I cannot cultivate in my children that which I do not display myself. Period. This past week I had a particularly rough day in which my bad attitude began profusely bleeding into my parenting. My four-year-old got the brunt of it. When I came crying to him to ask for forgiveness he was so sweet and gracious.
Cademon has a tendency to walk slower when I ask him to hurry. It seems these days, I'm always in a hurry. Mostly because I haven't figured out how I need to aim leaving the house a half hour before we actually have to leave. It's not his fault I haven't gotten this two-kid routine down. After about five times of asking him to hurry that day, and getting the opposite response I wanted to, I was frustrated. I had so much to carry in from the car that I left Juniper in there, filled my hands, and walked to the back door with Cade. The idea that I walked out of eyesight of the car for a brief moment freaked me out a little bit, and I harshly pulled Cade inside so I could hurry back to get Juniper. (Where we park our car is about 50 feet from our door). At that point in time he had already been driving me a little crazy with the 4,000 questions and his bad attitude when I picked him up from preschool and his frustration at Juniper crying and his ardent focus on why he can't bring his favorite toy to school ...
There are moments I wonder how anyone with multiple little ones survives. I have a horrible habit of getting automatically frustrated if I am late anywhere. For some reason being late gets under my skin. (This may shock you if you know me because you know I'm late all the time. Which means I'm fighting or giving into a bad attitude a LOT.) Most people have a lot more grace for my lateness than I have for it.
"Yes, Mommy," Cade assured me when I asked him to forgive me. We hugged. We smiled. We had a better night. That was on Thursday. Friday morning, after less sleep than I would have liked, the morning horizon looked like another late arrival to our future destination. I felt the bad attitude swell up inside me, and then, I told it to shut up. "I'm not going to do this today," I thought to myself. I determined to have a good attitude, late or not, and Cade and I had a great day together. Instead of frustration there was laughter. Instead of a huge list of thing to do, I determined to do one thing: go for a run while Cade was at school. I realized that I need to stop thinking that what's important in life right is what I do. The reality is, it's who I am that is most important. And quite frankly, who I am to my children begins each morning with a decision about my attitude. It doesn't matter that I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. It doesn't matter if I get the laundry folded. It doesn't matter if I get the amount of sleep I want or not. It doesn't matter that it's 9 a.m. and I already have a bunch of dirty dishes to clean. Joy is not based on circumstances, and it comes every morning afresh. It's up to me to drink from its cup or not. I want to look back on these days and say that I was lovestruck, joydrunk, and ultimately felt privileged to be a mom.
"Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of the briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever." -Isaiah 55:13
Juniper Grace was born at 1:35 a.m. on July 17th after 16+ hours of labor, including about four hours of pushing to no avail, and finally after a C-section that I tried to avoid the second time around. "Ultimately we want a healthy baby and a healthy mom," my wise family doctor said to me several times along the 40-week journey on a VBAC path. VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) is not the route for everyone nor is it easy. In 2011, my son Cademon was born via C-section because of what's called cephalopelvic disproportion (when a baby's head/body is too big to fit through the mother's pelvis). There were many times after he was born that I wondered if that was actually the case and if I really had to have a C-section. Monterrey, Mexico, has a ridiculous C-section rate, and that is where Cade was born. It took me a long time to find a doctor who prioritized natural birth, and who would perform a C-section only if necessary. So this time around, my odds for a successful vaginal birth were low because of the reason I had one the first time around Despite the 35% success rate the OB informed me of (after which I went to my car and cried), I felt strongly about a VBAC and my family doctor was very supportive.
After being told different dates of when I would need to be induced (this is partly because I was under the care of an OB and a family doc, who have differing opinions of VBACs) I went the full 40 weeks waiting and hoping the little baby would come on his/her own. (We did not know if it was a boy or girl till Juniper's birthday). It was decided that my doctor would break my water on July 16 and we would hope for the best. Right around the time the clock flipped the calendar's page, the OB came in the hospital room and said it wasn't looking good for a vaginal birth. Surprisingly, as much as I didn't want to give up, I felt a peace about going into the operating room. A huge wave of gratefulness came over me, and I just felt so thankful to be able to try giving birth vaginally. Sure, I didn't want things to end this way, but it was OK.
It's easy to think in these moments, "God why didn't you give me the desire of my heart. You knew what it was I wanted and you could have given it to me." But the lesson I learned with Cademon had not been forgotten. I wanted to be the poster-child for natural births in my Mexican neighborhood. But instead, I just became a neighbor, who like the majority of the women around me, had a C-section. I’m not going to lie. When the fun of meeting my little man died down, and the new grandparents had returned to North Carolina, I was annoyed that God would let me have a C-section. Essentially, my question was the same as Job’s: How could God allow such an injustice? The answer was a beautifully created, healthy, baby boy who stared at me and depended on me for everything. Just as God answered Job, he answered me: “Who are you? Have you created this universe? Have you put the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea? Have you created a human being? Look at the work of my hands and recognize who I am.” But that lesson wasn't learned right away. I harbored some frustrating feelings toward God for a long time. I had to revisit Cade's birth in my mind for the book I'm writing, and in doing so, I let go of my bitter attitude toward God over the C-section as I started to focus on what God had given me, rather than what he hadn't. No I didn't get the vaginal birth, but what I did get now runs circles around me and around our house with a soccer ball, a kite, baseball bats and lacrosse sticks.
I recently watched some of the Special Olympics World Games and one participant being interviewed said something to the effect of, "I don't focus on what I can't do, but I strengthen what I can do." When I focus on what God hasn't given me, the desires he has yet to fulfill or the ones he never will fulfill, my eternal perspective weakens. I become self-consumed and much less effective for his kingdom come. But when I focus on what he so graciously has given me, a Juniper bush rises up where a thornbush once was. Instead of thorns to offer, I'll soon have berries and flowers budding from an evergreen plant that makes famous the Lord's good name.