I’m a really big fan of proactive parenting. I’m for “letting them be little” – let’s never hinder imagination, or play, or childlike wonder. But letting them be little doesn’t at all mean letting them be immature. The way I see it, as a momma, it’s my job to assess their current life situation, and help them figure out what they might need to move forward in life without irritating or otherwise being an obnoxious nuisance to their world.
Demanding goldfish instead of asking and saying “please” will not be cute at 4 years old. Let’s not do it at two.
Letting a lack of proprioception cause them to swing their hands willy nilly through the air while dancing (typically resulting in broken dishes on the floor) will not make kindergarten easier, so let’s learn to see where our hands are, even while dancing with abandon.
Whining? Not necessary for college interviews, definitely not necessary at home with your tired momma.
I tend to fall back on my education, good sense, and, let’s face it, my mom, to assess where my kiddos are and what things I need to consciously be teaching them through instruction, boundaries, and consequences. (Don’t be impressed, this is mostly for their well-being and to save my sanity.) So, for the last three weeks, I’ve been racking my brain, trying to sort out why my super-intelligent toddler needs to wail like a dying cow at 3 a.m. for me to come readjust the blankets on her bed.
I know she can do this herself – she tucks herself in at nap time. (She plays in her room quietly and puts herself to bed most days). She loves to play “doctor and patient,” and will tuck herself and any number of sick stuffed animals into bed. Maybe she just didn’t know I wanted her to do that in the middle of the night. Maybe she thought I liked tucking her in again.
So we talked about it. And I know she’s two, but her preschool teacher was astonished this morning that she remembered to pull a paper I had signed out of her backpack and hand it in. We talked about doing that fifteen minutes before she left the house with her daddy, and she remembered on her own by the time she made it the classroom 40 minutes later. So, banking on the fact that my toddler can remember instructions, we had this conversation:
“Risa, baby, Momma doesn’t really love getting up in the middle of the night, and you sure sound unhappy wailing for me. Why don’t you just fix your own blankets and go back to sleep? We will all be happier!”
But, come 3 a.m., we commence wailing. Round two.
I can’t figure it out, I’ve tried every trick in the book and nothing is working this time. I’ve been praying for wisdom to help her sort this out, and I was reminded while reading today that my ultimate job as her momma is just to love her.
It’s as simple and terrifying as that.
Love is so difficult at times, because love is always a surrender of me, most often for the mess of someone else. I empty myself out, surrender my desires and wishes and needs, and take them on, right where they’re at. In this case, that means taking on her sleeplessness, her whiny voice, her need for Momma to crawl in beside her in the dark to do something for her that she can totally do for herself, because Momma is spending a lot of time during the day meeting the new baby’s needs. And even when I’m not feeling that overwhelming, throat-tightening, wonderstruck awe of getting to shepherd these little hearts – these little hearts, and sometimes feet, need my self-emptying care and concern and help.
And that’s a daunting calling.
Maybe not the first time, or even the fifth. But by the 47th someone-small-needs-me-right-now moment of my day, it can start to be overwhelming. I can start to feel empty even as I run away from surrender. I can start to feel like I’m grasping at straws to maintain any shred of my self – the me that I was before children – that I’m afraid I have nothing left of to surrender.
But the sweet embrace of our Jesus says, “While you love them, let Me love you. When you’ve given all of yourself out, when there is nothing left, I pour myself into you, and the love you give your children is Me.”
And the magic of being Momma is that it forces me to drain myself dry, most days much earlier than I care to admit, so that I can be most full of Jesus. When my well is empty, they reach in their chubby little hands, and draw out Jesus, and drink His love into their tender, growing souls.
And we are all more nourished for it.