It’s been almost a year since my green-eyed, redheaded little boy made me a mama. From the exhausting months of newborn cries and snuggles to the giggles and tantrums of the late baby stage, this journey has grown me in so many ways. Just as I might have predicted, one theme keeps coming up over and over again: control.
I quickly fell into one of the sneakiest traps of motherhood: the belief that everything my child is, does, and says is within my control and therefore my responsibility.
If my son is still waking up to eat in the middle of the night or ready to start the day at 4 AM, it’s because I need to tweak our schedule. If he’s doesn’t crawl, walk, or talk as quickly as other babies, it’s because I haven’t done enough practice activities with him. If he becomes a terribly picky eater, it’s because I didn’t introduce solids the right way and we’re doomed to a life of chicken nuggets and carbs forever (although that does sound pretty tasty to me!).
There are so many places in motherhood where I am quick to compare my son to other babies, determine that he’s not measuring up in some way, and lay the weight of that squarely on my own shoulders. I feel like I should be able to control everything my son is and does, and if I can’t, it must be because I’m not a good enough mom.
The farther I get into this motherhood journey, the more I start to wonder if this just isn’t fair. Yes, my actions have an impact on my son, and the decisions we make about his eating, sleeping, and behavior will shape his habits and the person he becomes. But to some degree, the person he’s becoming is already engrained in him. He is a distinct human being with likes, dislikes, and desires separate from me and what I want, and no amount of tweaks or discipline will change that completely.
The fact that my son isn’t doesn’t eat, sleep, or behave exactly like I want him to at all times isn’t a sign I’m a bad mom. It simply means that he’s human, just like his mama and daddy.
Here’s the truth I’m clinging to these days: I am not 100% responsible for every part of my son’s life, personality, and behaviors. We love our son with all our hearts and do everything we can each day to take care of him and raise him thoughtfully. But in the end, we cannot control him.
And you know what? Maybe the goal of parenting isn’t finding the one philosophy or strategy that will make my child “perfect” or mold him into a person who does everything we want him to do. Maybe instead it’s about a willingness to keep trying to raise him with love and tenderness even when it just doesn’t seem to work the way we’d planned.
It’s continuing to do everything I can to help my son get the naps and night sleep he needs, even when I see no improvement and I’m exhausted.
It’s continuing to try new approaches to food and eating, even when he throws things on the floor and it feels like we’re doomed to a picky eater forever.
It’s continuing to love him and set limits for him as he learns to explore his role in this big new world, even when I don’t think I can handle pulling him away from one more lamp cord.
It’s showing up and loving my kid over and over again, even when the 1000th attempt at something doesn’t produce the result I want.
Because ultimately, I don’t want to raise a little robot who does everything perfectly – I want to raise a child who knows he is deeply loved and cared for by his parents and the God who made him, a God who loves him even when he fails to measure up over and over again. I want to raise a child who knows that in his failures, his brokenness, and his learning to manage all the messy feelings that embody our short time here, he is safe and believed in and cherished.
I want our parenting to reflect the tender, patient care of a God who gives us the space to be broken and beautifully messy.
So from here on out, I am giving myself and my son the grace to be imperfect. I will change diapers, make another batch of banana pancakes, tweak sleep schedules, teach boundaries, give lots of kisses, and do everything I can to prepare my son for the life ahead of him. But when things don’t go as planned or he throws a fit or doesn’t quite match my expectations, I will let go of my need for complete control and just keep on moving forward in this parenting journey of ours.
I will love my son with all my heart and raise him with constant prayer, intention, and coffee, but I am trusting that ultimately, who he becomes is in the hands of the One who knit him together in my womb.
And it is oh so freeing.