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!

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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 🙂

6

The Ugliest Parts of Me

‘Adoption’ is Googled around 6 million times per month globally.

adoption

Me & Mother of Children I adopted. I had no idea that 3 years from the time of taking this picture, she would pass away.

Pic in Village

Picture of me and orphaned children, two of whom I would adopt five years later. The two boys in the front are still orphaned, now around age 12-14.

I’ve often thought that adoption has brought out some of the ugliest parts of me.  I never dreamed that doing something that I considered, and that most consider to be good would bring out so much bad in me.  No single thing from my past has caused more personal pain or growth for me than adopting.  I know that God often speaks of adoption, how He adopted us into His family.  This would mean that before Christ, we are actually all orphans waiting for a “forever family.”  From a distance this picture of being welcomed into a family of unconditional love seems so warm and cozy.  But I had no idea that sometimes it would feel like getting too close to the fire, almost past the point of no return.  Because unconditional almost always turns out to be conditional, with unspoken rituals that just can’t fill empty shells of lost love.

Since day one, once the mystery of mission work disappeared into thin air, I’ve been so self consumed with how I feel, how my privileges have been taken away, how inconvenient it is to share with other human beings who seem to be just as needy as me in their own insatiable ways.  I thought that it would all end with the approved paperwork, with the final stamp of proof that they are no longer living alone in this world.  But sometimes I see that they’re still alone.  I don’t know how to reach out to them, how to talk to them about what they feel.  I try to be a mother to them as best as I know how, but it seems like I’m just acting, like they know I’ll never get the part right, like they just humor me the best they know how, all the while their heart aching for the true love that only their birth mom could give.

I wonder if they want me to love them as much as I want them to love me.  Do they wish I could love them as much as I love my four biological children, like I wish they could love me as much as they love their biological mother, and talk about her with such distant wonder in their eyes?  I know it’s so selfish of me to want something in return.  I mean I still have my mom.  She is living, breathing, being there for me whenever I need her.  I probably do not even show my mom as much love as I’m hoping for my adopted children to show me.

What was I expecting?  A gold medal?  A return on affection that I, myself cannot even give?

No.  I had no idea that adopting would be such a tangle of emotions, constantly trying to get worked out, only to be balled up again in a twisted little mess that only God’s grace can hold in delicacy until I come back to my practical senses.

0

My Father

Story of a man's immigration journey from a primitive African village to the United States Air Force Academy as an international exchange cadet. Stark images of the dissonance between two worlds, one where poverty reigns and the other where goodwill outweighs good sense. This book reveals the epic struggle of immigrants everywhere searching for a better life in the United States, only to find that what they've left behind haunts them even past pledging their allegiance to a new flag of hope.  Adopting America contains vivid imagery of what it's like to try to exist within a world that is not your own--of how it feels to adopt the ways of the Western world. A true story of International Adoption intertwines with the plot to give a realistic view of what it's like to adopt children from a third world country and hope they adopt American ways.  This book also includes a detailed account of life as an international exchange cadet at the United States Air Force Academy, with contrasts to third world military systems in comparison to the more developed U.S. military.

Story of a man’s immigration journey from a primitive African village to the United States Air Force Academy as an international exchange cadet. Stark images of the dissonance between two worlds, one where poverty reigns and the other where goodwill outweighs good sense. This book reveals the epic struggle of immigrants everywhere searching for a better life in the United States, only to find that what they’ve left behind haunts them even past pledging their allegiance to a new flag of hope.
Adopting America contains vivid imagery of what it’s like to try to exist within a world that is not your own–of how it feels to adopt the ways of the Western world. A true story of International Adoption intertwines with the plot to give a realistic view of what it’s like to adopt children from a third world country and hope they adopt American ways.
This book also includes a detailed account of life as an international exchange cadet at the United States Air Force Academy, with contrasts to third world military systems in comparison to the more developed U.S. military.

‘fatherless’ is Googled around 22,000 times per month globally.
I don’t know who my father is and I’m not sure I’d ever taken the time to care had I not been introduced to the very western idea that fatherless children are sociological cripples living one-dimensional lives.  Or it could be that I’ve had to fill out one too many forms where my only option was to leave some spaces blank.  But, in my mind and on the verge of my tongue, I’ve always had a story to tell—a father figure to paint as having been  there for me, if not always when I needed him, at least when I needed him the most.  One father, I’ve carried in my pocket for quite some time.  Having never really known him—it was his small wallet sized headshot that increased in value overtime—until I don’t know what I’d do if I had to stop supposing he could be the one.  Then there was the resident father.  The one who could tell me what to do and follow-up with threats of violence should I foolishly decide not to follow his lead.  Most of the time, in the village, he was physically there.  We all lived together.  Him, my mom, and all ten of us children.