Monday, July 14, 2014

Pursuit of Perfection

"I was the perfect mom before I had children." Have you ever heard this? I have, and while it is funny, it is very true (at least it was for me).
Then, once I had children, the reality that I wasn't perfect started to set in, but I didn't want to admit it to anyone (not even myself). Sometimes, I was tired or in a bad mood (what? I know, right.). Still, I made my very best effort to do everything "right." My first born son had a set schedule, he always had all his vegetables and fruit  dietary requirements, he took daily vitamins, brushed his teeth twice a day, said his prayers every night, and read at least one story to him every night before bed too. In fact, for the first year of his life, he never even had any refined sugar (which presented a problem when he had cake at his 1 year birthday party and threw up from all the refined sugar his body had never processed before...bad mommy). 
Post first child, my house was still pretty clean and my child's clothes always matched. I worked out regularly to lose all the baby fat, and even pumped breast milk so he could have the "very best" for a full year. When he was 2 yrs old, we had another son. His addition made the schedules and "perfect" mom role a little more challenging especially when I was tired at bedtime from getting up through the night, and I didn't really want to read the same book "one more time."  Still, I struggled to try to keep up the facade and fantasy that I could be the best mom ever of my own strength, and it seemed to be working. My first born was reading by the age of 3, and I was doing my best to be a perfect mom to both of them. I pat myself on the back as I pridefully thought, "What a great job I am doing." I am ashamed to admit, I would even look down at other people who's children were dirty, wore mismatched clothes ,had snot running down their faces, and had children who threw temper tantrums in public (shame on them!). 

In an effort to be the best mommy ever, I enrolled the two of them in everything under the sun. They tried karate, soccer, football, piano, gymnastics, swimming, baseball,...etc. EVERYTHING was about our children, and we wanted them to have everything and get to do everything.
I had bought into the myth that giving them everything they could ever want was what I "should" be doing. Well, I have since changed my mind. Having 13 children under the age of 16 will definitely change your perspective, about a lot of things. 
Let me back up. After having 3 biological children, we adopted 3 more in less than a year and a half. This definitely provided challenges. The children didn't speak any English and had never gone to school (I home school, so that was definitely a challenge). Obviously, there were communication challenges, attachment challenges, and a multitude of other "issues" that God would use to teach me SO much about relying on Him and His strength and about my own need for grace and mercy. But, it would take me some time to learn these lessons, and I am still learning them (sometimes painfully). 
I will never forget about 1 week after I brought home child number 5 and 6, things were going well. Lunch was done, the kitchen was clean, and the children were all playing nicely. I remember thinking, "I can do this! Look at that! It's not so hard." Moments later, I was in a complete panic calling 911 because I realized that my 4 year old daughter had gotten into the prescription medication on the other side of the baby gate she climbed over. 

Panic set in as I rushed in an ambulance to the hospital to have her treated for possible poisoning. Dustin proceeded to call everyone we knew to pray for our daughter's health and recovery. Thankfully, she was fine. They kept her overnight, but they discovered she hadn't actually ingested any of the open bottle of pills. Praise the Lord, right?! 

Only, I didn't just praise the Lord. Once the fear of poisoning subsided, I became extremely depressed and embarrassed. How could I face anyone after I "let" such a horrible thing happen to my child. I was clearly a horrible parent, right? I failed at even the most basic parenting role, protecting my children.
"No, it was an accident."I was told, but the reality was indisputable, and now everyone knew it too: I am not perfect. I made a mistake. A big one, yes. But, all the while, God was revealing to me, that I could not do it alone, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He is sovereign, He is in control. He was the one that could give me strength and wisdom to do all things. I am not perfect, nor would I ever be (until I am with my Lord and Savior in Heaven), but He still loves me.
Sometimes, when we see the pictures on Facebook of people smiling and having a good ol' time, we can fantasize about other's lives which can be very dangerous. It can cause us to covet what others have and compare ourselves to others. But, what we need to remember is, people don't put the pictures of the fights, the arguments, the tears and tantrums. No, those we hide. But, the reality is that no one's life is perfect. No one is perfect. We are all sinners: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).

Adding 3 children created financial challenges as well. A family of 8 is a lot more expensive than a family of 4 or 5. Plus, time was now stretched, and I just couldn't seem to fit everything in. Then, adding 7 more children, solidified the fact that I just can't be everything to everyone all the time. The children couldn't all get to do every sport and every musical instrument that they wanted. First off, there just wasn't enough time to get to everyone's extracurricular activities, and secondly, there wasn't enough money for such "luxuries."
Sometimes, these limitations have been a difficult reality to admit. I have felt, at times, like I was robbing my children of the "perfect" childhood. My one son was previously on the competitive gymnastics team, and I could no longer justify the expense of the team and the travel. Then, I would see my friends and family members on Facebook with their children involved in nearly every activity a children could ever desire, and I felt even more guilt. Gone were the ideals of being a "perfect" mom. I was screwing this all up. So, let me go ahead and admit some of the realities:
Perhaps at times some of my children may go to bed without brushing their teeth (though we try to ensure they brush twice a day). Sometimes, they wear mismatched socks (or no socks at all). Sometimes their clothes don't match. Most days there is a pile of clean laundry somewhere that needs to be folded (hey, better clean than dirty), some lunches don't include a vegetable, and I occasionally eat lunch with the children at a drive thru (gasp). We aren't always on time (which has been difficult for me to let go of with my military background). Some days, we ditch school, and just play outside or even watch a movie (shocking, I know. Hey, sometimes it is an educational movie). Don't look under the couch at my house, because I can guarantee that it isn't clean, and I can't tell you the last time I dusted or washed my windows. (sigh) How far I have come from the quest for perfection? Some of it has been merely a survival mechanism, and some of it has been the reality of having to prioritize and pick my battles.
But slowly, God has shown me that all the sports and activities, the perfectly cleaned house, and perfectly coordinated outfits are not the most important thing. He is. A relationship with Him is more important than giving my children every little material thing their heart desires. Teaching them the value of hard work and saving their money for what they want to buy is better than just buying them everything they could ever want. Spending time as a family with my children and fostering loving relationships and memories as a family is more important than having the cleanest house and best dressed children on Facebook. 
Obviously, I am still not perfect (nor was I ever really). I am not saying our way of doing things is right, or that having your children play organized sports is wrong....please don't misunderstand me. On the contrary, I am admitting my flaws and my imperfections. I am acknowledging my shortcomings and my desperate need for grace and mercy.  Thankfully, my children and I have a Heavenly Father who never makes mistakes. Who is always there to listen. Who never says the wrong thing. A heavenly Father who is perfect, and His grace is enough!

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

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