Four days after I gave birth to my first baby, I thought, “What did I get myself into?!” I simply wanted to eat when I was hungry, take a shower when I was dirty, and sleep when I was tired. But even that was a luxury in those early days and nights of three-hour feeding cycles. I prayed, “God, I really didn’t want to learn how to become unselfish…”
The second and third babies weren’t such a shock. I knew what to expect, and by then, I knew that I would come out of that phase to see daylight on the other side. I knew that five hours of sleep in a row makes a person feel like a normal human again.
The newborn stage thrust me into the graduate school of servanthood: learning to lay down my rights for the sake of someone else’s success. But now my youngest has just flipped over the three-year-old mark, and we have hit the preschool and elementary school stage.
I would love to say that I’m a rockstar mom, but my children know the truth. Most days we get along alright, but sometimes after interacting with my kids, I walk away with the sense that I totally said or did something wrong toward them.
Today, I took one of my children to the doctor for this child’s eyes have been stinging for over a week. It’s definitely not pinkeye, but it’s something strange that the doctor called “very unusual.” The doctor quickly added to try to stop said child from rubbing the eyes. Right. So at bedtime, I tried to say something that would motivate this one to keep the hands away from the eyes. I said goodnight, went upstairs to get ready for bed, and was immediately convicted that my “motivational” speech was fear-based, untrue, and hurtful.
Sometimes, exiting their bedroom, after tucking the kids into bed, is a miraculous feat. I really didn’t want to go back in for fear that I would never get back out. But I did. I laid down beside my child, and I said, “I’m so sorry for what I told you earlier. It was wrong for me to say that to you.” And I went on to explain the truth of the situation, and then the truth of who that child is and always will be: loved.
And I realized tonight that I’m in a new graduate course, the humility of motherhood. I could pretend in front of my kids that I always get things right, but they would know it’s a sham. So I want to be honest before them. I want to lay down my pride, admit when I’m wrong, and ask for forgiveness. I want to be sensitive and quickly responsive in those moments so that there is little time for bitterness or for walls to be built between us.
Each of us mothers (and fathers) have so much influence and authority over our children. What stops us from coming clean with our kids? Sometimes we are too arrogant because the truth is that we know more about almost everything than our children do. Sometimes we are too fearful that our children will despise us if we admit that we are imperfect. But our small children observe and internalize much more than they can consciously interpret or verbalize. The way that we respond to our own wrongdoings, whether ignoring our faults or dealing with our faults, will be noted and copied.
May each of us be filled with the courage to quickly and frequently humble ourselves in front of our children and ask them to forgive us when we have truly done something wrong. And may that example set the foundation for them to also have the courage to right their wrongs toward others.
One day, after my daughter stormed upstairs and cried about an argument we had, I went up and apologized first. I stated what I had done wrong, and I asked her to forgive me. She reciprocated, and we shared a good bonding experience together. She looked in my eyes and said, “I love it when we say sorry to each other. It feels so much better.” And I agree.