Monday, January 14, 2013

#7 — Some Thoughts for a New Mom (from a still-sorta-kinda-new-mom) —

I may only be a mother of a four year old, but one thing that parenting has taught me (from experience, listening and watching others) is that across the board, no one has this down perfectly.  There are books, conferences, seminars, workshops, sermons, you name it. But in the nitty-gritty, not everything applies to everyone all the time.

So if you find yourself with a human who is looking to you for guidance/food/money/clothes/entertainment/rearing/life guiding, here's what I would say to you if we were sharing coffee or tea, or whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed —

:: Have fun. Some of the best moments with my daughter have happened when I stopped trying to control our experience or memory. They've been when I've given up my "ideal" moment or atmosphere and just got down to play with her. Toys, games, books, crafts, adventure, you name it. The best memories so far were not the things I planned. They're all the things I didn't see coming, and simply went along with when they happened. The cookies are getting messy? Get over it. The craft isn't Pinterest-perfect? Nobody actually cares. There will be thousands of moments in this life that don't go as planned. Have fun in the middle of it all.

:: Go with your gut. I remember feeling a lot of pressure — from friends, society, articles, tv — for how I should raise my daughter. It was overwhelming at times. The options feel endless and the margin for error is broad. So wide that I felt daily, I risked the possibility of screwing her up forever. So I gave up. I gave up in a good way. I stopped caring about the best cloth diaper detergent and laundering system, and found a method that worked for me. Then I used disposables when it was too stressful, and didn't care when my hyper-earth-friendly moms looked at me like I just ruined the planet. Sometimes we eat fresh veggies for dinner. Sometimes we chow on hot dogs and canned chili. There was one birthday I baked her a vegan rainbow cake from scratch. The next year, I basically dumped a pound of white refined sugar topped with chocolate sugar and high fructose corn syrup into her happy birthday mouth and IT WAS AWESOME. Being a new mom is overwhelming and there is no manual for how to do things. I remember resting in the knowledge that for hundreds of thousands of years, mothers have been raising children and time has shown that I'm bound to do a hundred things right and a hundred things wrong. That's what grace is for.

:: Love is the default. I once had a counselor tell me (and on that note, don't be too proud to go seek help. Please? I needed help. So I sought it out.) that she never had anyone in her office come to her because they were loved too much. I was going through the typical "Do I let her cry it out? Do I discipline her for *fill-in-the-blank* behavior? Do I hold her too long? Rock her to sleep?" I felt exhausted and torn between the camps of how-to-mothering. This advice from my beautiful counselor lifted the burden from my shoulders. "Love her," is what she said. That is what is most important. 

:: "Discipline her for her behavior, not her age." My mother said this to me and it's helped me navigate the roads of conversations and different attitudes with my growing child. Sometimes she flat out ignores me. She rolls her eyes. She gives me a 15-year-old glare and doesn't follow through with a request for obedience. 

And sometimes she's a four-year-old girl and gets distracted by the butterflies and church bells.


:: Discipline is not the same as punishment.  It's really tempting as a parent to want to lord over our children with punishment threats because we're irritated with what they're doing. Delving out doses of punishments without delivering the richness of discipline does nothing to grow our children. Have they done something wrong? Don't broil in anger and administer unjust punishments because you're ticked off. Cool your jets, get to the root of the problem, and walk through the appropriate measures of discipline. 

:: Be picky about a few things. Don't obsess about doing the dishes, the laundry, making beds, etc…. UNLESS they're driving you crazy. Because, yes, all those things don't matter. They really don't. But if you're anything like me, a floor that continues to collect more and more particles of food, or a sink full of dishes will drive me crazy. It's true they don't matter, but if you find that your home is more peaceful when you feel like you are the lady of the house, then pick a couple things to focus on, and let everything else go to the backburner.

:: Let them eat the box of goldfish. Seriously, every now and then, try not to be so controlling about everything. I feel like I can say this because I tend to be controlling — of course, only in the "I love you and I want your life to be perfect and every memory to be ideal and every experience to be heavenly" sort of way. One of my favorite memories was when Madeleine was almost two, and she sat on the floor of the kitchen eating goldfish straight out of the carton while I made dinner. I don't remember ANYTHING else about that night. But I remember her insane happiness and joy to sit at my side, snacking on crackers to her hearts delight, rambling with sounds that made no sense to a mom who was happy to listen.

:: Live the gospel to your children. Forgive them. Love them. Show them that you need Jesus too. You are not the master of salvation. You are just as much a recipient of it as they are. Admit when you're wrong. Ask for forgiveness. Repent. Pray. Recently, M had a major tantrum. She threw things. She flipped out. I sent her to her room and prayed in my fury. "How dare she?" I asked myself. "What kind of person does she think she is?" And I remembered that she is me, just smaller. I throw the same tantrums in my heart. I silently throw words and accusations and point fingers. I just don't do it so publicly. So I went to her, and confessed that my heart is just like hers — a total mess. And we talked about how we needed Jesus to get rid of the ugliness in our hearts. And she prayed, for both of us. I don't know about you, but showing her that Jesus is the fixer and hero of our hearts (and not a mom or a dad) is the best gift I ever want to give her.

:: Weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Sometimes my daughter cries over things — serious things, and not so serious things. A broken heart or a broken toy. And in those moments, I weep with her. Sometimes she celebrates that she's the flag-bearer at school, or that she got to eat an extra piece of kinda we high five and hug and dance. Engage in their life just as much as they're engaged in yours.

:: Continue to learn from others you trust.  I frequently call my mom or sisters with questions, and while I might not see everything the same as them, sometimes it's just one sentence that helps me see clearly. "She's 4," my mom says when I ask "Why is she acting like this?" "Put her in the tub for a long bath," my sister says when I ask, "Why is she so crazy tonight?" Things like this are little lifelines in the middle of other wise craziness, and they remind me that I'm not the first nor the last to face these issues. Kids are kids, and we all have so much to learn. Staying in that mentality keeps us from getting on soapboxes and preaching at eachother.

I don't know it all and there's a decent chance I will look at this list in five years and shake my head at my ignorance, but this is my list...and you're free to add your two cents in the comment section. But remember, we're all in this together, right? Let's make a more beautiful world through the gift of parenting.

#30daysoflists so far:

1. Things I Would Tell Someone Turning 20
2. Movies for a Wintry Saturday
3. In Regards to Turning 30
4. Back to Work Monday
5. The Real Deal
6. A Winter to Love


  1. You know, your words might as well have been for me! :)

  2. Eek. Good reminders. I'm all about the controlling and soapboxes and pulling my hair out sometimes...

  3. i'm not a mom but i hope to be one day. it has been such a blessing watching you the little time i spent with you both in texas. this blog gave me chills and i hope to be half the mom you are to that precious little one!