Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7 Valuable Life Lessons: Virtues of an Imperfect Mother

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a different parish than I normally attend. It was one of those weeks where the Hubs and I split Masses due to work and other events, so I was flying solo. While it is nice to be able to focus on the Mass without five trips to the bathroom and a few more to the water fountain, when your mind is used to wandering with a toddler, it finds other places to wander even if the trip back to Jesus is faster flying solo.

This particular week, I noticed at this parish how nicely dressed the families were. Crisp, clean fabrics, flowing dresses, girls with their hair braided and not flying astray...this was in sharp contrast to our family's slightly disheveled children with shirts coming untucked and hair flying in a million directions.

Other times, I wonder what the parents whose children sit through Mass are doing differently. Our brood is an active one, and it can become a little disheartening to see other families sitting calmly through Mass while we take yet one more walk around the gathering area. The old nature vs. nurture questions start cropping up. Is it our parenting that makes them incapable of sitting quietly, or is it just in the their genetic makeup (which is still our doing)? The truth is that it is likely a little of both.

Photo credit: Rubina Mukerjea Roshan
While I can work to change and grow as a parent, it is unlikely that I will change into someone I am not. The same goes for our children. If we spend so much time focusing on what we want to change, we miss out on the beauty there is in the current moment. We are who we are, and there is grace in that.

It is true that through all of this, I want to learn to love better, more selflessly. At the same time, who I am right now is who God has trusted with these children, imperfections and all. Motherhood has been a struggle, no doubt. It is stripping bare all my false selves to reveal the true state of my soul, which is often uglier than I thought. To hit a brick wall over and over has been dizzying, especially for a woman who has been an overachiever for much of her life. In that dizziness, I can start to think there is someone better out there for my children. That is a lie, though, isn't it? There is no better mama for my children than me. There is no better mother for your children than you.

In fact, in my many foibles and failures, God may just be teaching my children and I something about Himself. There is so much grace that is revealed in our weakness. Here are just a few ways in which our faceplants and utter failures are teaching our children (and us) some wonderful lessons on the nature of being human and needing redemption.

The True Nature of Love

Love is messy and hard. It is rarely all butterflies and rainbows and poetry and chocolate. The sweetness comes after the sweat. Love is work, not just platitudes. Love is a whole slew of "I'm sorry" and "let's try again" and "I forgive you"s. Love is dying to yourself for the good of another, and death is painful. There is beauty and sweetness and peace and fulfillment. It just comes with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears sometimes. 

The True Face of Joy

Joy isn't about being on Cloud 9 forever and always. In fact, joy and sorrow are most times two sides of the same coin. Joy comes from being able to swim through the tears and the sorrows and the frustration to come out on the other end with a sure knowledge that all shall be well. It is trusting that the victory has been won, so we can rejoice in that when everything else starts falling apart. 

Grace Abounds in Failure

Failure is not death. Sin does not win. One thing that I am certain my own shortcomings can teach my children is that they should not fear failure. It can be embarrassing for certain, but in that moment God's grace is already hard at work making something good from it. Of course, as St. Paul reminds us, this doesn't mean that we should try to fail or sin. Certainly we aspire to succeed, to put a little extra into the ordinary. However, if things don't work out, if we stumble, there is grace enough to pick us up and keep us going if we let it. We can be schools of grace for one another in our failures at home. 

Mercy is Always New

There is always a new dawn after a dark night. We all make mistakes. Just as God's mercy is never-ending, ours can be too. Somehow we find a way to start again, over and over and over and over. We wipe the slate clean for our children as they learn and grow and rebel and yell...sometimes right alongside us. Our errors and failings give us a chance to experience (and extend) that mercy.

There is Strength in Humility

It is okay to admit when you are wrong and that you don't always have the answers. It is okay to ask for help. It is good to know and admit your weaknesses. It is in them that Christ is able to give you strength. When we are less than perfect, it is such a rich opportunity to show our children how to be confident in the face of their shortcomings. We teach them that our worth doesn't come from being perfect by any definition. We are worthy because we are created in the image and likeness of God - nothing else. 

Endurance Wins the Race

Until our dying day, we continue to have the opportunity to get it more right than the day before. Some days we will fall flat on our faces, but we dust ourselves off and keep on trying. What a fantastic lesson for our children to take with them. There is nothing so big that it can make Him turn away from us - nothing. If we keep on trying, if we keep running (or walking, or crawling) to Him, there is no bellyflop, wipeout, nosedive - nada - that will separate us from the love of God. Even if it the tiniest little step, you just have to keep going. 

Life is a Masterpiece if Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

There is rarely a day that goes by without me beating myself up for something. A harsh word, not putting my phone down, not cleaning, having laundry piled up, wasting time, being ungrateful - something. As a photographer, I realized a few years ago that I needed to keep a photo journal of life moments throughout the day. (In more recent times, that journal is called Instagram.) What I have discovered is that looking back over those snippets of my days, the same days where I am berating myself for not being "more," there is so much grace and beauty and joy and wonder. In the big picture, my failures don't add up to the same majesty as the grace and joy and beauty and love and wonder and all the good things...and there are so many good things. Much like an impressionist painting, if we take too much time to examine things really close up, it will look a mess. If we step back and see how those messes come together - voila! Life is a masterpiece.

So, you see, mama? Being perfect isn't the bees knees. Why chase after a mirage when there is such richness and virtue in our real, imperfect selves? Our kids deserve nothing less than the real moms they've got - and that's the way God designed it! What is God teaching your brood through the messes of your life?

Until next time, let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus!

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  1. Love every word of this post! I especially related to "It is stripping bare all my false selves to reveal the true state of my soul, which is often uglier than I thought." Because I am totally uglier than I thought. That just means that I have my work cut out for me and my children to show me the way through their selflessness, and mentality of being Jesus to others, just as they hope others would see Jesus in them. <3

  2. Six and Seven keep me moving. And my kids are all over the place at Mass for the most part. Disheveled too :D Beautiful post, Rakhi!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I'm starting to get over the active kids thing. We are there praising Jesus, so let the kids move and praise, right? :)

  3. Just about the time I despaired of ever getting my children to simultaneously behave at Mass *and* look nice, suddenly everything clicked and people started to compliment me on their behavior. Within two years - I kid you not - my son's feet started to grow at such an alarming rate, there was no way to ensure he had anything but sneakers to cover his feet, and my girls suddenly balked at wearing dresses. I've had to lean back a little on the clothing (shirts with a collar, clean, no holes on anything, full-length pants), but at least they still behave!

    Frankly, when I see "perfect" families, I get kinda suspicious! ;-)

  4. Thank you. I enjoyed reading your post.

  5. Rakhi - this is a beautiful reflection! There is no better mother for your children than you. By design children can make us more virtuous. And the families that seem to have perfect kids at Mass surely have their own crosses to bear. I have lively kids too and can so relate!

    1. I love that, Christina - the families with "perfect kids" have other crosses. That is so profound. Thank you!

  6. Bravo! Such a great post.
    Your blog is one of my favorites to read. Thank you for lifting me up and making my day a little lighter.
    I am sharing this with a friend of mine because I know it will help her, too.

    1. Thank you so much, Erica. You are such a wonderful encourager and I know for a fact I would not be writing as much without your encouragement.

  7. Thank you so much for this! This is something I really needed right now. It reminds me of my fave Switchfoot song: I'm learning to breathe / I'm learning to crawl / I'm finding that You and You alone can break my fall / I'm living again / Awake and alive / I'm dying to breathe in these abundant skies
    Sweet Little Ones

    1. I love that, Jess! I don't think I know that song, but now I'm going to have to find it! :)

  8. Beautifully said. It is sometimes very difficult to admit our shortcoming. But we have to. For our kids' sake as well as our own. There is nothing wrong with shortcomings. We are made that way. The only wrong is if we never try to improve. You are the perfect mom for your kids.