20 May 2015

Power, powerlessness,and Prayer in mothering (and 3 Qs to stare down your fears)

M is for motherhood. It is also for Mystery, misgivings, mistakes and marvelous things!

A new mom is always a good friend to an older mom - because - the older mom, has chalked up more mistakes; and she can lose the light of wonder if she is not careful! 

An older mom is a good friend to a new mom - because - the new mom is facing fears hitherto unmet; and she needs to know there are more fears to come and what seems so puzzling can be untangled with a little dexterity. 

So here is a little something from an older mom to my younger mom friends (and my older mom friends who agree & may need a little reminding :) 

With mommy-ing, you have stumbled upon an awesome power. It begins with the marvel that a life is being formed within you each living, brehting moment. As you cradle and care for the budding life, you get to see now that you can literally lift and shape a soul... and soon enough, you have those moments when you have feel you could go the other way and wreck it: when you lose it, when you are not sure what to do, when nothing seems to go right? Those days when your fears, anxieties and guilt bundle up and nearly suffocate you? 

Moms live with this strange tension of being powerful and powerless at the same time. 

And then, there are fears. 

Remember when you thought you crossed a threshold, jumped a hoop... you find something else coming around the bend. When they were small, I was afraid they didn't drink enough, eat properly, sleep safely through the night. They grew through all of that. Then -
I was afraid of nasty bug bits that left large painful welts, accidents, stranger saying strange things to my kids, other kids who may bully... 
Then I was afraid that she would be lonely, awkward, too strong, too meek...
I was afraid that she would be last in class, lose her things (for the tenth time), feel too stressed, not feel motivation, not really learn, not enjoy herself...become rude, selfish, mean..
I was afraid she would dislike church (waiting so long for us always), be mad at God for stuff that happened, live with cray expectations as a pastor's child...
I was afraid that she would not develop with gender confidence; feel weird around boys...mix with the wrong company...
I was afraid that she would develop an attitude, acne, act up.

 I see it now with trained eyes -- the fears won't end.
But -

fears can be fabulous things. Yes, really. Fear tells you what matters. And, Mothering matters; a lot. A mother who studies her fears and picks her battles is leaning into her maternal shape, hollowed out by trying one-more-time: a magnificent shape that cuddles, coddles, coaxes and coaches another little budding soul into ferocity (boy) and flower (girl).

You can stare down your fears. Like Max here:

where the wild things are {click to enjoy this video version of the famous children's book}

The supper was there, and it was still hot.

I am sure us moms will do just that. Feed our kids hot food even though we were fuming bad... and God our Father does the same. The food of our mothering joy may be delayed due to our silly antics; giving rise to many fears... but He will yet have a hot supper waiting for us.

What we need to learn is that when the fears come with the scary eyes, claws and teeth; we need to look at them squarely and take charge -- not of the child -- but of ourselves!

The answer to Parenting-power lies in managing oneself. 

I learnt that the fears will step back, quieten, and not be able to lay claim to me if I sought for the right answers through asking the right Questions -- nothing cuts through the fog like an incisive question, and nothing clarifies and emboldens like an honest answer.

Here are 3 questions to help take the bite and bloodiness out of the battle.

Q1: what is it I truly value and am afraid of losing here?

Every battle is energized by what it is afraid of losing. Will are you afraid of losing in this situation? Is it worth the battle? Will you really lose what truly counts? 

When I have asked this Q, I often find that what mattered most to me was the quality of the relationship: is there honour? is there honesty? is there humour?  I see what is at stake and recognise that things are not as messy or serious as I initially feel.

Q2: what can i really do about it?

It's good they eat all their greens and follow their routines. But is it fair for this particular child? Every child is a unique human person. What are my options with this child? What difference can i actually make at this point? How can this be done without jeopardising what truly matters? 
Do i need to learn a new way to think/feel/speak in order to make the right difference?

Q3: what am i really praying for?

Most of us pray 'rescue me' prayers. If we rescued our kids from every predicament; they will never grow. Why do we expect God to rescue us, when He wants to train us?

Also, are we praying for what truly matters? Good weather, the ability to handle the exam is all good. But what of creative solutions when caught in the rain and an excellent attitude to learning and revision? 

Rescue prayers happen because we are going so fast we step into potholes we did not anticipate. 

This is why reading, prayer, reflection, and talking to other parents are all very necessary parts of the parenting journey. It is far too easy to just shuffle between work and home, just catching one's breath. It is equally easy to be bogged down by meals, deals, and squeals (of protest) that we get all fogged up and end up drained and ineffectual. 

The only way is to slow down - enough - to pray through the first two questions and forge a constructive path ahead.  Slowing down also allows us to recall assurances God has he given so far, and to anchor back onto the larger movements of the Spirit that persists: God is faithful, and though the way is jagged and strewn with the debris of our mistakes, the journey is shaping up and the life is unfolding yet.

Just this month, older moms have shared with me children's graduation, awards, marriage. These same kids have driven these moms near crazy. As one mom put it, "...still remember bringing him to different schools to get somebody to take him in and even dragged him to take IQ tests to make sure he has no learning disability....But now, wow!".

Prayer is all the more a lifeline if you
 feel alone in your parenting. Your spouse may not quite get your values or plans. The Bible included a lovely story of  a mom and a grandma who knows all about that. 

They were the grandma and mom of a young man. His name is Timothy. Yes, the one in the Bible, the spiritual son of the great apostle Paul, the young pastor who did not quite have the stomach - physically; and for strong personalities, and sometimes felt pretty unsure about what he is meant to do... Yet, Timothy was a man of faith and he was pastor of young churches needing a faithful, wise shepherd. It may seem unlikely; but he was the man of the hour.

Timothy was born into an inter-faith family. From what we can glean, his dad was a regular Greek guy which mean myth, religion, hedonism and possible some chauvinism too. But Timothy had a grandma and mom who were Jews and devout ones at that.

4 amazing things* emerged from his life story, which we do well to remember:

1. It's really important for children to know the Scriptures from the earliest age.
2. It's really important to keep parenting - especially when the going gets tough. 
3. It's really amazing how an ordinary faith can lead to great usefulness. 
4. It's really amazing how our kids can turn out, despite all the obstacles.
 Points 1 and 2 are instructional. Points 2 and 4 are sooooo inspiring!

Slow down, pray, ask good questions, stare down your fears.

Mother on valiantly --

knowing you are shaping a soul one day at a time, one determined smile at a time, one teary conversation at a time, one more sacrifice, at a time.

And if you need a fika, arrange for one!

*adapted from desiringgod.org

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