After 4 years of daily laughs, sleepless nights, countless diapers, and many "i love you"s I have come to realize that despite my great joy at being a mother, I do not always know HOW to love my daughter. There is NO doubt that I love her more than my own life, but I have not always known how to show her my endless love. I believe as mothers we are given the immediate love for our children that lets us know we would die for them. However, I also believe that just because we love our children that much does not always mean that we know how to share that love with them. So through this blog I am embarking on the adventure of learning to show my wonderful daughter all the love I have for her.
First, a little background: I am a recent graduate of a Master of Social Work program, I am a firm believer in Christ and that his death paid for my sins, I am a teenage mother who gave her son up for adoption 8 years ago, and I am a single mother of a bright and beautiful 4 year old. I have a great family who has supported my daughter and I all through my schooling (undergrad and graduate), both emotionally and financially. I have been blessed with friends who look past my faults and mistakes to support me both through my adoption and through my single parenthood. I am a proud supporter of the US Armed Forces, having a brother and many friends who have served this country. I am currently in the position (with family help) to support a couple of deployed soldiers, 1 which is a great friend and 1 I have never met. Most of all, I have been blessed to be the mother to Maddie, my sweet baby girl.
Maddie is smart (I know all parents say that but its true!)..we joke all the time that she is "too smart for OUR own good" because Maddie learns things that I didn't know anyone taught her--and sometimes we haven't really "taught" it, sometimes she just pays attention to learn new things and surprises us all later. Maddie is also very friendly and outgoing--much like I was at her age, or so I am told. She is beautiful and has the best laugh in the world--the kind that starts in the belly and just spreads uncontrollably. Even when I'm supposed to be mad, I find that I cannot keep from laughing if she starts giggling. She is also very sure of herself and what she does and doesn't like, which is a great gift to have at such a young age. Unfortunately this means we often butt heads because we're both so stubborn about what should be done and how.
So how does this lead me to today? As Maddie gets older and more verbal I am realizing that we are butting heads more and more. I want her to do something...she says "no"...typical for her age, but frustrating for me. And like most parents, I do not always parent perfectly. Nor do I always remain the "calm, cool, collected" parent I should be. So I got to thinking, what does it show to Maddie if I am not showing my love through my actions? And for that matter, how do you show the abundant love that you have for someone, even when you are frustrated and tired and at your wits end?
Well, being the Christian that I am, I decided to turn to the Bible and books written about love. And I found one that interested me, even though it didn't fit my situation at all. Some of you have heard of the Love Dare and may have even used it to save your marriage. (I know..now you're thinking "has she lost it--the Love Dare--shes not married!?" but hear me out). I started thinking about the premise of the book, to teach you how to show unconditional love...and I have to wonder if the principles used in the book cant also be applied to showing your child that you love them unconditionally. Sure there are going to be some "tasks" that are not appropriate for the parent-child bond...thats why you have to take the underlying principle and think of a new task that would show the same thing. I guess its a challenge for me...to see if I can learn something new about unconditional love and how to show it as much of the time as possible.
So here is where I am starting.......Love is Patient, Day 1. For those that know me, you probably would not describe me as "patient". I am usually pretty impatient and want to "get things rolling". Even in my parenting, I always feel rushed to get things done, get out the door, or clean up the room, or...you name it and I want it done "now". But I know that this impatience has not gotten me where I want to be as a mother. It often leaves me unhappy and quick tempered instead of calm and able to manage life's many curve balls. The Love Dare says this about patience "when you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger. You choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Rather than being restless and demanding, love helps to settle you down and being extending mercy to those around you."
I know I could use a little more of the mercy and peace rather than restlessness, especially these days. You see, I'm still unemployed...searching, had 1 interview with the VA, but it could still be months before anything happens with that (supposing I even get that job). Right now, I am home full time, working a few hours here and there at Maddie's preschool just to have some income (even though a classroom full of little kids is like pulling teeth for me), and constantly worried about money. I know in my heart and head that God will take care of us, He always has provided for my needs. I know that my family will not kick us to the curb anytime soon, but I also know it takes a toll on them for us to live here full time without any income from me. With so much unrest already in our lives, I think I need to learn to be the calming force in Maddie's life. To provide a sense of peace when there is so much uncertainty. Practicing peace does not come naturally, but I am hoping to figure out how to practice daily--or at "least fake it til I make it".
The Love Dare also mentions that "It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives". I am by no means a perfect person or mother and as a human I tend to have my moments of selfishness...you know, those nights when you just really want to watch XYZ show that happens to come on right at your child's bedtime...so you delay bedtime, only for your child to melt down and through a HUGE fit...and you know what happens next--you get upset and things usually get worse from there. I hope that through this journey I will learn how to be a little less selfish at times and a little more open to the calmness that being patient can bring to my home.
So Day 1--the dare is to "say nothing negative at all". For me, this means not having a short fuse, but rather open ears to listen to Maddie and the patience to help her rather than repeat a request multiple times. I know I cant do it alone, but I am hoping that with a little encouragement from God, I will be able to say nothing negative and to show a little more patience tomorrow as we go about our day.
In addition to my own personal Love Dare, I am working to improve my joy in the events of my day...so starting today I am listing 5 things I am grateful for each day: 1 - Friends and Family, 2 - spending time with Maddie, 3- a poop-free day (you don't really want to know what this means, lol), 4 - finding new storage solutions, and 5 - being able to support deployed troops through care packages/letters even when I am facing financial difficulties.
With Love from the Smiths....the journey begins!