Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Tribute To My Mom

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.”
Proverbs 31: 28-31

Usually these types of blog posts pop up on Mothers Day in honor of the occasion, and not without good reason. But I don’t want to just spout words along with the rest of the nation on a day penned in ink as celebratory for the matronly role. I want to honor a seemingly ordinary person in a seemingly ordinary role on a perfectly ordinary day. This post has nothing to do with Mothers Day. This is just me sharing my heart with my mom, from the perspective of now being a young mother myself. So here’s to you, Cindy Strauss—my mother.

Growing up I heard you countless times lamenting that you didn’t fully appreciate your mother while she was alive. I thank the Lord that I still have the chance to share with you just how greatly I appreciate you. Back in those days, I was too young and too inexperienced to fully understand what you meant, just as you where when your mother was raising you. Now that I am a mom of two littles under the age of three, I can empathize with some of the thoughts and feelings you must have experienced while raising us four kids.  I’m struggling with how to condense and still eloquently word all the thoughts and feelings I wish to express to you in this stage of my life, but I’ll do my best. Some of this may be jumbled due to my own scrambled brain and the fact that my toddler is serenading me with a cacophony of musical distractions as I write this, but after all, that’s what this whole post is about—the high and invaluable calling of motherhood that is not for the faint of heart.

I’ll start with pregnancy. WOW. Let me just say, even if those 9 months of carrying a baby in your body were all that motherhood entailed, I would still give you a standing ovation. And probably a trophy. And maybe even a plaque engraved “SUPERWOMAN”. There are so many discomforts that accompany the joy of procreating life, and I have now experienced nearly all of them. From morning sickness to complete and utter lethargy to aches and pains, weakening bladder, stretched out skin and sagging body parts that make you feel elderly far before it’s your time (oy!)…sleepless nights, heartburn, and not to mention, keeping up with all the cooking and cleaning and laundry and bills and on TOP of all that, wrangling your older child(ren) and attempting to stay sane in the middle of it all…phew! I can’t believe how exhausting this stage of life is—and I’m just beginning! And then there’s childbirth and recovery, which could arguably rival the pregnancy stage in terms of discomfort, pain, and exhaustion. Can I just take a moment to applaud you right now? *claps emphatically*

Then there’s breastfeeding and raising babies, another often-unseen battlefield of motherhood. There’s the joy of bonding with your precious baby at your breast and knowing you are the only one who can satisfy your babe in those moments, mixed with the feelings of frustration over being the ONLY one who can satisfy your baby in those moments. It’s kind of a love/hate thing, I now see that. Oh, and being the human pacifier too. MORE sleepless nights, long days, the anxiety and racing thoughts that cause you to appear OCD and paranoid because you’re experiencing this whole new level of love and protective, worrisome instincts over your children that you just can’t turn off. Then there’s the confusion and exasperation that comes from having to learn the unique language and needs of each child because even though all 4 babies came from the same two people, they were worlds different and you had to learn new tactics and strategies to care for them in their own way which resulted in even more strain on your already-fried and burned out mommy brain (are these run-on sentences reminding you of the windedness of those days raising babies?!). And even IF you had the opportunity to nap, Mom, I imagine your mind was still running a hundred miles an hour with all the nagging chores yet to be done, bills waiting to be paid, dinner you hadn’t started yet (wait, what’s for dinner? I haven’t even thought that far!) and that book you wanted to read…someday.  Sigh.

I can now imagine and somewhat relate to the constant fatigue that became your daily acquaintance and the sometimes utter feelings of loneliness and being out of touch with the world because yours was consumed with diapers, dishes, driving the family taxi, and stretching yourself to meet every one else’s needs but your own. I now know the ache of wanting someone to share your story with and the longing to be understood, to know you’re not the only one that wears your pajamas all day because you’ve hardly had time to put your hair up, and count it a success if you got a shower AND makeup on or breakfast cooked before 11am. I feel the same constant need you likely did to be reassured that you weren’t a failure, because most of the time, Mom, I imagine you ended the day like I do, replaying all the good and bad scenes but mostly the bad because that’s all you could seem to remember, and beating yourself up over yelling at your kids or locking yourself in the bathroom to scream and cry or lashing out in impatience with your toddler and seeing the pain of their wounded spirit reflected in their eyes. And knowing God gave you these precious children, but when you’re feeling like the world’s worst Mom, you wonder why He chose you.

Now I see the sacrifices you made for us kids, and I suspect there was much more you gave up for us than what meets the eye. I sometimes wrestle with resentment that I imagine you may have over not being able to even go grocery shopping without a noisy brood getting into everything, or have two solid hours of peace and quiet to call your own; the feelings of being in a mommy prison and your parole can only last a maximum of four hours because the baby will be hungry—and remember you’re the only one who can feed her?! The opportunities that came and went—the kind that you would jump at in a moment but you couldn’t grasp because of the needs of your family at the time. So you watched from the sidelines with children crawling over you while the world went on with events that you wished you could experience. You probably fantasized about escaping to a tropical island alone with no one pawing at you or asking fifty times in a row for a snack or spilling sticky orange juice all over freshly mopped floor that you chose to clean instead of eating breakfast.  And then the jealousy you probably felt over those single ladies your age or even married ones with no kids who could just up and whisk off to a coffee shop or movie or even a mission trip to a third world country (heck, sometimes that sounds better than the daily demands of mothering littles!), but you couldn’t because your mission field was 24/7 inside your own home. And the whole time you knew this was what you wanted, and you wouldn’t trade it for anything, but golly, if only you could re-live some of those pre-Mommyhood days again! Mom, HOW did you DO it?!

Now, this next stage I have not experienced yet as a mom, but in retrospect I shake my head in wonder at how you endured the turbulent seas of raising us teenagers and young adults who at times thought we knew everything (especially better than you). I can only speak for my own actions, but I know I was selfish, demanding, prideful, and arrogant. I mistreated you and I took advantage of your graciousness, your selflessness, and your sweetness. I used and abused you in my immature stages of life, and I am in awe of how you unyieldingly responded to my immaturity with unconditional love and grace. When I fell, you helped me pick myself back up. When I strayed from God’s word and made foolish mistakes, you didn’t browbeat me or shame me. You listened, responded with truth, and provided the grace and love I needed to make the right choice moving forward. You have ALWAYS been a safe place for me to ask questions, confess sins, seek advice, and do so knowing I could receive a wise and biblical response. Despite some of the rocky moments in our relationship, I am so grateful for your delicate attempts to share your views without imposing them or expecting me to conform to your ideas. I honestly pray that I will navigate the adolescent and young adult years with my own children in the same gentle and wise way you did—inviting them to share their hearts with me and trusting me with their deepest and most vulnerable moments, as I knew I could trust you with mine.

 I now know the mommy guilt—that hovering cloud that never left you alone and which you probably fought constantly over the years, and the comparison game in seeing what other moms looked like on the outside and feeling like you always came up short. Maybe you didn’t wrestle with all of that, but if you did, I want you to know you were not a failure. You were an imperfect and beautiful mom, giving us what so many children around the world yearn for. You provided a wonderful childhood for us kids and gave us your all, shelving your own interests and desires and needs in order to see to it that we weren’t lacking anything. You poured yourself out again and again in tender love and affection; teaching, training, disciplining and repeating the whole process umpteen times a day diligently for decades as you led us toward adulthood. I honestly don’t know how you did it. Not having had that same Godly upbringing in your life, and with Dad working his tail off at school and work (doing an incredible job providing for us), you were in many ways a single mom learning as you went, somehow keeping our little world going round in a beautiful way despite the challenges of having little to no help and support those early years.

Mom, I tip my proverbial hat to you in gratitude for enduring the ups and downs of pregnancy and childbirth four times over, persevering through the exhausting years of caring for littles, prevailing during the seemingly fruitless seasons of sowing into hard-headed teenagers, and providing support now as we lead our adult lives. You are a one-of-a-kind mother and grandmother, and this world is so much better for having you in it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all you have done and continue to do for me, my siblings, and my family. I cannot adequately express the depth of my affection and appreciation for you. You hold a place in my heart that can never be taken by another, and I will treasure you for as long as I live. I bless you, Mom, in the name of Jesus, and praise God for all He has done in and through you. I love you.

Your daughter,