I pray you are staying afloat if not successfully deep diving during this time of quarantine. I pray fear and worry have not shackled you,but that you are frolicking and resting in our Father’s peace. If there was ever a time to experience how the life of the Christian believer differs from the world, it’s how much peace you should be experiencing. I didn’t come to talk about coronavirus, I came to talk about motherhood and how these 2, soon to be 3 little people have completely turned me inside out and exposed hidden layers for God’s glory.
1. In some aspects I wasn't much better at not being my parents than my parents were. One day I asked my son to do something (he is 3) and he didn’t do it, then I yelled at him to do it. The most humbling moment of my week happened next, he said, “mommy, why are you yelling?” I was so convicted that I immediately apologized and asked him once more to complete the task. In that very moment it hit me, I wanted my 3 year old to have more self-control than I did at age 28, it didn’t make sense. Why did I get angry for him not responding to my first prompting, he’s only been on this earth 3yrs and I couldn’t even abate my frustration after 28.
What this reveal? It showed me that without even trying, I was already propagating generational habits of impatience and unrealistic expectations of children. As an eldest child to a young mother, I had too many responsibilities to early (age 6), and expected to perform them all like a learned adult. If my mother said "jump," I asked "how high?" while jumping to ensure immediate compliance. I never wanted that for my children when I was growing up.
How did this change me? I decided to accept responsibility for how my past was showing up in my present to protect my babies' futures by teaching my son right and showing him by how I handle him. The first place he is going to learn about self-control, discipline and grace is from me, and how I treat him and others. My daily prayer as a mother is, “Father, You have to teach me, You’re using my kids to show me how much of a mess I am and much growing I have to do. As I am raising them, give me a new love for Your word and presence, a new clarity so You can raise me. Beautify my parenting, and as my children highlight my shortcomings, please Father, buffer them against my lack, fill in the gaps, make me quick to apologize and desperate to be better. Amen.”
2. Forgive my mother, she really was doing her absolute best! I was born to a teenage mother, who by the time she was 22, had 3 kids, some very toxic relationships and was struggling to get by. My mom was an amazing mother, some things she did in her parenting I just knew I wouldn’t make those same choices but being a mom has taught me that I sed to judge her so harshly. I became a parent under completely opposite circumstances, educated, married, stable income, life experiences and self-awareness. I had to realize my mom had no time to be gentle in her discipline, she lived in fear of us trying on her life’s shoes for even a minute. She had to be strict because it’s what she saw as protection. And in releasing her for not having the time, space, maturity or wisdom on how to productively correct and guide I recognized the type of parent I want to be. I had to grow up too fast, I worked a job regularly since age 10, I babysat, cooked, cleaned, washed clothes on my hand and the list goes on. A life of pressure made a diamond out of me, but coal out of some of those I grew up with.
Posthumously I extend to my mother a forgiveness I didn't even know she needed, and it brought me freedom. I don’t judge her, I don’t judge my grandmother, or even her mother for the cycle that was established, and repeated. However, I have learned to judge myself and be responsible to break every generational pathology that leads to destructive choices, financial oppression and abuse of various kinds. Motherhood has taught me that much of shaping the moral and spiritual compass of my babies has to do with how I allow God to repurpose the debris of generations into something glorious.
3. My kids aren’t my canvas to paint! I’ve only been a mother for about 4yrs now (June makes 4), and my little son has shown so much independence and personality that surprises me that I can’t help but reach this conclusion. It’s not my job to replicate myself through my children, NOR is it my job to fashion them into who I wish I was! My job is to actually be who I wish I was, and be accountable to the principles I am teaching them. I can’t tell my babies they can be all they want to be, if all I ever am is not what I want to be. I am responsible to show my daughter that having a family (being pregnant, giving birth, raising kids) isn’t the beginning or end of her life, the story goes on and gets even more intricate, elaborate and beautiful. I am responsible to show my son that women are capable of many dreams and roles, and are worthy of support and respect in every role.
My children have thoughts, desires and hopes of their own, and it’s not God’s will for parents to oppress their children with their own will for their future. Of course I pray daily against vices by name (ex. bullying, gambling, drugs) but that’s not something they will learn to do or not do from how I raise them (because I don’t do any of those). However, I pray for God to let me be a sounding board of wisdom when they share what they want, and not a tyrant forcing them to make me proud by making the choice I would. I pray that I would instill in them a desire to make God proud with their love of His will, with their journey on His path and while they plan they always expect God's edits, provision and blessing. Like I said, my son's personality just amazes me, the other day, my son said he didn’t want to share with his sister, I didn’t force him to share, I asked him “how come?” Turns out he thought sharing with her meant not having for himself. And so we talked about ways he could share and still enjoy. My past would say just make Him share, force Him to do it without teaching Him anything, but that makes sharing a mindless auto-pilot not a thoughtful gesture. Many brushes will approach my children, trying to leave permanent strokes of paint, and my job as parent is to ensure the impressions and environment I provide reflect God's parenting in very practical ways.
4. I am not raising burdens so don’t treat them as such! I’m raising my children to be capable, contributing members of society who operate with integrity, not burdens incapable of compassion, service, discipline and hustle with an overgrown sense of entitlement. Not treating them like burdens means keeping finances regarding their needs in order and not having to tell them “no” because of money. Not treating them like burdens means dropping anything to play or read a book, or cuddle. My daughter is 18 months and she wants to read when she wants to read, there’s no task in this house more important than what’s important to her and her brother. Sometimes I’m sitting outside (even now at 6 months pregnant) with them, and my son wants to play super hero and it’s most important to get up and run around with him or let him rescue me from the monster. Not raising burdens means I teach them how to help clean up (loading the dryer together, cleaning up toys, putting things in the trash, dishes in the sink, clothes in correct place). Not raising burdens means I teach them how to help by requesting it and showing them how to help me properly. Not raising burdens means I show compassion, empathy and kindness. Not raising burdens means teaching even a 3-year-old that complaining is an ineffective (and annoying) habit. So yes I ask my son, why he doesn’t want to do something, tell him why it needs to be done and ensure he does it (with help or independently) and we high-five or dance when it’s done.
Not raising burdens means teaching my kids that they can be independent, some things I’m asked to do, even from 18 month old Ava, I decline and encourage them to do it themselves. When they do we cheer and they have better self-confidence. Not raising burdens means I foster healthy self-esteem so that even if they are shy, they are secure when they do express themselves, they are okay being different from each other and friends. It means I compliment them about more than their looks. Not raising burdens means I take the time to teach them, parents we cannot expect anyone to know what we don’t teach them, that includes our babies. Not raising burdens means LISTENING when kids express themselves, my son will tell me outright he doesn’t want to go to someone’s house, he will ask for certain family members in their absence, he will tell me that he’s sad, he asks me if we can exercise or do particular activities. I listen because I never want him to grow out of properly communicating his needs.
5. My children aren't my source of fulfillment. Just like I said about my husband in my marriage post (here), it's not my children's job to make me happy. I worked from home 90% of my 4year old's life, and so he stayed home with me, it is so easy as a SAHM/WFHM to get lost in your children and be consumed with them and deny oneself in reckless ways. I better get my act together and LIVE in front of them, I better pursue my God-given passions and dreams. I better give all that I can give, and love all that I can love. I better learn how to say yes, and not "no" myself into a dull existence embellished only by the accomplishments of my children. I am still a person, and my children won't be my legacy, my actions will. How do I know this? How many despicable people have died and despite who their children become all we remember them for is who they harmed and wronged? I will not allow my responsibilities as mother to be my excuse for never pressing on in the marvelous works God predestined me to do before the world began. Remember Genesis 3:12-13, when Adam blamed Eve for his disobedience to God, "the woman You gave to be with me...?" That didn't fly then, and it won't fly when I stand before the judgement seat of Christ, I can't tell Jesus, the children He gave me exhausted me to the point that I centered my life on them, instead of His will. Motherhood is not the whole of my identity and what makes it even more beautiful is when I live like I know who I am, and whose I am.
I really could go on, but these lessons from my children, the exposing of these shortcomings and things I lacked in my own childhood have pushed me to the feet of Jesus. There is no way I can parent these children without THE Father parenting me, and as an older child it means submitting to His teaching, and putting the lessons to action. When I became a mom, it was something amazing within, I said, "God, is this what You felt when Adam took His first breath? Is this it? It's overwhelming, it's magnificent, Your creation come to life and placed in my hands." I pray daily for God to keep them through all my shortcomings, I don't expect to be the perfect parent, and I don't expect the perfect children, but I sure am not going to be the one to strip away who they are, to set them up for failure, to leave them with no example, no one to look up to. I know the job only gets harder, but for now, this is what I've learned, what helps me not stress, "Lord, just like I am, these are Your babies."
Grace & Peace,
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2. Check out my last post on the lessons I have learned in 6 years of marriage here.
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