John asked his mom, Laura Bower to write up a blog post reflecting on some of her own lessons learned from mothering four children. Enjoy!
"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
What a great thought. Some mom rocked the cradle of a Winston Churchill, or an Adolf Hitler, a Billy Graham or a Donald Trump. Someone had to influence and guide a Condolezza Rice or a Miley Cyrus. Each extremely gifted, each choosing a different path. The truth is, the endeavors of your next few years will be the most important ones of your life. Shaping, explaining, loving, guiding a little person requires the full presence of your being.
For most of my life the cradled ruled my world. I felt honored to have such wonderful little kids, but loving your kids is only half the job. There are so many little lost opportunities I wish I could reclaim. So many opportunities to disciple I missed. I, like most mothers have to swallow gulps of regret and remember I did the best I could with what I knew.
So when my son asked me to write this blog to mothers, I thought, this is how I can redeem my regrets. Since God promises beauty for ashes, I offer my hindsight for your foresight.
First of all, I loved being a mom. It was all I really wanted to be. But I regret being such a passive mom. I regret I wasn't more developed as a person when I had my kids; so my first piece of advice is to take the time to know yourself. God has a wonderful development plan for you to understand how He wired you, how He crafted you and how He intends to carry out His purposes through you.
Even if it takes time away from your kids, invest in yourself. Seek counseling if you need to. It’s okay, and beneficial to clear out the debris so you can be fully present for your kids. Invest yourself fully in the Lord and in community. Build a team around you as it truly takes a village to raise a kid!
If you have a tendency to be depressed, or easily overwhelmed, stop and take care of it. Find out what's at the root, and take care of your heart. Anxiety is like a virus that will certainly infect your chldren. Don't waste so many years of joy with your kids by allowing a sad cloud to hang around you.
Secondly, I would tell my young self to relax and enjoy this time. It goes by so fast. The sleepless nights seem so... endless. I don't miss the lack of sleep. But then, again... I do miss that quiet, magical time at night when the two of us could cuddle, when they still needed me to comfort them. I would sing into their ears, or speak quietly to them -- "you're going to be a good man or woman" I'd say.
Thirdly, I wish I had been a better disciplinarian. I wish I would've said "no" with more intention – saving it for important lessons. I’ve heard so many older mothers say this. We wish we would have taught our to obey, soundly. Now I understand how important it is to develop self control by teaching them to wait, to hold their tongue, and to make their bed. I wish I would've spanked them more before they were three, and not waited until it got out of hand. And funny thing, I wish I had never started that monkey business of counting to three, so they had time to think about obeying!
One night when I was speaking in a harsh voice trying to make my young daughter mind me, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me. "Tone of voice is not discipline."
So what is? I thought.
"Consequences," He replied.
I understood immediately. There doesn't need to be raised voices, or harsh, frustrated tones, as if I'm out of control. God doesn’t raise His voice at us. Consequences, consistent and appropriate, create discipline. Which meant, I had to discipline myself. You have a chance to get children to gain the heart of God in discipline. He does this for our good! He wants us to obey God cheerfully quickly and completely. It is for our good. Let them know that mommy and daddy had to learn to obey God so they could be happy, too.
Finally, and most importantly, I wish I would have known then what I know now. That, as a Christian, we've been given the mind of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We can lean on Him for emotional support when our husbands aren't around. And advice and ideas when the experiences in our families of origen did not provide good parenting data. We don't need to parent alone. God will parent with us.
But how? you ask.
Well, here is my one success. Having been raised in a home steeped in the life of faith, I had experienced the blessings that came with serving The Lord. But as a young mom, I realized that I didn't really KNOW Jesus. I knew all about Him, just like you can know all about any celebrity you admire. So, I began to read the gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-- just like a novel.
I did this when my firstborn was about 6 months old during nap time. I didn't do the wash, or cook the dinner, or take a nap (unless I really needed to). Soon Jesus arose from the pages of my Bible and came alive to me. We became friends during those days. I started a lifelong conversation with Him that has grown sweeter every day.
John asked me to tell you, his young moms, how to maintain a good quiet time when you have little kids. It is difficult, and inconsistent when you are so tired, and emotionally drained, not to mention, sleep-deprived. But it is the most important piece of parenting advice I can give you.
In those days, when I was somewhat isolated from the world of activity, I came to know the joys of being a friend of Jesus. I became a groupie. Life was simpler then. Eat, sleep, clean poop, eat, sleep, feed etc. It was boring. Except for Him.
So, feed yourself. Put on the oxygen mask first. Become a rich garden of private experiences to draw on. I would play one of my two Christian records, and let the music fill my soul. I would dance in my den and sing to The Lord. Not every day. Many times quiet time ended up being nap time. But I now realize that when I'd fall asleep, it would be in His arms. He knew I was tired, and he watched over me, just like I watched over my little ones. I was His child, and He cared for me.
Become a rich garden of private experiences to draw on.
Motherhood is so natural, we forget it’s the ultimate calling. God has entrusted you with a great mission field. At times it’s a lonely job, but you don’t have to be alone in it. As Jesus taught us to say “Our Father, who art in heaven . . . “