Why am I doing this?!?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

Like going to the gym.

Or getting up in the morning.

Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.

Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.

For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.

Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!

And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?” 

I honestly don’t even know!!

Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”

Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.

And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.

So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.

To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?

To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?

I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.

To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀

To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!

To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???

To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!

To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!

As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?

But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:

Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.

The problem here was with my own heart. 

Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.

So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?

Partially because I’m crazy.

Partially because I’m weird.

But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.

I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.

Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.

Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children. 

If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.

But first, make sure you rest.

Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.

Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.

Watch the kids playing.

Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.

Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.

Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.

 

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A Mother’s Greatest Lie

I’ve always wanted to write a book. Not just any book either: a classic. One of those books that touches the reader so deeply they can’t help but ponder it for the next few days or even weeks. I want to use my words to transform people’s lives and their way of thinking. I don’t just want to write another book, I want to write THE book.

Today I sat down once again with visions of writing a bestselling Novel. As soon as my pen hit the page (yes I’m sometimes old school like that…I still love writing with pen and paper) the words took off! They flowed onto the page as fast as my pen could keep up with my mind! And then it happened, the same thing that happens every single time:

Children.

Their fighting began and as soon as I heard their cries and angry shouts, my heart sank. At first, I tried to block out the noise, but I could tell my story was getting weaker as my divided mind could no longer fully engage with what I was writing. I stopped. And once again I knew in my heart that I’d lost it. Never again will I write that story. The moment was gone.

I clambered down the stairs and took my frustration out on the younger two boys, who were the culprits of the trouble. In my anger, I tried to deal with their pain, which ended up causing more tears and wounds to our souls because I was already impatient. I had already in my mind found them guilty of wronging me and so I had no room in my heart to hear them out or to listen to “sides”. They were guilty of the repeated offence of “Disrupting MY life” and in my mind it was the only offence worth convicting them over.

“I’m so tired of you fighting all the time! I don’t really care WHAT your problem is, I just want you to stop! I can never have any peace and quiet in this house!” The words flew out of my mouth, along with others, expressing how badly they were acting at the time. I wish I could say that I had the decency to come to my senses, take my boys into my arms and listen to them, but I didn’t. I just sent them to their rooms, storming off to my own to cool off, to try to get back that which I already knew was lost. To try to write my story. But it was too late. The only words that now came were:

“I will NEVER write a book, because I am a Mom.”

I can’t write, because I am a Mom. These words, this thought, is one of the most painful, binding lies I have ever struggled with since becoming a Mom. It takes on many forms and is at the very centre of the struggle of motherhood. It can be rephrased into the following thoughts:

“My kids are holding me back from living up to my fullest potential!”

“My children are the reason for my failures.”

“If it weren’t for my children I’d be doing important things with my life!!”

“My life is less productive because of my kids.”

“My kids are a distraction and they are the reason I have let go of my dreams.”

“My children have ruined MY life!”

In the end, these thoughts, these LIES express the lonely cry of a wounded mother and the resentment she feels towards her kids for the changes their lives have brought to hers.

Oh, we rarely, if ever, give voice to these thoughts and feelings. But we bury them deep, deep within our souls only to hear them whenever we face disappointments and failures. And in our pain we hear these lies whispered within our hearts: it’s all their faults.

Being a Mother has taught me this much: Every trial and difficult situation is magnified when having kids. Insecurity. Depression. Financial struggles. Loneliness. It doesn’t go away when having kids. Children can sometimes be a wanted distraction, but more often than not, they just actually bring more stress into a hard situation. But let’s get something straight here: IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.

Your pain, the pain deep within your heart, is not because of them.

My struggles are not MY kids fault anymore than my parents’ struggles and failures are mine. And if I let myself believe that lie, I’m not only setting myself up for a life of bitterness and resentment against my children, I may also unknowingly be planting seeds of shame and rejection into their little hearts.

Now let’s be honest, children DO make things difficult. But the reality is that no child can ruin God’s plans for your life.

The only person who can prevent you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life, is you.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m not supposed to write a book right now, during this season of my life. Maybe God wants me to wait.

During this one post I have left this computer approximately ten times. I’m solving fights, helping with bathroom breaks, getting towels for the kids coming out of the hot tub, prepping supper, telling children to move their noisy play to a different room so that I can concentrate. And I have to ask myself sometimes: Why do I bother? Why not give up? Why not give in and just call it quits on the rest of my life until the kids have moved out?

Because I know better.

Being a Mother and raising my children is hands down one of the most important callings of my life, and at the end of my life I want to look back and say that I did my best. But I know better than to say it’s the only call on my life.

Being a Mother changed me and shaped me into a new person, but it doesn’t define me. If anything it’s trained and strengthened me for my real calling.

My first and most important role in this life is to follow Jesus with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.

This means many things: It means to look different than the rest of the world, it means to do my best in all things, even the small things. It’s doing things I really would rather not like loving the unlovable, showing kindness to the mean spirited, putting others needs ahead of my own wants and desires. It’s repenting when I’ve done something wrong. It’s giving to the poor. It’s blessing those who mistreat me. It’s turning my back on the lusts of this world. It means shutting out the lies that my head wants to believe, silencing the excuses that try to push blame onto others. It also means using the different talents and abilities God’s given me, for his glory.

So I continue to write, recognizing that right now, maybe God only wants me to have the time for short blog posts, but so what! I’m using my gifts, my passions, as best I can for the time being. With joy in my heart I can lay my “big dreams” his hands. So maybe I will never write THE book…or maybe I will, neither is all that important.

What matters is that I was faithful in the small things and, to the very core of my being, did my best in it all.

And The Years Flew By

This past summer I took a break from social media; from posting on my blog to Instagram to Facebook. I also deleted all the games on my phone. Here’s what I found: All my missing time.

Okay, so maybe all the extra time also had to do with taking a break from homeschooling, BUT, I had time to do my work, time to relax, time for devotions, and time to have friends over for dinner. I made a wedding cake, I learnt some Spanish, and I memorized 3 full chapters of the bible, plus some other verses as well! I had time to be with my kids; I taught them how to enjoy work and they taught me how fun being a mom can be. We got to make a summer bucket list together and we almost completed our whole list! We went camping. I hosted some out of town relatives for a couple weeks. I planted and actually took care of a garden.

Despite all of this, I still had time to sit and think! I thought about how much time my phone took of my life (I honestly never want to hear the full tally of the hours I’ve spent on it!) I thought about how I’m half done raising my oldest three kids. I thought about the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve done right. Mostly though, I thought about how short life is and what a gift our time on earth is.

Time is a gift. A precious gift. Each moment spent can never be gained back! This means every person who pauses to send me an encouraging text, or who takes time to have coffee with me is giving me a tremendous blessing: their time.

I suppose none of us in the early years of parenting really know what to do with the elderly who stop us with our new babies, gaze into their faces and dreamily say, “Enjoy this stage because the years fly by!” I mean, we think we know what they mean, and we nod in agreement, but in our hearts the days still sometimes crawl by; the endless checklists cause us to hustle about from morning until night and lets face it, the sleepless nights seem even longer. Sometimes we just think to ourselves: “I know it’s true, I do, but right now I just wish I was out of this stage.”

It reminds me of a lady at church who smiled at me, shifting in my seat uncomfortably at the end of my first pregnancy. Her little kids were crawling all over the pew around her and she said, “Just enjoy the peace while you still can!” Then about eight years later, that same lady watched me as I juggled my five kids around me trying in vain to keep them quiet and she looked at me with older, wiser eyes and said, “Enjoy the busyness, my kids don’t even want to sit with me anymore!” And I smiled to myself and thought about the irony of her statement.

Of course us humans do that, wish for the quiet when we’re busy and long for the busy when it’s quiet.

I’m turning 30 next year, about one third of my life is over…and I’m reminded of an old Psalm:

“Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks to our busy culture, rarely, if ever do we stop and take time to number our days. We pack our schedules full of sports, school, work, church activities, volunteering, social engagements, but when it’s all said and done, do we spend time on what matters in our lives?

When I’m old and most of my life is behind me, I want to be able to look back on the way I’ve spent my time and have no regrets. I want to pour more of my life into people, rather than things. Sometimes, it just takes a break from “things” to realize how much time we gave to them. Sometimes, it takes a break from the “likes” to realize how little we actually need them.

Oh that my generation would see the slap in the face it is to everyone around us when we continuously choose to pine away hours of time! We sit down face to face with each other, yet spend more time on our phones than with each other. It’s actually ridiculous, that one would prefer to stare at a screen over watching their baby’s first giggles, or joining them in picking that fresh bouquet of wildflowers. And our wasted time is a loss not only to our children, but also to the elderly who sit by themselves day after day, to our friends who struggle with depression yet feel completely alone because we are “too busy” to listen to them ourselves.

So why am I here, you may ask. If blogging and social media are such a huge waste of time, then why don’t I just stop complaining about it and delete it!

To be completely honest, I thought about it …but then I remembered something, something my generation often forgets about, a little something known as self control. Social Media, games, Netflix, blogs…these things aren’t the enemy. They aren’t bad. We don’t need to delete our accounts or block them out! Facebook and WordPress are nothing more than tools. If used wisely and correctly, they can help communication, they can keep us in touch with those we would forget otherwise. But if used incorrectly they become harmful and sometimes even deadly to us and our relationships.

My break from it all taught me how much I’ve been misusing these tools. My misuse of them led me to frustration in parenting, lack of energy and time and the false sense of acceptance from the likes I’ve received. Blogging helps me put my thoughts into words, it improves my writing skills…but I don’t need to spend any time watching the stats, because really, knowing how many people are reading my writing doesn’t help me improve. Facebook helps me to share moments of my life with others and to share in the joy of others special moments, but I don’t need to check it fifty times a day!

I’m grateful for my time off this summer. I’ll never regret it. It taught me an important lesson: I still have time to change.

Time that is ticking.

My years of raising children are literally flying by and I, for one, don’t want to miss one more precious second!

A Mother’s Poem

I wrote a poem the other day with the purpose to describe some of the thoughts and feelings that run deep within a mother’s heart.

I know that poems aren’t everyone’s thing, however, I strongly believe that certain emotions can not be fully expressed in an article format, but only caught in glimpses of time. So I used snapshots of everyday life in each stanza to help capture the full essence of what it is to be a Mother.

A Mothers Poem

Deepest dreams come true, the best moments of life! Tiny hands reaching, stroking, hugging; my heart is melting! Pulling, grabbing, pinching; okay, now leave me alone!

Panic sets in. Where is he? Have my worst fears come true? Am I the horrible mother they think I am? There, he sits outside playing safe and sound. One quick glance calms the fears but, for just one more moment.

Heart swelling, that’s MY little girl. Pretty, smart and strong. Where did that confidence come from, or those lovely full lips? But those deep blue eyes are all mine.

Sit down for a breath and work stacks up like Jenga blocks, just waiting to come crashing down on my head. Just one more moment, just another second. Outside, the kitten just lies still while the dog devours it, until I knock on the window and save the poor soul. I guess I got up.

That time you came and told me that my thighs jiggled when I ran and I laughed so hard with you, but when you left, I cried. They were once firm like yours.

Just over this wave, is another one really coming up so fast? Waiting for the calm in the storm. Another question I can’t answer, another job I won’t do. But no one else does it either, so I guess I will.

When I dumped a full bucket over you and the shock on your wet face made me laugh. Squealing, because you smiled with revenge. A small glimpse in time but forever burnt into my memory. See, Mommy can have fun too.

Am I in this alone? Sometimes. Me, and a billion others. On an island of kids. Make those smoke signals high, no one will come. Find help for yourself. If you have any idea where to start looking for it.

The girl sings softly as she wanders alone, two boys dig in the mud together, each with a stick, searching for some hidden treasures that are lost to the rest of the world. The littlest one lovingly pets that poor kitten the wrong way. And I take it all in like a breath of fresh air. The best day.

No! You ruined it! It can never be replaced! Your sticky hands, marking it forever with a piece of you. The regret isn’t the tiny fingerprints but the way your eyes dropped down when I yelled. I’m so sorry.

Is it the end of the day, or the beginning of the night? Really can’t tell anymore. What is sleep? The lights are on and off like a summer lightening storm, while the rest of the world sleeps in peace.

Peace. When the work is done, when they lie down still. Peace. When the nightmares fade and the light in the bathroom glows softly, just in case.

Sleep soft, sweet angels, Mama loves you with every aching breath.

10 Confessions Behind those “Perfect” Posts

Someone said something to me the other day that sort of bothered me.

Oh, it had nothing to do with her as it was very kind and meant as a complete compliment…but it hit a very sensitive subject that I carry close to my heart: Authenticity. The compliment was something like this: “I can’t believe what you all do with your children and homeschooling, plus the cakes you make and your blog…you’re just amazing.” And I smiled and told her she was far too kind because in NO WAY am I anywhere near amazing, but I still think it was totally sweet of her.

However, it  got me to thinking: Who am I showing the world that I am? Really.

Am I authentic? Am I being honest? Are my posts misleading people to think that I’m some super mom that has it all together? Because, believe me, I don’t. So I decided to be really raw with you. So raw that I may just be tempted to delete this piece five minutes after I post it. But it needs to be said, because social media has tricked us. It’s tricked us into believing that everyone elses lives are just great but ours actually suck. So I wrote a list of ten confessions behind the “Perfect” posts you see.

10) It’s not all that perfect – Every post you see was well-timed, well placed, and captured the best of the best. For every perfect shot, there were ten pictures deleted…for every perfect moment, there were fifty filled with sweat, tears, pain and sorrow. For every time I bragged about my pride in my accomplishments, my kids, my possessions and my friends, there were a hundred more disappointments, failures and let downs.

9) Those great moments didn’t happen often – Jealous that I’m such a cool mom that seems to be always doing amazing, fun things with my kids? Really you got it all wrong. I never spend enough time with them. I post almost every single good time with them as if somehow it will make up for the many times I tell them to leave me alone or “go play” or say “maybe later” when they just want to be with me. My posts are merely ways I have tried to make up for all the times I haven’t been that cool mom that does amazing and fun things with her kids.

8) I’m insecure – My thoughts after almost every single thing I post online: “Will they like it? Will this offend someone? Maybe I should just take this post off before anyone sees it… Why didn’t so and so comment on this? Maybe they don’t like it. Maybe they don’t like me…” Think I’m confidant and fearless? Think again. These things have literally kept me up at night.

7) It’s never good enough – For every beautiful cake I’ve made, there’s a thousand better ones on Pinterest.  For every great blog post, there’s a hundred others just like it. That cute picture I took of my kids? I really can’t stop wishing that I had changed them into clothes that matched a bit better, that I had a better looking yard in the backround, that I was a better photographer…I see the flaws that you don’t.

6) I’m jealous of your posts too – Okay not ALL the time…often I am happy for you. But sometimes I see your posts and I think “Seriously, what! How can she look so good in a swimsuit? Am I the only mom in the world who’s gotten stretch marks EVERYWHERE?!?” or “How can they afford to travel all the time? I could only wish!” or “No way, her husband gave her flowers AGAIN? That’s like the third time this month!” or “She is so effortlessly witty and funny, why do I have to try so hard all the time?” These thoughts are ugly, aren’t they? But they’re real. And sometimes I feel them towards your “perfect” life, because I don’t see your real life either.

5) My flaws are carefully hidden – Wow!! Don’t you love that photo of me?!? Because it actually looks NOTHING like me. Not the real me. Before the makeup covers the bags under my eyes. Before my frizzy hair that slightly resembles a lions mane is curled or straightened. Before I sucked in my stomach for the photo, choosing the angle that best hides my crooked nose and extra skin. Before I picked the instagram filter that accented the blue in my eyes or that hid whatever else the makeup couldn’t. Now you’re probably waiting for a real picture of me aren’t you? Well HA! Not happening because…

4) You’re only seeing what I want you to see – because if I don’t want you to know, I won’t post it. I don’t like to document those ugly moments. I don’t want you to see me after I just woke up and my hair is sticking out every which way. I don’t often talk about the things that went horribly wrong like the temper tantrums, the fights, the wonky looking cakes and the blog post flops (ohhh yes, for every one I post there’s five I delete)…if I don’t want you to see it, simple: I DON’T POST IT.

3) I check my stats/comments/likes way too often – because I care FAR too much what everyone else thinks…really do I have to watch every single hit of my blog in real-time? One would think not, but once again, you aren’t seeing the reality of how pathetic I can actually be…you’re only seeing what I want you to see.

2) It’s all too soon forgotten – Remember the name of that white police officer who shared that heart-felt message to the black man he pulled over for texting and driving? No? Then maybe you’ll remember the name of that woman who was deaf and got the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent? Or how about that brother who convinced his drugged up sister that she was in a zombie apocalypse? Or how about the photo with the little girl in the hotdog suit and all the other girls dressed as princesses? No? Well guess what…even if I do someday accomplish what so many only hope to do on Facebook and “go viral”, I’ll be forgotten in a matter of weeks or even days for the newest exciting post. By the way…whatever DID happen with Kony2012?

1) It was often a waste of my time – “Mom! Mom! Look at this!!” … “Just a second honey.”   “Mom come play outside with us.”…. “One moment please!!”   “Mom! Did you see that?!? You missed it mom! I told you to watch me but you’re just on your phone” ……I’ve totally wasted some of the most precious moments of my life behind a screen! On our one on one dates, I wasn’t fully focused on enjoying my child, I was too busy posting about them! During my children’s milestones I didn’t just want to celebrate with them, I wanted to celebrate with the world! Only they didn’t see it that way because all they saw was their mommy staring at her phone instead of at them. I missed out on so much while I was busy posting about all these great moments. I wasted so much time checking likes and comments, which never fulfilled me anyway. And I wish some of the time I could go back and change those moments.

Life on social media is not always what it seems. When we put our phones down and actually hang out with our friends we begin to see their reality: Their kids have temper tantrums too! Their marriage isn’t as perfect as we thought it was. Those nice “expensive” clothes they always wear, were actually second hand. They also burn supper sometimes and their house usually looks messier than a garbage dump! We don’t see these things on Facebook, but we DO see them when real, authentic friendships are formed and that’s why it’s so important that much of our time is spent with our phones put away.

My life’s far from perfect, and so is yours…I just needed the reminder today and thought I’d share in case you did too 🙂

 

 

Just Keep it to Yourself

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with three of my children. My youngest who’s three, usually sits in the cart to save me from a lot of chaos in the store as he’s a runner. This time however, he begged to walk beside me and I knew that I would have a full cart so I let him. Sure enough he was constantly running from me so I tried my best to finish up shopping quickly. I had so much food that I had to carry a bag in one hand and push the cart with the other…and with our family of seven, all that food only lasts for a week!

I realized my dilemma while leaving the store: a running three-year old, a busy parking lot…so I stopped before exiting the doors and very seriously explained to Emerson that he needed to hold on to the cart and not run as there were cars driving all around and it was dangerous. He nodded and his cute, pudgy little fingers curled around the side of the cart. We walked together into the lot, my older children right behind me, Emerson beside me and he was listening great!

But then he saw our van and he BOLTED towards it.

What his three-year old eyes didn’t see was that the van right next to ours was beginning to back out of its spot and was headed right for him. Obviously the driver couldn’t see him because of his size and I immediately let go of my cart and my groceries and ran toward him screaming his name. The van screeched to a halt a split second before hitting my little boy. By now I was in tears, Emerson was in tears and I picked him up scolding him, hugging him, and kissing him. The young lady who was driving got out, thinking that she had already hit my son, and I assured her that it wasn’t her fault and that my son was fine. She told me that hearing my scream had stopped her.

The groceries were left on the van and the counter when we got home, I simply held my precious boy. My day could’ve looked a lot different. It could’ve ended with losing him, with mourning, with funeral arrangements. But by the grace of God I get to hold him close.

In fact this is just one of MANY “close” calls I’ve had with my five kids. I could tell you about the time my oldest got lost at a park with a big pond when he was just a toddler…I was certain he had drowned. Or the time a tractor with a pull behind swather unexpectedly passed by the field beside our house while my child and his kittens were playing on it…the kittens both died, my son got out of the way just in time. I have often thanked God for the hand of protection he’s had over my children because as hard as I try, I can’t ALWAYS be there.

A generation ago people understood this. People understood that most parents would die for their children and would never put their children in a situation where harm would come to them. Previous generations comforted and cared for parents when there was loss. They understood that as hard as we try to protect our children, accidents happen. Tragedy strikes and NO ONE is to blame. They understood that the death of a child is not the time to start spewing off “whose fault it is” or “safety precautions” or most definitely not the time to start the dreaded “I would’ve never” speech.

Enter social media: a superficial platform of entitled millennials hidden behind the safety of a screen. Where internet trolls and cold-hearted foe really care less about the child or the family’s loss and pain, but they come for the newest story to comment on. Where perfect parents abound and are ready to spew their fountain of knowledge in the form of hateful comments at any and every tragic news story. If a child slips from their parents grasp and falls into a gorilla cage at the zoo, these vultures are there screaming out comments like “they should’ve shot the mother instead of the gorilla!” When a child drowns, “Where was that mother? She should be charged…I would never let…” blah, blah, blah.

The mother should be shot? For taking her kids to a zoo? She should be charged? With what, may I ask? For having the worst flippin’ day in her entire life? For not being Captain America? What would this help the world? Would it bring justice? Would it bring her beloved child back? Would it “teach” her or anyone else a lesson?

Actually, yes…it would teach us all a lesson! You know what it would teach us? That in our moment of greatest need, tragedy and pain, people are nothing more than a ruthless mob, thirsty for more blood. It would teach us that what we all fear the most is true, no one really cares…we just want someone to blame. And you, the mother are the easiest target.

And it’s not just the commentators, it’s also the “professionals” and the “officers” that feel inclined to comment at the end of every news article things such as “this is a reminder to all of us to keep young children in arms reach when near bodies of water” or “seat-belts aren’t just there as a suggestion, they are there to protect your life!” Now, I’m not saying these things shouldn’t be said, but people, there is a time and a place! And using someone’s tragedy as a platform to spout safety rules is not the time nor the place!!!

I want to finish this by sharing a heartfelt Facebook post written by a Mother who suffered an unimaginable tragedy. I asked Ashley if I could share what she wrote with my readers because the attacks on Mothers in their moments of greatest pain needs to STOP! She wrote:

“As some of you know, I have gone through every mother’s worst fear. On June 2nd, I lost my youngest son in a horrible car accident. I was driving. I had pulled away from a gas station, checking each buckle, and I began to drive the curvy, mountainous road to my family’s house. My son was notorious for doing everything he could to unbuckle in the car…We tried five point harness seats, boosters, I believe even zip ties at one point (probably not safe either) but he always viewed it as a superhero challenge. He was a superhero because he always succeeded. On average, I would usually pull over three or four times on any given trip to firmly make him buckle up again. We were only five minutes out when a large rock rolled into my lane. I had three choices: try to straddle the rock, move to the oncoming lane which was a double line large curve with an angry river at the other side. Rock, head on collision, river. I chose the rock. I chose wrong. And yes, he had already unbuckled along with his 8 year old brother. (They were switching spots and I didn’t know.) The rock hit my axle, and sent us plummeting into the side of a cliff. Our 13 passenger van rolled and my son was instantly gone. Our lives were instantly ripped apart. The little boy who had been my pride and joy was cruelly taken from me in a matter of seconds. I remember being smashed between my console (no airbag engaged) and our three ton van. I had blood everywhere. I fought and fought and then blacked out. When I awoke, I was unbuckling my baby from her car seat (she was upside down) and working to get each child (5 of my children were with me) out of the van. When I came to Titus I worked with all my might to lift the heavy van off his tiny body. My 8 year old son was trying to help me. I could only see the lower half of his body. I rubbed his tummy and tried gentle compressions. But he was already gone. It was instantaneous, which only brings me comfort because I know he felt no pain. What followed was a blur. I refused treatment from the paramedics until they let me hold my dead son. All my children were whipped away and taken to an ambulance to be cared for. I was life flighted and sedated, for the shock made me inconsolable. It was two days later that I saw it all over Facebook. A news report reporting the death of my child as if they were reporting that the weather might change, or a new planet had been discovered. I was thankful they reported that no drugs or alcohol had been a factor. But that’s not what hurt. The readers commented the cruelest things about how horrible of a mother I was. How I deserved it. How my children should be taken from me. I wanted to punch them, shake them. Tell them how close we were, how hard I fought to keep him safe. How we had a special good night kiss and a designated McDonald’s date each week. I wanted to scream that he always told me he wanted to marry me, that I was the best mama ever. That he built me Lego ships, took naps in my bed while holding my hand with his dimpled little fingers…”

People, this is NOT okay! This NEEDS to stop. We brag about how far we’ve come from ancient times, on how accepting we are as a society, on how compassionate we are and then we turn and rip those hurting among us to tiny shreds! Instead of rescuing those who are drowning in sorrow we pull them down the whole way to make sure they don’t get back up! And it happens to EVERY SINGLE FAMILY that ends up in the news.

I don’t ask you to do this often but if you’re reading this, I’d like you to share it… because it seems that my generation needs to be reminded of something that was once just normal etiquette: when tragedy strikes, when someone loses a child, when there is a difficult situation of loss, or pain…if you can’t give any word of encouragement, love or comfort…then please, for heavens sake, do everyone a favour and keep it to yourself!

#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.