I became a mom when I was 23 years old. In today’s society – at least the one I’m part of, in The Netherlands – that is quite young. Looking back, I must admit that I was young, and naïve – and not very prepared either.
Yes, I had graduated from college, my husband and I were married, he ran a business and we owned a house. I knew how to cook potatoes (which is a typical dinner in the Netherlands 😉) and how to clean the bathroom (although honestly, housekeeping certainly isn’t my favorite thing to do), and since money was tight at times, it was an advantage that I was frugal by nature.
However, I didn’t know much about motherhood – well, except for the great example my mom was (and she still is!). I truly feel blessed by being raised by godly parents who showed me through their actions how great God is, and what a loving Father He is.
The struggles of motherhood
But to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about what kind of mom I wanted to be. When I had my oldest, I guess I just did instinctively what I thought was best, and of course I tried very hard to follow my mom’s example. This turned out to be not so easy, though.
For a large part because, well, I have a human nature with all kinds of inclinations towards sin. I never realized how incredibly impatient I am by nature, until I had children! How easy it is to become frustrated and annoyed when things don’t go my way – and as you know, with children in the house, very few things – to nearly none at all – are going our way.
But there was also another thing that complicated and enriched my parenting journey at the same time: we gradually found out that our oldest wasn’t developing like other children. When she was three years old, she was diagnosed with a developmental delay, which later on turned out to be a permanent intellectual disability.
She actually was an easy baby and a sweet, happy toddler, but her speech was delayed, she often didn’t understood my instructions, or just forgot them, and she only learned very, very slowly.
I could repeat, repeat, repeat, and it still didn’t stick with her. Her strong impulses got the better of her, most of the time – which is perfectly normal for a toddler, but she’s twelve now and it has hardly improved. For example: there is just no way she can leave that last cookie on the plate, no matter what consequences she might face.
Battle of the wills
Growing up my daughter developed into a strong-willed girl. That’s something I consider an advantage: when she is motivated for something, she just pushes through until she accomplishes her goal. Like she did with riding a bike: at age six she taught this herself! Although her motor skills were a little behind, she just kept trying and trying, no matter how often she fell, and one day we saw her riding her bike – so proud of herself! She loves it until this day.
But this character trait also was a huge challenge for me. It seemed like all my discipline tactics – which basically came down to Super Nanny’s ‘time-outs’ – failed, because she simply refused to sit on that ‘naughty chair’. Like, after an hour she still hadn’t stayed on the chair for a minute or two, and I had to rewind the timer again. And again.
I grew so tired of these power struggles. She just didn’t seem to ‘get it’, no matter how hard I tried and how persistent I was. And I finally came to the conclusion that, if something clearly doesn’t work, I need to stop doing it. I needed to take a step back and reconsider my way of parenting.
Apparently, I couldn’t rely on common parenting methods, and certainly not on my ability to stay calm and patient – because I was lacking greatly in that area. I should have sought God instead!
Being the mom of this special, beautiful girl really brought me down to my knees, many, many times. It still does. It humbles me every day, because I face my own weaknesses, my pride, my impatience, my lack of wisdom, mercy and kindness. I know I am nothing without the help of God. I need desperately to be saved from myself!
I’ve learned – and keep on learning – to put my trust in Him as my Savior. When I come before His throne in prayer, He will give me strength and power to have peace inside, even in difficult situations, so that I can respond with more kindness and wisdom. Not that I have perfected this, far from it, but I am on my way! I know now where I can get help, because I’ve experienced He will give me the power to overcome.
I’ve also learned that it’s a good thing to educate myself about child development. And to look for other approaches in child rearing, for practical help and useful tips, whether it’s from therapists, experienced moms around me, or the internet. And now, when tips do work, I feel humbled, because I know it’s God’s work, not mine. And I thank Him for that!
Loving my children the way God loves me
Okay – I actually planned today to write about 10 parenting lessons I’ve learned from having God as my Father. But instead, I felt it was important to share something about my parenting journey first, so you all know that when I share some of the insights that have helped me, it comes from a humbled mom, who learned it the hard way – certainly not from someone who is naturally a great parent.
I do have an intense longing to love my children the way God loves me. I want to work on a deep relationship with them, so they are willing to give me their hearts and let me guide them through these first two decades of their lives. And of course I hope that when the time comes, they will give their whole hearts to God as their eternal Father and to Jesus as the Savior of their souls.