This morning at 8:45, I sat at our kitchen table, in my bathrobe, gluing a pink plastic bracelet back together. I was chatting with my kids while they ate their toast. And I knew I was having an awesome mom moment. A rare thrill of joy surged up in me, happy I was taking my sweet time getting around to my day, in order to pace myself with them.
Too many mornings, I've allowed somebody else's schedule to be foisted on me, stressing to get myself and the kids dressed, breakfast done and cleaned, get out the door, straighten the house, whatever. In the process, I've passed up opportunities to glue bracelets and have morning chats with my children over smoothies. I thought more of what I wanted accomplished than of what they needed. Busy, busy, busy. No time to just be with them.
Where did that mysterious set of expectations come from? To say from comparing myself with other moms from church or playgroup or the park would be correct, but not a complete answer. From the media, yes, but not ultimately. Something inside of me relentlessly runs ahead of my kids and will not slow down for them, no matter how much I try.
I think it's worth noting that mothers could be distracted from truly being with their kids in more than one way. I am the mom who who is busy around my kids (baking bread, cleaning, homeschooling, texting friends, organizing, scrapbooking, cooking). Just because you are home doesn't mean you are plugged in to the other people in the house! There are a hundred THOUSAND distractions that will draw you away from looking into your child's eyes all day! How easy it is to justify to yourself that you are a great mother just because you are there, at home! It takes more than that.
There are also moms who are busy without their kids (getting their hair done once a month, shopping, library storytime, playgroups, summer camps, babysitters, birthday parties, MOPS, preschool ballet, teaching/attending Bible studies, shopping, sending the kids to grandma's...). These moms might also be non-working wives/mothers, but they are always running somewhere...so that they really don't stay at home!
No matter what the distraction, I think every restless, over-busy, inattentive mother suffers from a problem rooted deep in every human soul, a basic misunderstanding of God and, related, a misunderstanding of power.
We think God is glorious because he is powerful, commanding, sovereign, and cannot be controlled. Those are certainly attributes belonging to God, but isn't there more? Is that what makes a great king or president? A great boss? A great mother? Is God glorious and wonderful simply because of his sheer power and control?
Some people consider power to be evil. Certainly we have enough human examples of its abuse to say it can be used for evil. I would say power is neutral. Power is used for good or evil depending on the heart of the one who possesses it.
And yes, God is all-powerful, but what he does with his power is the awe-inspiring and startling part. I guess you might say it's what makes him glorious. In all his power and perfection, he chooses to love us, adapt to us and meet us.
The Psalms frequently ascribes "lovingkindness" to God. The picture implied in the Hebrew word is "to stoop," especially to an inferior. For years, even before I had my own children, it has always made me sad to see a mother walking briskly into a store, dragging by the hand a 2 or 3 year old, whose little legs cannot keep up. Of course, as in this example, many times it's childishness, which is not their fault. Other times it's immaturity, their refusal to listen, stubbornness, or ignorance. Should it really matter though? Does God differentiate between what's our fault and what isn't, and only help us out when our legs are too short?
The best way to answer that question is in Jesus Christ. The most vivid example we have of God stooping is in him. Again, a perfect, powerful, loving God gives his people instructions, (just like a patient parent) and they ignore it. What mother hasn't felt the sting of a child screaming a defiant "NO!" at her, in response to her attempt to give loving, helpful direction? What mother doesn't want to scream back, "All I do for you, and this is how you treat me!? How dare you disobey me when I am trying to love you?"
A mother should appreciate the astounding miracle of love in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as expressed in Romans 5:8 "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We scream "NO!" in God's face...and what does he do? He sends his own son to pay with his life. In other words, it was totally our fault, and he still reached down to us in such an amazing way. What kind of love is that?
Jesus himself called it service. Who could be more powerful than the very Son of God? Yet, it is what he chose to do with power. He tried to correct the human heart's gross misunderstanding of what should be done with power when he explained his own purpose: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mar 10:45)
For the record, Jesus was certainly no doormat. If you notice, he says he "gives" it, not that it's wrenched away from him while he complains and sighs about it. Don't get me wrong, Dad and Mom ought to be the respected authorities in the home. They ought to require many things of their children. But mothers are forever griping about all their kids demand from them. Time, energy, beauty, investments in other people, money...and on and on. It's too bad we feel robbed of our parental authority...and right along with it, our ability to actively love our kids.
If we acted as Jesus did, we'd gladly give to our kids when and where we felt they needed us, and cheerfully tell them "no" when that truly was best for them. Notice though, that the underlying motivation is always love for my children!!!
I see in myself as a mother a person who does not understand the correct use of power. I do not use my authority over my kids to love them and help them and meet their needs. Most often, my motives are a mixed bag:
-Spending time with them and enjoying it because it fits my agenda -Spending time with them but I'm annoyed because it doesn't fit my agenda but I know I should -Not spending time with them at all because my agenda RULES! "I'm in charge, and I'm too busy for you!"
If I'm going to be a truly glorious, loving mom, I better plan on wearing my bathrobe more often in the morning so I can glue bracelets and talk over smoothies.
Questions I Use for Reflection: - Do I believe my children should have the privilege of a hearing with me, as long as they approach me in a respectful and loving way? - Do I willingly offer (before they ask) to spend time with my children? - Do I regularly feel stressed, rushed, overly busy, and overwhelmed with everything I need to do? (Maybe I'm falsely telling myself I really can squeeze it all in!) - Do my children shows signs of stress that might indicate I am pushing them too hard, demanding too much, going too many places, not spending time with them? (e.g. excessive anger, worrying, physical bad habits of anxiety?) - Do I feel regularly guilty that I'm not giving enough, or the right things, to my kids?