Sunday, July 14, 2013

Being A Listening Momma Is a Growing Momma

We go from picking dandelions with little hands to watching our children take a step into their own day by day. Everyone says how quick they grow. Ah, we never understand just how fast until it's our own children. 

We share such sweet times. We go from kissing skinned knees to allowing our daughters to walk through the door on their first date. Change is ever present. Some changes are easy and wanting, but others are much more difficult than anything we expected. 

When you raise five children you understand they are all so very unique. You learn to love the different qualities that stand out in each child. Parenthood is the greatest joy in the world. It is also the hardest job in the universe. No one does is just right. Perfection is not even close to possible. We do our best. We learn as we go. We give our hearts to our children. There are days I soared as a parent and days where I flopped. There were times where I knew without a doubt I was being a good momma and others where I questioned each move. It seems those questioning moments come more along those teenage years. 

A few days ago while my daughter was doing my hair, she uttered the words that brought tears and a smile. "Mom, I am so glad we can come to you and talk to you about everything. You know there was a time where we couldn't do that. You didn't want to hear some things." These words brought such joy to my heart. If she wasn't coloring my hair (and making it gorgeous I might add) I could have jumped out of that chair right then and soared right out of the shop. 

She is right. There was a time where I didn't want to hear certain things. See, quite a few years back, I wasn't so sure I what kind of a relationship I would share with my daughters. We went through a time of trial. A trial that just about broke this momma. It wasn't easy for any of us. I doubted myself. I doubted my mothering skills. I was that homeschooling mom. I did everything with my kids. I coached softball. I was at every game. I never missed an event. We had the time of our lives together. Even as my girls grew older I tucked them in at night. I would go to their door at night just to see that they were peaceful in sleep. 

I was blinded. Instead of turning to my Savior, I turned to others for advice. Others who gave advice, but had never been through what our family was facing. I grant you it wasn't anything terrible, but for this mom, I felt like the world was caving in around me. I took the advice I was given. You know what? That wasn't the advice I needed. I just needed to hear, "Hang in there", "Keep praying", "Remain faithful", "Just love them where they are and help them grow". Everything I needed to hear I wasn't hearing. I was hearing, "Be tough", "Stand strong. Your the parent. Make the rules and make them obey." But see, it's easy to give advice when all you have to do is speak it. These folks weren't living it. It wasn't real to them. 

The more I prayed the more I felt as if I wasn't the mom I needed to be. After speaking with others I questioned every decision I made. I felt as though I was losing my mind. In reality I pretty much was. I wanted the best for my girls and I felt I could no longer give it. I felt unworthy as a mom. When you raise your children in church there is a certain standard set for your family. If you fall short of that standard, well, you better get to fixing the problem. I think some of you know exactly what I'm talking about. 

At church we look at our youth and we pass judgement pretty quickly. It's easy to look at other families and think about what they must be doing wrong, because without a doubt our children aren't like that. Oh, how I have learned how untrue that reality is. We seem to set certain families on a pedestal. We look to their children as being perfect and moving right along with the Lord. It's mind boggling really. We begin to question our own children if they aren't meeting the standard. 

Oh, I cannot count the nights I cried out to the Lord. I just wanted my family back. I was a broken mom and my girls were broken as well. We were a hurting family. I prided myself on being that parent who listened. But, there was a limit to my listening. At times I  was more of the talker. I laid out what the rules were and expected them to be followed. 

When trial hit, I needed to be the mom who listened to every detail. I needed to hush up and listen. Listen without judgement and listen with grace and love. I needed to meet my children right there where they were. We cannot expect young teens to understand what we understand in our forties. What did happen was I began looking back to my youth. I could see my parents sitting on the couch, scared out of their minds, wondering where in the world I was at 4:00 am. I could see the disappointment in my parents eyes as I was doing things I knew I shouldn't be doing. I went back about 35 years and put myself in my daughters place. Turns out, I had made some of the same mistakes. I should have been more understanding. I shouldn't have been so quick to anger. I would jump to conclusions. I would state what was right and wrong and inform them of what they for sure were not going to be doing. 

My lesson? I should have talked to Jesus and gave Him the room He needed to guide me. I needed to take the time to breathe. I needed to be there for my daughters no matter the what. Although they made mistakes, their momma did too. The bigger the mistake, the more grace is needed. This world, including the church, shouldn't have been my measuring tools. I needed to measure everything against the Word of God. In many cases I did. I wasn't a total failure. I just allowed others to come in and advise me when they had no way of advising since they had not gone through what our family was facing at the moment. 

These were teenage years. I wasn't prepared for what came. I was use to my perfect children. You know, children who held your hand as you crossed the street. Children who wanted momma around all the time. Children who thought their momma could do anything. Now I was the momma who took the backseat. I had teens who didn't want to talk about what they were facing or the challenges of being a girl at their age. Just as I did at that age, they turned to friends. It all came back to me now. I did the same. I didn't talk to my mom about anything. Why? She would have never understood. She never allowed me to talk. It was her way or no way.

As a teacher to the children of the same age, I found myself with more understanding when they faced these issues. When it came to my own, I had the notion that it just wasn't possible for my children to go through these same motions. I mean, they were taught different. They grew up in church. They knew better. So, was this more about the actions of my kids or was it more about my own pride in raising children? Ouch!

Yes, as parents we must set boundaries, but friends, no matter what, we need to be there for our children. We don't need to listen to every friend who wants to aid advice. We need to remember grace and mercy. We need to guide our children with loving care. We must do what is best for our family. We need to listen and listen not only to the words they share, but the actions they live. We need to keep our eyes open and be a part of their lives. We need to remember the world we live in and just how different it is today than when we were the same age. We need to remember our own mistakes. Can I tell you, now that I'm 46, I can look back and see that I learned the most in life by the mistakes I made. Yes, those mistakes had consequences that followed and how wonderful would it be for us to learn from our parents wisdom the first time and not have consequences follow us for a lifetime, but that's not usually how it works. 

Today I have a wonderful relationship with my daughters. Oh my, they are so beautiful. I can see myself in each of them. I am learning I just need to be mom. They know their momma loves the Lord. They know who I am and they know they can come to me for anything. In loving them where they are I am loving them as Jesus does. Change isn't going to come by me directing their paths. They must come to the very place I was when I gave my life to Jesus. It can't be forced. We all come to Jesus and live our lives for Him in His perfect timing. 

My girls are not only beautiful, but they light up a room. Their laughter is contagious. They are mothers now to their own babies. I am so proud of the women they have become. They too will face those trials and they too, just as I did, will learn and look back and remember their momma and daddy sitting up and waiting for them. Life is so precious. It cannot be hurried and it is not perfection. We learn each and every day on how to be better people. There are times I wish I could do it all over again and then again, I am thankful for the grace of God that I don't have to. He took those years of trial and used them to grow me. He grew my faith. My hope became new. My intentions were not of my motivations, but of the Lord's will. 

As parents we must stop worrying about what others think. We can't listen to the gossip or the judgement coming from those perfect parents with perfect children. If they exist I have never seen it. Each family will face their own trials. Everyone doesn't need to know our issues. Asking for prayer is enough. I had to come to that humbling moment where I realized I was never going to be a perfect parent. Mistakes were going to be made. I was a great mom, but there are always areas we can learn and grow in. 

Parents, give yourself room to make mistakes. Take a stand for the important issues and don't make everything out to be a big issue. Pick your battles. It isn't about winning. It isn't about being right. It isn't about looking good in the eyes of the church. It's doing what is best for your family and making that decision as a family. Communication is key. When no one is talking we grow stagnant as a family. We have to keep those open lines of communication open. 

Sure, we can listen to advice. We can read books. We can do all the things we are taught to do, but when it comes down to it, we must realize not all advice is for every family. Every child is different. Learn your child's love language. Love them where they are. Be the example, but be willing to learn from them. Be humble enough to step back and realize that God is in control. If we just hang on it will all work out. For me, I was always too quick to jump in and try to fix things the way I thought they should be. Oh, how the Lord has taught me lesson after lesson. Praise Jesus He loves me where I am right now. Oh yes, expectations! Parents, don't let this world or anyone set expectations for your own children. You know them better than anyone else. Don't let someone else make your decisions for you. Listen to your children. Talk with your husband. Decide things as a whole family and share. Be honest. Be humble. 

You know what? It's okay to tell your kids you don't know what to do. Yes, it's okay to share with your kids that your learning too. Honesty allows our children to be honest. Let them  know that adults make mistakes and we can admit that we do. 

Give your children room to make mistakes. Allow them to learn and grow as you are there for them. Be the example we are called to be. What we as parents do in moderation our children will do in excess. It's easy to make excuses for our mistakes, but we seem to be a little harder on our children when they slip and fall.

Read God's Word together. Don't read it to them as if they need it more than you. Read it together. Pray together and work things out together. Family is precious. Too many times we allow others to decide what's best for us. Turn to the Lord and He will guide you through these years. Be the parent your children will respect. I learned long ago I wasn't to be my children's friend. I was to be their parent. It isn't about popularity. It's about parenting. 

As I am a parent to adult children now this is a whole new avenue of learning. As were are all a work in progress, we never stop learning as parents. I am now a grandparent and as I live this new joy, I am remembering to let my daughters be mothers. It's their turn to take this journey. It will be a while before they face those teenage years. My job, no, my gift, is to pray them through these years. Pray they give themselves room to make mistakes . I always say my children grew me into who I am today. Along with the good days come challenging ones. If we keep our eyes focused on Jesus He will give us everything we need. Everything doesn't need to be decided in a day. Throw out that timeline and install grace in every word and every action. Remembering your children are an extension of you. They are little people trying to find their way. More than anything they need understanding, patience and time. May we guide them with the same love and grace as our Lord guides us. 
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