I am not Dr. Phil.
I wanted to lead with that because honesty is good and because it’s funny. Although, sometimes a good Dr. Phil quote is just perfect parenting. When my kids mess up, I enjoy giving them the old Doc P. look (one eyebrow higher than the other) as I drawl “And how’s that working for ya?” Good stuff.
I lead with that because sometimes people ask me for parenting advice. It happens.
Sometimes a Mama in the early stages of raising toddlers, will seek my advice, knowing that I kept 3 tiny tornadoes from maiming themselves or taking our house apart down to the studs (although one of my toddlers once took a wooden bat to a baseball — a baseball which was actually a fountain pen. Inside my house. I swear that ink bled through every paint and primer FOR YEARS. Like a crime scene, the spatter pattern always showed through! I thought we might have to cut out that wall and go down to the studs!)
Or a mom of young sons who will want to know how I kept three boys from killing each other via wrestling moves and karate chops. My advice there? I got meaner, became queen of the headlock.
No, this I handled by relocation. Regardless of my objections and threats, they were going to be, well, Boys Who Rough House. So I relocated them to be: Boys Who Rough House in the Basement. This didn’t lessen the wrestling, it lessened the volume of it. Which I considered a win.
The questions that really get me, are the ones that have come from moms with older kids. Moms further in their parenting journey – raising tweens, teens and young adults. These are the questions that bring me to tears and make me hesitate. I never wanted to give shallow answers. I didn’t want to speak untruth, just to soften the blow.
Mama? I don’t want you to think I have all the answers – I am still learning!
And maybe it’s because Mother’s Day is looming just ahead but I feel like I can answer now. Not answer every question but just speak into it. Into the doubts and questions of these fellow moms, the ones who see the future is arriving more quickly now. High school or college or the military (as is the case with my eldest son) is not such a distant thought anymore. So I write to them, for the heart of the Mama of the Olders..
Sometimes you’ve told me, and sometimes I have inferred, that the question you most want answered is this “how can I keep them from making mistakes, from going down the wrong path?”
Well, you can’t (aaaand this is why I am not Dr. Phil.)
They are humans, with their own heart and spirit and will.
What I have learned is this..
If you really want to be a real Mama?
You have to be real, Mama.
Be real about your own life.
Tell them about your journey, your struggles, your missteps and your victories. Let them know you.
Tell them your truth.
I am talking about your story; the real one.
Because you do have a story; we all do.
The thing is, do we share it?
Or do we give our kids a filtered, watered down version of our journey? I think we do. I think we are tempted to. And encouraged to.
I think we should fight that.
Even fairy-tales have adventures and near misses and plot twists and consequences.
So why, as moms, do we believe our kids should only get “Once upon a time..Then my life met an unrealistic amount of terrific blessings and then I had you and..happily ever after!”
That isn’t a story..that’s a mess.
Maybe you aren’t proud of every bad choice or wrong decision or terrible thing you did. Maybe you ended up with some dark moments and some low valleys.
Yeah, maybe I did too.
But I have realized that in sharing my stories of hard knocks with the next generation, some good can come from the bad times.
Beauty can come from ashes.
But not if you pretend nothing in your life ever ended in ashes.
It isn’t the glossy, edited, mom-of-the-year, stories your kids will recall when they hit hard times – it’s your stories of triumph.
Triumph comes from victory
Victory comes from battles fought and won.
Triumphant, battle-won, victory stories are the ones our kids need to hear.
They don’t stay toddlers for long (moms of Toddlers all over America just shook their heads in disagreement since an hour in Target with a 2-year-old feels like 6 years) and as they grow, life will school them. They will realize that life is hard. They will either go into that part of their journey with your stories planted deep inside, woven into their own truth, whispering “yes, it’s hard for everyone but you can make it, you can overcome, just like your Mama did..”
Or they will head into life without a truth inside. Always seeking out something real and definitive to cling to. And believe me when I tell you that the world is full of the enemy’s whispers, the ones that tell our kids “You aren’t perfect and you should be. You are messing everything up. You can’t get this right and you never will. Just give up. You will be defeated.”
Don’t hide your scars, your stories, your dark times or your mistakes. Knowing you have all of those in your past and you still became their Mama, will provide your child with something they will desperately need in their future: the resilient, impenetrable, armor of hope.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mamas who are keeping it real.
Much love and hope,