Tag Archives: mothers

Three things that having twins taught me about motherhood

See those two cuties above? Today is their 11th birthday. Eleven years ago today my husband and I went from being the parents of one sweet little girl to….

…being outnumbered.

Everything changed that day. And I wasn’t the least bit prepared for most of it.

It’s true, I cried when the OB/GYN told me I was pregnant with twins. And they weren’t tears of joy. It’s also true that their first year of life is a bit of a blur. We were in survival mode, living through what felt like one, veeeeerrrrrryyyyy long sleepless night. I nursed the twins for all of three months before I felt like Elsie the cow and started to realize I was never going to get to leave my house again.

In the early days I wore the title “mom of twins” like some kind of badge of courage or Purple Heart because parenting didn’t just seem twice as hard, or like it was twice as much work, it felt 1,000 times more difficult than life had been with just one. (and this is where I pause and tell all you moms with triplets or more that you are freakin’ rock stars).

But now, eleven years later, it’s hard to even imagine a life without our three kids. And somehow over the years I transitioned from being the “mom of twins” to just simply being Daniel and Olivia’s mom. (And, of course, also Hannah’s mom, but she’s now a teenager so that’s a whole new badge of courage I’m sporting these days.)

Most importantly, though, I realize that having twins made me a better mom. It forced me to let go of a lot of things (showering daily is overrated) and focus on what was really important (getting two babies to sleep at the same time for more than 4 hours). It allowed me to discover the kind of mom I really wanted to be, and I’m so grateful for that.

So, here it is, three things (because ain’t nobody got time for anything longer than that) having twins taught me about motherhood.

  1. How your child acts in public is not always a direct reflection of your parenting. Oh, the ignorant blissful days of having just one child. One easy, slept through the night, smiled at everyone, loved school, easy child. Or maybe more accurately titled, my Judgy McJudgerson days. My first daughter was a breeze and, for the most part, very well behaved in public. Of course it helped that there were two of us to take turns holding her hand, entertaining her, watching her, re-directing her, etc. So it was easy for me to wonder what the other parents were doing wrong. The parents of the little boy putting mulch down his pants at the playground who told his pre-school teacher he hated her; or the parents of the little girl whose head was spinning around Exorcist-style as she screamed at the top of her lungs because her mother told her “no” to the baby she wanted at Target. Clearly those children behaved that way because their parents hadn’t taught them any better.Wrong.

    Those are all real-life examples of things my precious little cherubs did when they were toddlers ( I won’t even go into stories of things they’ve done as they’ve gotten older). All things that mortified and humbled me as a parent. But in a good way. And I think every parent who has ever looked down their nose at another should be blessed with at least one temper-tantrum throwing, mis-behaving, inappropriate word saying, call-from-the-principal kind of kid. Just to remind us that, hey — they’re kids! We can teach them right from wrong, manners, respect and kindness, but at the end of the day they are little human beings who make mistakes and will try to push the boundaries. (And just to set the record straight, my “perfect” first-born has had more than her share of cringe-worthy and embarrassing moments to last a life-time).

2. Being a “perfect mom” is highly overrated.

With my first daughter I tried to get it all right. I really did. We introduced veggies before fruits. We played classical music and read to her all the time. We loved tummy time and all the made-in-America-old-school-Melissa-and-Doug toys we could find. I went overboard with the perfectly planned, everything-is-part-of-the theme birthday parties. School snacks were home-made and holiday outfits were coordinated and chosen with care. And this was all before Pinterest was a thing!

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, except that trying to keep up with it, times three, was exhausting and overwhelming. And worst of all, if I didn’t keep up with it, then I felt like I was failing at this mom gig. That is, until I finally realized that being a stressed-out, tired, “super-mom” actually made me a pretty crummy mommy. So I stopped. I threw in the towel on most of it. And surprise, surprise, my kids don’t even notice. I’m more relaxed and happier, which makes me more patient and fun to be around. And last time I checked no one has given me a citation for being the mom who phones it in on the school snacks.

3. Every child is different and needs to be parented differently.

OK, so you don’t have to have twins to learn this…anyone with 2 or more kids can probably tell you this. But the lesson was certainly magnified for me when we went from 1 to 3 kids overnight. Add to that the fact that two of them were in utero at the same time, shared clothes, toys, and a room for the first five years of life, and yet could NOT be more different if they came from separate families…who lived in separate countries and spoke different languages and grew up in different decades.

What worked with our first born generally does not work with the other two. And what works for one twin does not work for the other. And so on, and so forth. I call this out not because it’s earth-shattering news, but because once I embraced this knowledge it made a world of difference in my tolerance, patience, and flexibility as a mom.

While they’ve taught me so much more about motherhood, life, and the kind of person I want to be, those are the three that really stand-out at this moment. I’m sure in another few years I’ll have some new lessons — after all, I will have three teenagers in my house in just two years!

But for today, I just want to say: thank you, God for this double blessing. For using my fear and weakness, and two little babies, to push and stretch me beyond what was comfortable and easy, so that I could become a better mother, and a better person.

Happy birthday Daniel and Olivia. You are my sunshine.

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Lord, guide my children’s paths

Today my three kiddos started back to school for another year. The first day of school is always a weird jumble of emotions for me. I vacillate between being ecstatic that they have some place to be other than home, happy for a normal routine again after a long summer without much structure, and pushing down that giant lump in my throat that forms knowing they are one more day closer to walking out the front door for good, and this year will go by just as fast as all of the others have.

I think I’m probably not alone in this and most parents have a little bit of worry inside about what lies ahead for their children at the start of a new school year – will they like their teacher? Will their teacher like them? Will they choose kind friends? Will they get picked on because of their lisp/birthmark/crooked teeth/loud laugh/weight? Will they be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do? Will they come home crying because their best friend said they can’t be friends anymore? The list goes on.

At different times over the 12 years of sending my little ones off to school (counting the pre-school years), my heart has been burdened with all of these things. And, unfortunately, each of those worries has become a reality at some point over the years. So it’s not without some witness that I carry these fears with me as I wave goodbye and send them off for another year. But then I get to work and I see the reminders all over my desk about Who has authority over their year; about Who has them in His hands.

My kids attend a small Christian school, and each year the school has a different theme. This year’s theme is “know your path” and the verse of the year is “You make known to me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11).  I am in love with this theme. As a mother who strives to set her children on the right path, and as a Christ-follower continually seeking the path God has prepared for me, it is a soul-comforting, welcome reminder that God faithfully makes known His path for us.

The path that leads to Him.

The path of Life.

There are well-over 100 Bible verses that reference a path in life, many of which have provided me with comfort and guidance over the years. (If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know my personal experience with and affection for Psalm 18:36, “You broaden the path beneath me so that my ankles do not turn.”) And as I started to think about this theme and all of the prayers, dreams, and worries I hold on to for my children each year, I wanted each of them to know what it took me over 30 years to learn, what I’m still learning:

God cares so deeply about their walk that He has lovingly and intricately carved a unique path for each of them. Because the remarkably divine paradox of following God is that while there is only One Way to Him (John 14:6), He’s gifted each of us an exclusive route for getting there.

So, I did what a mom who has to write things does, and I wrote each of them a letter. For each child I chose a verse about their path that represented to me what I pray for and long for them to know, and then I shared with them a piece of my mother’s heart. I put each letter in a card, sealed the envelope, and tucked it into a lunchbox, hoping my kids aren’t too embarrassed by these personal intrusions of their day, or even worse that they overlook them entirely and the envelopes get tossed in the garbage can along with their string cheese wrappers.

I won’t share with you the full notes, as there are some things that should just remain between a mother and her child, but I would like to share with you a glimpse of my prayer for each of my kids. Because maybe you pray the same thing for your babies. Or maybe you would like to add me and mine to your prayer list. Or maybe just because putting it out there makes it feel heard.

Hannah (13, 8th grade)

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19

“I believe God is preparing you for a very specific path, one in which you will have great impact on the lives of others. He has given you many special gifts and talents, but perhaps the one that I believe is most special is the gift to love and embrace others for who they are. This gift is all the more inspiring when you are able to just be you – bold, beautiful, funny, unafraid YOU. I’ve seen you struggle with this at times because the outside world sometimes sends us messages that just being ourselves is not good enough. Or that we have to conform to a certain image or personality to be accepted. I know this is hard. I struggled with it for many years, and sometimes still do. But when I see you being YOU, I see people around you being touched and inspired, and I see you lighting up the world.

I believe this is what God has intended for you…When you feel challenged, hurt, confused, angry, sad, or pressured by the world around you, remember He is there and you can count on His guidance to get you through.

Daniel (10, 5th grade)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

“I know sometimes school is hard for you, and even sometimes home is hard for you. And I know sometimes you wonder what God’s plan is for you, or how you will find success and peace. Just like Mrs. Dhom taught you in kindergarten, God has a plan for all of us. Sometimes we just don’t understand it or see it clearly. It may be hard to understand why God created you with ADHD and some of the struggles you face. But I know He has a reason. I believe part of that reason is because one day it will give you a greater understanding of others who struggle…I think having some of the struggles you do makes you rely on Him more, and this has brought you into a closer relationship with God.”

Olivia (10, 5th grade)

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  – Proverbs 4:25-26

“God has blessed you with a HUGE heart. You love fiercely and deeply. You show your love for your friends and family and even people you haven’t met every day. You always want people to be happy and you worry if they are hurting or sad…You may not realize it, but I believe God blessed you with these gifts so that He can use you to touch other’s lives.

As you start to get older, you will be confronted by people and things that make you feel like you are not enough. They will judge you against worldly standards instead of God’s standards and you may feel like you need to act, look, or be different. My prayer for you is that you will always keep your eyes fixed ahead on God and His path.”

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My kiddos all ready for the first day of school. Lord, please guide their path.

Praying God’s protection and guidance over all of you and your kiddos as they start a new school year.

photo credit: Play Time via photopin  (license)

God is bigger than my pain

Spring has begun here in Winchester, VA. The temps are rising and the daffodils and crocuses in my yard have just started to bloom, looking like sleepy maidens trying to awake from a long winter’s rest. This time of year is a beautiful reminder of fresh beginnings, new starts, and of course the miracle of resurrection.

I can’t imagine better timing for the release of my friend Crystal Sutherland’s new book, Journey to Heal: 7 Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. While we still have a little over one month to wait for Journey to Heal to reach stores, I am honored and blessed to be part of Crystal’s book launch team, and was recently given the opportunity to read the first few chapters of her book. As I started to read, the primary message that leapt off the pages and into my heart is that God is bigger than our pain. His ability to heal will far surpass anything we can fathom. Crystal emphasizes this truth by sharing some of her story of healing – the healing of her heart and soul, and the healing of certain relationships.

In my own life I have experienced similar circumstances and been humbled by God’s awesome power to heal, especially within my family relationships. I confess, I have not always understood the importance of working at healing and restoring fractured relationships. At times it has seemed much easier to just walk away. But by my mid-20’s I started to realize that even if I walked away I still had to carry the burden of hurt, anger and pain – in fact walking away just made the baggage I was hauling heavier. This was especially true for me in my relationship with my mother. I had spent years waiting to hear the words “I believe you” and “I’m sorry,” thinking these would be the magic words to cure all, and as time passed, without even realizing it, the seed of bitterness grew larger in my heart.

Click here to continue reading the rest at CrystalSutherland.org

 

Mamas and their daughters – hope for healing

I recently had lunch with a good friend to talk about planning a women’s retreat. As we discussed ideas for the teaching sessions, we ended up on the topic of mamas and daughters, and how there seems to be a large majority of women carrying around hurt, anger, unforgiveness, and/or resentment when it comes to this special but complex relationship. It’s a topic very near and dear to my heart — as both a daughter and a mother of two girls.

I’ve seen firsthand generations of women struggle to find peace and healing in their relationship with their mama. I don’t know what it is about the mother/daughter relationship that makes it a breeding ground for so much hurt. Perhaps it is because of the raw, primal dependence we have on our mothers from birth that makes us expect so much. We expect them to always be there without fail, to always say the right things, lead by example, and pick us up and brush us off when we are hurting. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a person, really, and when mamas mess up — as we surely will because we are, after all, just flawed human beings like everyone else — we come tumbling off our golden mother-of-the-year pedestals. The super-mom image crashes into a million pieces and we daughters, we don’t seem to know how to reconcile that.

I am very blessed to have three women in my life who have loved and mothered me at one point or another. Each of these women is incredibly dear to me, yet I have experienced some degree of conflict in all three of these relationships over the years. But it is my relationship with my first mom, the mom who gave birth to me at the tender age of 23, that has been through the most difficult of times. Our story is one rooted in hurt, anger, pride, and estrangement. But it has blossomed into a story of reconciliation, forgiveness and hope. It is a testament that healing and redemption can be found through the grace of God. I don’t divulge my past lightly or without concern for the others who played a part. But, with my mom’s blessing, I share with all of you this piece of our story because it’s important to understand the place of hurt that we came from to truly appreciate the place of healing we have found.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog, you know that when I was young I went through a horrible ordeal. Not knowing how to handle the shocking news and reality that was facing her, my mom chose to believe it was all a misunderstanding. After “the incident” I moved out of my mom and stepfather’s house and had a painful and estranged relationship with my mom. I was still just a girl, only 13, and I struggled internally between just wanting to have my mom in my life, and feeling deeply wounded over her choices. I tried many times to come to terms with what had happened and to forgive her, but the pain and rejection never went away, and eventually it turned to anger and resentment.

When I was a young college student my mom divorced her second husband and that seemed to open the door to a better, easier relationship. But it was really a superficial relationship because no matter what I tried to tell myself, or her, I still had not forgiven her; the wounds were still there, just under the surface. This was not the foundation of a healthy relationship because every time there was a conflict or a disagreement it was easy for me to go right back to that place of resentment; to pull up a mental record of all the ways I had felt hurt, shortchanged, or abandoned and relive that pain all over again. And so, our relationship continued to be strained.

After having my first child, my mother disagreed with some of the parenting choices my husband and I were making. At that moment I really considered just walking away. It would be easier, I reasoned. No more conflict, no more hurt, no more disappointment. Why was I trying so hard anyway? And then I looked down into the face of my little daughter and realized she was why. She deserved a relationship with her Nana. She deserved to have a mother who believed in forgiveness and healing, and who lived out those things; a mother who loved by example. Because one day she might be the daughter on the verge of throwing in the towel and giving up on me!

It took several years of counseling and prayer before I was able to truly put the past to rest. I was in my early 30’s and for the first time in my life I felt truly free of my past. I got rid of the mental record of wrongs. I saw my mom for who she was: a flawed, hurting sinner, just like me. Yes, she had made mistakes, and would likely pay the rest of her life for those, but I realized that she had been scared and overwhelmed and unprepared for the decision that faced her and so she did what she thought was best. Ephesians 4:31-32 In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us “You must not hold on to any bitter hurts, rage or anger. You must not fight each other or say bad things about each other. You must not think or act because of spite. You should be friends and you should be kind to each other. You must forgive each other, just as God forgave you. God forgave you because of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

In the 12 short years I’ve been a parent I have made many mistakes. I have been scared, overwhelmed, and unprepared for decisions that faced me. I have tried to seek guidance from the Lord, but I know I often jump to conclusions or act in haste. I have been guilty of doing the same in my marriage, friendships and other family relationships.

I am human.

I am a work in progress.

Thankfully I have a Father in heaven who forgives me every time;  who does not hold grudges or a record of wrongs; who sent His very own, beloved child to die so that my poor choices and decisions would be wiped away and I would not be separated from His love. If He can do that for us, should we not also try and do the same for our friends, siblings, spouses, grandparents, fathers, and our mothers? Forgiveness is not something we earn because we are worthy, for human nature makes us unapologetic and arrogant. Forgiveness is a gift that comes free of appraisal or condition.

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About three years after I finally let go of my hurt and anger and truly forgave my mom, she said the words I had been waiting almost 25 years to hear: “I believe you. I’m sorry.” I am convinced God was working on both of our hearts for years leading up to this. After I finally let go of the past and started anew with my mom, she was able to do the same.

Today my mom and I are closer than ever. I lean on her for support and guidance. I value her opinion and I trust that she loves me beyond all measure. Our relationship is not perfect, we do things that frustrate each other and disappoint each other. But I can’t imagine my life without her in it. Forgiveness Fellow daughters, I don’t know what past hurts you are carrying around. I don’t know if your relationship with your mama can be restored, because it takes two people to heal a broken relationship. But I do know that with God’s help you can forgive. You can finally, once and for all, let go of whatever you are carrying around and be free of that burden. You can find healing. And I encourage you to start now, before any more time is lost.

Can I share a prayer with you?

Heavenly Father, the relationship between mamas and daughters is an incredibly special and fragile gift. From the moment we are born there is a bond forged in iron. Yet the very things that make our bond strong can also be our undoing. Father, I know there are so many women who are hurting right now — seeking out forgiveness, repentance, healing and hope. I pray that we daughters can soften our hearts and turn our sights to you so that we may see our mamas through your eyes. I pray that every daughter who is hurting will seek out the help she needs to heal and come to know the freedom of forgiveness. I pray that us mamas, we will lean on you for strength and guidance when we are taken by surprise at how incredibly difficult this mothering job is. May we be patient with our children and gentle with ourselves. And may we show mercy on our own mothers, remembering they once stood in our shoes and, just like us, they did the best they knew how. Amen.


#livefreeThursdayForgiveness is freedom! And I’m honored to be linking up today with Suzie Eller and friends for #livefreeThursday. Hop over to Suzie’s blog to read more encouraging stories of hope and freedom from women who are joining together to live freely in Christ.