I’m no football fanatic, but I do love the game. College game day, the smell of autumn leaves, sweaters, and all things pumpkin bring a joy to my soul that is deep and gives me all the feels. I’m actually fairly impressed with the little knowledge that I do have, I usually root for the underdog, unless my alma mater is playing, and I have ESPN on in the background while I’m cleaning on Saturdays. Even when I’m alone. Personally, I think it’s a cool thing I’ve got going. But every so often, I watch desperate teams, in the final seconds of the game, make desperate attempts to score when losing is just seconds away. These “Hail Mary” attempts always intrigue me. On very rare occasions, it works, and the crowd goes wild because the comeback of all comebacks has just occurred. More often than not, all of these receivers that have run down the field, straight for the end zone, know the ball is “up for grabs” and chances are slim. Like a last-ditch effort to save themselves from a certain loss.
I’m going to be pretty transparent here. I’m growing tired of my last-ditch efforts at what being a mom could be. Like I’ve waited till the last seconds of the game and realized I’m going to close my eyes and throw the ball in hopes that one of my kids catch it and we can celebrate with ice cream like we did when they were little. Frankly, there are days that I feel like I’m losing more than I’m winning. My record is less than impressive and I’m for sure not in the play-offs. Are there “plays” that I would have called differently? Absolutely. Should I have called some time-outs instead of continuing the game? For sure. Should I have passed the ball when I should have run it in? Yes. Can I go back and re-play a game? No. Unfortunately, no.
This is where I find myself today. For every Hail Mary I threw, there were a lot of plays I got right. And there are countless mom duties that have no playbook for us. No one is on the sideline telling us where to run, who or what to block, how to defend our kids when they need it most, and I see nobody bringing us a cool drink to refresh our weary souls when we are exhausted.
First of all, I do not claim to be an expert on parenting. Oh my goodness, no. That’s a whole other blog by itself. It’s truly a miracle that they survived. But for me, and my longing to have raised five children whose identity is in Christ, not the world, who don’t let their mistakes define them, but refine them, and who have endured many years of a half-crazed mother, allow me to share what I would have done differently. I’m pretty sure my Hail Mary passes would have been fewer in number. My last ditch efforts to impart Godly wisdom as they run out the door to college in the final seconds of the game could have been avoided. Friends, don’t beat yourself up. You are amazing mothers. You may have the chance to be an amazing mom, someday. I firmly believe that Jesus knows that we are doing our best. And He is smiling because of it. So call out to Him when you’re stuck. When you’ve no earthly clue how you can possibly cut up another small plate of food for another toddler. When you’ve washed the seventh load of laundry before noon. When there’s not one matching sock in any child’s dresser. It is okay. I’m done being hard on myself. Now that my kids are older, minus my 8-year old who has been known to eat only PBJ’s for a solid week, because it’s not a hill I choose to die on, cut yourself some slack. Slow down. Take it all in. Breathe deep. And remember, God made babies adorable so you forget that you aren’t sleeping. Maybe if I’d stopped and followed my own advice, I’d realize that the time God gives us with our kids is so very short. You blink, and they are gone. Let’s just all resolve this truth right now. “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.” (Ephesians 6:13, The Message, MSG). One day, they become beautiful adults that you hardly recognize. And we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, we simply can’t. So allow me to share my list. You may have one, as well. If so, I’d love to hear about it.
1. Leave your dishes in the sink. You know as well as I do, they’ll wait on you. When your kids tug on your leg and ask to play ANOTHER game of Candyland, do it. Pick up that purple card and conquer Gumdrop Mountain like a boss. Take a walk through Candy Cane Forest and let time stand still a moment. It will move fast enough on its own. Walk hand in hand into the final destination of Candy Castle. You’ll be a hero.
2. Say “I’m sorry”. I don’t know why that is hard for some of us. Maybe we don’t like admitting that we make mistakes? That it makes us look weak? I’ve had to apologize to my kids more times than I can count. For being impatient, for being short with them when my anger had nothing to do with them. Sometimes, we just flat out hurt our kids with our words. We don’t mean to, but they come gushing out of our mouths before we can stop them. I don’t believe anything is more powerful than saying, “I’m so sorry for speaking in that tone to you. It was wrong and I know it hurt your feelings. Please forgive me.” When your children see adults who own up to their mistakes, it’s a powerful thing.
3. Be willing to take the fall. I have always told my kids that if they were ever in a situation that made them uncomfortable, scared, uneasy, or if they just needed an “out”, I’d take it on me. Seriously, being a middle schooler is just horrid enough. All of these hormones, tears, and outbursts from nowhere. Allow your kids to blame you. Yes, you. “Well, my mom won’t let me go to the mall without her, so you can just go.” Insert eye-roll.f Yep, problem solved. We are the bad guys and I don’t even care. It saves face for a while. Until they are ready to stand on their feet and be bold and confident, be the bad guy. I never lost any sleep over it. And neither will you.
4. Choose their friends while you can. This may be a controversial one here. But while they are young, their friendship circle can make or break them. Be kind to everyone, but you don’t have to be their best friend. Explain the difference to them. You have intuition that they don’t have yet. If you have a gut-feeling that something is “off”, it most likely is. Be selective as to who your children play with. Stand up for them. By the way, I’m so ok with arranged marriages, as well, now that my children are grown. Trust me, you’ll see.
5. Let them make mistakes. Eek! This is so hard. What perfect specimen of a parent would actually watch their child make a mistake and not stop them? The parents that realize that mistakes equal growth. That without them, there’s a false notion that life will always go their way. Mistakes point them to Jesus in a way we can’t. Life lessons are horrid. But forgiveness and the sweet smell of trying again is priceless. These are lessons we can’t teach. They have to be experienced.
6. Be their biggest cheerleader. Even when your kids are older and don’t acknowledge you half the time. Cheer them on. Embarrass them with hundreds of school dance pictures and be that parent that yells, screams, and claps when they walk that graduation stage and accept their diploma. Cheer them on when they’re learning to fly solo without training wheels and when they land their first big-kid job. No one should unconditionally love our kids, flaws, broken lamps, sneaking cookies before dinner, and all, more than we do. Tell them that. Every single day. That their Father in heaven has plans for them that far exceed what yours may be. That He’s cheering them on and they are on the winning team with Him. No Hail Mary in the last seconds with Him. No desperate attempts are necessary to “win”. He already has that covered.
You are covered in prayer today, friends. Moms of little ones, elementary-aged kiddos, tweens, and teens. Those special women who love your children as their own. We aren’t doing half bad. Pray for wisdom. Pray for your children. And you might as well pray for a nap, while you’re at it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.