Tonight I baked cookies with my almost-ten-year-old. She cracked eggs and I scooped sugar and we laughed when I sprayed flour everywhere (after warning her not to). Then we turned, back to back, and she washed dishes and I lifted the cookies out of the oven and I had to catch my breath. 10 years?
Ten years ago I breathed through contractions, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. The humiliation and inadequacy of motherhood settled in as nurses shoved oxygen in my face and flipped me from one side to the other. Even before I heard her first cry I had no idea what I was doing. I thought back to friends who encouraged me with my “options.” They had a point, you know. A 22-year old single woman really isn’t ready to be a mom. (Though I realize now at 32 – no one is ever really ready.)
But there was one friend who just said, “You’re going to be a great mom.” And for some reason, his words were louder than the others. For some reason, I believed him.
So I cried and pushed and laughed as I held her close and breathed her in and realized that this was a new chapter in my life. I couldn’t know what it would all become but I knew that I was marked in ways that would never be undone.
Ten years ago this girl was my inauguration into parenthood, and now she stands behind me, washing dishes and laughing and telling me about her stories and her friends and her dreams and all I can do is picture her as a baby, with all that dark hair and the infectious laugh and words that came early and haven’t stopped flowing since.
I’m working through this online course, evaluating the year and thinking about next year, and one of the assignments is to list people you admire and why. And it occurred to me as I stood in the kitchen with my almost-ten-year-old, that I admire her. I admire her joy, the way she laughs as much as she can, the way she’s always singing or dancing (or both). I admire the way she sees every day as a new opportunity, always looking to create something new. (Even though it makes me crazy,) I admire the way she’s always asking questions, always observing, always reading, always learning. I admire the fact that she’s her own woman – she wears what she wants, she performs without fear, she leads.
My daughter isn’t perfect, but as I think about all that I admire about this little person, I’m overwhelmed by the privilege it is to be her mom.
How often I forget that. How often those feelings of inadequacy threaten to undo me, like someone’s shoving oxygen in my face, telling me I’m doing it all wrong, flipping me back and forth, trying to find the right away.
And maybe I am doing it all wrong. Really, who’s doing it right? Aren’t we all just fumbling around in the dark, hoping someday the lights will come on? Sure, we all have theories and principles and plans, but then we’re given an actual human being with a will and personality and experiences that rub up against ours. All the theories go out the window when we’re sleep-deprived or lonely or depressed or overwhelmed. Suddenly parenting is just weak human beings clinging to grace to make it through another day.
Despite my friend’s encouragement ten years ago, I don’t feel like a great mom. I rarely let my kids help me bake. They watch too much TV. I don’t do Pinterest birthday parties, I generally buy birthday cakes from the store, and I never let my kids sleep in my bed. Their talking mostly exhausts me, especially in the form of questions. I’m not consistent enough with discipline, I yell more than I’d like, and I don’t say I’m sorry enough.
But it occurred to me tonight that maybe being a great mom isn’t what I thought it was. Sure, I want to grow in some of those things. But maybe being a great mom is also about seeing. Maybe it’s about seeing God’s patience with me, that I might be patient with my kids. Maybe it’s taking a step back and looking at who they’re becoming, celebrating who God has made them to be, seeing the privilege it is to be their parent. Maybe it’s about trusting that God is faithful even when I’m not. Maybe it’s about believing that he’s working in their lives just as much as he’s working in mine.
Maybe it’s just standing in the kitchen and regaining some perspective over soapy water and warm cookies: Look at this almost-ten-year-old. She’s okay.
She’s actually pretty great.