8

Why being a Parent is NOT like running a Marathon.

So you wake up one day and think “You know what? I’m going to be a mother/father. I know it’s going to take a tremendous amount of training, non-ending exercise of patience and long hours of grueling commitment, but hey, I will post all my milestones on Facebook, everyone will know I’m slowly but surely reaching my goals and when the BIG DAY comes, I and everyone else will know that I proudly crossed the finished line.” Plus, I’ll get a t-shirt.

If we could only approach parenthood with the same methodology that many of us approach athletic challenges such as marathons, many of us would be faring much better and instead of constantly stressing our adrenal system we would actually be pacing ourselves amongst the many milestones that being a mother or father affords.

The main problem is this: Many of us simply stumble into parenthood. Wake up a decade later and stupidly exclaim as others skeptically eye our large brood, “Wow, I AM fertile/virile, aren’t I?” But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Though as a caveat, I do understand that many of us take much pride in approaching parenthood more like a 5k, being smart enough to know that we’re definitely not cut out for the long haul, therefore taking the appropriate measures to limit our family size to 0-2: please know that I’m just addressing those of us who woke up this morning and marveled at the fact that our life now mainly consists of haphazard attempts at parental sanity.

I’m not great at lists, but I’m going to give it a go.

Why being a Parent is NOT like running a Marathon.

1. Sometimes there is no way to measure our progression toward success. (Very scary for those of us who need to feel like we’re in control of at least a somewhat predictable destiny)
2. More often than not, we’re simply ashamed of the fact that being a “parent in training” is actually just kicking our butt. i.e. it’s not semi-cool to brag about the fact that we JUST came in short of the mark on our daily training routine this time. “Oh man, I was almost a great parent today. The only thing I forgot to pack my kid for lunch was their lunch. And we were only FIVE minutes late to school this morning.”
3. There is no “big day” to obsessively focus on so that we can keep our eye on the goal. (Yes. There is the infamous graduation day (12 years away) and that elusive hope that someday our child will become all the things we never were…but hard to put an exact date on that)
4. No one is standing on the sidelines with water or a cool towel to congratulate us on a job well done because there is NO FINISH LINE.
5. Sweating parenthood is just never attractive. People will eventually figure out we’re not actually training for that “big day.”

Preparing for a marathon can be quite a risky proposition (and I would know because I have FB friends who’ve done it). There is the chance that you might not ever reach your goal. But at least you HAVE a goal. There is the chance that you may face serious injury. But at least others will revel at your undying commitment to accomplish something big. Once you’ve marked “finishing a marathon” off your list, you can pretty much leave it in the past and brag about it when necessary. But lifelong passion and discipline for running is a choice, NOT an obligation.

Parenthood requires this lifetime herculean effort to accomplish something big, but that something big in the day-in, day-out of it, can be quite elusive. It’s like we’re in basic training with someone spitting in our face–yelling at us to keep going, keep training, but there’s no promise of graduation at the end of 10 weeks. And it happens over and over again, year after year.

I know there are some parents who have successfully broken parenthood into manageable, bite sized pieces and they meticulously build their life around each milestone/goal.

But for me, being a mother is more like a work of art. I’m always obsessing over the final touch. I’m lucky if I’m inspired to add anything at all on some days. Sometimes, I very literally want to tear up the atrocity I’ve created and start over–with a clean slate. Surely, I’ll do better next time…I will have learned from my past mistakes and I’ll finally create a prized piece of artistry that everyone will recognize as noteworthy up against the greatest parents of all time.

Then I wake up and realize, I’m not Vincent van Gogh and never will be. I’m just a mother who wants to be someone I’m not. I will never win a marathon. I’m just running. Most days, my effort will never elicit tangible recognition.

Whether you’re the obscure father running a race you could never possibly intend to win or the artistically frustrated mom trying to draw as little attention as possible to your “work of art,” let’s remember we’re all in this together. Seeing parenthood as the chagrin to a society where “other” productivity trumps it all, is our first mistake.

We need you. Populating the planet and parenting the population is still an essential piece of what makes the world go ’round. If everyone stopped having children right now and the youngest children alive had just been born, the human population would cease to exist in just 84 years, assuming the average life span. So, at best, we’d be looking at a century, then that long coveted silence. Now, There’s a finish line for you.

Newsflash:  You’re NOT running a marathon. Cut yourself some slack.  You’re populating planet earth. Who cares if there’s life on the MOON.

Earth is winning and YOU are on the team!

~Happy parenting!

0

Focus on the Vision

Almost everything we enjoy, cannot be enjoyed in its entirety until we realize that what we enjoy will most always be accompanied by the mundane tasks that make our moments of pleasure possible and we in turn, set ourselves up to focus on the vision, not the next step.

Take music for instance.  One of the absolute most pleasurable moments of music for me is to direct a choir in its polished form on a song that contains the concentration of emotion that has built over weeks or months of polishing each intricate detail.

But the journey to that performance is laden with the mundane, the long and tedious stress of wondering whether it will ever come together, the laborious rehearsals where everything goes wrong–when the effort of choir members seems to be lackluster at best.

Why is it that we define our lives, our day-to-day existence by the journey and not the end result?  Why, when we awaken in the mornings, do we not first think of the end result, instead of the steps of drudgery we must take in order to get there?

It is really hard to let the vision of our “end result” shape our daily activities.  Too often, the complaints of others, the voice of our own insecurities, memories of our past failures and overwhelming prep work destroy our vision and we give up short of that brilliant performance.

I for one, habitually awaken to the remembrance of the next step I need to take, instead of an intentional reminder of the desired “end result.”

No matter what your life’s calling…if God has given you a vision of the “end result,” if He’s given you a glimpse of who you may one day become, intentionally create reminders of that vision and stay inspired by focusing on the end result.  Life can get awfully dark and dreary when the only thing we focus on is taking our next step.

Life is more than putting one foot in front of the other.

There is a vision, a finished product, a postcard finish line.

Instead of filling your calendar this month with reminders about what you need to do next to reach your goals, why don’t you fill your calendar with reminders about the vision of who you hope to become?

Here are a few reminders for me this week:

http://bcove.me/hc2yxxd4

http://fw.to/wOrd55B

0

On Being a Crazy Parent Much Less for God

Cover of "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as...

Cover via Amazon

I often times wonder how different it is to be a dad as opposed to being a mom. What kind of a link do dads feel toward their children? How much of the link that mothers feel toward their children is just a product of socialization–the way we were raised to believe we should in turn raise our children? And how do those expectations of motherhood and fatherhood affect our level of sanity more than the actual work that we put into raising our children  in the right way or as best we know how?

Thanks to one of my relatives who shall remain unnamed, I just finished browsing the book: “Crazy for God.” The book perfectly and not so politically correctly describes in great depth the psyche of the author’s parents who were major proponents of the Fundamentalist movement. Having myself grown up in a home formed at the peak of some of those great fundamentalist revivals of which my parents were loyal participants, I inevitably relate to the some of satire eloquently penned by Frank Schaeffer, so much so that it seems we might have been best of friends or worst of enemies should we have grown up together in the same neighborhood.

I’ve often wondered, especially most recently since my children started using a more sophisticated part of their brain, putting two and two together to formulate their blaring judgment of me into sentences–how they might describe me should they grow up to be a writer and need to use my personality as fodder on paper–going into painful detail about my dedication or lack of dedication as a mom and ultimately my sanity as a person.

Then I came across the book by Schaeffer and resentfully revisited the dread that I might feel should my children ever see me for who I truly am.  The “crazy” light in which Schaeffer shed his mom included the following quote and reminded me of the glorified version of myself:

“Mom lived her life in tension between her unrealized ambition to be recognized for something important, refined, and cultured and her belief that God had called her to do Christian work that required her to sacrifice herself, not least her image of who she really felt she was when the cultural elites admired, or at least envied, mocked fundamentalism.”

The parts that stick out to me here are “unrealized ambition” and “belief that God had called her to do a Christian work.”  And everything in-between is enough indeed to inspire a child to call into question the sanity of his parents.

I’m not sure what Schaeffer’s conclusion was since I haven’t finished the book but forget the schizophrenic Christian part of being a fundamentalist on the fence, my days as a mom are definitely filled with regret over “unrealized ambition.”  I don’t think any parent-to-be truly understands the risk of living ocean front–that the view, the time spent walking on the beach, and the easy access to beautiful moments also make us vulnerable to floods that could rush in and exchange all of our belongings for debris once we’ve settled on having children.

Yes old things are washed away and everything is forced to become new but having children is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.  It’s an emotional tsunami.  All of the unspoken dreams, those things that you’d held quietly in your heart because you still felt like life was slow pace, slow enough that you could catch up to it–All of the ideals that were never challenged by real life circumstances so you could just carelessly hold onto them without the fear of cynicism snatching them away–I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that having children is like an ugly forceps rebirth of self.

And the rebuilding of the thoughts, ambitions and dreams that twist and turn in God forsaken fashion as an initiation into a life of letting go of everything you’d been becoming up to the point that it was your children’s turn to become-could indeed drive one to insanity.

I’m not even sure if I’m in the rebuilding phase.  I’m still wandering around picking up the pieces of what I used to think was important–seeing what I can put back together from the past–trying to determine if there’s any intrinsic value in who I was before I realized what it’s like to be a parent.

And all that to say, “Thank you mom and dad for all you did to maintain some level of sanity in our household growing up, even though I’m sure you must have felt quite the crazy yourself at times.  Thank you for believing through the doubt and holding onto the pieces of everything that perhaps you’re still trying to put together.  Regardless of how your children gauge your level of sanity, as sure as there’s a God in heaven above, He’d reward you with an A for effort.  And fundamentalist or not, there is surely nothing that will keep my boat afloat if human frailty is not factored into the grading curve.”

Happy crazy parenting!!

11

Proud of what LOOKS like a Failure

Has YOUR failure ever turned into someone else’s success?

Have you ever tried to run a marathon and failed to finish, but the very fact that you tried, inspired others to start getting physically active?

Have you ever pushed to get a promotion, only to have someone come in along side you and say, “If YOU can make that much money, I can too.”  You actually don’t get that promotion, but the other person does?  Somehow what turned out to be your failure, turned into their success.

Ever since, we adopted, I’ve seen this effect in play SO many times.  We have 7 children in all now.  When one of them makes a good decision, it clearly has a ripple effect on the other six.  When one of them makes a bad decision, the others relax because they feel as if the bar has been lowered.

My children, can even affect my husband and me.  Their positive actions challenge us to do better, to strive harder, to make sure we’re taking the lead as positive role models in our children’s lives.

A small example of this, was when our 21 year old came in from a run last night.  She doesn’t run on a regular basis, so we definitely took notice when she came in all sweaty with her gym clothes on.  My husband sat there for a few minutes, and said, “Ndolo, if you can do it, I can do it.”  So he asked if I wanted to go out and run.  I opted to stay comfortably on the couch.  But then, my husband came inside all sweaty too.  There was a certain bounce in his step that said, “I just did something good for myself.”  Five minutes later, I got up, put my exercise clothes on, laced up my tennis shoes, emerged from the bedroom and said, “If you did it, I can certainly do it too!”

All of this, based on ONE person’s SINGLE decision to go out and run.

Another larger example of this is when I recently applied for a fairly good paying job that was significantly out of my comfort zone.  When I got to the third and final interview, my husband publicly announced that if I make THAT much, he should be making more.  So he applied for a few jobs.  Oddly enough, he ended up getting a phone interview at the SAME place where I applied.  They didn’t even call him in for an in-person interview and yesterday was his FIRST day, making a 50% increase in salary. (O.k. maybe we’re just a competitive family?)

Long story short, I did not get the job.
But my efforts, inspired my husband’s actions.
What turned out to be my failure, inspired my husband to success.

(On a side note, I was disappointed that I did not get the job, but I’m thankful for the insight into the power of our actions, EVEN when they don’t turn out to benefit US directly.)

What about you?  Maybe you try to be a better Christian.  Maybe you work really hard to be an example of Christ.  Perhaps everyday you try to help someone who is down and out.  Maybe you try really hard to keep your life pure and free of temptation.  Maybe you’ve fallen.  It could be that you consider yourself to be a miserable failure spiritually.

Sometimes, I worry about what “unbelievers” think of me and I feel like a fraud, because I keep failing.  My life is not a victory.  They see me fall.  They see me get angry with my children and nurture roots of bitterness.  They hear me talk about God’s love, but sometimes they see me mistreating my neighbor.  And I think about giving up.  “I’m failing at this thing.”  “Why am I even trying?”  “Is this path that I’m on, really even a path to ANYWHERE?”  “I’m knocking, but someone keeps slamming the door shut in my face.”

I wonder if perhaps I’m doing more harm than good, when I share my faith with my children, yet turn around and undo all my words with my actions.

But, just maybe, my spiritual failures are inspiring someone else to spiritual “success.”  Maybe the fact that they see me “trying” to do right, will actually inspire them to try too.  And maybe they will make it to the finish line!

10

To those who’ve Lost your mom….

My adopted daughter, Nina, wrote a poem about her biological mother, Justine. I made it into a song. I still have my mother, but for those of you who’ve already lost your mom — this song is for you. We just got back from Disney, and I screamed on a ride or two, so please excuse the scruffiness of my voice. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, both biological & adoptive!!

You gave life to me
gave a start to destiny
now I know
There’s no other love like yours
After all I received
the day you conceived
I miss you
I miss you mom
Your love was complete
gave me everything I need
Now I wish
I could tell you all those things
I should have said more
all the things I’m sorry for
I miss you
I miss you mom
The day you said goodbye
left me here to wonder why
and who would be my shoulder
to cry on
I dream about those times
of lullabies and rhymes
I miss you
I miss you mom
Do you hear my voice
If I only had one choice
I’d give you life
just like you gave to me
You said you’d never leave
but I know it’s destiny
I miss you
I miss you mom
Bridge:
I’d give you all you missed
if I only had one wish
I’d hold back all the clouds
up in the sky
with days as bright as the sun
mom
We’d play and run
I miss you
I miss you mom

4

A Mother’s Morning

Once you become a mother, your mornings are never the same again.
It’s like boot camp morning for the rest of your life.  And this is life.
Or maybe this too shall pass.
I know that father’s lives change too, but I’ll leave that to the fathers to discuss.
You see, once a mother, your mornings are no longer your own.
When you don’t have any children, and you wake up in a bad mood, you can kind of glide through your morning, avoid people, and hope that soon enough your mood will improve before you start taking your anger out on others.
But once you’re a mother, getting up in the morning, is no longer just a matter of rolling out of bed and taking care of yourself–making sure your hair is straight, brushing your teeth, fixing yourself a cup of coffee and waiting for your chipper self to show up.
No.
And I miss those days.
Those days where I can wake up and stare into space as I follow my morning routine.
I’ve never liked to talk in the morning, much less yell.
But now it’s required.  It’s a pre-requisite to the day.
You see, I hadn’t prepared the night before.  I left the dirty dishes from dinner.
I ignored the mess my children had made,
the very same mess I’d already cleaned up 5 times already that day.
And just couldn’t bare to bend over one more time.
Surely the toys can spend one night out of their bin.
So I spent a while on Twitter practicing that blank stare I miss so much,
watching, but not really, the updates roll over the screen.
But I really couldn’t relax, because I wondered what people were thinking of me.
A mother not doing her chores yet yelling at her children for not doing their chores.
But I mindlessly updated my Twitter status instead of sweeping, scrubbing floors, laying out school clothes for the next day, checking homework and folding clothes.
In-between, yet again yelling at my children to go back to bed,
thinking that surely it was time for a Super Nanny intervention,
or better yet, a revelation from God about what I’m doing wrong as a mother.
And then the morning came again.
Full throttle, shocking, feet on the cold floor morning.
Your mornings will never be the same again, from the time you birth that first child.
Sometimes, I start dreading my mornings.
So bad that I want to run away and get a new morning.
I don’t want to wake up, because I know that my day will be dictated by serving others.
I secretly envy my teenage daughters who wake up and fix themselves something to eat, smelling like roses as they get ready to go to their college classes.
And I remember those days…the days when I only had myself to feed.
I’m hungry, but so is everyone else and they need to be fed from the moment they wake up.
Their hunger is insatiable and they love to say my name, “mommy.”
I don’t think I like my name anymore.
I don’t even think anyone in the house knows…
how much cream and sugar I like in my coffee.
But that’s another post for another time.
Good morning!
(Wonder if Mandisa has children?!?)……I love the song anyway 🙂

2

Whatsoever things are lovely…..

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Philippians 4:8

True
Honest
Just
Pure
Lovely
Of Good Report
WITH virtue
WITH praise.

When I relate this to modern day media, I start to feel very discouraged, because how much entertainment today, could we truly describe as “pure” and “lovely” let alone “just” and of “good report?”

I shudder at the fact that my daughters have ready access to all types of media that will make it next to impossible for them to “think on good things.”