Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Kindness of Coffee

In our early 20’s, my husband and I were involved in the children's ministry within our church.  Oh how we adored those kids!  We looked forward to teaching them and being with them more than any other day of the week.  Our hearts were completely filled by those little beings.
                During our own church service time, we kept feeling a strong pull toward missions.  We wanted to express God’s love and teach children across the globe.  Brazil, specifically.  We ended up joining a two-week short-term mission trip to Brazil.  The children there were just as eager and lovable as the ones in our church.
                My husband has what I like to refer to as a super power of Child-Magnetism.  It really doesn’t matter where we go; children flock to him.  One of my favorite moments in Brazil happened when we were walking through a village announcing a church service and movie night (“The Jesus Movie”).  Curious children began popping out from every corner.  It didn’t take long before my husband had a full classroom of kids following behind, beside, and all around him.  He entertained them with his attempts at communication in their native tongue.  They giggled profusely.  He played soccer with them on the dirt road.  He organized them in a perfect line as we passed out candy the team had brought to share.  I played Tic-Tac-Toe in the dirt with some boys.  I accidentally kept winning which caused a lot more giggling in the crowd.  During the service, one little girl came over and plopped herself right in my lap.  She gently grabbed my arms and pulled them around herself for a big, long squeeze-hug.  My heart instantly melted for this child.  She went back-and-forth between me and my husband.  Our love for children grew deeper and deeper.
                A couple months after we returned home, we discovered that I was pregnant.  No words could even describe the feelings we had with this news.  We were beyond joyful.  We would have the privilege of loving and raising a child of our very own!
                Little did we know the ups and downs of parenting a small child 24-7!  It was easy in the classroom at church for a couple hours a week.  Those kids went back to their own homes afterward.  I had no idea those little angels could possibly whine and cry and pick at their dinners and refuse sleeping and bathing; let alone show annoyance with their siblings!!  Then again, there’s the smiles and laughter.  The hugs and snuggles.  The joy of witnessing all of the amazing developments as a child grows.  Crawling; their first step, first word.  Their awe at the wonder of life, nature, and animals.  The ease of their faith.  There is SO much to appreciate and enjoy when raising a child.
                I often wish that’s all I really had to do.  Just talk to, play with, read to, adventure with, and what-not with my child.  The other side of the coin involves cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, doctor, dental, and eye appointments; planning, organizing, and the list goes on, with some of it repeating a few times in a day!
                At this point in life, we have been raising four kids.  I kind of cringe to admit it, but I feel as though my patience has weakened more and more with each addition.  With the first child, my days felt rather glorious.  I noticed every blink and could put all of my time and energy into her without much exhaustion at all.  I enjoyed her to the fullest.  The second was fairly easy, although I occasionally found myself irritated by the first losing patience since she now had to wait for things while I would feed or change the second.  By the time the third came along, I had begun to take on some new jobs such as:  referee, judge, jury, and counselor to one and two while they had their squabbles.  Three went with the flow, observing one and two, who both loved him dearly.  Not much “trouble” there.  Finally, four arrived.  The noise in the house began traveling as high as Mt. Fuji!  The boys want to run, jump, and climb like their training for the army.  The girls like to pretend very loudly and gather anything and everything from cupboards, drawers, and closets so they can stream it all over the house and make arts and crafts.  So much for my cleaning efforts!!
                I have found myself yelling at the top of my lungs sometimes (I mean...Mt. Fuji is pretty high up there and I have to make sure they can hear me, right?).  Some days I want to hide from them as they whine and fuss with each other.  I just don’t want to deal with it!  I’ve even had moments of quiet tears, feeling helpless, in the middle of their antics.  “Failure”, I think to myself.  “How could I go from the ease of enjoying children so much to this dark desire to run off and hide?”  I harbor so much guilt inside with all of these thoughts.  I don’t feel like the brilliant super-mom I dream of being.   Super-Mom is bright, tender, kind, loving, gentle, patient, self-controlled, calm, playful, engaging, generous, fun, always smiling, never raising her voice, and her toilets are forever sparkling.
                I have read quite a few wonderful books on parenting hoping to “get-a-grip” on it all.  I have had a number of really great super-mom days.  I have been very careful to teach my kids values, morals, and respect.  I apologize to them when I lose my temper.  I acknowledge that I am a good mom and I “do-it-right” for the most part.  I know it, because of the way my children behave in public, with their teachers and their friends.  I know it because of those moments when they express such tender love toward one another.  They share and serve and praise each other on their accomplishments.  They are four very amazing, sweet, and wonderful kids!
                I still have this awful tendency to focus on my failures.  I think I’m “ruining” them when I get irritated or yell or fuss at their messes.  I am especially certain of their doom when I accidentally allow a bad word to slip out!  I feel so pressed to do it just right all of the time.
                The dynamics of parenting are innumerable.  I want my kids to experience life in perfection with no bumps or bruises along the way.  I know it’s not realistic, but that’s just the feeling.  It’s what keeps me fighting against my own unfortunate, natural tendencies.  Sometimes, I think it’s good to realize our own failures so we can get “fine-tuned” as we work through them.  I tend to go too far with it though.  I become clouded, trapped in a whirlwind of my faultiness.  Until, finally, the sun breaks through in the form of a child.  The other day, as I folded some laundry, my mind took me into that familiar whirlwind.  I was jolted out of it when my son announced to me that my coffee was ready.  He had very carefully taken it out of the space-saver microwave (he had to pull up a step stool to reach it), carried it over to the table and gently placed it down.  This small act of kindness from my thoughtful son caused a pool of tears to well up in my eyes.  It hit me that “I am not a failure!”  My children do good things for others.  They are kind, thoughtful, giving, loving, joyful, peaceful, helpful, responsible, caring, supportive, and faithful.  All of which exemplifies the fruit that has been planted in them throughout these years of parenting.  I realized this is what I need to focus on.  The moments where my kids make a selfless choice; when their love shines; when their hearts sing out to God; when they celebrate each others’ accomplishments; when they do a chore without being asked; when they offer a spontaneous hug at just the right moment. 
                This outlook fills me with joy and helps me strive for more of the positive. It’s so much better than wading around in my river of mistakes.  I am still that person who is passionate about children and enjoys being surrounded by them.  I am still the person who longs to rescue hurting children across the globe.  But, I know my mission today is in my own home, raising four precious lives to the glory of God.  I will continue to make mistakes just as I will continue to succeed as a loving, kind, and gentle mother.
                *If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations!  Haha  I hope it brings you some encouragement on your parenting journey.  I believe many mothers experience the feeling of “failure”.  If you are one of them, my hope is that you will recognize that when the qualities you have instilled in your child/children come to fruition you can take pride in your success as a mother.  Be on the “look-out”! 

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