Confession: Summer break has not quite turned out to be what I envisioned so far. (Let me guess, you too?)
Don't get me wrong, there have been so many amazing moments that I'm thankful for, but my visions of happily playing at the park and splashing around in the pool with my 4 year-old have ended up looking more like a duel scene from a western at times. The strong will in this child is only met by my own, and although I know his smarts and determination will serve him someday, it makes for some loooong days now, with nearly constant struggles over the tiniest of requests. I'm not sure anything in my life has been such a test in patience--choosing to react in the way I want to model for my son, rather than in the way my ego would like to out of frustration.
Each day is a mix of the highest of highs...
"Mommy, how'd you get so beautiful?"
"Mom, I love you more than the world."
Hugs, kisses, cuddles.
And the lowest of lows...
Meltdowns before we’ve even had breakfast.
Alligator-wrestling-style attempts at napping that are unsuccessful.
"Mommy, you're not making me happy today."
I have a Master's in Educational Psychology and years of experience successfully working with students using Conscious Discipline and other strategies of positive reinforcement, yet, with my own child, I feel as if I don't know a damn thing sometimes. And that’s where the shame kicks in: Krissy, you know what to do...you know what works...how can you be more successful with another's child than your own? What kind of mom....
And so it goes.
The answer of course is that it's a whole different ballgame when the strong emotions of love for your own child are involved--they can trigger you like no other. Some days I'm on my game & we have a beautiful, peaceful day. Others, the stresses and distractions of life mount up, I'm not on my game, and we have "one of those days". Yesterday was one of them. I was frustrated, he was frustrated, and we were going round and round. The day felt like a sweater three sizes too small that I was constantly trying to wriggle out of. He was in resistance, I was in resistance, and I finally realized it was time to have a come-to-Jesus moment with myself if I wanted this summer to turn around. I also knew that moment needed to happen in the stillness, not in the chaos. I called in reinforcements--sleepover at Mimi's tonight (thank God for grandmas).
Once the house was quiet, I sat down and got still. The words of a friend of mine who had just had a baby immediately echoed in my head "I feel like I was just born to be a mom". The tears of guilt started to flow and the first thought that came out of the mounted frustration was "Maybe you do girl, but not me--I'm just not cut out for this."
I can recognize on this quiet next morning after a good night of sleep that I was feeling that mostly out of frustration. Just as I can recognize that my boy's not "bad" when he's frustrated, I can also recognize that I wasn't a "bad" mom for having these thoughts, I just needed a break. The truth is--sometimes I feel like I'm nailing motherhood & sometimes I feel like I'm failing motherhood. But I also think there's some TRUTH deep within that frustrated thought I had: the one where I thought to myself "Maybe I wasn’t born to be a mom".
The truth is, I think I was born—I think we’re all born—not to play a certain role but to live our purpose and, while I don't believe my sole purpose in this life is to be a mom, I do believe it's a huge part of it. I believe we are put here for two reasons: to try and make the world a little better in some way and to try and make ourselves a little better, too. To use our gifts to add good to the world and use the hard times to hopefully improve ourselves somehow.
I believe God made me a mom for a reason and gave me this particular boy--with all his big heart and strong will--for a purpose, too. I feel (hope) that I'm using my gifts through writing, teaching, helping students every day, and through my interactions with others (including my son). But I believe God is also working to improve my imperfections, my shortcomings, through my relationships with others, too--and of course the one I have with him is no exception. In addition to the reverse being true, he might just be my greatest teacher.
I've never been a patient person, it's been a struggle my whole life. What better teacher than my son?
It's my nature to give up on difficult things quickly--perseverance has always been a struggle for me. What better teacher than my son?
Asserting myself and standing in my power have never come easily--what better teacher than my son?
In other words, through my frustrations & difficulties maybe God is trying to develop the characteristics in me that need the most cultivating.
So, no, I don't necessarily believe I was born to be a mom--I believe being a mom is an enormous gift that I was allowed (and so very thankful for) that is part of a bigger purpose. If I believe I was born only for the purpose of being a mom, and not for a larger purpose, then I fail to see the lessons that are trying to emerge from the struggles--and start believing that I'm "bad" or "failing at life" when my mothering isn't going so well (which is inevitable). If I believe I was born only for the purpose of being a mom, and not for a larger purpose, then who am I when he grows up and moves out? Who am I if something, God forbid, were to happen to him? I've got to anchor myself to a larger purpose, otherwise I'm a boat adrift, being pulled to wherever the tide takes me.
Now when it comes to the second part of that frustrated thought...the part where I thought to myself "I'm just not cut out for this"? That part I can't agree with in the stillness of this next morning. Maybe I wasn't "born to be a mom", but I AM SO cut out for this. I will take on these struggles over and over for the privilege of raising this boy and growing into the woman that God would have me be. It might just be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but I bet it will also be the greatest reward. And, if God feels I'm cut out for this, then I believe I am, too.