Monday, May 11, 2009

A Belated Mother's Day Post...

I wrote this yesterday morning, but then I didn't post it. I wasn't sure if I seemed to be pointing fingers or if it was critical in any way. That's not what I mean to do. So, I read it aloud to Michelle while she was doing something, and she said she didn't know what I was concerned about and that I should go ahead and post it. But maybe that's because she's my daughter, and she knows my spirit.

Anyway, here's what I wrote...

For Mother's Day, I was going to put up a photo of my mom and dad together (because that's the way they were for 54 years), and I thought I had a whole disc of photos to choose from, but when I inserted the disc, it had been mislabeled. There was a small amount of text on the disc and nothing else. Sad.

But I can still say how much I love and appreciate my mother. I can still say that she amazes me. I can still say that she is my hero. I've posted about Mom before, here and here and in other places, and I don't want to repeat myself, but I do want to honor her today. She deserves it.

Mom married young, when she was just two months past 18, and she had her first child right after turning 20. By the time she was 25, she had five children. Wow, huh? Mom and dad used to joke that they grew up with their kids, and I think we were pretty lucky it was that way. A lot of people say that waiting until you're older to have children is better because you're wiser, more stable, and more settled.

I happen to disagree that older is better, but I'm not really arguing for or against either youth or age in parenting. Maybe God means for both to happen. If there's a choice, maybe we should be having kids when we are young and continuing to have them til we are older. Children are a blessing, you know.

But I do think that sometimes (certainly not always) older parents with young children can be too calculated, too careful, too logical, too perfectionistic, too worried, too analytical about it all, and, as George MacDonald wrote long ago, "Analysis is well as death is well." This can be true in parenting. Really. We need to be attuned and prayerful and take our responsibility seriously, but we also need to be light and child-like and cheery and airy and loose. Good, consistent discipline and happy, orderly routines, combined with freedom and fun-- with Love in and through it all-- works well.

To be fair, I'll have to say that I think today's young parents can (but certainly don't automatically or always) have their own temptations. Never before has a generation been so incredibly media-saturated, so distracted, so busy, so seemingly disoriented and not knowing what to do about it (I say this based on real life experience with lots and lots of young mothers). I often (again, certainly not always) see a restlessness, a distractedness, a lack of order, ennui. And I can see how it affects parenting. I see frustrated and exasperated moms who don't realize that they might be doing this to themselves by being reactive and inconsistent in their parenting, maybe because they're too distracted or busy to be proactive and consistent.

My mom didn't know the first thing about raising kids, either, but I look back at how God gave her amazing wisdom. Today, we have a gazillion books, classes, videos, and parenting aids. Mom didn't, and I think many parents today don't "get it" nearly as well as my mother did. Of course, she was imperfect and had her own frustrated moments, but a lot of love, warmth, humor, affection, playfulness, happy spirit, apologies, and God's grace more than amply made up for it.

Young or old, it comes down to all of us needing to take a long, hard, prayerful look at ourselves to see where we we need to tighten ship. I guarantee there's something for all of us.

I smile sometimes when I hear a bunch of older moms clucking about how girls nowadays don't know how to keep a home. Well, it's certainly a good thing if a girl does know how to cook and clean, sew and garden, make and do. Her life will be smoother and easier and better for it for sure, but it's also not the end of the world if she can't. She'll learn. And we moms who have older or grown children sometimes need to lighten up and laugh and encourage rather than shake our heads and feel pleased that we raised our girls to keep a home. (As a mom of grown children, I shake my head at all of my mistakes and all that I'm still learning. Yikes.)

When Mom was first married, she didn't even know what to do with a can of corn. If she bought meat, she'd ask the butcher what to do with it. Apparently, grocery store employees taught her to cook! And she was quite able to read and learn. Her Betty Crocker cookbook was well-used, I think. In the end, it didn't matter. Not a bit. Mom must have learned fast. My memory is of eating good food and of warm times in the kitchen. Food cooked with love and a happy spirit just tastes good to a child.

And Mom depended on God and His grace. I caught her many times on her knees early in the morning, praying, because she knew that was the thing that mattered most. In parenting, maybe ignorance really is bliss, as long as we take the posture taken by the people of Israel long ago when they prayed, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on You." That was Mom's posture. Her weakness was her greatest strength.

Because, when it comes down to it, all of our ideas and philosophies and knowledge and capabilities and self-assuredness about raising kids aren't going to make us successful parents. It comes down to the grace of God in our children's lives every single time.

Thanks, Mom, for all you did teach us kids, pointedly and by your example, in our home-life and on your knees. The best lessons of all were learning that the key to everything is knowing where our true Strength and Wisdom lie. Your loving ways toward us are what made us want to find our Strength and Wisdom there, too.