Thursday, May 18, 2006

Facing the preschool years

I have kept a personal journal since I was 12 years old.

In light of yesterday’s post, I decided to read through some of my journal entries from not that many years ago, when my oldest were preschoolers. Whew! Sprinkled among the newsy updates about first steps, new teeth, or potty training endeavors, are lines like this: “I’m so discouraged,” “I’m pregnant again-surprise!” “I’m failing,” and “Am I doing the right thing?”

Although I still face issues with my kids (I have preschoolers on up to tweens now), I undoubtedly think those early years were the most difficult of any of my parenting years. Those were some tough times!

Here I was - I had everything I ever wanted. I had the man of my dreams and three healthy children. But I was working part-time wishing to be home full-time. My husband was working long hours and taking graduate courses at night. We struggled financially. We had three kids in four years; I was drowning in housework and physically and emotionally exhausted. I had (at least) one very strong-willed child that threw me for a loop. One day ran into the next and I felt like I accomplished nothing. I felt isolated and alone.

I saw others who seemed to handle the marriage, work and parenting thing so well, and I wondered why I couldn’t seem to get above it all. I was still ironing out my own parenting style, vacillating between modern theories of child rearing, and the example of traditional Biblical parenting set (thankfully) by my own parents.
I was hung up in my wish to be the perfect parent, and frustrated by my complete inability to be that person.

I was confused a lot.

Most of my journal entries meander through this quagmire, then end in some kind of prayer. Desperate prayers. I wanted so badly for my children to turn out right, and here I was, doing a rotten job of it. The more I got into it, I realized the job of parenting was obviously beyond my human capability to accomplish.

I think that must be God’s method: to prove beyond any doubt that we will absolutely fail without Him. That’s when He seems to enjoy coming through. Looking back, I can see that if our children have done anything right, I can’t take the credit. It’s all been by His grace and strength.

During these years, this psalm became an anchor for me. It describes the earth-rocking emotions I felt, the changes happening to what I thought was "my" life, as I began to embrace motherhood. My motherhood - pock-marked, broken and tear-stained though it may be. In the best of times, it made my heart swell with thankfulness for God's help raising our precious little ones. In the worst of times, it helped me remember that I am not alone.

Psalm 46:1-5

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

It is still my prayer today.


Code Yellow Mom said...

This is PERFECT for me. I'm where you were...Thanks for sharing your insight.

Nettie said...

I can really relate to this! I am amazed at how Heavenly Father has strengthened me and increased my capacity over the years I've been a mother. I remember my first baby as being so difficult, but my latest one seems so much easier. I keep wondering if He has allowed me a lull before the storm of teen aged parenting. Every time that thought comes to mind, I, like you, say a prayer for help and hope.

Jennifer said...

Thank you!! My daughter just turned 18 months old today and I can't tell you how many times doubt creeps into my mothering. I will be checking in from time to time. Thanks again for the insight and you have a beautiful family!