Friday, July 18, 2014

The Second Half

I've heard an interesting fact. About sports. That's not really my thing, but it stuck with me. Coaching football or soccer (and I would assume many other sports) in the first half of the game is different than it is after half-time. The decisions are a little more carefully weighed, even if it's not intentional. The psychology behind it is that there is, relatively speaking, a lot of time left so the part of the brain that makes the decisions takes it's time processing and comparing outcomes of different strategies. In the second half, of course, decisions are still made as carefully as possible. But often in the presence of increased adrenaline, coaching decisions are made quicker and on more gut feeling than statistics. The coaches get to know the players' abilities on that given day, they got to know the opposing team and the weather. The decisions made begin to better reflect the current situation rather than "the plan". The coaches, in a sense, feel and live the game a bit more, rather than coach it on paper.

This sounds a a lot like motherhood.

It's an interesting thing: new motherhood. It's exciting and frightening. There's no other feeling quite like knowing that there is another life inside. A first pregnancy and a first newborn give  way to so many questions and hopes...and fears. The labor, the breast or bottle, not sleeping, baby foods, not sleeping, finger foods, vaccinations, not sleeping, teething, colic, reflux, more not mostly feels like a blur, and for some, the first year of a wee one's life can feel so very exhausting and overwhelming.

It's true though. You know, what all the old ladies in the supermarket say, "it goes too fast"or "treasure this phase, you'll miss it". When those old ladies are commenting over shrieks in the cereal isle, it's tough not to wonder if it's a little senility talking. I remember too well crying on nights my baby just wouldn't sleep. I remember crying on days where he just wouldn't nap. I remember fighting with my husband about who's more sleep deprived. I remember worrying about how much they ate, whether the constant fussiness was colic or a milk allergy, whether I'd ever sleep through the night again. I remember just not knowing if we were doing it right. Doing anything right.

But I do miss it.

And that's not just something moms with older kids say. It did go much too fast. I'd be giddy to go back to a sleepless night and scoop up a bundle of warmth and just rock. To know it doesn't last forever, to have come through it and seen that I won't die from sleep deprivation, to know it matters very little whether my baby had finger foods at 9 months or never (until he used a fork, then it's not really finger foods is it?) helps a mom to see all the beauty in those short years.

My youngest is 9. He has 9 more years to go until 18. My oldest is 11. In that same 9 years he'll be 20. That thought struck me recently. It's a thought that makes me sad and excited. I'd take more babes in a heart beat if that's what God had for me, but since He hasn't so far, this is where I am. And it's pretty cool. I have parented both my boys for roughly a decade. The lessons that I've learned are ones I sometimes wish I could talk back and apply to those years of worry and wondering and reading ever single bit of parenting advice I could find. I've noticed that this second half makes me always acutely aware of the end of the game. Sure I'll always be mom, but someday I'll be mom to people who live in another house married to someone who will someday be called mom. I'm finding myself living more of my life, making decisions on how well I know my child instead of what some renowned author says. I've gotten the feel of the game and the players and I'm making choices based on experience rather what's supposed to happen.

May I share just a few insights I'm gleaned from this game of motherhood?

I've learned that looking my sons in the eye is important well beyond the infant years. Gazing at the face of my kid does much to show him he's loved and valued. Many mom's know that babies need this gaze, that's it's good for their brains. And their eye sight, when they're new, reaches just the right distance from mama's arm to her face when the baby is nursing. But children don't out grow this need. When my son is having a hard time or just telling a story, just me seeing him so often is just what he needs.

I've learned that plans are really just ideas. Be flexible.

I've learned that discipline techniques should probably never be taken out of books. Every single child is different. Many different approaches are effective. Sometimes and for some seasons no approach appears effective. It's never wrong during a meltdown or rebellion to err on the side of listening to your child while you yourself practice patience. Setting limits for your child is good. Showing your child you can apply limits to your own self and your own reactions is exponentially better.

I've learned that space and time and effort is needed if we're going to have access to our children's hearts.

I've learned that they will always have bad days here and there (I know I do). They will always struggle with making good choices to some extent (again, still something I struggle with). They will doubt themselves, be full of themselves, be completely lovable or difficult to love---all depending on the day (or the minute). But when they know your love doesn't change depending on their behavior, they learn their self worth doesn't come from what they do, but from who they are {yours}....

...That last one leads me to maybe the most important lesson I've learned as I entered this second half: I have the ability to show my kids Who God is and who they are in Him. Part of me used to think that kids can just be kids and behavioral choices didn't always have to be linked to their spirituality. But in the past ten years I've come to know that everything we do, all of who we are is related to our relationship with Him. And one of our very first and most important responsibilities in parenting should be related to this because their self worth, their attitudes towards others, their hopes and dreams all can be colored by knowing where they come from and for what they are made. Of course it takes life experience, practice, and patience to begin to walk the way we should, but when a child knows why right is right and wrong is wrong and just what he means to God, it helps His world line up the way it should. It's a walk and a process requiring patience and much repetition, one that needs to begin at conception (or right now, which ever is sooner).

As I am very wary of parenting advice these days I'll be careful what I pass on, but this piece of wisdom has rung in my head everyday for years...

"Love is patient. Parenting is this gentle way of bending over in humility to help the scraped child up, because we intimately know it takes a lifetime to learn how to walk with Him. Patience. Love always begins with patience."  Ann Voskamp

A lifetime. A lifetime to learn how to follow Him. Each step we teach our children to take with Him will lead them further on the only journey that matters. We can show our children each day and little by little the very lavish love of God and His expectations and plans for our lives.

 And in this second half I can do this just a little bit better. I've gotten to know the players. I can live and feel the game. I'll grow with them and learn with them, I'll play according to experience instead of formulaic advice and make each play count. Because, relatively speaking, each day brings us closer to the end of the game.


  1. This post reminds me of multiple things, especially the sports analogy. I believe it's accurate and relevant. However, I am also reminded of a poem called "Children Learn What They Live". I'm certain you're familiar with it....

    1. I am familiar with it. The premise is lovely. It's the application that gets tricky :)


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