When you have a child, you feel like it is an extension of who you are. And in some sense it is...it is your walking DNA (well, in the cases of half of my children). I give my all to raise them, well, most days. Some days like today I gave alot but not my all; I was too wiped out from yesterday. :) I spend a lot of time in prayer, though, study, discussion, research, etc...all figuring out the best way I can guide them through life. I will not do it perfectly. I want to. I really do. I am a perfectionist. I cannot tell you the tears I have shed over my own mistakes, fearing that I am ruining their lives forever with poor decisions or misguided attempts. I have often said you will NEVER hear me claim to be an expert at this stuff. I have a lot of experience, but I do not in anyway know the answers to it all. (That being said, I don't mind at all when someone says, "How did you handle...?" because there is a good chance I have learned a few things in my failed efforts of motherhood)
Going back to extensions, I think we as mothers tend to think that everything about our children reflects upon us. When they do something good or seem to be "early" with skills, we puff out our chests in pride. And sometimes we may have influenced our kids with our guidance or training. But more often, what a child accomplishes has to do with him/her, not us. Children develop at their own pace. We can encourage, we can motivate, but ultimately, how a child develops is out of our hands.
With Child 1, we read a lot to him in utero. When he was born, we spoke to him often. He had our whole world of attention. He spent days with my mom who is in my mind a master child conversationalist. And he did talk. Sparingly. He said just enough words to be considered "normal" by the guidelines of whoever sets those guidelines. However, I would meet up with moms of other kids his age (probably around 2 at the time)...those kids would be speaking in complete sentences. And I would feel like I failed as a mommy. Like somehow his speaking (or lack of) was a reflection on me. (Follow up...around age three, he too started speaking in paragraphs. And he is still speaking paragraphs around me :) Why is that?
I have spent too much of my motherhood experiences dealing with this. In the age of blogging and Facebook, I find myself green with envy or questioning everything I do when I read about kids doing chores or sweet things without being asked (a rare occurrence around here), making honor roll or All Stars, siblings adoring each other, doing things much earlier than mine. And just recently I have felt like God is saying, "Stop! Don't compare. Each child is different...embrace your children for who they are...for who I created them to be." (As a teacher, I will tell you that I cannot typically tell who was bottle fed/breast fed, who slept all night early and who didn't, who potty trained at 18 months and who at 3 1/2, who walked at six month and who waited...really they just-most of the time- end up doing those things in due time and it doesn't influence their success in school or socially AT all :)
Having four kids I have actually been on different ends of the spectrum. Some of my kids talked early, some didn't. Some were out of diapers early, some weren't. Some have known their letters early, some haven't. Eventually they all do what they are supposed to do. (Another side note, while it is nice that kids know their letters, I cannot usually tell you at the end of the year which students knew letters and which didn't coming into school...by the end of the year, they all know them) Why spend time worrying or stressing? Even more, why think they reflect on me as a parent? (both positive and negative)
I am a child of God. But I am my own person. I make my own decisions. Oh, how some of them must pain Him. I am pretty sure though when I do mess up (daily), He does not shake His head and think, "Where did I go wrong?" Since He is perfect, it cannot be something HE has done. It is me, all me. He completely recognizes that I am my own person. I make my own choices...good and bad. And thankfully, in spite of this, He loves me.
Isn't that how I should be with my own kids? There are things I will do because I think I am called to as a parent. I will teach my kids about God, His love AND His justice. I will limit their "screen time". I will insist upon certain behaviors. I will value education and hopefully impart that onto my kids. I will pray for their character and choices in life. But ultimately, they make their own choices. We have all known people who had good lives, good solid parents, who have taken very wrong paths in life. We also know people who had very poor family lives growing up who grow up to be successful and content with lives completely different than they had as a child.
I have four kids with very strong, vibrant personalities. I see so much good in them, like the generous heart willing to donate time and money or the child who is ready to help me when I need it most. I also see the "not good" things like the stubbornness (you can insert any child's name there :) and "half effort" that is given in tasks. While I can try to guide those personalities and hopefully influence my children to use their gifts as strengths not weaknesses, again, ultimately it is up to them. (At the same time, while I can be proud of the things they do accomplish, I need to be proud of THEM not myself because again...it was up to them).
I don't know if I will ever have an all-star or a valedictorian, nor the star of a musical (which involves musical talent...not so much in our family). I am pretty sure I will not have any quiet, passive kids no matter how much I pray about it. Sometimes I will have the children that people stop and compliment on their way out of the restaurant while I beam with joy. Other times I will have the kids who are kicking and screaming on the floor of the store for no apparent reason while I find myself wishing I could just melt INTO the floor. Either way, on this journey of parenthood, I am going to make more of an effort of loving my kids for who they are, even the not fun parts. I will try really hard to not compare to them to others. I will avoid situations, conversations, and people that make me feel bad as a mom or question my every move. And I will stop beating myself up for mistakes or failures on the part of my children (which really are often the true learning experiences that build character)...I will just love them, hold my head up with pride that I am their mom, and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.