Thursday, July 19, 2007

What it's REALLY like to be a SuperHero Mom

So, I'm playing basketball in my kitchen last night (because that's what you do when you're waiting for the chicken in the oven to finish cooking, right? And yes, I really do have a hoop and a ball in my kitchen, like you don't?) and the thought occured to me for the clumpteen trillionth time, that parenting is the most emotionally exhausting thing a person can ever do in their lifetime. Ever!

I cannot speak for Dads, because I'm a mom. I cannot speak for men, because I'm a woman. I can only speak from a mother's perspective and I can tell you from this mother's perspective, it's a most taxing (and astoudingly joyful, all at once) thing to be a mother.

When they're little and they find themselves in a situation that is clearly over their heads, even while they might not be mature enough to reason it out, they know they want mom to rescue them and make everything better again. A scraped knee, a lost truck, a popped balloon, a sibling looking at them, a bee sting, a headless Barbie... whatever it happens to be, mom becomes the SuperHero that fixes whatever goes wrong. While all of our kids have different personalities, and some of them might not resort to calling on SuperMom all that often, some other kids might do it so much that eventually SuperMom wishes they'd start taking charge of their own issues and stop wanting her to fix everything. Of my seven kids I have both of those personality types and several in-betweeners.

It's not an easy thing for SuperMom to find her own balance in all of this. While you certainly don't want to be rescuing them for their whole lives, you also don't want to push them too far, too soon. You want them to figure out how to get that tricky fitted sheet on that mattress and do it on their own, but you know that sooner or later you're going to have to step in and hold the one corner down, before they start crying because their skinny little arms aren't strong enough to perform that tricky manuever. Sooner or later they're going to figure it out, and you'll no longer have to show up to save the day from the bed-making crisis.

That's when they're little though. Around the age of twelve, things start getting a little strange. The idea that you once had when they were five, and hoping they'd figure things out on their own, is actually beginning to come to pass. Except not exactly in the way you'd hoped, often times.

Somehow in their pre-teen minds they begin to figure out that they're not little kids anymore, and adulthood is not that far away. Half the time they want to be treated like a "big kid" and the other half they still act like they're five. This is the age they begin to spread their wings and test out the air. It can be a pretty rough flight, for some kids.

I was talking with a dear friend last night about our older teens and I mentioned that it's so hard to watch them make such stupid mistakes. And watch, is really all we can do. You can tell them the right thing to do, you can show them, send smoke signals or act it out via interpretive dance, but by now you already know that they're not listening to you. Oh they hear you allright (and when they're in their 20's they'll tell you they heard you, you just wait and see), but often they are not listening, and there is a world of difference between hearing and listening. This is the age when they semi-appreciate your wisdom thank you very much, but are determined to do things their own way, and flex their own adult-decision-making muscles. In many cases they remind me of little birds that try to fly out of the nest before they're ready. Some make it okay, others are lunch for hawks. It can be a pretty tense time for a lot us, either going through it, or being the parent of the one going through it.

One day many years ago when I was trying to impart my vast wisdom to my then 15 yr old daughter, I appealed to her logical side. I know, 15 yr olds and logic seems like an oxymoron to most of you, but my daughter was pretty sharp and analytical, so I used it. Hey, us SuperMoms have to collect our tricks where we can, right? We save them up in our invisible Trick Bag and use them on the next kid. It's pretty economical that way. Well, except when you whip out a particular trick that you're quite fond of and they roll their eyes because they've already heard that one before, used on the sibling(s) older than them. That's when you have to get uber-creative and find new tricks.

I explained to her that while I obviously did not know everything, like duh, hello?, I had the jump on her based on age. Just like she did, over someone ten years younger than her. She agreed that someone five years old wouldn't have as much life experience as she did, at 15. So then I tried to show her from that illustration that her mom, who had lived twice as long as she had by that time, had far more life experience than she did. She wasn't happy about affirming that but she had no choice. Logic wins every time! The problem with that however, comes back down to the difference between hearing and listening. One is recognizing audible instruction, the other is genuinely considering and heeding what was said. Sometimes they do the former, and completely disregard the latter.

It's not always a complete disaster when our teenagers ignore our sound advice. Sometimes the choices they make might seem disasterous at first, but then God's providential hand turns things to their benefit. Sometimes He lets them fall flat on their face too, and those are the hardest times for a mother to have to watch. Even a super hero cries when her mini-super-hero people fall down.

Through it all, is an astounding amount of prayer. We pray for them that if they don't yet know the Lord Jesus Christ that He might be pleased to bring them to genuine faith and repentance. We start that prayer generally around the time we learn we're expecting, and we keep praying it until there is no longer a need to. Aside from that, we pray that He might grant them wisdom, and humility to make the right choices, and then surround them with people who will also assist in guiding them - people that they will listen to, and Godly people who are worth listening to. We all know how easily our kids are influenced and there is no shortage of pure, rancid trash out there ready to come flying out of the mouths of people who really should just shut up. Those are the people we pray would be far removed from our kid's maturity experience.

We pray for ourselves that we would be the most amazing mother ever in the history of all mothers, all the while knowing full well exactly where we fall short. We pray that we might be a vessel of grace, a good example of patience and love, encouragement and conviction. We pray and we pray and we pray some more. Who and what they see (and hear) in us, makes a world of difference in who they'll become as they grow up, and we know that.

It's hard work being a SuperHero Mom. You can't just lock them all in the basement & toss down a roast once a week (as alluring as the suggestion might sound), as they hit the teen years. You have to stay firm in your convictions with raising them to be Godly people, but you also have to stand back and watch when they mess up really really bad. You don't have a choice in the matter because unlike when they were five and ran to you with expectations that you'd fix their wee little crisis, they no longer run to you, and in fact sometimes push you away. That's a really hard one, even for the coolest of SuperMoms.

So you pray, you talk to them, you reason with them, you pray some more, you encourage them in their great choices, and you spend a good deal of time venting to your best friends who've either already gone through it, or are still going through it themselves. You do that because even in the world of SuperHero Moms, iron indeed doth sharpen iron. And... we pray for each other too, make each other laugh, and remind each other that this too shall pass - and hopefully with amazing results by the time they are adults themselves.

Yep, that's what it's really like to be a SuperHero Mom. It's not such a glamorous profession, but the longer we do it the more tricks we collect and hopefully, and prayerfully, the more grace we have to actually use those tricks, effectively.

And yes, I really do have a hoop and ball in my kitchen. It's one of the tricks, believe it or not, and the way it works is pretty simple: it's a tension cutter. It works beautifully. You should all have one in your kitchen too.