Every morning, since the first day of school, Ava has gotten up and said, "I don't wanna go." On most every day, there have been tears. We have explored the reasons why, since she loved school last year, to no avail. She loves her teacher. She enjoys school. Every afternoon she comes home and says she had a great day. But, every morning is the same. "I don't wanna go. I miss you when we aren't together."
It's heartbreaking. I hate watching her walk out the door, crying. Some place in me wants to solve all the problems. To make sure she never has to feel sad. And watching my child walk out the door with tears makes the voices in my head that whisper, "you are failing" a little bit louder. Especially in regards to parenting, it feels true to me. A lot. Too much.
So, for three weeks now, as my 6 year old has left the house crying, my mother's heart has felt like a failure. That something must be wrong with me and the way I am parenting her. And believe me, these aren't the only kind of parenting moments that give way to this kind of feeling. There are plenty more with each of my kids. Maybe this happens honestly enough. I want so badly to do the right thing. I want to honor God, and to love my husband and my kids well. I want to be everything that God desires for me, to step in to the glorious life he has planned for me. But somehow, in the midst of that holy struggle, without exactly knowing how it happened, slow and steady and as sneaky as that first snake slithering in the grass, the spirit of death starts to choke me out. I start to feel a little more constricted. A little more constrained. More anxious. And the voice in my head starts. It's refrain is always, "Take care! Do something! Work harder! Right the ship!" And it seems like the loudest voice, so I do.
But I can't do it all. And the more I try, stumbling and pressing forward and trying to fill all of the gaps, the more it reaffirms the belief that I am failing. And I feel more constricted. More anxious. More swallowed up. But when I stop, and usually when I say this out loud to some of my good people, God, in his mercy, opens my eyes and lets me see this for what it is. An impossible feat. And one that only He can manage. This kind of failure is grace in my life. That I cannot do it all. We cannot do it all. This dismantling is how he loves us. We are broken and exposed and he waits for us to glance up from our guilt and shame and see him loving us. See him calling us, instead, towards rest and trust. And when we do, we are brought low in the best possible way. We understand that his extravagant love is too much. It bends our knees and we keep going lower, lower until, chest to the earth, we can drink from His river of life. Free and clear and with no requirements other than our thirst. And now, I can have a new perspective.
I can't be everything and everywhere for my kids. That's hard for me, still. And sometimes, it makes me feel like a failure. But, I know it's not true. At least not in the ways that I think matter. Oh, I am failing alright. I am failing at being everything my children need all the time. I am failing to protect them from all of the world. I am failing at making sure they are happy all the time. But, I can't do all of those things. And even if I could, even if I sometimes strive for that from an unhealthy place in my brain, I don't think I should. I'm not sure that failing at those things is such a bad thing. So, if I am not supposed to be everything for all of them, if I can't do that, even on my best days, then what am I supposed to be?
Well, God asked me to be their mom, not their Savior. He's got that covered. I guess that's a good place to start.
And the thing is, I'm a pretty good mom. I'm saying that as much for me as I am for the mom reading this who has ever felt like they are failing. I am a good mom. I hug my kids when they cry and listen to all their stories (well...most. Cause some of them...ugh) I love their dad like I have a crazy schoolgirl crush and also like a woman who has been in the trenches and knows that marriage is fun, but it is also about sacrifice and commitment and finding a way through together. I challenge them and cheer for them and create opportunities for them to stand on their own. I snuggle and tickle and do carpool and run to the store at the last minute. I enforce the rules and set boundaries and monitor devices. I apologize when I am wrong. I pray...oh how much I have prayed for them! I am devoted to Jesus and I pray that my life is a reflection of the Gospel that they can see and hear and touch. And also, I try and make sure I am not more devoted to them than I am to Him. These are the things I can do. I was made to do this.
Yesterday, Ava came home talking about a new friend she had made. She was giddy and excited to tell us all about her. And today, when she woke up, she didn't look sad and she didn't say, "I don't wanna go." In fact, just before she left she said, "I am so proud of myself because I'm not crying. I know I will have a good day because I always do.” I asked her if she thought it was partly because she had a new friend she was looking forward to playing with. She nodded her head and smiled. And Loren said when they got to school, her new friend, Trenity, came running to the fence shouting her name. I think Ava just needed to know that there was someone, in the same place as her, who was really with her.
That can't always be me. And that's a little hard for me, still. But it made me understand that she wanted to stay home with me because I am that safe place for her. I am not everything she needs. I am not her Savior. But, recognizing that doesn't make me a failure. It makes me a good mom. I am a good mom. So are you.
If you'd like to read a more hilarious take on this subject, this article will make you laugh out loud...and also give you a good dose of helpful truth.