3. I count it a privilege to be their mom.
In order to explain, I need to give you a strange parallel. The other day after a conversation with my brother about our marriages, I got to thinking about the fact that there are really no other men who are my age-peers that it would be appropriate for me to talk to in that way. My brother is the only guy, other than my husband, who I can talk to about deeply personal stuff, knowing that we have shared history, he loves the Lord, and he cares about me. That’s a pretty cool privilege to have a relationship like that with a family member.
So as my kids’ mom, I have the privilege to have this unique knowledge of them, and an opportunity to invest in them and train them. As much as it’s daunting and scary, it’s AMAZING! There are three people on this planet that I get to be the mom of and that is a priceless gift that I don’t want to miss by avoiding them or handing them a tablet continuously. (I can stillinconsistently hand them a tablet. ;)) They are cool little people and getting cooler by the minute. Sure, they are equal parts wretchedness and sweetness, but I get to be their teacher, their caretaker, and their one and only MOM. So when the pile of papers come home from school and there’s one stuck in there that says, “I love you Mom!” I want to pause for appreciation and enjoyment (before adding it to the recycle bin–cause sheesh, there are so many PApERS!) Even though there are millions of moms, I’m the only mom for them. That’s a privilege.
4. I treat myself as well as I want them to treat me.
After I had Anika, I started attending a little class my sister-in-law taught called Sanity Strategies. At the time, her kids were 6, 4, and 2 year old twins, so I figured maybe she knew what she was talking about. One of the things that she mentioned several times, was the need to sit down for meals. I remember thinking that was just nutso. I ate half my meals standing at the counter while preparing meals for the kids. There was just no other way, was there?
Then I started realizing that eating while standing up was just one of many ways that I had started to treat myself badly, like I didn’t matter, like my mealtime was unimportant compared to serving them.
Do I want my son to treat his future wife like she has to stand up while eating all her meals? Do I want my daughters to expect that of themselves? No way! I started to realize that I wanted to take care of myself IN FRONT of my kids so that they would treat me and someday themselves with as much respect. For me this means, no kids can sleep in my bed. Kids are not allowed to come in my bedroom or bathroom without knocking. (This is an ongoing battle.) I get to sit for meals and the family cannot start eating without me. I don’t always take the smallest or last piece of food.
My friend Lisa shares that through counseling she has learned that Jesus teaches us, his followers, to love others as well as we love ourselves. Therefore, if I don’t show any love and respect for myself, my children and spouse won’t either, and then I won’t enjoy them because I resent them for being self-centered little meanies. When we all show mutual love and respect for each other, then we can enjoy each others’ company more fully.
5. I remember that all their feelings are real and valid.
At my mom’s annual granddaughters’ Valentine’s day tea, my mom asked us all to share something we appreciate about our mom. Addie, my oldest, said that she thought I was really good at handling emotions. HOORAY! A triumph! This is something that I have always attempted to do for my kids because I didn’t learn to respect my own feelings until I was an adult.
Sometimes, I still forget that all feelings (even mine) are real and valid. I shouldn’t dismiss or ignore feelings. Even if my kids’ reactions are immature or even sinful, how they feel is real–it comes from something. If they are sad, or scared, or angry, or spiteful, that is a real emotion that comes from somewhere. How they feel matters to them and it should matter to me–even if I have to deal with negative behavior or emotions. Dismissing their emotions, minimizing their emotions, or ignoring their emotions almost always leads to an unenjoyable tension, distress, or distance. Even wading through ugly, mean feelings with them is better than the train wreck caused when my kid feels like I don’t care about how they feel. It is hard for me to enjoy my kids when I’m reacting snappishly to their emotions. When I snap at them, they don’t trust me. And that distrust hurts me. Even though kids can be manipulative or contrived, I can usually tell what they are feeling underneath.
When I remember that their feelings are REAL and valid, and I respect those feelings, I enjoy them more.
6. I remember they aren’t mine.
Really, I’m already halfway done with Addie. She just turned 10 and that is totally terrifying. I am just stewarding that beautiful girl for a few more years until she will be independent of me. A grown woman. Everything she was created to be.
She isn’t mine anyway. She is God’s precious creation, made so uniquely. And the other two are not very far behind at all. Anika, my strong-willed daughter, constantly reminds me that I’m not in charge of her. 😉
When I remember that these children aren’t really mine, then I can let go of the anxiety that I might mess them up. I can release them to bask in the grace that will cover ALL of my mistakes and all of theirs too. I can enjoy watching their personalities, their strengths, and their struggles unfold. I can enjoy seeing who they are becoming without taking undue responsibility for producing them. I am CARING for them, but I’m not making them. I’m shepherding them, but I’m not designing them. I’m not writing their story; I’m in it.
The bottom line for my process of learning to enjoy my kids has been infusing more of MYSELF as Katrina, into their lives, instead of carbon copying some idealized image of motherhood behavior onto them. When I am my inconsistent, emotional, audiobook listening, sit-down-eating, non-helicoptering self, I enjoy myself more; therefore, I enjoy them too. Does that make sense?
Have you learned some tricks that have enabled you to enjoy motherhood more fully? Share them in comments below.