I looked at the clock. 3:37 am
3:37 AM?! Human eyes are not meant to see 3:37 am.
It’s well-beyond the “I stayed up late” hours and far too premature for “I woke up early”.
Yet here I was entertaining my 14 month old son in the middle of the night. He had been awake for about an hour. Why? No one knows.
We tried all the usual tricks to calm him back down and get him to go back to sleep. He wasn’t having any of it. He had moved beyond the point of fussy-tiredness and was now wide awake.
I gave in, let my husband get some sleep, and took the tot to the living room to let his waking period run its course.
Still hanging on to the hope that I might go back to sleep before dawn, I laid back into the sofa and let myself linger in that half-awake Mommy-zone where you can rest and be alert to everything your child is doing at the same time. I was trying to keep him calm as well, but his mid-night sillies took hold and he began to run back and forth on the couch cushions.
“No. Come here,” I said. He grinned, daring me to stop him.
Some of you may think 14 months is too young to be disobedient or naughty, but if you know my little boy, you know he was definitely trying to challenge my authority in that moment.
Inwardly I cried: Oh! why is this so difficult? I’ve been a mom for 12 years! You would think I would know how to get my child to sleep through the night and to mind what I say. I have no idea what to do with him right now. What would Michelle Duggar do? What would James Dobson suggest? What would any of those parenting books tell me to do right now? What would a good mom do?
I didn’t know the answer to those questions. I reached over, took hold of his tiny body, and pulled him into my lap. He smelled so sweet, so baby-yummy. I hugged him tight and kissed his precious hair. He looked up at me and his body relaxed. We sat there a moment or two as I learned another lesson in this mom journey.
Love is all you need to be a good mom.
I didn’t know how to get him to go back to sleep. I didn’t know how to get him to behave. But I DID know how to love that little boy. I stopped trying to be a smart mom with all the expert answers and just did what came naturally.
How that would apply to other challenges in motherhood?
When my preschooler is whining…if I just love her, I would hold her and smile and correct her gently. I would express that I understand why she is feeling upset. And I would explain sweetly why whining doesn’t work to get what she wants.
When my grade-schooler is daydreaming and dawdling, making mistakes…if I just love her, I would be patient and train with kindness.
When my tween is grumpy and short-tempered…if I just love her, I will remember how challenging it is to be her age. I will love her sense of independence all muddled up with her little-girlness. I will realize that the independence is growing stronger, and the little-girlness is waning. Then in love, I might hug her and tell her that she may be upset but she cannot treat others with disrespect in the midst of that.
I was shocked to realize that is exactly the way I want to respond to my kids! Those ARE the responses the parenting experts recommend: firm boundaries enacted with kindness and gentleness.
It doesn’t take a 523 page book, nor a parenting seminar, nor some magic formula. I don’t need a chart. I don’t need a theory.
I simply put LOVE first in my motherhood.
As simple as it sounds, I’ve been at this long enough to know that it is NOT so simple to do. Other things get in the way, namely, me. My schedule, my desires, my bad moods, my irritation.
I was irritated with my little boy for being awake in the middle of the night. I was really irritated at him when he began to be naughty. I was just too sleepy to act on that irritation. In my sleep deprived state, some primal mothering instinct took hold, and I was astonished to discover that the Primal Mother in me was gentle, patient, and kind. More so than the daytime, Pinterest-reading, blog writing, homeschooling, grocery-buying, meal-cooking, house-cleaning Mama that keeps this place together.
Is it possible to be both?
I’ve wondered. Can I be the Productive Mama and Loving Mama at the same time? I’d like to think so. It requires letting go of 2 things.
I have to let go of some of my tasks. Say No to the hand-made Valentine’s day crafts so you can say Yes to loving your child.
I have to let go of my immediate feelings (of tiredness, grumpiness, frustration, hurry) and listening to my deeper feeling: Love.
In this case, and so many others, Love is more than a feeling. It’s deeper than an emotion. It’s a choice.
How would my mothering change if I simply chose to LOVE in moments of correction?
You know, the Bible is surprisingly quiet on the subject of parenting. As important as it is, there are not a lot of verses on the subject. There are a lot of verses on how to treat other people though, namely, with love. Ok, here’s a radical idea for you: your kids are people. Like other people, people. Dare I say, your children are your “neighbor”.
Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
Above all, love each other deeply, because lovecovers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
I encourage you, as you interact with your children, remember how easy they were to love through the challenges of their newborn days, channel that same primal, nuturing love to your interactions at all ages, and remember that they are not extensions of you, they are people–the very same people God calls us to love.
To finish my story, I sat there pondering these thoughts while my son busied himself about the room. After another 20 minutes or so, I put him back in his bed like I do for naps and bedtime. Gave him his blankie and turned on his lullaby music and he went right back to sleep. All he needed was a little time…and love.