Lisa Smith is my Sista from anotha Mista.
Though we have never met in actual real-live-flesh, we have been on-line friends since the birth of both of our blogs (which is kinda how on-line friends do life: We raise our blogs together.)
It never ceases to amaze me how she completes my thoughts and finishes my sentences. So, it was no surprise when I read her guest post and resonated with every word.
If you close your eyes, you might think it’s me writing.
No, wait. If you close your eyes, you won’t be able to read at all.
Please welcome my dear friend Lisa Smith to the Scoop on Balance
Sitting at my son’s end of the year awards ceremony (without him, I might add) got me thinking about report cards we give ourselves as moms. After my initial panic that my son had not shown up for school that morning because he had surely been abducted at the bus stop or involved in an auto pedestrian accident while exiting the bus in the crazy car rider line, I sent my husband a text stating the obvious, “I thought you got the boys to school today.”
No, I didn’t accept his awards on his behalf. I was too busy inventorying my own end of the year achievements:
• Hunter is missing his day. It’s my fault.
• What if they wake up scared because no one is at home? It’s my fault.
• What if they wake up hungry because the only food in the house has been transformed into their brown bag lunches, which I brought to a place they aren’t. They’ll starve. It’s my fault.
• If he was going to get an attendance award, he’s not now. It’s my fault.
• Palmer will miss ice cream day at school. It’s my fault.
• What if I lose him because he wakes up and decides walking to school is an option. It’s my fault.
• If I’d have fixed his bike, he could’ve gotten up and made it. It’s my fault.
You get the idea. My certificates were not colorful and celebratory. I didn’t even award myself the “Parent Participation” Award. Because clearly, I was not participating as a parent should. I think having a child present, or at least accounted for, is necessary to carry out parental responsibility. If mommies got report cards, I’d surely flunk.
Filling a mommy report card with frowny faces is a habit picked up almost fifteen years ago. Back in the day, I was winning my parenting gig. I brought home a perfectly swaddled bundle of baby, nursed her, changed her and held her as she napped. I repeated this easily. I advertised this fact with big pink balloon bouquets, feathery mums and baby wreaths mounted on the door. I dreamt of the day my little person would independently make her mark on the world with her grace, charisma, intelligence, wit and compassion. And I realized in the depths of my soul, it was up to me to keep this little person on the perfect path.
And I started to believe the lie: Perfect mothers raise perfect children. And the mark of a perfect mother is her children’s perfect behavior. Thus, the mommy report card using children’s choices to evaluate mommy’s performance.
So, I tried to control this human. Her schedule, her wardrobe, her diet, her baths, her activities, her toys, her friends… And I became loony with sleep deprivation. And she threw tantrums. And eventually she won candy at the grocery store because I thought my head might explode. She won playing quietly instead of napping because I didn’t think I could go a whole decade without sleep. And at night when I’d fall into bed instead of sheep, I’d count my failures. My journal burst with lamentations of all my mommy failings. The report card didn’t lie. I couldn’t handle the work. I was tired. Her grace, charisma, intelligence, wit and compassion were surely destroyed at the hands of her mother before they’d even begun to develop.
But I was wrong.
She sang Jesus Loves Me and memorized Bible verses with enthusiasm. She excelled in her classes and talents and treated her friends with kindness.
These were the days when I’d shine my mommy trophies and beam with pride at the child I was raising. I’d stuff her baby book with documented milestones, achievements, awards and expressions of her unique personality.
And I learned to live without sleep.
And so we had another child. And another. And another.
Somewhere in the having, I really got too tired to recount as many failures. And I got some understanding of creating consistency in enforcing expected behaviors in my children. I found accountability in those who had parented before me. I learned to forgive myself for parenting fails and rely on God’s grace to be my portion. I began to parent believing that where I lack the ability to reach my child’s heart, God easily spans the distance. Believing who they become is ultimately their responsibility has been transforming. Allowing my young men and women to own their choices and the results has freed me from the mommy grading system and pushed me to constant prayer like no other!
I aim to equip them with tools to make good decisions; but ultimately, they decide whether to obey me or not. As toddlers they decided. As preschoolers they decided. As elementary school kids they decide. As preteens they decide. As teens they decide. And as adults they will decide.
And instead of counting failures and storing up fear, I’ve taught them accountability for their actions. I’ve strengthened them to face their consequences with courage. I’ve instilled hunger for the truth in them. I’ve forgiven them so they can forgive themselves and those who betray them.
No matter where my someday adult children make their marks on this world, I will know that I did my best to mother them in a way pleasing to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the ultimate mommy report card will be when we meet and He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I still fail. As evident today at my son’s award ceremony. You know, the one where he wasn’t. Thankfully the only report card I brought home today was his. But even if I’d been carrying a mommy report card filled with frowny faces, Hunter’s laughter at the thought of me sitting in his school cafeteria while he was snuggled in bed sleeping would’ve turned those frowns upside down!
Lisa Smith is familiar with parenting blunders. In an effort to raise independent kids, she loses one child long enough for a thorough panic attack each family vacation. She chooses bigger battles than eating vegetables at dinner because she firmly believes that once a child gets hungry, they will eat–even if the only option is veggies. Lisa, her husband and four children live in Texas and together they enjoy beach vacations, healthy smoothies and running races. Of course they all run together at different paces. Lisa is a children’s minister at www.LisaSmithOnline.com