14 ways motherhood is teaching me to love
** Disclaimer (because I'm an enneagram 9): These are MY lessons. Yours may be different. That, too, is a beautiful lesson about Love.
**These are in no particular order, other than how they show up in my brain. A lot of them probably overlap. :) The point is, Motherhood is a beautiful teacher and Love is always worth celebrating. Happy Valentines Day!
1. Love does not insist on its own way. (I Cor 13) I am older and bigger and stronger and wiser than my kids, but that doesn't give me the right to overpower them. I want to empower them. I want to teach them that their voice and perspective matter just as much as mine. There are things I insist on, because I am older and wiser: brushing teeth has to happen, running into a busy street is not an option, we cannot eat ice cream everyday, etc. I insist on things that keep us healthy and safe; I don't insist on things just because they are MY way. I also don't give into things just because they are THEIR way. We talk, we consider, we compromise. None of us do it perfectly. We all have moments of insisting on our way and hopefully, we are learning to meet those moments with grace. And I'm not gonna lie. This is hard, but it's the only way that makes sense to me and my heart for my kids.
2. If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen in my stories recently this quote that I just love: "I don't know if it is possible to feed your baby with your own milk and not find out something new about love. Love is a giving, an outpouring. An outpouring that refills itself by the fact of its own emptying." (Deborah Meyler) Nursing my babies has been such a teacher for me about love. It's taught me to be still, to rest, to embrace, to abide, to recognize my capacity to participate in healing, to trust my babies to show me what they need and when they need it, to trust my instincts and the Spirit of the Lord to lead me and to equip me. I could talk about this for days and days as its been so much of my life for so long now. It has sometimes been such a hard journey but it has been worth every tear and frustration a million times over. (And here's that insta story I wS talking about.)
3. Love comes in endless supply, and I don't have to be the source, just the vessel that carries it. When I became a mother, a capacity for loving selflessly that I'd never known before came to the surface. When I became a mother to two, my capacity grew. And it grows as it flows. I continually am amazed by the Life of Love that flows through me.
4. I want my kids to know they are worthy of love and belonging. (Thanks,Brené Brown for those words.) The best way to teach them that is to believe it about myself; to practice self-compassion and self-love is a gift to them and to the world.
5. I'm learning to let people be fluid. I don't want to make assumptions about who my kids are or who they are going to be. I refuse to let them be defined as shy or stubborn or difficult or even easy or any other category. When we tell a kid they are something, they believe us. I want to make sure they know that they are capable and able to change, not because I want them to, but because it's part of being human. I want to walk through all their humanness with them, meeting all that they are with love and compassion and acceptance (which, we must remember is different than resignation). I want to treat all people like I treat my kids. We are all more than what we do or how we act and we can all be different tomorrow than we were today.
6. I'm learning to embrace mistakes, both theirs and mine, as opportunities for love and discovery and learning. There is no shame in messing up. (Part of me wanted to caveat that. There is no shame in messing up if you learn from it. But ya know, we might not always learn... And Jesus still takes all our shame.)
7. I'm learning that sometimes the purpose of building something up really is simply to tear it down. (This is actually quite deep and beautiful and as much about life as it is about little kids and blocks.)
8. I'm learning that wherever my kids are, wherever my husband is, and wherever I am is an okay place to be. What we all need is someone to meet us there and love us in it and through it (when the time is right), not someone to demand that we be in the place they think we should be in. And in that vein, I am learning that I am (we are) the adults and we are the only ones that need to act like adults. I don't want my 3 year old to be an adult for a really long time. That doesn't mean I don't think about what I need to teach him so that ONE DAY he can be a healthy adult, but it does mean that I recognize we have a long journey to get there and that's how its supposed to be. I want to be a person who does not demand perfection. I want to be someone who celebrates the journey and all its imperfections.
9. I'm learning that, yes, sometimes babies just need to cry and yes, sometimes preschoolers just need to have meltdowns; but what they don't need is to be left alone to figure it all out in those moments. They need connection, relationship, and healthy modeling of a loving PRESENCE and an open heart. I don't send them away when they are having a hard time and tell them to come back when they can be a more enjoyable person. I find it is my job to stay, to walk them through it, to help them process their big feelings and learn constructive ways of dealing with them. It's hard. I don't always like it, but I see so much Jesus in it. (Sometimes, I have to take a break to calm myself before I can do this. And sometimes, I mess it up. There is grace for all of that.)
10. I'm learning to invite cooperation, rather than to demand immediate, mindless obedience. If Jesus hasn't insisted on it from me (and I don't believe he has), I certainly don't want to demand it from them.
11. I'm learning to see my children for who they are, not what they do, and to value their personhood and help them grow into who they are, rather than who I may sometimes think I want them to be. When I fall into doing the latter, I sometimes start seeing them as a list of problems that need to be fixed, which seems to me to diminish their personhood and the image of God they reflect.
12. Having a family ritual around gratitude impacts so much more than the moments that we are actually practicing that ritual. Gratitude is contagious and it multiplies. So does bitterness. Squash that stuff as fast as you can.
13. No matter how hard we try or how much we want to, we can't keep our kids from experiencing pain. When it comes, it's hard not to feel responsible or like I should have and could have ___; but living in a space of "if only" doesn't bring health or joy to anyone. We hold hands, cry tears, walk together, give and accept grace, learn what we can, and keep living.
14. I'm learning to... Listen to music. Dance with and like my 3 year old. Laugh a lot. Give hundreds, literally hundreds, of kisses and hugs a day. Sometimes, leave the dishes till tomorrow. Listen a lot. To not always take the lead. And not to freak out when showers don't seem to fit in the day. (That's what dry shampoo and tomorrow are for.) And to buy myself flowers at the grocery store when I can. All of this loving stuff is way easier when you are having fun.