, I won’t take credit for that one. How I have been humbled in parenting mulitple children and learned that it isn’t my fault or to my credit.
Having multiple children has made me a much humbler mother. As a mother I like to take credit for the wonderful things that my children do. “She gets that from her mommy.” “He learned that from my side of the family.” And so on.
However, my children sometimes…ok often…like to paint outside of the lines. It is in those moments, those long difficult days, and those public displays that I understand that I have it ALL wrong. I certainly don’t want to claim those moments!
Like the Mockingjay, I no longer look with judgment at the mom whose child is screaming for a treat in the middle of the store. Instead, I throw her the secret mom sign of solidarity. Because, truly, I know that next time, it will probably be my child, and I hope that she will do me the same solid.
When I hear another mom say something completely ridiculous to her children, I take great solace in knowing that I am not the only one who has to say strange, ridiculous, or obvious things. Motherhood is truly humbling.
Old me: cute outfits; mom me: mom jeans.
Pre-kid me: fully rested; mom me: barely awake or showered.
Old me: late night trivia; mom me: early morning soccer complete with orange slices.
THE DESCENT INTO CHAOS: THE SPECTRUM OF MULTIPLE CHILDREN
One of the blessings of having children is that you get to learn about yourself and how you handle focusing on a new person more than yourself. With that first look at your newborn baby, your eyes are suddenly opened into a world beyond yourself. No one asks how mom and dad are anymore, they ask how the baby is, and you are just fine with that.
Contrastingly, when you have a second child, you start out doing the exact same thing you did with your first child. But soon, you start to compare the two children and how they differ. Comparisons may lead you to believe that your two children are opposites.
With two you begin to look at their characteristics and unique traits in binary: one likes eggs, the other doesn’t. One likes cars, the other doesn’t. One obeys immediately, the other doesn’t. You might even begin to blame yourself for the differences.
However, one of the many blessings of having 3 or more children, is that you begin to learn that your children (and big people too for that matter) fall more on a spectrum rather than on poles.
Child One loves to work in the yard with you, Child Two loves to work in the kitchen with you, and Child Three loves to pull all of your work off of the desk! You see?…a spectrum!
They have varying degrees of interests in activities, a variety of likes and dislikes, and even more opportunites to make you realize that those interests have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!
When I only had one child to control, bathe, dress, feed, nurse, nap, entertain, etc, I believed myself to be in complete control. My child followed my lead because I was attuned to his rhythm. However, when that next child was born, the drumbeat changed, and I couldn’t march to both beats all the time simultaneously.
When both children need something, one always has to wait. This means tantrums, whining, questions, or even distraction (why are the shoes off again?). When 3 or more children all need something, then the chaos only escalates, but it also began to let me know that I am not the one in control.
My children are a tremendous, beautiful gift from God. They are both my obligation and my opportunity to build a legacy, and I want to build and train them up in the way that they should go. However, it isn’t ultimately up to me; I have now lost complete control.
SURRENDERING COMPLETE CONTROL
One child’s kind and generous behavior contrasted by the rabid look in another child’s eye is not a symptom of my parenting. If it were, then all of my children would be kind and generous or purely rabid. I know that now!
Instead, I learned that, in addition to my children having their own unique personalities, they have traits that are preparing them for the life that God creatively designed for them. I have to surrender my control over them so that they can be who they are supposed to be.
My job is to keep trying my hardest to guide them on the path most attuned with that creative design.
For example, one of my children has stellar leadership qualities. This means that this child could most certainly run a Fortune 50 company or head a cartel. My job isn’t to destroy her leadership skills but to try to point her down the CEO route rather than the mafia route.
In fact, recently, I heard that this same 4-year-old creative manipulator/leader straight-up Tom Sawyered a kid and convinced him to be the crew of her pretend ship leaving him to do the work while she “drove the boat.”
Further, another one of my children is incredibly supportive and obedient. Having a logical brain, all things are very concrete. This child will do ANYTHING my leader-child directs…ANYTHING. Steal the cookie from the counter: “sure.” Bring me a drink: “Yes.” I fear the day my child is told to “rob a bank.” My job is not to teach him not to obey but to teach him how to discern positive and negative directions!
Recognizing those traits, differences, and even strengths has me realizing more and more that I am no longer ‘da captain. I fight daily not to destroy my child’s unique traits but to nurture them in positive ways.
BLAME AND CREDIT
At the same time, I am very acutely aware of debilitating mom judgment. Don’t make your own baby food?: bad mom. Not breastfeeding?: bad mom. Aren’t practicing co-sleeping?: bad mom. Spanked your child?: bad mom.
Moms have created us vs. them groups. SAHMs vs. working moms (and…let’s be honest…all moms are working moms, but that is a story for a different day.) Anti-vaxxers. Crunchy moms. Baby wearers. All of these groups representing people who agree with our methods and therefore affirm that we are doing it “right.” That we should get credit –a gold star for parenting.
We believe that our parenting is something for which we take and deserve credit. That working on a particular diorama, baby weaning method, or discipline practice will yield the perfect contributing member of society.
But, look around. Contributing members of society come in all shapes and forms. Some run companies, some follow directions, some color outside of lines. My job as a mother is not to control but to nurture, protect, grow, and teach.
I recognize traits in my children that, while horrifying in public today, are characteristics that will make them fierce and independent. Further, I notice characteristics that certainly didn’t come from me, from my husband, or from my family. Instead they are completely unique to my child. And, I certainly can’t take the credit for that.
HUMBLY…DON’T BLAME MY MOTHERING
Finally, I am glad that I can remove the mantel of blame and credit and just keep doing the best that I can. So, if you see one of my children doing something really great, don’t give me any credit! But, in the same way, if you see one of my kiddos acting like a little monster, don’t blame me for that either!
My desire to make my own baby food, baby wear, or choose a private school has nothing to do with whether I believe that I am doing “it right” or not. It’s just my attempt to tread water and do the best that I can. It’s my attempt to recognize the strengths and unique weaknesses of my children.
So, if you are a mama who believes that her perfectly behaved child is a result of her parenting…stop it; pride comes before a fall! Are you a mama who believes that her devious child is some sort of retributive karma? He’s probably not! Instead, its all part of a great and wonderful humbling experience called motherhood!