Off the Hook

Can I just confess that I feel super guilty if I make my kids a smoothie and I don't put spinach in it?

The knowledge that my kids had a blended drink free of leafy greens basically haunts me the rest of the day. Not being sarcastic, I actually hate most vegetables myself and find that adding them to my smoothies is a great way to hide the taste. I am still thinking about how for a snack, Emmy & Mack had a strawberry smoothie with almond butter that was basically a glorified milkshake. Just a handful would have given them the extra vitamins they needed to thrive today! They for sure wouldn't be fighting over that blue spoon right now if the veggies had been there, stabilizing their blood sugar. Now I have to make sure I add some kale onto their frozen pizza that I am making for dinner tonight.

Every once and a while, we need to stop and evaluate if we need to let ourselves off the hook.

Recently a dear friend hurt my feelings, and it left me in a bad place. The sensitive area she touched on was my parenting. Her response to something made me feel like I wasn't enough. And lately I have been living to prove her wrong.

As a stay-at-home mom, it is so easy to feel discouraged both by your privilege in being home, and by the weight of your tasks there. By this I mean, it doesn't always feel like you're doing enough just to raise human beings and managing the in's and out's of a family of 3+. Thank you, Culture, for making people think that stay-at-home-moms sit around on the couch watching soap operas and eating bon bons all day. Because I let assumptions like that affect me, I get so frustrated at myself for never getting all my tasks done. Enter, the laundry. It takes me literal days to wash, dry, fold, AND put away a single load of laundry. I am always interrupted, and there is just so much to do. I keep giving away our clothes hoping this will help solve the problem! But I love to shop so then I just buy more. It is a vicious cycle. Add to the drama that the washer and dryer are in Archie's closet. I die! It is the perfect excuse to avoid laundry though, "I would've washed your work jeans [no fancy suit and tie in this house!], but the baby was napping!"

When I feel mad about the laundry, I turn that anger towards myself. Thoughts run through my mind like: "You're not good enough. You can't keep it together. What else do you have to do all day, why can't you get this done? You shouldn't take the kids to the pool so much. You shouldn't have taken that break this afternoon to watch tv. How will you raise these kids well if you can't even fold and put away their clothes?"

I don't realize I am thinking these things about myself. It is so subtle. The paths of self-doubt in my mind are well worn trails that I've been treading over for years and years. Becoming a parent has deepened those paths more than any job, marriage, or friendship I have ever had. It feels some days like my identity as a mother is always on the line. Do they feel loved? Will they turn out okay? Am I setting a good example? Did I say that the "right" way?

When someone questions our parenting, however small their attack may have been, it can send these thoughts into a tailspin. In my recent experience, it feels as if the person that questioned my parenting is always about to come into my house. I spend my day getting ready for her, trying to please her, so if she were to pop up unexpectedly, I would pass her unspoken "test."

Ironically, it is one of my biggest parenting beliefs that there is NO RIGHT WAY to raise children. There is no test! I remember as a new mom, I felt desperate to learn the right way of doing things. I read books, asked my mom friends, questioned the pediatrician on every little thing. Feeding my daughter, teaching her how to sleep, working with her on talking, there was so much information but what was the BEST information? Which one lead to the MOST success? What choice is the RIGHT choice? I felt confident that the research I did led me to make several of the "best" choices. She slept 12-14 hours a night from 6 months on, was fed only organic baby food I made myself, and was verbal at a young age.

But then I had another baby... and another one after that. The second one didn't even eat baby food until he was one, I kept forgetting to offer it! The third hates it, all he wants to do is chew on the spoon. So I set him up in his brand new high chair, and cover the tray with spoons. Done, and done.

God has used my children to humble and sharpen me like nothing else. There is no right way. What works for one child, may not work for another. How one mother parents, is best for her family but not mine. We are so different-- our passions, our backgrounds-- how can we all parent alike? And how boring would it be if we did?!

I am thankful for the people, articles, and books that have sharpened my understanding of parenting. But for today, I am going to forget all they have suggested.
Trying to parent to please another person can make you exhausted.
Trying to parent to please the culture around you could make you mad.
Trying to parent to please yourself will make you miserable.

Most of us spent our lives trying to succeed and be good at things. School, sports, work, relationships. But parenting is different. You cannot be good enough at it. Every day there is more you could have done. Every night you can go to sleep disappointed in yourself. It is good to reevaluate and see areas you can improve, but I think it's better to stop evaluating and just receive the grace.

There is grace for all the places you fail as a mom. There is grace for your children, to meet the needs they have that you did not. There is enough grace for you, dear mama, when you are tired and take short-cuts. When you send your kids to watch a movie so you can get rest on the couch. There is grace when your husband comes home to fast food and a messy house. You don't need him to offer you the grace, you don't need a friend to offer it to you, or your children. It is up to you to reach out and grab it for yourself. It is always waiting around the corner, just hoping you stop fretting and realize it's there.

One of my favorite Christian teachings is that "all is grace." I take this literally. Meaning that it is grace I have children. Grace I have laundry. Grace I had eggs in the fridge for breakfast. Grace that my coffee maker turned on this morning. Grace that water pours out of my faucet when I need it. Grace that my husband comes home each night. Nothing is deserved, nothing can be earned, nothing is assumed: instead, all is Grace.

It is so, so good to give grace to others. I love giving Grace to my kiddos. Sometimes it looks like allowing a late bedtime when nobody has earned it. Or a second popsicle when they didn't even eat their dinner. Lately, it looks like taking the crying, teething baby that should be sleeping on a walk.

Grace to the husband looks like not fussing at him for buying a new fishing pole when he said you shouldn't buy those shoes (real life example, last week). It's washing his clothes when he promised he would get it done, and not nagging him for it. It's waking up with the kids and letting him sleep in, even if you were the one to get up with the baby in the middle of the night.

Grace makes no demands and expects nothing in return. But when you give it out, it really does fill your own soul as well. I love giving out grace because it reminds me that I need it so freaking bad.

And then, there is extending Grace to the person who hurt your feelings, they are off the hook too-- you know, Grace knows no bounds.

I can remember all the times people in my life have showed me grace when I blew it. Those experiences endeared me to those friends. These are the people I am closest to, the ones I love the most, the ones who have showed me grace.

Now a baby is crying and there is no more time to write about grace, but endless chances ahead to receive it and live it out!

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing! It's as if you knew the exact fight (of world war proportions) that took place at our house last night about parenting styles. We both work outside the home (except during the summer) and feel so much responsibility about the time we have with our kids in the morning/evening. We need grace to abound in our home and a healthy dose of reality to know we're not alone in the struggle. Also, I think we don't live that far from you and enjoy reading about what you do in and around the Omaha area. God bless you and your littles!

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    1. Oh Courtney I'm sorry about the fight, it's because it's 95 degrees here, who can keep the peace about anything?! I am glad to be "in it" with you. You are definitely not alone! Thanks for posting --and we are loving the Omaha area there is so much to do, and lots of good restaurants too!

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  2. I thought of you when I signed Lucan up for his first VBS for the summer of a church I kno very little about. Grace upon grace, upon grace.

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    1. The three hours of quiet were super fabulous-- and they loved it so much!

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  3. Great words! You capture the heart and fears of a mom with young kids so well. I'm right there with you this very day! Trying to rest in Him...

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  4. "It is up to you to reach out and grab it for yourself."
    Wowza - grabbing a handful of grace this morning :) thank you for writing these words!

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  5. Ally this is so good! so wise and true and NEEDED. thankful for your blog. so very thankful.

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