The Mama Vault – #4 ELASTICITY
We all go in to motherhood a cacophony of many things.
We are the little girls who were impacted by the parents who raised us—good parents, bad parents and every kind in between.
We are the married gals in strong, loving relationships or in sorry, sad ones.
We are the single gals who have chosen to go it alone or have wound up there because of circumstances beyond our control.
We are the mamas who struggled and journeyed long to be called the name, and sometimes the children of our hearts are not the children of our wombs.
We are the moms who choose to work outside the home or inside the home. Sometimes necessity has made the choice for us.
We. Are. Mothers.
And we hope our children will one day know our heart’s greatest desire was and is to give them the very best parts of us. Still, even at its best, it is an imperfect offering.
In the last ten years, I reconnected with a dear one from my childhood—a friendship born through years of sleeping over, jumping rope, riding bikes and crushing on boys.
My friend lived in a beautiful house. Her family was well to do, and sometimes I wished I could be like her. But there were things about her home I didn’t know back then because sometimes kids hide the ugly parts from each other.
I never knew her father belittled her. I never knew he told her he couldn’t stand to hear her laugh, and so she quit laughing. I didn’t know she was afraid to talk about the things that scared her because she was afraid she would be ridiculed. I didn’t know how desperately she longed to get out of her home.
She married out of college and soon found herself in a marriage that was less than perfect. She had two beautiful children and moved through life much like a single mom—with a mostly absent and extremely controlling husband.
There was stress, and my friend reacted the way her father reacted to her. She yelled to get her children to be compliant. Her default was set to it. It was a response so tangled up with her childhood, she wondered if she would be able to extricate herself from it. And she hated it—hated she was repeating the exact thing that devastated her as a child.
In the midst of the instability, her oldest, a son, started kindergarten.
On the first day of school, my friend dropped her little girl off at the sitter’s house, and then headed toward the school. She noted her son was unusually quiet in the backseat.
As she parked the car, her little boy said this.
I don’t think I can behave all day every day. What if I go to the principal’s office because I can’t be good?
My friend knew it was an unlikely scenario because her boy would do anything to avoid getting in trouble.
And you know what my friend did—my friend who had been beaten down with words so many times as a little girl?
She listened because all the sudden, in that minute, nothing mattered more to her than her scared little boy—and her heart inclined toward him in the tenderest way. She knew what it felt like for a parent to trivialize fears. She listened because she was so proud her little boy—at once both young and wise—could name his fear and confront it on that morning. How brave he was. She’d never managed to be quite so brave.
She turned around in her seat and looked her precious son in the eyes and she prayed God would give her good and wise words. And he did because he’s good like that.
No one expects you to be perfect. No one has ever been perfect, except for Jesus. You don’t have to worry.
My friend—who didn’t know a moment in childhood when she wasn’t worried about upsetting her father—spoke the exact words she longed to hear as a child.
You don’t have to worry.
If you do ever end up in the principal’s office, I’ll love you no matter what.
A lifetime of fear and worry was woven through my friend’s soul, and it had begun to take root in her children. She ripped it from the ground that very morning right there in the middle of a school parking lot with one simple phrase.
I’ll love you no matter what.
And as my friend spoke those words to her son, God spoke those same words to her.
And it was healing balm.
It was the beginning. My friend found a mentor in another mother—she watched and learned. She prayed hard. It took some doing, but my mama friend got healthy and strong and she led her children to that place, too. She showed them what it looked like to rise up from the ashes.
There are days, aren’t there Mamas? There are days when you would like “overs”. Days when it feels like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders—when you feel too tired and too powerless to rise above your bent toward impatience, irritation and worry. And here’s the thing. We all have them—those kinds of days.
Look around you.
See the mom who is always put together and the one who is always disheveled. See the mom who seems always happy and the mom who seems worn down most days. See the mom who lives in the big house and the mom who lives in the little place in need of some paint. See the mom with the big career, the mom waiting tables, and the mom who stays home with the kids. See the mom whose kids excel and the mom whose kids struggle. See the mom whose kids are grown and who wishes she could redo some of the parts.
See them all and know this truth. There are sides to them you don’t see. Hidden sides.
On occasion all of us have turned out the light, crawled into our beds and cried into our pillows without making a sound—an art most mamas execute to perfection.
Because mothering is hard and soft, lovely and unsightly, joyful and heartbreaking. Mothering is all of it, all mashed together. It stretches us until we think we will break, but we don’t because you know what?
WE ARE ELASTIC. We bounce back. It’s our super power.
And I have something else to tell you.
It’s about my friend. In the most beautiful turn of events she started laughing again. She laughs all the time now. She laughs loudly and uniquely. When she laughs, it’s contagious. Her laugh turns heads. It is the most beautiful kind of music to me. But forget me, it is the most beautiful kind of music to her.
Because she remembers how hard she fought to find it again.