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!
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