What’s a Mother to Do?
When my children were toddlers I knew how to help them fight their battles. At one point we had four under the age of eight and home schooled. Our little hub was pretty much it. Like New York, if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. (Okay, maybe not but I couldn’t resist). A couple rules really helped out. One was: “if you can’t share you don’t get to play with it.” The other was: “When someone tells you they are sorry you need to tell them either: “I forgive you” or “You’re forgiven”. The option existed because we did not want to teach our children to say things they did not mean but they could always confirm that the other person was indeed forgiven by the One who can truly forgive us.
One time my oldest two were squabbling all morning and I had had enough. I separated them for the rest of the day. If one was in the kitchen the other couldn’t be. If one was outside the other had to stay in. The only exceptions were lunch, dinner, and bed and then they were to remain silent. They were miserable. After that one day I only needed to threaten to separate them again and they immediately got along.
Battles with the outside world seemed as easily solved, probably because our little Church community at the time consisted of like-minded mothers many of whom also home schooled. If the conflict could not be quickly resolved an offer to help me bake usually served as a distraction and the next invitation by their friends to play ball rendered the problem forgotten.
Today my children face bigger giants, more complicated problems, conflicts without chocolate chip cookie resolutions. They meet the real world with real world issues much earlier then I ever did. Classmates commit suicide. Friends’ parents are sent to Iraq. They carry groceries from the foodbank to a car serving as a family’s home. And they know, we are just one illness, one accident away from a similar fate.
My children are older then I was at their age. Yet, their hearts are broken and their minds are confused by the same relational problems most of us went through as teens and twenty-somethings (and some keep going through as thirty and forty-somethings). I can not kiss their owies and make them go away any more. My tool box of quick fixes is empty. Even my three year old is beginning to look at me funny when the band-aid promise does not make her scraped knee stop hurting.
So what’s a Mother to do when she can no longer protect her children? What recourse do I have when a careless friend or romantic interest wounds my grown child’s heart? I would like to give them a piece of my mind, punch somebody in the nose, tell these heartless snotty-nosed brats that they are really missing something by not valuing my children the way they deserve to be valued. I would like to take them over my knee. But that would be pretty impossible and look rather silly even if it were. Besides, such a response does not really solve my child’s problem anymore then violence and hate solve the world’s problems.
If retaliation, punishment, or rejection is my first response how can I blame anyone else for feeling the same way? The good news is, I do not have to give in to my initial reaction. When my ire is pricked I do not have to say or do the first thing that comes to my mind even if it is a “brilliant” retort. I have raised (am raising) my children to understand that they have choices. Even when they face cruelty in the form of hate, injustice, or prejudice they can choose differently. They can respond to any aspect of cruelty (ugliness) with an opposite spirit–tolerance for hate, compassion for prejudice, truth for injustice.
At a personal level these responses might be more difficult for us to make. We always seem to be better at looking outside ourselves then in the mirror. But, they are no less important. In the long run (which again is always harder to see) if we are able to take what hurts us and process the pain with the goal of learning, growing, and loving we will be the better for it. Our relationships will be more sincere. Our understanding of ourselves will be more balanced. And, our walk with God will be more intimate.
I believe this because my life has born witness to its truth. I can not at the moment back it up with a bunch of scripture. I can not produce a parade of expert witnesses. But I know in my heart of hearts that my God is a god of love that love, covers a multitude of sin and that I am covered.