When I was in the hospital giving birth to our son, there were two guests waiting in the hallway to help us welcome our new baby.
Little did I know at that point that they were also welcoming me into motherhood. My mom and mother-in-law stood there together, 60 years of experience between them, ready to pass on all that they had learned about being a mother, to me. I had at that point read several books and articles on motherhood in preparation for this day. Despite this, I felt utterly lost about being a mom.
I met their enthusiasm with open arms and a terrified soul. I gripped their knowledge about motherhood like I was hanging onto a tree limb over a very high cliff. I had been around babies my whole life, even watched a younger brother grow from infancy to adulthood, but something about a baby that I was solely responsible for wiped any previous knowledge completely from my mind. Suddenly I had no idea how to hold a baby, diaper a baby, recognize a baby’s needs, when to feed, bathe, or how to clothe a baby.
Luckily, these women were more than willing to teach me. As were our grandmothers, aunts, cousins, family friends, women who I met at church and in the neighborhood. I asked questions and listened to answers, implemented baby-raising techniques and adjusted others to fit our lifestyle. All the while, I read parenting books and magazine articles about parenting to see if there was anything I might be missing. In short, I used my resources to figure out how to be a mother.
Through the years, and another child later, I’m still learning how to parent. I still ask questions about things that I’m not so sure of, if only to receive confirmation that my children are not the only ones who display a behavior that I’m not so psyched about. Is this normal? Does your son do this? Does your daughter talk about that? How do you get your kids to go to the bathroom/sleep in their own beds/get dressed on their own/eat vegetables/do their homework? I have to know.
I ask about experiences. I ask family members about how it was when I was a kid, and what they would do if they were raising a kid today. I ask friends about their experiences with allowances, pacifiers, sleepovers, cellphones, activity overload. I ask friends what they make for dinner when their kids have extra-curricular activities. The women in my life (and sometimes men) and I talk about what works for us and what doesn’t not only in parenting, but also in relationships, vacationing, intimacy, work schedules. I learn how to do everything from these conversations.
Of course, what works for one person will not always work for me or my family. But these things are the exception, not the rule. I learn that we are not really as different as we think we are. Neither are our kids.
Still, I have found that many people don’t want to learn about how anyone else does things. I have heard people defend their parenting and life styles under the guise of Nobody Tells Me How to Live My Life.
It’s pride, really. Pride in thinking that I am the only one who can do anything for my family. Pride in thinking that I know best.
I get that. Everyone wants some kind of control in life. Whether it is parenting, or relationship with a spouse or mother or father, or a job – we all want to feel as if we hold the reins, that we have it all together.
But then something happens and we lose that control. We fall. A child gets into trouble. A husband loses his job. A marriage weakens. And we suffer. The pain is lonely.
At that moment, we can lean on others who might have had the same experience. We can learn from their past mistakes and try not to make the same ones. We can ask for help; more often than not, those we love are more than happy to tell us how they endured the hard times.
God puts people in our paths to help us learn about life. I have no question that the people who helped me through the toughest days of parenting young children were expressly put there by God to teach me something in the the exact way that I needed to hear it. He has this knack for inserting just the right person at the right time to show us a way out of whatever we are struggling with. The best part is that his teaching is designed to always yield wisdom.
Our part is to humble ourselves, admit that we don't have all the answers, and look to him for guidance. We need only be open to the lesson.
Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did. – Sarah Caldwell
I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. These things happened as a warning to us… These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 1 Corinthians 10:1-6a, 11 (NLT)