A Mama’s Help {Part 1}

You can picture the scene. It is not one of domestic bliss. It’s one where the mum feels as though her head is going to explode. It’s one where the mum thinks that if she has to speak one more time, it will be with hoarse defeat or atomic force. The kids (there are only two of them) are on overdrive. The mum think she actually has eight children. It feels like eight children. Nope, it feels like eighteen.

There is shouting and yelling and crying and complaining and moaning and that’s just the mum.

Let’s rewind.

It’s early morning. No one but the mum is awake. She tiptoes along the hallway and peeks in at her children.

She has a spunky daughter. She’s strong-willed and has immense character. She is quirky and cool and likes what she likes, regardless of whatever anyone else might think. She likes to go out on her bike in funky neon leggings and a Christmas dress. It would be completely normal to see her in wellies and a puffball skirt, stamping in puddles, with her hair fashioned like Elsa’s.

What a great kid.

She has a sensitive son. He’s bright and intelligent, thoughtful and boisterous. He loves to run and run and run and play with other kids. He is sociable, and kind-hearted, loves to talk and craves her company. What can make him laugh one day can make him cry the next. He is determined and focused when he feels like it and he’d be your friend for life.

What a great kid.

And when they’re sleeping…the calmness, the serenity, the slow heavy breathing of a child deep in sleep is a lullaby.

Now, let’s get back to where we were.

Everything that could have gone wrong, has gone wrong.

There has been spilled milk and no one likes any of the cereals.

One of the children is “playing” the piano.

The other one is running around with a Nerf gun, spraying polystyrene pellets everywhere.

One child is half dressed, the other one is still in pyjamas.

There’s glitter in the upholstery…glitter? Who has glitter…?!

There have been around twenty instructions in the last ten minutes that have included the words stop it, put it down, did you hear me, and this is your final warning.

Sometimes out of the calm comes unbelievable chaos.

Have you been there?

Where has the lullaby gone? What happened to the peace? Why is no one remaining calm?

Then, somehow, out of all that, two children are dressed, fed and ready for school. Their bright faces, eager to learn, are off on their day’s journey. Little sponges soaking up as they go. The door closes, and mum breathes.

Is this familiar to you? Is this rumbling disquiet and high-octane breakfast ever a scene in your household? Some mornings dealing with it is a walk in the park. Other mornings, it’s like trying to put a lid on exploding bombs.

And those mornings, those times when you just want to go and stand in the back yard in your dressing gown and just start screaming, what do you do? Where does your help come from?

I’ve come to the realisation recently that part of my problem is not understanding who my kids are.  There are bits about both of them that make them like me. My son’s sensitivity is like mine (oh, go on then, my over-sensitivity). His interest in books and reading and knowledge is like mine. My daughter’s love for learning is like mine. And her precision and focus (ach, yes, bordering on being pedantic) when it comes to doing things makes her a little bit like me too.

But my, there are so many ways they are not like me. When I see them and I don’t recognise even a whisper of myself in either of them.

There are things that test my patience to the max. Ways they are not like me, and I had fallen into the trap of believing they would be better off if they were a bit more like me in these ways.

They are not quiet. They are rarely quiet. Sometimes, they cannot speak. They can only shout. And I mean shout. Even when they’re not angry or over-excited – it just seems their normal decibel level is just permanently turned up a notch too high.

They are stubborn. Super stubborn. Super-I-told-you-not-to-do-that-a-hundred-times-so-why-are-you-still-doing-it stubborn.

They are strong-willed. And I’m talking IRON strong will. Never seen determination like it.

They are outspoken. Yeah, you know the kind of out-spokenness when you stand in near-death horror at what they just said. In public. Where people are there. Who have ears.

And somewhere, lurking in my subconscious – there but not there – I know I’m thinking I wish you were a bit more like me. Quieter. A little bit less stubborn. Not so strong-willed. Less prone to say something embarrassing in public…

I fell into the trap…no, let’s rev this metaphor up…I fell into the trap, took a padlock in and locked the door behind me – of thinking that my children (MY children) should display this set of characteristics that somewhere along the way I thought were a) like me and b) really noble.

So I’ve managed to spend a good deal of time fighting with my kids over all sorts of things. I’d forgotten – or maybe never even really realised – not only how far I fall short in my own character, but how God made these little people and has lent them to me for this season.

He knew before they were born what characters they would have: David says in Psalm 139 For you created my inmost being; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

But sometimes they don’t seem fearfully and wonderfully made when they’re running around the garden with the guinea pig water bottle spraying each other instead of making sure the pets aren’t parched.

And I don’t feel fearfully and wonderfully made when I’m standing helpless and bedraggled, wondering how in the world I will ever get my daughter to do something within the first ten times she’s asked, or get my son to express himself without a severe scowl on his face.

But in that, among the tears and anger, I have a gracious God who has shown me – maybe not in ways I have enjoyed – where the problems in my own character lie. How I have failed to dress myself with a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (Colossians 3:12). How easily I have started to think I am right about everything – it’s my way or the highway.

But to take the wisdom of Proverbs, I find this instead: Start children off the way they should go (22:6).

That does not translate as make your children mini-versions of yourself, considering that you have achieved all the Lord has required of you.

I have had to start (am still) learning how to embrace the uniqueness of their characters. How to start them off, taking all the characteristics they have, and teaching them how they can use them for Jesus.

The Lord needs people who are determined and courageous, people who stand out from the crowd, who are vocal and willing to speak out.

Whatever my – your – their children are like, they have a character designed by God. Yes, it is spoiled by sin and selfishness. It is not honed by the world’s influences to glorify God.

But that’s OUR job.

Us Mamas trying to work out how much screen time is too much time, how safe the park is, how many sweets are too many sweets – and some of our modern challenges – well, we’re doing them for the first time. We don’t have the benefit of parents and grandparents who knew the best age to get a child an iPod.

So in amongst wrangling over Minecraft and Pokémon and getting dressed in a timely manner and not saying the first thing that pops into your head in public, this is what we need to be doing – saying to our children:

whether they are quiet and understated, or loud and vocal, whether they are quick to obey and slow to lose their temper, or need telling the same thing a thousand times, whether they are opinionated or easy-going, strong-willed or easily-frustrated – they can use the person they are for the glory of the Lord. Are they perfect? No. Are they sinful? Yes. Can God use their beautifully unique make-up that was wonderfully and fearfully designed by Him? Absolutely.

A life surrendered to Christ can do amazing and wonderful things.

So I’m on this journey – and if you’re a Mama whose children are still at home – then maybe you are too. What a high calling we have been given, to fashion the lives of children, gifted to us by God, into people who know that they can do all things through Him who will give them the strength.

But you know what else – we can only do that through Him who will give us strength. Where does our help come from? When you’re mopping up milk, picking Nerf bullets out of the cereal, wondering if you’re somehow breeding mess, resigning yourself to the fact that you’ll be vacuuming glitter for the foreseeable future, then this is for you today:

Psalm 121

Yeah, you might see me someday, looking a bit worse for wear because breakfast was a disaster again, but you and me, Mama, we’ve got the best help in the world.

Grace and Love

Helen x

Comments

  1. They are the most precious things we are entrusted with on earth,and the ones we will always love most. X

    Like

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