Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where is the grace?

I got pregnant at the age of 20. I was living in an apartment, working two jobs and enrolling in school. I struggled occasionally but I was a hard worker and I was passionate and optimistic. I was young.

Nine months later I had a baby. In one two-week period, I became a wife, a mother, and a step-mom to a 4 year old son. We were poor. We lived primarily off Shane's tips waiting tables nights while he went to school days. I didn't know a thing about babies. I was overwhelmed and clueless. I needed help. We visited churches and I tried to make friends with other moms. I was part of the mom-club now and thought that was where I would connect. The club didn't want me.

I was a young, poor, knocked-up, and a bit desperate. I can't imagine why that wouldn't have been appealing to the soccer-mom crowd around me. So, with the help of a few dear friends and family, who rallied around us, Shane and I struggled through those first years of raising Brandon and Allison alone. I, during the week, he, on the weekends while I worked waiting tables or at the mall.

Flash-forward 10 years and things are very different for us. Shane finished school and life got better. Allison started school and I went to work. We bought a bigger home and had a couple more kids. I was now one of those soccer-moms in a minivan. I'm a better mom now, at least most of the time. I made a lot of mistakes with Allison and Brandon, but here's the thing, they were not made from lack of love. The fact that I am a better mom with Ben and Clara does not mean I love them more, it just means I learned some things along the way.

Motherhood is hard. Really hard. There is no instruction manual for children. Well, actually there are thousands, but they are so contradictory in their opinions and research, it was easy to drive myself crazy trying to figure it all out. Even the Bible, the one manual I do believe to be infallible gives us only general parenting instructions: Love your children, teach them, discipline them, cherish them, do not provoke them.

Pray a lot.

Nowhere does it say if we should run to our children in the middle of the night, or let them cry? How should we handle a tantrum at a grocery store? What if your child is a screamer, or a biter, a whiner, or like Ben still eating baby food when they are 3? We all know this, so why are we so quick to judge other mothers?

Do we really think that because a child is "wearing a leash" or "still using a pacifier at age 3" or "wearing too much eyeliner at age 15" or any of the other hundreds of things that we rant about that their mothers love them less? Is it honestly all laziness? Isn't it possible that these moms are just as confused and overwhelmed as we are sometimes? Isn't it possible that they too stay up nights worrying about how to discipline their teenager, or how to get their toddler to eat solid foods after trying 3 therapists? (okay, digressing about myself now)

I understand that there are things that are obviously wrong. We shouldn't abuse our children or belittle them or ignore them. We probably shouldn't let them watch Barney 12 hours every day or eat potato chips for every meal. But what mom hasn't had a day when they were sick or sad and just getting your kids through the day fed and safe was all you could manage? Why do we, including me, forget this? Where is the grace?

Where is the compassion to the mom with the screaming toddler, or the one who left her wallet in the car and held up the check-out line? (That one would be me too.) Why can't we show kindness to the mom that has the child that just doesn't know how to make friends at school or insists on wearing the same shirt to kindergarten 3 days a week?

My challenge to myself now is to try to find ways to show love and grace to other moms in the trenches: Help a mom struggling to change a baby on one of those awful changing tables or who forgot a diaper (me again). Stop to give a kind encouraging word to a mom with a screaming baby/toddler/6-year-old and is in danger of screaming herself. Offer to hold a door, pick up toy, or corral an escaping toddler.

By now you are probably thinking that I am harping on this "grace thing" because I was crazy enough to have 4 kids and I obviously need so much of it myself. You'd be right. But Merriam-Webster defines grace as "an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency". S0 yes, I need grace. Who doesn't?

9 comments:

slouching mom said...

I completely agree.

The only reasons moms bad-mouth other moms is because they are insecure about their own parenting.

It's no different from what bullies do in middle school.

We can and should help out other moms whenever and wherever possible. After all, we have all been there. Every single one of us.

Thanks for this post.

Christine said...

This was a great post.

We should, as SM said, offer our help and grace to the other mothers and people around us. The judging and pettiness needs to stop. I right with you on that, sister. I'm sick of the bullies, too.

It is s shame that the mother's club you were in was so exclusive and snobby. That is horrible. It just shouldn't be like that at all.

I am part of a wonderful MOMS club that is very diverse in its members--single moms, working moms, young, older, poor, and wealthy. We have a WIDE range of people who are so loving and caring and very active in community service. And if a dad or grandma came along we'd include them, too! I feel pretty lucky to have them around me.

And, of course, now i have you and the other wonderful people in this blog community. Now that is grace.

Christine said...

ps don't write long thoughtful blog posts while cooking dinner. You'll burn the rice.

Sigh.

;-p

Don and Lynn said...

So true! I have learned, since having the twins, to really, sincerely, feel sorry for the moms whose kids cry all the way through the store. I know the anxiety-almost panic-they are feeling. I know the horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize you left your purse in the grocery cart and now it's gone. There is no "mommy manual" and it's a "play as you go" type thing. Oh, and my twins will probably wear leashes when not in their stroller when out in public because I'd rather get dirty looks than have a child predator snag one of them!

Lori said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog.

I really appreciated this piece, and couldn't agree more. Grace is one of my favorite words and topics. And yes, we could all use and extend a lot more grace than we do!

One would hope that the longer one is a mother you learn how often you don't have the answers, but for some that just doesn't seem to be true.

The other thing I try so hard not to do is to be that older "all knowing" mother to younger mothers. I can't stand it when people say things like, "Oh you just wait..." or "Someday you'll wish they were as easy now as they are as babies..." Whatever stage you are in carries its own unique challenges and struggles, and I really try to remember that! Not to mention, I don't think babies are all that easy!

TINA DECKER said...

I AGREE AS WELL. AS A MOTHER OF A 9 YR OLD WHO STILL WANTS TO WHINE SOMETIMES AND A 1 YR OLD WHO LOVES TO SCREAM I COMPLETLY UNDERSTAND. I FEEL BAD FOR THOSE MOMS WHOS KIDS WANT TO THROW A FIT IN STORES. ITS HARD BECAUSE THESE DAYS MOMS ARE CONFUSED ON HOW THEY CAN DISCIPLINE THIER CHILD IN PUBLIC WITH ALL THE NEW LAWS GOING AROUND. TO ME THE SAME PEOPLE WHO STARE AT MOMS WHOS CHILD IS NOT BEHAVING IN THE STORE ARE PROBLY THE SAME PEOPLE WHO SAY YOU SHOULD NOT SPANK YOUR CHILD. IF SOMEONE GIVES ME AN UGLY LOOK WHEN MY CHILD MISBEHAVES I JUST SMILE BACK AT THEM AND KEEP ON GOING.

Jenn said...

We all do need grace.

Amen.

In the Trenches of Mommyhood said...

"Where is the grace?" Great post. This one will stay with me, as I continually try to be the best mommy I can be for my 3 boyz.

painted maypole said...

tears in my eyes...lovely post. One momenr of Grace I received that I will never forget was when I was flying with my daughter, who was 6 months old at the time. She was crying and crying, and I was in the aisle rocking her and trying to calm her down. A woman passed on the way to the bathroom, and as I tucked into the seat so she could pass she said to me (not... "oh, I feel so sorry for you" or "oh, it must be so hard" or even "oh, she sure cries a lot" but...") WHAT A BEAUTIFUL BABY. I am still grateful for her.