When each of my sons was four, I volunteered to help with their group for our church’s summer vacation Bible school. I feel the need to tell you that this was like service to the Lord. I love my kids. If you and I were real-life friends, I would love your kids — because I love you. But children as an indiscriminate demographic of people just aren’t my thing. (Don’t judge me. This is why the body of Christ is made up of many parts. Rocking other people’s babies and teaching a crowd of kids are just not my part.) I’ll talk to a group of women and encourage moms all day long with great joy. But spending three hours herding fifty four-year-olds from the puppet show, to snacks, to games, to crafts stretches my gifting and comfort zone.
I share this so you can have a sense of how I might have felt at the end of the blessed VBS week. We were just ten minutes away from pickup when happy parents would come get their rosy-cheeked, sticky-fingered children and ooh and ahh over their hand-painted garden signs. One of the other adult leaders and I were outside making sure each kid’s craft was labeled with the correct name when I heard a loud clatter from behind a nearby utility shed. I peeked around the corner. It was Elias. My four-year-old. He was stacking paint cans he found who-knows-where in a teetering tower.
“Elias, get out of there. That is not a place to play. Please go sit and color with your friends.”
Two minutes later the canopy we were standing under started to shake. One side collapsed. There was Elias.
“I just wanted to see what this button did.”
“Eli, you need to stay with the other kids. Go make me a Play-Dough pizza. Now.”
I rolled my eyes and my friend laughed.
Soon parents came to check out their kids. VBS pickup can be a blur of commotion connecting the right kids with the right adults. Name tag, check! Parent signature, check! Logan needs his craft. Lilly’s mom is here — can a runner please call her from the indoor play area? Yes, Tyler had his gluten-free snack. Focused, efficient, and personable were my goals.
Then, an ear-piercing scraping overtook my senses. I looked over my shoulder. There was Elias, again. Dragging a stack of metal folding chairs across the concrete.
Oblivious to my dagger eyes, Elias beamed, “Look, Mommy! I’m helping!”
When all the kids were gone, we finished cleaning up. Picking wads of Play-Dough out of the grass, I lamented to my friend Trisha how I wished Elias could just follow directions like the other kids.
She looked me in the eye and said, “Becky, he’s a leader! Look how determined he is. He doesn’t go along with everyone else because he has his own ideas. That’s a fantastic quality. That little boy is going to grow up to do amazing things.”
In moments like these, it’s easy to laugh off the words of another person. It’s easy to nod along while letting the encouragement, the insight, the truth, roll off your shoulders because your mind is busy rehearsing the script it’s used to. This is what I was tempted to do.
I was tempted to say, Oh, he’s determined all right, with a knowing wink while letting my frustration over his determined spirit remain. But what would happen if I let Trisha’s unbiased observations of my son sink in? What if I let someone else’s perspective help color the way I see my own child?
Because, really, the root of my frustration in moments like that with Elias isn’t the fact that he’s playing with paint cans and dragging chairs; it’s the underlying fear that I’m not doing a good enough job. The spiral of inadequacy sounds like this in my head:
If I was a better mom, my son would listen.
If I could control him, things would go smoother and we all would be happier.
If I was a better disciplinarian, coach, or encourager, I would be able to channel his inner drive into expressions of compliance.
In short, my confidence hinged on his behavior. And that, my friend, is a broken ladder I’ll never be able to climb.
I accepted Trisha’s words as the gift they were. “You’re right,” I said, and let a smile spread across my face. “If this is how he is at four, I can’t wait to see what kind of leader Elias is going to be when he’s older. Surely God is going to use him for something special!”
God wants to build our parenting confidence by helping us see the goodness and beauty in our kids and in ourselves. He often uses other people to do it. Our job is to receive it.
This is an excerpt from No Better Mom for the Job by Becky Keife. Copyright 2019 from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission.
(in)courage Community Manager Becky Keife knows the ups and downs of motherhood and how easy it is to feel inadequate. But she’s learned along the way that it doesn’t work to just do more or try to be better. True confidence comes from leaning on the One who made you a mother.
If you’re tired of trying to muster up enough creativity, joy, and patience by your own sheer grit; if you long to be known and seen, for your struggles to be validated, your blessings to be celebrated, and your soul to be strengthened, Becky’s new book, No Better Mom for the Job, is for you.
Whether by birth or adoption, God made you the mom of your kid on purpose for a purpose, and He wants to bring new life to your motherhood and fresh hope to your soul. No Better Mom for the Job is available now wherever books are sold. AND we’re giving away THREE copies of this brand-new book over on our Instagram page — enter there!
True confidence comes from leaning on the One who made you a mother. // Get your copy of @beckykeife's new book, No Better Mom for the Job, wherever books are sold! #nobettermom Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Whether our kids are 4, 12, 18, 25, or 40, it’s easy to let their behavior and actions determine our worth or success. I used to say things to myself like, “If my kids grow up to love the Lord, have a personal relationship with Him, and serve Him, then I will consider myself successful.” Guess what? Despite our very best efforts, prayers, training, discipline, modeling, our children have a free will and they are free to exercise it however they choose. I have seen kids from strong Christian homes grow up and go astray. I’ve seen kids from messed up, dysfunctional homes grow up to be leaders and model citizens. All we can do is the best we can do. Our children are loaned to us for a season. Ultimately, they are God’s children and He is their ultimate Father. Tying our worth to their behavior is, indeed, a broken ladder. Our identity can ONLY be found in knowing who and whose we are in Christ Jesus. We, moms, are so hard on ourselves. Yes, seeing our good parenting through another’s eyes helps us to have sober judgment about the awesome job we are doing. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart….my knees are worn our from going to them in prayer.
Blessings and sharing in the joy of your newly released book – what a gift to moms everywhere!
Michele Morin says
Becky, I will offer you a view from the other side of mothering a four-year-old “future leader.” Those same words were spoken over my own first born as he ordered the other nursery room kids to form a train with all the chairs and then took his place in the engine. The kind nursery worker who saw leadership where I saw bossy problem child spoke truer than she knew, and, sure enough, he’s a leader at work, at church, in his home, and even in his community. Sometimes mums have to hang onto the reins even when we’re being dragged, but the end result is so worth it.
(Hard to remember on the average Tuesday in the mothering trenches…)
Wow, Becky, my kids are all grown now, but your words resonated with me! I can’t count the many times I had those feelings of inadequacy. Too many, too often. You seem to have some good answers for young moms. Bravo!
“True confidence comes from leaning on the One who made you a mother.” Yes! This! As a mom of two adult daughters, two step-daughters, and Gramma Pamma to 5, parenting doesn’t end when children become adults. No Better Mom for the Job is a beautiful read for ‘mature’ Moms, too. Thank you, Becky!
Kellie Johnson says
Becky, I too have raised a leader. We used the term “strong-willed child” back in the day when Dr. James Dobson wrote about these kinds of children. Yes, it messes with the psyche of a mama so thank you for encouraging other moms here in this devo and in your book. My saving grace back in those days was to remind myself that I was in fact hand picked to be my son’s mom, no matter what anyone else thought of my parenting or his strong personality. Keep up the good work!
As a parent I often felt like a failure or a fraud. We adopted and had biological children. As the parent of adult children I still feel that way and cannot understand why God has entrusted me with raising two of my grandchildren. I feel like I failed once even though I prayed and looked to the Lord for help and guidance so I am doomed to fail again. The dynamics between my two grandchildren are so similar to those of my two daughters when they were growing up it is daunting. I have no idea how to do it differently. The happy family I dreamed of having with all my children and grandchildren enjoying life together, sharing meals together, maybe even trips, is still just a dream. If anything it is further away than ever. Everyday it is a struggle to not let grief cripple me and keep me from doing what is right, from taking the next step. The end to years of infertility and childlessness simply brought new and more pain.
Kathleen, I can so relate with your words! I too grow discouraged at times and battle feelings of hopelessness about my family. No one adopts to end up with dysfunction and pain! But it is truly a battle! We have an enemy who wants to get us to doubt God’s good plan for us and therefore doubt the good & loving character of God! I have been depressed and disheartened for years, but now I am choosing to praise instead! He IS doing a work even if we cannot see it. And even if my children never change I can say without a doubt that God has changed MY heart. His Presence in the sorrow and pain is truly a gift I would not trade for all the success and comfort to be found in this world. Be encouraged, dear lady, He is not finished with us yet!
Deborah Van Norden says
Right now, my brother and his wife are raising my daughter because I am sorely lacking. The proof is in the pudding. Sometimes there is a better mom for the job.
Patty Pickett says
Thank you for your comment, sharing your brave and honest and assumably difficult choices.
May the God of all comfort, wisdom, grace and power be with you all.
Loved this Becky!
My second-born dare devil scaled the nursery toy box and up onto the ledge to stand in the window seal. He couldn’t walk yet – but he could conquer any mountain. Today he is 17 and is on a mission to live his life with boldness and courage, yet still has the tender heart of compassion. I was freaked out mothering all his crazy antics and escapes without clothing (but always with a cape). I’m so proud of the words you formed in this book to give all the moms hope in the God who created us to mother our people. Thank you.
Beth Williams says
I’m so like you. I will like your child because I like you. Don’t ask me to work nursery or teach children. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being around rowdy children. I much prefer older people. That aside God has made us all different. We each parent differently. We shouldn’t let our worth be tied to how our children behave or don’t behave. Each child is different. Some can be compliant & follow rules while others want to help out & be little leaders. Embrace the comments from friends. You never know how true they may be.