For me, the first year of being a mom was always the best – sleep-deprived, yet wonderful. I have always loved the baby stage, probably because I had pretty good babies. Those sweet little things rely on you for everything; yes, it’s demanding, but all of the firsts sure make up for it. Watching them grow and change and learn is more rewarding than anything else I’ve experienced. Though I’m not very good at filling out the baby books, I love all of those new accomplishments in the first year. After a year, though, something changes. Suddenly that sweet, cuddly baby develops a mind and attitude of his or her own; an entirely different set of firsts begin – the kind you don’t write in the baby book. First bite, first time hitting a sibling, first lie-down-on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming fit, first time talking back, first “you’re the worst mom ever,” first eye roll, first “you’re SOOOO embarrassing” look. The worst thing about these firsts is that they don’t just do them once. Oh no, these firsts lead to seconds, thirds, and what feels like countless repeats, and they are never cute. They also lead to the first feelings of failure as a parent.
One day last week, I rushed into the van headed for school, already feeling worn out. (How does that happen after only being awake for two hours?!?!). Of course, my kids were fighting and a chorus of “he did this” and “she did that” rang out. I backed out of the driveway thinking, “Man, I am just spinning my wheels with this whole parenting thing.” I feel like every day (multiple times a day) I cover the same things with my kids: show love, don’t blame others, don’t repay wrong with wrong, be nice, be quiet, and on and on. Yet it doesn’t feel like we are making any progress, the wheels just keep spinning. It gets frustrating and a feeling of hopelessness starts to seep in.
Driving down the smooth, solid surface of the highway, I started thinking about my wheel-spinning problem. I realized something about those spinning wheels: on a mud road, they create a rut. A rut worn deep into the ground seen by passers by days later or sometimes decades later. I remember hearing stories about the ruts in the fields near my grandpa’s farm having been made by the covered wagons on the Oregon Trail. Maybe spinning my wheels isn’t such a bad thing if it’s creating ruts that will last a lifetime.
This parenting thing is hard, so hard. It’s a challenge, it’s exhausting, it’s constant. I have so much admiration for single parents. Though I have my husband beside me as we struggle through the wheel spinning, sometimes it still feels lonely. Like our kids are the only crazy ones. Or we’re the only ones without the answers. The truth is, even when we feel alone, our own Father, our Heavenly Father is right there with us. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). I feel that this verse offers the perfect message and reassurance for parents. Parenting takes strength and courage – saying no, setting boundaries, disciplining. These things don’t come naturally, at least not for me. Sometimes, we think love is about satisfying, giving our kids what makes them happy. In reality though, love is having the strength and courage to give our kids what they need but not everything want. Love is teaching our kids the right way to do things by giving consequences when they go the wrong way. “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). When it is time for correction, sometimes we need the courage Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy. In context, the verse is Moses’ message to the Israelites as he prepares for the transfer in leadership to Joshua. The “them” he refers to is the nations and armies they will soon face. I think it also applies to parents though: “Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.” My translation in the context of being a mom: don’t let your kids see you sweat, stay calm and parent on. There are many times I am a scared momma. Scared for their future and scared for their present. Scared about all the awful things that can happen in this scary world. Scared that I’m doing it all wrong. But here we are reminded that we don’t have to fear. This verse offers us the reassurance that even when the wheels are spinning, our Heavenly father is here. Not only is he here with us in this scary world of parenting, but he gave those little creatures to us. He chose YOU to be that little boy’s, that little girl’s mom long before you even dreamed of having kids. The God of the universe knit that little boy or girl in your womb or in another mom’s womb knowing that he or she would end up in your arms. He destined that child for you. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). When the wheels are spinning, it may be hard to consider the struggles of parenting a gift and Psalm 127:3 might be recited through gritted teeth. We may feel like we are failing on a daily basis, but as Deuteronomy 31:6 says, the Lord will never fail us. His decision to make you a mom and give you that child(ren) is not a failure. God knows what he is doing.
In the frustration of spinning your wheels, it is hard to to keep going. It feels like the best option is to put it in park, and wait for someone else to come along and help. I want to encourage you to keep going, keep trying, keep working hard. Even as the wheels are spinning, the ruts are forming. The ruts that will reach deep into the hearts of those gifts we call our children, ruts that will shape them and their futures. Ruts that can reach into the next generation and the one after that. The ruts that reflect the Lord will last into eternity. So, mommas out there, keep on spinning those wheels. Have courage, don’t be afraid, the Lord is there, he sees you spinning, and he promises never to leave.
Lord, thank you for being the perfect parent. For loving me through my mistakes, for sacrificing the perfect gift of your son to save me from my sins. Father, this parenting thing is hard, and I need you. I need strength and courage. I need to be reminded that you are with me even when my wheels are spinning. Thank you for the power and encouragement of your word. Thank you for the gift of my children. Help me to raise them for you and with you.