There’s nothing like kids to humble you. I thought marriage was the ultimate character tester. But no, it turns out kids are. They are wonderful at pushing your buttons and revealing the inner gremlins that you thought you’d dealt with years ago. Like anger management. Or control issues. Or just the plaguing question, Am I a good mother? Or am I scarring my children psychologically for life? Are they actually being naughty or am I just not giving them whatever it is that they need?
My friend Judy put it well when she said, “Your kids are growing up and getting used to you as a mother. And you’re on a journey too, getting used to them and being a mother. So you’re both learning and growing together.” That’s true. There’s not much training for motherhood – you’re learning on the job. And you have to learn quickly because getting it wrong isn’t much fun.
How many nights after the kids go to bed do you sit and think about the day that’s been? You wonder if you’d done that, then perhaps that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe he wouldn’t have reacted that way if you’d managed to stay calm. And why did you need to blow up over that incident that afterwards seemed so trivial? Many times I’ve ruminated over my mistakes and misgivings, finally surrendering them to God and asking for forgiveness and grace for new beginnings for the next day.
I love the Scripture that says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3: 21–23). God gives us fresh grace every morning. And so we begin anew on a fresh slate. I’m thankful that compared to adults, children are so ready to forgive. The times I’ve apologised to my kids for something I’ve done, they’ve always said, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it, Mom.”
New beginnings… This year a dear friend came to visit from Zimbabwe. Vicki is like a mini-whirlwind: she blows fresh life into your rather boring, staid world. We went for a walk with her three kids and mine plus husbands in Tokai. Afterwards, she showed me how to write on my phone by joining the letters together rather than typing, kind of like cursive for phones. It looked tricky and I secretly thought it wasn’t for me, but then I saw the message Vicki was busy writing: “Katherine will try new things.”
That hit me between the eyes. I will try new things. It was more than a promise, it was a declaration. Not long after that I accepted some freelance work writing scripts for hotel training videos. It was hard, I’m not sure I aced it completely, but at least I tried. I was now writing messages by joining the letters together, much to my kids’ amazement. Sometimes weird words came up, but I was trying new things.
Here’s some other new things I’ve been open to this year: I’ve written celebrity articles. (Yes, me, the one who has to google famous people to find out who they are.) I’ve written some health and baby articles, which I haven’t done in ages. I’ve done a few web articles, too.
And the list goes on: I did my first TV interview (where I was answering questions, rather than asking them). I shot a gun (just an air rifle, mind!) for the first time in my life. I’ve volunteered to help out at my sons’ Cubs group. I’ve started lifting weights at gym and now have muscles in my arms. (Well, they’ve probably been there all the time, but now you can actually see them.)
Children are great teachers. They are learning new things all the time. If you let them, they’ll take you on their journeys of discovery. My second-born son has recently taken to building rock sculptures in the river at our local park. He got the idea from our neighbour John and now he spends many happy moments balancing rocks on top of one another, which is much harder than simply building Lego.
Last week he invited me to join him wading in the river and I admit I hesitated. I didn’t want to get my feet dirty. But in the end I joined him, sporting mud marks between my toes afterwards. Walking barefoot along the rough surface of a river bed is a sensory-overload experience. Your body is absorbing so much information – cool, liquid river, the languid movement of the current, slimy weeds caressing your ankles and hard wire gabion and rocks poking into your soles. And then the process of selecting and stacking the rocks and getting them to balance was challenging. I realised my son is much better than I am and more creative. (He readily acknowledges this, saying I’m still on the basic level, while he has attained level three of rock-sculpture building.)
I pointed out to him that at least I’m trying. He conceded I am. Vicki was right: “Katherine is trying new things” and she’s enjoying it. Even if she’s not very good. The main thing is to be open to it.