I read a blog post this week on “unexpected lessons I learned because I’m a mother” and decided that was a great topic to ponder on my walk. So, although this isn’t an all-inclusive list, here are ten of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 28 years, which makes it a perfect “Friday Flashback” post!
- Teenagers are delightful.
This was the first thing that popped into my head as I pondered, probably because I was so surprised when I realized this years ago. For some reason I thought I’d dread having teenagers. In fact, while we were engaged my husband and I decided that since he didn’t care for babies, I could be in charge of our children until they were twelve, and then he’d take over. I was fine with that arrangement. Then our kids got older, and I changed my mind. (Parenting babies and young children was also a cooperative effort, but that’s a post for another day.) Teenagers are wonderful. They’re witty and smart, fun and imaginative, helpful and encouraging. I’m continually in awe as I watch my teenagers discover themselves and mature into amazing young adults.
- There’s something special about seven year olds.
This may seem odd having just stated that I love teenagers, but if I had to choose a single favorite age for my children, it would be seven. There’s just something magical about seven-year-olds. They’ve conquered the basics – eating, talking, walking, reading, obeying, helping, etc. They can understand the difference between right and wrong. Yet they’re not jaded and cynical. Everything’s new and wonderful and it’s just exciting to be around their innocent enthusiasm for life.
- Interruptions are part of the job description of motherhood.
I went through a period of time being annoyed by all my children’s requests. They seemed to be always interrupting me, either they needed help getting a drink or putting on shoes, or I needed to referee squabbles or prevent accidents. Then one day I was reading a time-management book and the author noted that an effective manager will use his secretary wisely to prevent interruptions. It’s her job to be interrupted so that the manager isn’t. And the light bulb turned on! My job as a mother is to be interrupted. That’s exactly why I chose to stay home with my children. I wanted to be there for them. Being interrupted is no longer annoying and irritating, and that is a wonderful thing. It also helped to analyze some of the more prevalent, bothersome interruptions and try to eliminate them. For example, I made it a habit to keep a filled drink cup in the fridge where my four-year-old could reach and get it himself, and other things like that.
- Mothers never feel like they’re getting enough sleep.
The other night, at 9:40 PM, (remember my brain stops functioning at 9 PM), Michelle asked for help with studying her vocabulary words by saying, “My seminary teacher says that mothers can go days and days and days without sleeping if they’re shown great love and appreciation. I love you and appreciate you. Please, please, please help me!” So, how could I resist? And actually, we only spent 15-20 minutes reviewing before she felt confident she could remember the definitions.
As a new mother dealing with waking babies, I remember vividly wondering when they’d sleep through the night so that I could also. That day finally arrived, only for me to discover that while teenagers sleep through the night, they stay up late and wake up early! I still wasn’t getting all the sleep I wanted. So, I figured once they were grown and gone, I’d be okay. Guess what? Now it’s my own body that’s the traitor, waking me up at 3 AM and refusing to go back to sleep.
Fortunately, none of these are every night occurrences and I learned a long time ago that Heavenly Father is well aware of my limits. Invariably, I’ll get a good night’s sleep, not when I think I should have one, but just when He knows I need one.
- Heartache is a real physical symptom.
The pain you feel when your children are hurting is real, even, and maybe especially, when their hurts are emotional in nature and not physical. The memory that brought this to mind was sitting on the gymnasium floor crying with a son who had just loss a district wrestling match, meaning his dream of advancing to the regional, and then the state tournament, was no longer possible.
- Mothers really do have eyes in the back of their heads.
How else would they know who’s poking whom while keeping their eyes on the busy traffic in front of them?
- Showing respect needs to go both directions.
A child is not going to love and honor a parent who is belittling and mean. Quiet voices, not taking offense easily, assuming that everyone’s doing their best, following the Golden Rule, and just being kind go a long way towards producing love and harmony in the home.
- A mother needs to take time for herself.
Wise philosophers have come up with some true sayings: “Sharpen the saw.” – “You can’t fill an empty bucket from a dry well.” – “Take some time and be with yourself. If you don’t you may miss meeting the most important person in your life.” – “Be your own best friend.”
No matter how much we love our children and want to be with them, we need to do something just for ourselves. At the top of the list should be personal prayer and scripture study, but it’s also important to find the time to do other things we love. The amount of time we spend doing so will change during the various seasons of our lives, and we can definitely involve our children in some of these activities, but it’s important.
In each passing mortal hour
All around me there is need
There are hearts that yearn, and tears that fall
And hungry souls to feed
I must seek the Spirit’s wisdom
Learn compassion’s gentle art
For I cannot give with empty hands
Nor love with barren heart
I will serve my Savior gladly
Seek his little lambs who stray
But if I would lead them safely home
I must know the way
I must seek for understanding
That I may serve his children well
If I seek to fill the soul athirst
I must first be filled
If I would bear my brother’s burden
If I would share my sister’s grief
Extend the hand of sweet compassion
Offer the weary ones relief
If I would ease the thirst of strangers
And serve His children heart and hand
I must drink of heaven’s wells o’erflowing
I must learn to fill the well within
by Sally DeFord Fill the Well Within
- There truly is “no greater joy than to hear that [your] children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
What can I add to that? It’s the truth.
- Motherhood is an incredible gift and opportunity.
It’s an overwhelming responsibility to be entrusted with sweet, innocent and dependent spirits, yet I’ve learned that as I work in partnership with God and my husband, just trying to do my best and continually striving to improve, the blessings that come far outweigh any inconveniences, discouragement, and even pain. Watching them grow and mature, and then start the cycle all over again with their own children, really is an incredible gift.
Thank you, my dear children. I love you.