I’m going to be thirty on my next birthday. When I was fifteen, thirty seemed old. I expected that by the time I was that old lady I would have a lot of life figured out. Surely by then I’d know how to be a respectable adult. Unfortunately, now that I’m here, I see more and more all the things that I don’t know and I’m not good at. I can look back at where I’ve come from but I also see how far I would like to go.
The best way to get there is to just keep practicing. I ask what kind of woman I would like to be and then I do the things that woman would do. That isn’t easy but I spend each day practicing, working on the same small things over and over.
Nearly every day I catch myself stopping to regroup. I take a few deep breaths while my boys gather around and start my sentence over in a calmer voice. I go over a concept again that surely they should’ve learned by now, only they haven’t. Then I realize I haven’t either. I still have to calm myself down, remind myself of how small they are, see their precious faces instead of just an annoying behavior.
I have to write down the important ideas about motherhood. I have to reread the books. I have to pray for my heart for my children constantly. If I’m a grown woman and still need this much practice, how much more space to my kids need? How much do they need me to teach them and train them and do it cheerfully instead of like it’s a big annoyance?
We all know it’s no small thing to teach a child. Whether it’s how to tie his shoes or not to hit her brother or what sound the letter “x” makes, it takes time and repetition to make those concepts stick in a brain. You do it over and over and eventually it’s second nature.
I hope it’s that way for me as well. As I calm down and retrain my children, I hope I am also retraining myself. My prayer is that as I teach my children to be kind and do their best work I’m learning to do the same. That we will all become people who will do their best work even when it seems like nothing happens as a result. That we will learn to be kind even when others are not.
Being a mom is like a lot of things in life. You put in a lot of effort even when it seems like you aren’t getting anything back. You start when they are small, changing diapers for them to mess them up, feeding snacks only to feed snacks again later. And as they get bigger you keep it up, only on a bigger scale: fractions, friendships, cooking. And eventually, the effort pays off, for you and them.