I’m thankful to have my friend Tara Lakes sharing her witty, and convicting, perspective on motherhood with us today! I hope you chuckle and I imagine you’ll feel her words strike a little close to home!
I’ve long joked that God gave me a big family because of this Bible passage:
Do not judge or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged… Matthew 7:1-2a
In other words, I’ve made so many judgments against other moms, God had to give me a whole lot of kids to make sure I found myself in the exact situations those mothers did. I’ve had to eat a lot of crow on this parenting journey and I fully deserve every last embarrassing moment my kids put me through.
You’d think I would’ve learned to ditch my opinions before they became fully formed in my brain early on, but clearly, I am a slow learner. So here we are. Eight kids in, almost seventeen years of parenting under my belt, and I need to publicly apologize to so many.
To the dear mother…
- Whose child had a red-faced, screaming, full-body fit in the grocery store check-out.
Kudos to you, Momma! You did not give in to the demand for candy. In the face of your screaming child and the glares of your fellow shoppers (one of which may have been mine), you stood your ground! I no longer judge you…I salute you! May we all be so bold.
- Who, in the face of your screaming child and the glares of your fellow shoppers, grabbed the candy from the nearest shelf and stuffed it into your child’s hand.
Hugs to you, Momma! I saw your overflowing cart and the tension in your shoulders. I have been there. Sometimes you just do what you gotta do to save your ever-lovin’ sanity! Don’t worry. You’ll get ’em next time!
- Whose child made faces at me over the back of the booth for at least seventeen minutes in the restaurant I chose for a romantic date with my husband.
I’m guessing you chose that restaurant for a romantic date with your husband, too…only the babysitter cancelled at the last minute. You didn’t want to spend your time wrestling with your restless child. After spending day after exhausting day with said child and no grown-up interaction, you just wanted a few moments of blissful adult conversation with your man. I get it. I’m so sorry for the stage whispered disparaging remarks I made about your parenting skills. I hope you ordered dessert, too!
- Whose child kicked the back of my seat in the movie theater 937,462 times during the course of one hundred five minutes of animated entertainment.
It was a kid’s movie. Who the heck goes to a movie geared toward kids and expects to sit through it peacefully?!? So sorry for the dirty looks and exasperated sighs you endured from me.
- Who, looking for advice, told me you couldn’t seem to wean your child from the breast.
So apparently, my first three kids really were anomalies that decided they were done nursing around age one, started drinking milk from a cup, and never looked back. Huh. Who knew? Oh, right. You did. Heh, heh. Thanks to numbers 4, 5, and 7, I know that now, too. Sorry for looking at you like you’d grown a second head.
- Who, with a house full of children at home, cried buckets of tears when her first child left the nest.
I remember thinking that you were off your rocker and should be happy to see one go. I didn’t know. I didn’t know that each child owns a piece of your heart. That, no matter how many children you have, the absence of that first one leaves a gaping hole that cannot be filled by the others. Your tears showed that you fully embraced your role of mothering her, your uncertainty that your mission was complete, your worry about all that she might face, and your sadness that things would be forever changed…thoughts that were too lofty for this momma of only two toddlers at the time to understand. I get it now.
- Whose adult child is far from God and living a life that you did not desire for him.
When my older kids were little, I foolishly believed that there was a right way to parent, that if I followed all the steps, I was guaranteed success. I didn’t fully grasp that I was raising humans with the free will to choose which path they would take. I didn’t understand that we cannot control another, no matter how desperately we try. And I certainly did not believe then, like I do now, that success is only in our obedience to do what God called us to do as moms and is totally separate from the type of people our children become. I’m certain you made mistakes, we all do. But now I know. I know that you threw yourself into mothering, you made the best choices with the information that you had, you loved them with every fiber of your being and still they walked away…and took your heart with them.
I know there are more. Pride can be so ugly, but there is nothing quite like children to remind you of your weakness. You see, mothering is hard. Looking around to see how others are doing it is simply unhelpful to our own journey. At the beginning of my mothering I had never even heard of “invisible” disabilities like autism, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, etc, which add a whole new dimension to traditional parenting. We cannot judge based on one observed event. I get it, now. (Hear that, God? I get it! No more judgment from me! I’m good.)
I owe a thank you to all you other mothers, though. In learning to have grace for you, I’ve learned to extend it to myself, as well. I don’t do this parenting thing perfectly. Truth be told, some days I’m pretty awful at it. I struggle to remember that children are a blessing, especially when they don’t always bless me. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I have a few children that I am fairly certain will line some therapist’s pockets with all their tales of woe.
One time I was sound asleep in the middle of the night and was awakened by a five-year-old mumbling something.
Me: (with hand on child’s arm) Jesus, please help her not to have any more bad dreams and help her sleep well. Amen.
Child: (long pause) Okay….but how is that going to get the pee out of my bed?!?
Another time I was approached by a very frustrated four-year-old.
Child: You always say that Simeon’s real and not me!
Me: (totally not comprehending) What???Child: (Repeats himself more emphatically)
Me: (Realization finally dawns) Ohhhhh! No, honey, I’m not saying he’s real! I’m saying, “Simeon ISRAEL!” Israel is his middle name!
(Clearly, I’m no expert)
While I will not be judging the rest of you, I’m pretty sure I provide ample fodder for other judgmental parents on a daily basis. If you’re one of them, be careful! One day you could find yourself hauling a large brood in a 15-passenger van, as well.
Tara Lakes is happily married to Shawn and mom to eight: Michaela, 16; Elliana, 13; Atalia, 9; Benaiah, 7; Zakkai, 5; Simeon, 4 w/Down syndrome; Bogdan 3 w/Down syndrome originally from Serbia; and Keturah, 2. She works full-time as an occupational therapist, while my amazing husband stays home and educates our brood. You can read more about her adventures at Simeon’s Trail.