A few nights ago I was going through our digital pictures on the computer. I have to do this because I’m pretty sure we’ve never actually printed out any of our pictures. It’s on one of my to-do lists to-do when my kids are a bit bigger and I have more time. Whenever that might be.
It was such a lovely walk down memory lane. It made my heart sad and glad, all at the same time. Looking at my children when they were super little. Oh, how my uterus screams for more. I really do wish I could have one more cuddly little baby. One more birth. Oh how I miss those days. (Don’t feel bad for me. I knew I was done after three BEFORE I had cancer, so I’m not blaming cancer on this one)
One thing I noticed about the pictures of my children from before I had cancer is how nicely they were dressed and how they always had their hair brushed, pulled in to cute pony tails and their and how their clothes matched. They looked….well, almost perfect.
I barely remember those days.
And just today I was laughing to myself because this is how lunch went for the kids went:
I looked in the fridge. I looked for something healthy. I gave healthy options. Meleah wanted green beans. This request was semi-healthy, but from the can, not so sure. I had leftover green beans. I heated up leftover green beans and found some leftover french fries from the night before to go with them. She was happy. I was happy, no clean up. Paper plates.
So then, she eats three bites of each and announces she’s done. She leaves the table.
Here’s where Elijah, child number three comes in. He walks to the table, looks at his sisters leftover, leftovers and asks if this is his meal. I say “it’s sissy’s, but you can have it.” He says “Yay!” and he sits down and starts shoveling everything in. A three for the price of one meal. I like this.
Here’s a picture of him.
This could be a whole discussion about boys, and I’m quite sure he will be our dinner garbage pail as he grows older, but the point I’m trying to make here as a parent is: “lighten up”
I’m not even talking about discipline really, I’m talking about how we reflect our perfectionism on to our kids. Sure, we want our kids to grow up to dress appropriately, smell like they take bath’s and have at least some manners. But maybe sometimes we go overboard on it.
I call this transformation in my life “the before and after cancer transformation.” I find it totally evident in my parenting. I’m pretty sure if you asked Charis, my oldest, she would agree. I think she can remember how worked up about things I would get. I wanted her dressed perfect, her hair perfect. And I expected this all from a highly ADHD child. Oh my, was I a wreck then.
I insisted they eat perfect food, and although I’m still quite crunchy, I’ve even lighten’ed up there as well….obviously since my kiddo’s were eating french fries!
I still struggle with the perfect image. I take it really hard if I think someone is being critical of my parenting. This is why, even though I’m opinionated about parenting, I try to be understanding rather than judgmental. Parents are different and so are children. Most of my judgment is directed towards so-called parenting guru’s that insist on having it all figured out. I roll my eyes when I see titles that insinuate you can change your child in a week….yeah, and totally break their spirit while you’re at it! Or that your child can be happier than all the rest. And don’t get me started on the notible inexistence of books on parenting written by moms in mainstream media. Ummm….hmmm….sir, did you stay home with your children, and THAT’S why you can write this book with authority? Probably not. This only serves to depress parents (and moms) who don’t get the response they were looking or hoping for. It’s a pipe dream that can’t be met. We’re asking children to be adults and they are not.
We can all want the perfect baby and the perfect child, but it probably isn’t going to happen. Perfect children are rare and are usually only witnessed by friends of perfect parents (as in….wow, your child seems perfect.). Or, in some cases, they have been broken in to perfection because they have no choice in the matter. Which usually backfires in the long run. A child that is afraid will either learn to be sneaky or be really bad decision makers as adults.
And you know, since this realization hit me, it has been so freeing as a parent. I love more, and I feel loved more. The anxiety has decreased which means my stress level is operational. I have more fun with my children. We are all healthier.
Cancer has helped me focus on bigger issues and to let go of the smaller ones.
So Elijah is allowed to get extra dirty and wet when playing outside. Clothes don’t really matter and if they can’t get dirty, you spent too much. I am required to come see whatever he is doing these days. He insists on showing me everything. Standing on his head, connecting trains, something cool on the computer. I must stop whatever I’m doing. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
And Meleah never ever matches when she dresses, and even though I have claimed Sunday as a “mommy-pick-day” it usually doesn’t happen. Or I go pick her dress and then she picks tights and shoes to go with it, which totally defeats the purpose of a “mommy-pick-day.” I just try to remember she’s my budding “fashionista.”
And Charis. Oh my sweet Charis. She plays more with boys than she does with girls now because she’s a tomboy who doesn’t like sports I guess…..if there is such a thing. She’s my sweet, cute, blond, ADHD child who passes out sunshine like it’s candy. She finds treasures in everything and turns them in to art. She will get on her hands and knees in stores to find the treasures hidden under the shelves.
And instead of blowing a fuse. I just say over and over and over again. “Please get up off the floor sweetie.”
One day she will decide it is really not cool to crawl around on her hands and knee’s. But until then, I will continue to remind her.
And I’m not the only one who says “quit being a perfectionist.” God wants us to “de-stress” too. I have taken liberties if you don’t mind. Here’s what Matthew 6:31-33 says:
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you (your kids), take pride in you (your kids), do his best for you (your kids)? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
And isn’t that how it is. We’re worried about getting the perfect kids. He’s already given us the perfect kids.