I never taught my kids to swing. It was always easier to push them. As they got older, I realized I made a dire mistake. Anytime they saw a swing, they would scream for me to push. At some point, I became fed up with it. I decided I would teach them. “See? You kick your legs like this. Try it.” They would try a couple times and when it didn’t pan out their way, they would scream for me to push them again. I lack patience in all things, so eventually I would just give in and push. Obviously this taught them nothing.
It wasn’t until this year, at nine years old, that my son finally learned to swing on his own. He learned by watching the other kids on the playground. He observed and he tried. Trial and error occurred, of course, but he learned. He would frequently come home and tell me stories of how high he got that day at recess. In the weeks that followed, he came home with random bumps, bruises, and scrapes, all of which were acquired while jumping off the moving swing. “I had to go to the nurse today,” he would say with pride. He would pull up his shirt to show off the bandage on his hip bone. Those wounds were the scars of action. They were the marks of endurance, and they were worth showing off.
When I was a stay-at-home momma, I struggled. I love my kids, and I know that many don’t have the opportunity to stay home. For that I am grateful. It would have been excruciating to go to work and leave my kids with someone. With that said, I absolutely hated it. I remember thinking that I should enjoy it more and I should breathe in every moment with gratitude and thankfulness. I should have held them more and taken them to the park more frequently. We should have had puzzle dates and did more crafts. Those days of my life went by so slowly. There were diapers and feedings and naps and baths and middle-of-the-night wake-ups and endless demands. Yes, I spent most days in my pajamas. But that was because getting dressed seemed pointless. I was only going to put my pajamas back on after the blur of the day. Lord knows I wasn’t going to shower.
I felt as if I had no sense of self. I had no purpose other than to serve these little humans. I barely remember what my husband looked like in those early years of marriage. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for three years. I voluntarily took night duty because my husband woke way before the sun to go to work. One of us needed to be well rested and clear headed. But come mid-afternoon, I would be soaked in spit-up and making a third snack for my toddler. (Here, just eat this box of cereal. No, you don’t need a bowl. Mommy is tired.) I would call my husband crying about how I just can’t do this. It is entirely too hard. I wanted him to say, “I will leave work early. I will take the night shift with the baby. You rest. Take a hot bath. Read a book. Take three consecutive naps.” But he never said these things, and I called him a lot back then. He wasn’t being a prick; he simply could not leave work to come let me nap. As a result, I survived on my own. I took kids to doctor’s appointments. I ran on little sleep for roughly five years of my life. I made every meal for my kids and on occasion, I managed to make dinner for my husband before passing out on the couch. Sometimes I even showered.
These hard moments, the ones that leave us battered and bruised and often times crying out for help, these are absolutely needed in life. I believe these are essential in our relationship with God. Without these low moments, how would we ever get to the highs? If we quit after the first bump, the first bruise, or the first trip to the nurse for a bandage, would we ever really know the joy of actually landing a jump? If my husband would have rushed to my aid every time I called him crying about being a mom, I would have never cried out to the Lord for comfort. I wouldn’t have learned that God meets us in those times. He is there and waiting. Sometimes it is appropriate to cry to a friend or a family member. It relieves a weight to be heard and have someone else validate that. But if mom comes to push every time you scream at her, what are we really learning? What are we gaining other than an easy way out?
What if we prayed in those times? Prayed for peace. Prayed for provision. Prayed that our kids took the longest naps in the history of their lives. What if that prayer led to us looking at our bruises and scrapes with affection and pride?
I am in no way wanting to guilt or shame any of you mommas. Rather, I hope to encourage you to push through this tough phase of life. This selfless and often daunting time. Relish those quiet moments to yourself. Sleep when they sleep. Shake off the mommy guilt that comes with not being productive. Teach yourselves to jump from that swing. Wear your bruises and unwashed hair with pride. If just surviving is the best you can do right now, just survive. I get you.