As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On My Heart

When I was a newly expectant mother for the first time, there was a Hallmark commercial that left an imprint on my heart.  It was of a young boy who had made a card for his busy mother, but she was too busy to look at it.  He had planted a surprise (floating, spring-powered butterflies, if memory serves me correctly) inside it, and though he tried time and again to get her to open it, he kept receiving, "not now honey", "I'll look at it later", or something of the like.  Of course the viewer knew how deeply she loved her boy, but she was caught (as most parents are) in a busy life, and had to balance all of it.  When her little boy was tucked into bed and she finally opened his card, she was sad that he was not present for the surprise he was so persistently trying to give her all day. She vowed to make it up to him, and of course visited a Hallmark store the very next day.  When he came in from school she presented him with his very own card filled with butterflies, and the two shared a reconciling surprised moment between the two of them, as the boy knew that even though she was not able to share this with him the day prior, that she was able to now.  Isn't this the story of every parent at some point or another?

Not having raised any children of my own at that point, I was not content with the reconciliation at the end.  I never wanted to make my children feel like that in the first place.  I wanted to be able to see everything the sweet child in my womb did for me throughout his whole life.  I wanted to be 100% every moment, and I never wanted to break his little heart the way the boy's in the commercial had.  I remember remarking once to my mother-in-law as we watched that commercial that I never want to do that, to which she replied with the wisdom of one who has raised many children, "you will."  And she was right.

You see, even before I held my babies in my arms, I started building that list of "things I never want to do."  And breaking their hearts was at the top of that list.  Composed of a multitude of burdens too heavy for me to carry and heights too great for me to live up to, this list slowly gathered steam and, one by one, clashed with reality over the course of these years.  Another huge item on that list (and one that has caused me great pain), is yelling.  I can remember very clearly the first time I ever yelled at my then two-year-old first born.  I was horrified at myself. What kind of a mother was I?  I vowed to have it under control before he was old enough to remember me ever yelling at him, because I definitely never wanted to be "that kind of a mother."  Add that to the list.

Of course, like most mothers, I could give example after example of moments like this.  Mistakes I've made.  Ways I've hurt my children, ways I've fallen short of the impossible expectations I set for myself.  Every new stage with each child sees me doing it all over again - this school year in fact, I set out to make it different for my oldest son, for whom this will be his last year of homeschool.  "This year," I thought, "I won't be negative.  This will be the year of no fighting, and excessive patience, and all things happy - because I want him to look back on his homeschooling experience fondly."  Has anyone ever tried to teach complicated school subjects to a teenager, while also teaching five other students, raising an infant and a toddler, and keeping a busy household?  I was setting myself up for a monumental fail going into the school year this way.

Lately however, I'm starting to see my relationship with my children not for what I don't want to do, but rather what I can do.  I have abandoned the idea of making this a perfect school year in favour of making the most of this year.  When I mess up (as I invariably do), I try to be aware of how my son and I can work through it together, and I have been so grateful for the many great conversations and glimpses of his heart that have come in those tender moments that follow an upset (moments I am keenly aware that I would not have if he was getting on a school bus after our argument).  Rather than focus on what I don't have (endless time and patience), I find solace in what I do (moments with my children that will not always be there: moments to make things right).

Yesterday evening I could sense something was off with one of my children.  After they went to bed, I recalled a moment earlier in the day when I had been snappy with them.  Normally I would wait until the morning to apologize, but something on my heart told me I needed to do it now.  I went down to the basement and opened the shared bedroom door, only to happen upon a disagreement that was rooted in this child's ill humour at "just wanting this bad day to end." I pulled him out of his room, sat down with him, and found out what was wrong.  It took some prodding to be sure, but eventually he gave me a list of things that had gone wrong for him during the day, most of which were miscommunications or misinterpretations of what had actually occurred, all of which were causing him great pain. He would never had brought these up with me on his own, and I was grateful the Lord had prompted me to check in.  It gave me the opportunity to reassure him that I do see him, that I love him, that his needs are just as important as anyone else in the family, and that his father and I are always here for him.

He went back to bed and I came upstairs, images of all the times I've failed this boy flooding to the surface.  My heart hurt for him, for all the times I've cause him pain, all the times I've been the mother in that commercial - not wanting to hurt her child but so consumed with daily life that I never even noticed.  The thing I never wanted to be, I was.  I felt the full burden of this expectation on my shoulders, and my inadequacy in front of it was crushing.

And yet, in feeling that weight I realized I WAS doing something.  It was this very feeling of inadequacy that prompted me to check in on him.  The mother in that commercial, the one I didn't want to be?  She's every mother, because she's human.  She makes mistakes, but she reconciles them. And her mistakes help her to do what she can't do on her own, which is to see her child.  Using her conscience, God cuts through all the chaos of her life and immediately reorders her priorities, her hurting child squarely at the top.  When we drop the ball, as my dear mother-in-law gently taught me that we surely will, God is the one who sets things right, and in this way our failure becomes not just a moment with our child, but an opportunity of encounter with Christ through that grieving child.  He truly does make all things new!

As I crawled into bed, my heart was overflowing not with guilt over what I didn't do, but gratitude for what I did do.

I followed up on a hunch that a child needed me (and he did).

I went to bed vowing to be present in a new way to that child.

I prayed unceasingly for him, and all my children, as I drifted off to sleep.

I went to bed with all of my babies on my heart.

That is what I can do, and it's the most important thing.  My limitations can either overwhelm me and hold me back, or they can be the gateway for Christ to enter into and redeem my relationships with my children. By His grace I pray that I will always choose the latter.

No comments :

Post a Comment