The last 16.5 months of my life have been amazing. As Moira grows, I grow as her mother.
Some of that growth is fun. She learns new words. My heart melts when she says, “books!” first thing in the morning. She loves to swim. I love to swim with her.
Some of that growth is not fun. She gets new teeth. I learn that going to dinner with her at 8:30pm is a terrible idea, even on vacation. She learns to wait. I learn not to fear meltdowns in public (because, like many other animal instincts, fearing only makes them more aggressive, while not fearing seems to pacify them).
Somehow, Lewis and I thought that things with a baby would either be happy-sunshine-fun (him) or miserable-scary-impossible (me). For the past 16.5 months so many of our date nights have ended in the same conversation.
“I don’t understand this…intensity that I feel,” I say.
“I just wish you could relax and not let things bother you,” he says.
Then I freak out that I’m freaking out. Obsess on not obsessing. Get intense about not wanting to be an intense mom.
I wanted to grow, but since growth is positive, I wanted all my feelings about it to be positive feelings.
But what if I said, “Moira, teething sucks. Just forget it. Being pain-free is fun. Let’s just do that.”
She wouldn’t have teeth. Life without teeth would be terrible. Life with teeth is amazing.
It just hurts a little getting them.
It hurts a little to grow. Becoming a mother is the single most radical life shift I could ever have imagined. So radical, that I don’t blame women who choose not to do it. But I did choose to do it. And now I need Jesus, just like I did before.
I need the Gospel as a mom, because without it, I can’t be the kind of mom (and woman) we all need me to be. The kind of mom God made me to be.
The Gospel frees me to be an intense mom who is growing into peace. Because let’s face it…I’m an intense person.
The Gospel tells a mom that she’s accepted regardless of how much television her children watch while she scrubs the peanut butter off the upholstery. That Jesus loves her children too much to let them be ruined if she overprotects them.
The Gospel tells me that even if I’m a bad mom (because those do exist), I still have a good God.
And as we all know, the freedom to fail is the best way to succeed. Not to succeed at being the organic-sleep-trained-breastfeeding-just-the-right-amount-of-attention mom I want to be, but the mom God made me to be.
I’m an intense person. I freak out. It’s how I grow. I grow by looking at the sheer hugeness of the issue all at once, seeing that I am not equal to the task, and then remembering that God is. I find my limits by over-taxing myself and now my daughter. And that’s okay, she’s going to live. She might have a couple of bad memories of having her diaper changed on the shelves of a bookstore, or mom crying her eyes out on the way to H-E-B, because she forgot to buy yogurt again. But she’s going to be okay.
My intensity comes from seeking the best for those I love. My range of emotions is breaking out of the comfortable, likable space where I like to keep it. It’s overflowing into the awkward richness that is loving others and the fullness of experience that brings.
Also some serious FOMO, which is part of the growth thing. But the point is that I don’t have to be intense about trying not to be intense. I can let the intensity roll over me, tumble me around, and keep right on going, knowing that I’ve grown.
I could fight to keep my head space comfortable, or I can live in the fullness of all that intensity without letting it become life-sucking intensity.
Before we had kids, we all knew exactly what kind of mom we didn’t want to be. We didn’t want to go into the kid vortex and lose our kid-free friends. We didn’t want our kids to take over our news feed (to that, by the way, I say, go f*** yourself, internet snark-monsters, my kid is adorable and I’ll post all the pictures of her I want to. Stop telling me how do social media).
Well, we became real moms. And the happiest moms I know are the ones who are okay with the kind of mom they are. The nervous moms are happiest when they are holding their kid’s hands on the playground, keeping them from falling. Not when they are cringing trying to be as nonchalant about bumps and bruises as the free range moms.
The tunnel vision moms are happiest when they are at home, watching their kids be kids. Not when they are having “grown up time” trying to pretend they aren’t checking their phones to see if maybe the babysitter is in distress and they can go home.
Somewhere along the way, we believed that being more like Jesus meant becoming more like each other. We are all striving for the platonic ideal of motherhood. It doesn’t exist. One of the great paradoxes is the diversity of Christlikeness we see in the church.
Each of these moms will have to grow, and it will be painful. Learning to let Moira’s schedule/brain development/social awareness coast for 10 minutes so that I can do something else of value is painful for me. But good for her. The constant extra chaos in my own brain is painful for me. But every bit of that chaos is created by something I’ve chosen to love.
Nervous moms grow to trust God. Tunnel vision moms grow to give their kids space and practice hospitality toward others. Laid back moms grow when its time for a battle. Free range moms grow when they are in a sensitive environment with their little wrecking balls.
The gospel lets grow, not by changing our personhood (it’s not going to turn me into laid back mom, no matter how much I want it to) but by helping me grow. Our identity is in Christ, yes, but that doesn’t make us homogenous. It frees us to be heterogenous and growing.