Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mama Whiplash

My six-year-old son walked into my bedroom, sprawled out on the bed, and let this loose without a single breath between sentences:  “I love you sooooo much, Mom, but I love God the most, and all I know is I wanna be a smurf. Hey, I got a joke. Why did the armpit cross the road?” 

A mama could get whiplash just trying to keep up. (I promise I’m not making this up – I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget, and promptly texted the grandparents.)

In addition to keeping up with the mental acrobatics of the male kindergartener, currently I am also learning to respond to two female tweenagers, delicate creatures, with the emotional range of the Grand Canyon. The amount of flexibility required to be a mama is mind-boggling.

I must parent each child individually, while equipping them to live, work and play harmoniously in the same 2000 square feet. Yep...whiplash.

Whiplash is basically defined as an injury to the neck caused by a sudden unnatural stretching. Sudden unnatural stretching – well that pretty much sums up motherhood from the get-go, huh? 

Being a mom has been a stretch for me in every way. Body and soul, I have the marks to prove it. And I am incredibly grateful. Yep, you heard me right. I am thankful for my stretchmarks, because they are the evidence that God is driving out the pride that leads to whiplash.

For me, the most severe cases of whiplash occur when I am the most rigid. I am too inflexible at times, even when the way I’m parenting isn’t working.

Let me be clear. There are certainly unchanging principles and convictions that hold my family together: our faith in God, the foundation of His Word, and our commitments to one another. But when it comes to our relationships, flexibility is required, especially when the kids are going through a stretchy season. Some would say parents must remain unbending when faced with the winds of change. Instead, I believe flexibility reveals inner strength.

You don’t have to look very far where I live to see a great example – the Palm tree. It may not look like much, compared to the impressive Oak, but it is designed to hang on even against hurricane-force winds. That’s what I call strong – firmly rooted but able to bend without breaking.

To be unbending is to lack humility, I think. 

For most of us mamas, pride quickly evaporates the moment we hold that first newborn in our arms and realize that control is an illusion. We can’t even keep our babies breathing through the night; much less direct the outcome of their lives. And yet we constantly struggle with this very thing.

When I am in the middle of a storm with one of my kiddos, and nothing I'm trying is working, I have two choices. 1. Continue in my ineffectiveness with greater force and more determination (which usually leads to a major case of whiplash.) 2. Put on an attitude of humility, ask for help (from God, my husband, a wise counselor), and be willing to change.

When I do this, an amazing thing happens. Humility and flexibility are contagious.
My parents set a great example for me. When I struggled as a teen against the boundaries they were setting, they said, “You are our first kiddo. We are learning on you. We may not get it right every time, but we love you, we’re doing our very best, and we think you’re turning out pretty good.”

Their honesty and humility drew me in, as humility almost always does, and it moved us forward to face the challenges of growing up together, with our relationship still very much intact.

So maybe the formula is: Humility + flexibility draw us together. Pride + rigidity break us apart.

I choose to be as the Palm tree. I may have a funny shape at the end of my life, having weathered my own share of storms. Maybe I’ll be half-lying, half-standing on the beach. But here I stand, firmly rooted and willing to bend and stretch to be the best mama I can be. And I think, in the end, stretchmarks look more like Jesus.


Lana Leos said...

Tearsssss! This was so wonderful to read and so very encouraging!! Love it!

Daphne Fine said...

Thank you sweet friend! I'm so glad it encouraged you!

Faisy Faisy said...

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