Monday, August 8, 2011

Parent Trap

Do you ever stop to wonder...who ARE these people? The ones who write the books and the blogs and the websites? They have perfect homes, perfect walks with God, perfect marriages, perfect wardrobes, perfect craftiness, perfect household management skills, perfect homeschools, perfect children? And they're ever so eager to tell you how you can be perfect, too.

It doesn't matter WHAT the topic is. Discipline. Sleeping. Feeding. Vaccinations. Schooling. Parenthood brings out the armchair pediatrician, the well meaning know-it-all, the would-be educator and/or the activist in all of us. Why? I haven't quite figured that out. All I know is that whenever I have a question about ANYTHING, there are 20 people lined up to tell me their way of doing things, and as many blogs telling me THOSE people are wrong.

What's a new parent to do? It's easy to get caught up in, "Well so and so said this," or "such and such method worked for her" and, "according to Dr. Blah Blah, I DEFINITELY don't want to do THAT!"

Friends, it's a trap. And I fall into it, ALL.THE.TIME. The devil sure doesn't have to get very creative with me. The same trick works again and again.

I'm desperate to do things correctly, and well. I always have been. I'm a bad combination of the very "Christian" sins of people pleaser, perfectionist, cautious, and anti-confrontational (no, really, I am, despite the fact that I can get riled up in writing). When you add my son to the mix, it's a deadly combination because I now have someone whose life depends on me. And all too often, I take that to the step that says "whose life depends on how well I do or don't do this or that." The reality of it is? I'll screw up. A lot. I already have screwed up. And the Enemy likes to distract the absolute joy that is parenting for me by playing on my fears and weaknesses. My mind fills with what ifs?

Most recently, it was with foods. What foods should I give him first? How long do I wait before introducing a new one? If I start with sweets first, will he grow addicted to them? If I start with carbs first, will they fill his belly with empty calories. If I do it too early, will it set him up for allergies? Why is he unhappy today? Is it because he's reacting to the food I gave him yesterday or is he just having an "off" day?

But it doesn't stop there. Am I holding him enough? Am I properly helping him to sleep well? Did I give him the correct vaccines? Am I stimulating his intellectual growth properly? When I hold him upside down by his ankles (which he loves), am I hurting him? Does he feel neglected when I have to spend some time doing the dishes or folding the laundry or vacuuming instead of playing with him? On and on and on it goes!

And when I have a question, it's so easy for me to go to Dr. Google! Dr. Google has an answer for everything! Actually, the "perfect" parents have an answer for everything, and Dr. Google just helps me find them.

And to make the problem even more complex, every time I think I DO have something figured out, something changes, leaving me to desperately try to determine if it's because the method I had decided on was wrong, or if he's simply outgrown it.

Do you see the madness? If you do, you're quicker than I am, because I'm just now starting to see the real depth of it. The Devil doesn't need to distract me with a lot. Chasing my tail keeps me occupied for hours! And how clever that he's disguised it in the very virtuous thing of loving my son and wanting to care for him to the best of my ability.

But you know what? Matthew's life doesn't depend on me. His health doesn't depend on me. His happiness doesn't depend on me. His character doesn't depend on me. What I should be focused on is pointing Him to Jesus, on Whom those things all really do depend. Matthew 6 tells us:

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Why is it so hard for me to grasp that these things are true for Matthew, too? If I spent half as much time praying over him and his eternal health as I do fretting over his earthly well being, both he and I would be better off. And there is the beauty of grace. Though I forget, Jesus does not. He loves my sweet boy even when I fail to continually surrender him to Him. And He loves him so much better than I.

And as my friend pointed out tonight, God chose Matthew for us. For whatever reason, God decided that we were the best and correct parents for Matthew. Just as He chose you to be the best parents for your child(ren). What other resume or skill set do we need? The God on High recommended us for our jobs! Why do I so quickly forget that?

The reality of it is, Matthew is going to live out his number of God-ordained days in spite of me. Whether I wrap him in bubble wrap, or throw caution to the wind, the number of His days is chosen by God. Whether I feed him sweet potatoes or pears, God's hand sustains and grows him. Whether he learns to sleep now, or not until he's an old man, God will grant him rest. Though I can do all I can to assure him of my love for him, only God's love is truly unfailing. God is MY parent. He is the perfect role model and equipper for this job He's given to me. And when I look in on His life, character, and word? It actually IS perfect.

I need to learn to rest in that. Those of you who know me know that I don't at all mean that we should abdicate our personal responsibility, the use of the resources and intellect God has placed within our grasp, or careful thought in all our decisions. I don't think we ought be fatalistic, or haphazard. It's not even that I think we ought not share our experiences and help with each other when and where it's warranted. However, if you're like me, you're far more tempted to become enslaved to those things than you are to abandon them. And yet, both habits are sin! Thankfully, if we confess our sins, HE is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). So, I confess that I spend too much time worrying, and not enough time praying. Too much time reading Dr. Google and not enough time reading the Word of Life. How gracious is God to reveal these things to me! And I'm pretty sure He'll need to reveal them to me again infinitely more times, yet I know in faith that in His infinite patience, He will! Where is our heart for the gospel? I wish I could say I spent as much time concerned about it as I do about, well...lots of other things. Filling Matthew's life and heart with the gospel will benefit him far more than anything else I can do, even if I did all the rest of it with absolute perfection.

Don't be tempted by the sin of perfection. I'm pretty sure that behind the prettiness of the mommy blogger lives, they have their own battles they're fighting. I'm confident that for every question they have a ready answer for, another sits unanswered in their minds. The truth of it is that we should be constantly pointing each other toward the cross, toward prayer, and toward He who sustains us all, rather than toward checklists, books, and causes. We ought do less advising and more exhorting and sharpening.

Advice and friends and books and research are are helpful to a point. But at the end of the day, I can try every suggestion in the book for every possible parenting scenario I encounter. But God is the One who is ultimately capable and willing to actually effect change! And you know what? He cares about my sweet potatoes and pears! How awesome is THAT?

This post stems today because we're having a rough time with Matthew's eating. His growth has slowed way down (beyond a normal plateau for breastfed babies), and in the past few days, he's started losing weight. I was struggling because I wondered if his recent fussiness was due to him being hungry and I just didn't realize it. That sent me into a nasty cycle of worry and mommy-guilt. We stayed in today to try a re-training baby bootcamp for his nursing and it failed miserably. We do need some professional help, but that's ok! I just have to keep my heart fixed on the fact that this isn't a surprise to God, that He ultimately has a solution, and that He will bring us through this and to it. Fretting isn't going to get me there any faster. Chasing down every internet link I can find with every possible idea isn't going to help me abide this journey in more peace and trust.

So, I would ask for your prayers for the feeding situation with Matthew. With PCOS, it is possible that I am having supply issues. It could be that he's just exercised a lot of his weight off with all his bouncing. It could be the way he feeds. It's also possible that he's just going through a growth spurt and both our bodies have to adjust. There are a million scenarios and I'm sure that with some help, we will get to the bottom of it. God has graciously given us the resources to be able to find some professional help, a network of sweet friends who have been through troubles and had some names to recommend to us, and the freedom of time for me to essentially go wherever or do whatever is determined needs to be done. In those things alone, I am already abundantly blessed. And if nothing else works, I also live in a Valley full of capable doctors, and in a country with grocery stores that sell formula substitutes. I know that before I have any answers at all, I have far more than many other parents around the world and for that I am grateful.

So, the bigger prayer request is for my peace and trust in this and all things Matthew. Parenting him is so easily my spiritual cryptonite. Every time I think I've finally hit my stride and am doing ok with things, a monkey wrench sends me back to my old "friends" named fear and worry. I wish I could break up with those guys. In my head I say, "I'm just not that in to you," but my track record shows that in my heart, I am.

I hope you're encouraged, your challenged, or even in enough disagreement with to think on this farther. And if you're not, that's ok, too. Thanks for reading though, as typing through this has helped me.

I am daughter to the most Perfect and Holy Father, wife to an amazing and wonderful husband, and mommy to the most delightful boy. I am blessed.

Blessings, love, grace, and the peace of Christ to all of you!

A very imperfect mommy blogger


  1. I read a ton of mommy blogs, and while they can be inspiring, they can also induce utter despair! Sometimes I have had to stay away from them just because of that very fact. :)

  2. I like lots of mommy blogs - and I understand keeping failures private and just posting about successes - but boy I think you're right on about the spiritual trap. It's so easy for to get so wound up in anxiety that I miss the here-and-now duty.

    I think we do due diligence (and it's probably less than research-happy people like me think), pray, make a decision, and then just do it, ignoring all the "but, maybe" and "are you sure?" nagging thoughts.

    I always find it helpful, when making a decision, to pray something like, "Lord, this is what seems best to me, so I'm going to do it, but if you want me to do something else, please make it clear to me." And then I go and do it, but try to keep an open heart to the Lord, so I can hear any corrections He has to offer me. It helps a lot to lay it before Him like that, I find. You just have to decide at some point. Especially since - you're right again - we can't control the ends. We do our best to choose the means, and leave the ends in God's hands. He can hold them with more care and love than we ever could anyway.