Filling In the Blanks

I have a first boy who was born more intelligent and inquisitive than anyone I've ever known.

I have a second boy who was born with more sensitivity and imagination than anyone I've ever known.

And I have a third boy who was born with a supernatural ability to wiggle into the most weary part of my heart and warm it and soothe it better than anyone I've ever known.

Each one of them is brilliant.

I have never taken for granted that I could have these boys. I am overwhelmed that they were given to me, and I treasure so many memories with them and value so many lessons they have taught me in my brief stint as a mother so far.

Somehow I entered motherhood with a lot of "I will never"s and a lot of sensitivity to what my children are feeling or thinking or needing, because I know what a difference it made when someone cared what was going on inside of me as a child.

With each birth, my capacity to love and appreciate each of them multiplied, and I find myself often consumed with the desire to mother them the way they deserve to be mothered.

Those are the only tools I came into this with: a few "do not"s, a capacity for empathy, deep mother love, and a desire to nurture and cherish my kids.

The thing is, as my boys grow more independent and more capable, more adventurous and more daring, I'm having a hard time filling in the blanks of my mothering know-how with real solutions.

I'm not sure how to replace the "I will never..." with "Instead, I will..."

I don't know how to feel the empathy but stay firm on principles.

I don't know how to turn the humiliation of certain mothering situations into humbling learning experiences for me and the boys.

I don't know how to know if anything I'm doing is making any difference or if I need to try something different. And what should that something be?

I don't know when to jump on something and nip it in the bud at all costs and when to just relax and wait for the boy to grow out of the habit.

I'm not inclined to hovering, but I wonder if I need to do it more.

I am inclined to bossing, but I don't know if doing it less would be better, seeing as how I am the mom.

I tell myself all the time, "There's no way to be a perfect mom, but there's a million ways to be a good one." (I read that somewhere, but can't remember where...)

But what do I do when I want to be the best one for my children?

It's too personal of an endeavor to believe I can find the answer in books or with experts or even from other moms who I admire and trust.

I try to be prayerful. I try to listen to promptings, and I trust my intuition and my knowledge of my own children a lot.

Sometimes, it's a multiple choice test, and I can choose which option makes the most sense or works the best for us. Other times, it's a matching exercise - different things work for different children, so just draw a line matching the child on the left to the correct solution on the right.

But a lot lately, it's similar to an essay exam, with a big blank sheet of paper waiting for me to fill in the main points.

And it's becoming more and more like one of those bad dreams where I didn't study, I don't remember being in the class at all, and I probably showed up without clothes on, to boot.

I've got to sharpen my pencil and get some stuff figured out, or my GPA is sunk.

Or someone could just pinch me and wake me up? If only...


Christine said...

Amen to that. Don't have any advice for you though.

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

You cannot do any better than your best. You are like the farmer who plants the seed. The farmer cannot make the seed grow. He can only hope that everything that he has done is benificial and will help the plant to grow. He must then leave it in God's hands. Do your best, leave your children in God's hands, and NEVER stop praying for them.

Real said...

One of the realizations I had about a year ago is that we ARE the best moms for our children because we are the ones doing it. Also, I think one of the factors you are missing in your analysis is time and experience. If you knew it all now, well wouldn't that be boring! Where would be the growth. Mothering isn't something you figure out beforehand. It's something you learn while you are in the trenches. And learning means that you will be faced with many situations where you just know. And then after the situation is resolved you either say, "Well that worked" or "That didn't work so well." And then you've learned something.

And I remember being in college and taking that final essay exam and looking at that question with a sinking feeling, knowing there was no way I could fill up that blue book on this topic. Are you familiar with the term "BS"? That's what I would do. Knowing I wasn't answering the question correctly, knowing I was forgetting major points, put trying and trying to keep writing for the two hours and fill that book so it looked like I had learned something in the class. Then I'd turn in the essay with dread in my gut. And the professor would love it and I would pass the class. Because even though I couldn't remember everything and my analysis might not have been perfect, I really did learn some things and could put them into use. Without my knowing it, going to class and taking notes and doing the assignments really had had an effect on me. The change over the course of a semester was so slow that I didn't even notice it happening.

And if you don't believe that, try to remember what it was like for you when Calvin was a newborn baby. Could that woman have taken care of three spirited boys in the Ukraine? You've come a long way, baby!

Katrina said...

I love this post! Beautiful, and oh-so-relate-able. I am right there with you, and wish I had some solid answers to share. I wonder if moms in the previous generation had these concerns. There seemed to be a tremendous amount of confidence that "things would be fine," and while I sometimes feel that, I often find myself wanting to make sure I "get it right" or things will all fall apart.

For what it's worth, it is obvious that you love your children, that you are level-headed, and that you place great priority on family. I think that makes an excellent foundation.

Nobody said...

This post is beautiful. I read it a week ago and must have commented in my head and not in real life. Which, sadly, happens a lot.

This post is the kind of writing that has you up on a literary pedestal in my mind. Pretty sure you'll always be.