As a parent do you ever feel like your parenting journey is being ranked and judged? Though unintentional, I've found that we in society quickly compare our kids to those around us. It can even start in pregnancy. We mothers start to debate over who had the worst morning sickness or the quickest delivery, and of course, who went drug free vs. who had to endure a C-section. Then our children are born and it's about birth weight, APGAR scores and gender.
The Comparison Trap
As our kids grow we tend to compare milestones and fret constantly over whether our own babies are "keeping up". Babies who crawl at 5 months or walk before a year are called advanced and parents proudly boast about it, while the other parents of infants who are still trying to roll over, remain silent hoping no-one notices. It really isn’t intended to be a contest, but despite our best intentions, these comparisons do happen and leave us feeling either prideful or sad and discouraged. Neither is healthy and it’s not what God wants for our families.
Our children are unique and precious gifts, beautifully designed by God with their own path ahead of them, but from birth to college society puts certain expectations on children for them to be deemed successful. Instead of seeing children as having unique personalities that will make them grow and succeed in their own ways, we incorrectly label our children's individualities as strengths and weaknesses.
If a toddler is smiley and bubbly, they are praised for being friendly and "easy", while another who cries while being left at daycare, is called clingy and a "handful". Perhaps a young child loves to have books read to them while their sibling would prefer to run and jump around. The eldest will be predicted to become a great reader, while the sibling will need extra help to catch up or be called the athlete of the pair. The blonde haired, blue eyed daughter is constantly called the "beauty" while the younger less striking son is called "smart".
Without realizing it we are placing these damaging labels on our children, either praising or condemning them, not because they are doing something wrong or right, but simply because of how God made them.
Struggle vs. Sin
All of us are born sinful, and each of us will struggle with some sins more than others. My eldest son likes to be the centre of attention and will whine to demand our attention while my youngest will give big temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. These are sin struggles and through discipline, prayer, and love we are working to guide and correct them, ultimately pointing them to Christ who is the only one who can change their hearts. These are just some of their "weaknesses".
However in contrast, my youngest child is just shy of 4 years old and he is not fully potty trained. At two and a half, we began the potty training process but it was clear that even with signs of “readiness” he still needed time. Another six months went by and we tried again with a different strategy and still, there was no success. Halfway through being 3, we were starting to get concerned about it so we pushed very hard using every trick in the book, but no matter what we did it was not happening. As he is now turning 4 and is signed up for Junior Kindergarten in the fall, I’ve found myself obsessing over his potty training. I called his doctor and after her reassuring me that it would happen when he was ready I still had that guilty feeling that he was “behind”. I unknowingly labeled him negatively based on something that was totally out of his control.
It’s hard for any parent to think their child isn’t where they should be for their developmental stage. Everyone knows that being different opens the door to potentially a lot of struggle and hurt. We all want our children to be “normal” and to feel included and accepted, but God has shown me that I cannot let my fears spill over and put a burden on my kids that they are not meant to carry.
I will not apologize for my son not being potty trained and I won’t put a label on him because of it. I am doing everything I can as his mom to help him reach this stage, but I will not condemn this struggle as a weakness that must be fixed, but instead as a goal I am helping him to achieve. He is not less or weak or behind, he is my incredible, deeply loved, passionate little boy who is a miracle created by God with his own biological timeline.
As parents, we are meant to set high standards for our kids: standards of morality, integrity, character, and love. We are to show them right from wrong, love them unconditionally and help them see the need for Jesus to rescue them from the sinfulness in their hearts, but we must be careful to not confuse healthy expectations with societal standards that aren’t even in our children’s control.
A Godly Perspective
I’m learning to let go of the need to try to control circumstances in order to create a desired outcome, and instead surrender it all up to God. He and He alone knows my child’s future and the only way I can be a godly parent is by trusting Him every single day and obeying His word. Trusting in Him frees us from the pride and discouragement we feel when we look at our children and compare them to others. He helps us to stop focusing on things that have no eternal value like how quickly they learn to ride a bike or how good-looking they are. We can rest in the knowledge that God has a plan for our children’s lives and that He is guiding their steps.
Whether your child is still learning to walk, speak coherently or is a beauty pageant winner, they are exactly who God created them to be. Ditch the labels and instead pour truth over your little one, reminding them everyday that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
Kids are many things. They are hard work, messy, expensive, and of course bundles of joy. They transform your life and throw you unprepared into the storm of parenting. It is our job to love them, care for them, point them to Christ and try not to kill them in the process.
Sometimes as a parent I get overwhelmed by the crushing responsibility of raising a hard working, respectful, and (Lord-willing), Christ following adult. Not to mention an adult others actually want to be around. I read countless parenting books, blogs, listen to sermons, devour my Bible and pray. Oh man do I pray! Only He can truly shape my kids, so I beg Him for that daily!
I can get so focused on shaping my child, that I end up seeing them as just lumps of clay. Instead of little humans with personalities, likes and dislikes, who deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else.
I'm a passionate mom. I believe parenting is not something to be taken lightly or passively. Loving, disciplined, well adjusted children then adults do not just happen. We need to be passionate. We need to use our wisdom, unique skills, and resources to step up to the plate and proactively PARENT our kids.
That being said, too much of anything...well you know the saying. Yesterday I got a dose of humbling from my oldest son and it reminded me that my kids are not just mini-me's that need to be turned from sinners to saints. They are incredible little people who see, hear, and absorb the world around them and are certainly not meant to be "seen and not heard".
I have Chronic Illness. Several conditions that can, on a good day, leave me with chronic pain and fatigue to bad days when I'm hospitalized and fighting for my life. Being a parent while managing Chronic Illness is HARD. Some days I handle my limits with patience and grace, and other days not so much. Yesterday I woke up on the extremely grumpy side of the bed. Literally snipping and lecturing my son just because he dared to crawl into bed with me for a snuggle. I spent the next few hours whining about my messy house, saying no to anything the boys asked for, and burying myself in my phone. Out of habit, I grabbed my Bible and prayer journal but I had absolutely no desire to use them. I was in pain and tired. I deserved to pout.
I knew my attitude sucked so I skimmed through the Psalms and read the devotional accompanying it. No change. I let the boys watch a tales (movie) so I could spend time writing in my prayer journal and wait for my mood to disappear. Nope.
Now feeling grumpy, tired, in pain and frustrated, I sent out a text to a dear friend who I knew would pray for me.
*Do you have someone in your life that you KNOW will stop what they are doing and pray? It's an incredible blessing.* - (If not, contact me in the Resource tab to connect about prayer)
I didn't get a response but I knew her, and I knew she was praying. My mood did lift a bit and the morning went on. While making lunch I nicked myself on a knife and the pity party started all over again. With a huge sigh I handed the kids their lunch and without even thinking I asked my 5 year old to pray for me. Realizing that it was a kind of vague and random thing to ask your 5 year old, I was expecting him to ignore me or at least ask why.
Instead, without hesitation he jumps right into a prayer asking Jesus to take away Mommy's bad attitude so we could have a good day. Also asking that I would feel Jesus closely and of course thanking Him for the macaroni and cheese.
It was a simple, humble, honest prayer that shattered me right then and there. I cried and laughed at the same time and sat down to my own lunch with a huge smile on my face.
I don't know what amazed me most; seeing my son display authentic childlike faith, my attitude completely changing, or the fact that he didn't need to ask me what to pray for! I was such a grumpy whiny mess that he already knew what I desperately needed. A heart change.
While I fumbled around all morning stuck in self pity and trying to use God as a vending machine, my sweet boy who saw EVERYTHING showed me compassion and didn't hesitate for an instant to go to the Father for help. There was no "if it be your will..." in his prayer, nor was there reservation or fancy wording. It was an act of genuine, humble faith. It was an act of love, for his Mommy and for God.
I can honestly say, his prayer was answered. As I humbly apologized to both my boys for the whole morning and for my sinful behaviour, I praised God deeply within my heart. Not only were they eager to forgive me but Gabriel could hardly wait to tell Daddy that God "fixed" Mommy.
Yes, He did indeed.
Gabriel and Elisha (pronounced El-iii-sha) are my baby boys. My two miracles.
We found out we were pregnant with our firstborn around our 1 year anniversary. At only 23, I was a very young mom by today's standards but I didn't care. I was thrilled. However, I soon learned pregnancy and parenthood is not the walk in the park I had envisioned.
I grew up watch 19 Kids and Counting. I enjoyed watching them live out their faith through life's ups and downs. While I didn't agree with everything they said or did, I admired their convictions and love for children and their seemingly always united, happy family. I wanted that picture perfect family life too. Not having the easiest childhood, I had all these high expectations and fantasies on what motherhood should look like and what ours was going to be, starting with pregnancy. I was going to have a totally healthy and enjoyable pregnancy and it would be such a wonderful experience with cute maternity outfits and baby showers. Birth would be a tough but magical (not to mention fairly pain free) experience, and we would walk off into the sunset as a perfectly happy family, living a wonderful life for Jesus.
Let's just say, I got a rude awakening.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum - Or known also as EXTREME morning sickness, that lasts all day, all night, and all pregnancy.
It wasn't an exaggeration to say I couldn't keep air down. Shortly after the stick turned pink, the nausea grew worse and worse. I knew morning sickness was common for the first little while but this was way more than a bit of nausea and the occasional vomiting. Nothing could keep my stomach from turning and I ended up in the hospital (first of many trips) at only 7 weeks pregnant, for complete dehydration. They give you this supposedly successful nausea medication for pregnant women called Diclectin, but I might as well have eaten smarties. Gravol? Nope, that didn't work either. Ginger-ale? Peppermint tea/oils? Motion sickness bracelets? You name it, I tried it.
I was working part time as a youth pastor, and did my best to keep up with all my usual responsibilities but constantly needing a barf bag made things difficult. The only thing that helped was a medication that is normally given to cancer patients receiving chemo, to deal with the nausea. It was a wonderful relief, but having no healthcare coverage meant we had to buy it out of pocket and it was extremely expensive.
So, we did our best and I learned very soon that although some women have very easy pregnancies, mine was most certainly not going to be. When pregnant, your hormones go nuts, and you cry at the drop of a hat. You crave corn dogs (eat 6 in one sitting) then throw them up for the next 2 hours. You lose all dignity at the doctor's office, including weighing yourself in front of the entire waiting room. Complications arise like Cholestasis (liver issues), chronic illness flare ups, and the need for a c-section. Your back constantly aches, you cant sleep without an expensive body pillow, giant veins pop out, you pee every hour, you're completely exhausted and after that first "He's kicking!" experience, you feel like a wrestler is trying to rip open your stomach.
That all said, pregnancy is truly a miracle and a gift. I'd do it all again, even my second pregnancy which was far WORSE than my first. There are so many women who cry at night for the baby they'll never carry in their womb, or the ones they've lost. My heart breaks for those families and for ones desperately spending thousands on fertility drugs, waiting and hoping to receive a positive test. Dear sisters if that is you right now I am so sorry for this hard path you are on and I pray you will feel the comfort God has for you and to trust in His love. I can't know your pain but I cry and pray along side you, as we live in this broken world with so much heartache. I know it's not fair why some things do or don't happen, but I also know that Jesus can and will fill any void if we open our heart to Him.
I thank God every day for my children, and I pray I never take for granted what a miracle they are. That someone with so many health struggles could conceive, carry and birth two healthy babies. It wasn't easy, in fact with Elisha both of us almost died, but we trusted God to know the timing of if or when to have babies. We trusted that although everything seemed to be completely backwards from what I'd hoped, God knew what He was doing.
There are many things I learned through pregnancy and my two births, but looking back, one of the first lessons I needed to understand was that parenting is hard work. This is not something you do passively. This is a calling that requires great sacrifice. Those 9 months pushed me to new and harder limits. I can look back now and smile at my days of carrying a bucket around and begging Adrian for another back massage to ease the discomfort, but I know God was doing far more behind the scenes. Growing me spiritually, mentally, (and physically) to be able to be the mom I need to be. I'm not there yet. Not by a long shot, but I can see those were the first baby steps God used to shed some of my selfishness.
My babies are not babies anymore. We are in full on toddler days, filled with tantrums, learning and fun. I love discovering how as they grow physically and mentally, I'm growing too. From the first moment of conception, to the minute we take our last breath, God uses parenthood to shape us, use us, and sanctify us. It's an honour and a privilege to be Mommy to these two boys. By God's grace, I pray I'll one day grow into the woman, wife, and mom I'm called to be, all to the Glory of God.
There is no perfect pregnancy, perfect family, or perfect life, but there is a perfect God who takes the hardships and turns them into blessings. He is the author of our stories and the perfecter of our faith. In all the messiness of life and all the mistakes I make in motherhood, I rejoice knowing I'm being parented by the perfect Father, and I can trust in Him.
Author - Erin
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.