Moments that invite fear.
These have happened to me SEVERAL times in the course of my 2 ½ year motherhood.
- Josie has a really high fever.
- Josie needs discipline for the first time.
- Josie’s room thermometer shows a one degree drop, meaning that she must’ve died and is a human ice cube chilling the room. (I didn’t say they were all rational.)
- Josie is ready for her big girl bed a lot earlier than I thought (as evidenced by the fearless crib climbing).
- Josie wakes up in terror with piles of barf on her bed for the first time.
Or the latest, this week. Twice I had moments of fear (compounded by pregnancy hormones). One was when Josie was crying in bed after we had said goodnight. She was beside herself, but we had also been through 2 weeks of her using every trick in the book to get back out of bed once she was tucked in. And knowing that every possible need of hers was met, we let her cry. I hadn’t done this since she was a baby, and even then I didn’t ever let her cry more than 10 minutes. And usually she fell asleep after 2-3 minutes, which still feels like a full hour. So on this night, Ryan and I set the timer. 5 minutes. We’d let her cry and then go from there. But during this time, I was gripped with every possible fear:
- She hates me.
- I’m letting her down.
- I’m scarring her for life.
- She really does need something and her life is probably in danger. Even though I can hear her crying, somehow she’s already dead. (Seriously.)
It took me a full two minutes to calm myself down, to start speaking positivity and truth into my chaos, and to switch from fear to faith. And guess what? It took Josie 3 full minutes before she was totally passed out and slept all night. And woke up with her usual smile and affection for her mother.
The second moment this week took a little longer for me to move past. We met Ryan’s parents for dinner to drop Josie off so she could spend the weekend at their place, and so Ryan and I could be productive around our house and have a date night. I kid you not, I LIVE FOR THESE MOMENTS. Dropping her off is one of my greatest joys! Sounds a little harsh, I realize, but when you have loving family members that regularly pour into your child, you take advantage! And I’m never worried, but as I loaded Josie in the car seat in her Gigi and Papa’s car, I kissed her quickly and ran for my life before she really had a chance to get upset. Josie was fine, and hadn’t cried when Ryan said goodbye either. In fact, she said, “Bye Daddy! See you on Sunday!” What a relief! But guess who actually did lose her mind? Me. I was crying before I got in the car, my mind racing with worry. Worry that she wouldn’t sleep well in a “big bed,” or that she would wake up and be a bother to them in the middle of the night, and worry that she would die in a car accident on the way down there. Seriously. Every stinking worry I could have, reasonable or completely unreasonable, took hold of my mind. Until I made the conscious decision to STOP IT. And move from fear to faith.
What’s the reoccurring theme here? My first thought, in ALL of these scenarios is “I’m not equipped for this!” Sometimes it is specific: My middle child, peacemaker personality is not equipped to be a consistent disciplinarian. Sometimes it is vague: I’m not equipped for motherhood in general. If I’m feeling this way as the mother of ONE TODDLER, how will I feel as the mother of 2? As the mother of teenagers? As the mother of grown children?
But this is the trick, the key. The speed with which I move from fear to faith directly correlates to the amount of joy I experience as a mother.
Some thoughts on Fear:
- Silly, irrational fear: Don’t stay here. Don’t live in this place. Shut it down and move on.
- Fear of inadequacy in a moment that doesn’t really matter: Figure this out quickly. In the case of walking into Josie’s room at night and finding piles of vomit on her bed for the first time, I was paralyzed for 5 seconds before my instincts kicked in, and I moved into action. We may not have handled this perfectly, but we did the best we could and in the end, it doesn’t really matter how we dealt with the barf. Josie was safe and well-loved.
- Fear of inadequacy in moments that do matter: Discipline. First, know that there’s a phase of “new stuff” every 3 weeks in a kid’s life. As soon as you get used to one thing, and feel like you’ve got it under control, your kid starts biting or hitting or talking back. Something totally new. This has happened to me so many times. And the key I’ve found is that the more prepared I feel for each situation, the less time I spend in fear. So, as soon as Josie started biting, I did some research, I asked friends and family for advice. I chose a course of action, and moved forward confidently.
- Reoccurring fear: Whatever this may be for you, take the time to dig into it. Don’t ignore fear and pretend like you’re not experiencing it. Set aside some time when you’re not crippled by said fear, and figure it out. Get to the bottom of it.
Some thoughts on Faith:
- Faith in yourself: When you become a mom, you really do get this instinct and are equipped along the way for what your tiny might throw at you (literally or figuratively). Take heart that you’re doing the best you can!
- Faith in God: I really believe that God not only chose Josie to be my child out of all the millions of sperm and egg combinations, but also that He cares for and provides wisdom for us to parent her.
- Faith as a Verb: This is the big one or me. When I say faith, I don’t mean this abstract, just pray about it, just push fear aside and hope for the best! Faith in action. Equip yourself! Read and research! Ask for help from trusted sources! And make sure you’re setting aside time for yourself so that you’re joyful and reenergized when these situations come about, not always drained and at your wits end.
This isn’t easy. Moving from fear to faith is super hard and takes lots of practice. But it’s a skill worth learning – for your sake and for your child’s sake! The more I practice this, the more confident I feel. The deeper joy I find in motherhood. The more freedom I feel to practice self-care and pour into people and things other than my child! And as my family grows, and our lives transition over and over and over again as we raise our kids into adults, I hope to look back at this time in life and know that every step along the way I did the work to be confident and prepared in the next step.