“How did this happen?” I ask Dave when the house is particularly noisy and chaotic (which is much of the time). “How did we get so many of them?”
Fourteen years ago, when we were nearly eight years into our marriage, we’d actually begun talking about having our first child and then we discovered she was there, splitting cells like crazy in my belly. Seriously, though, God tricked us into all the rest. Three years after Em was born we’d just about made the decision we were supposed to be a one-child family when, surprise! Four months later the ultrasound technician shocked us into laughter when she said, “I assume you know you’re having twins.”
My father-in-law often jokes the Lord gave us two-in-one because if He hadn’t, we would never have had a third child, and He nearly wrote the edict for Patrick’s adoption on the wall to make that entirely clear as well.
It doesn’t really matter how they all happened. They’re here—as are Judy and Kelly, our two international students. I’m a mom—whether I planned it or not. I love them, deep down in my gut, all the way to the ends of my fingernails, and with a ferocity that surprises me at times.
But I didn’t exactly “plan” them (that word makes me laugh!), and I’m not an especially nurturing person. I’ve never read a parenting book cover to cover; I don’t put little notes in my kids’ lunches; I completely space out sometimes about their activities; I tell them, “yes, eat the cookie” because it might allow me to push back dinner or—I admit it—get by with fixing a snack instead of a full meal.
When my kids were little, my mom kept sending me outdated Parenting magazines from the lobby at my dad’s office until I asked her to stop. All the pictures of “good” moms making cute crafts with their kids simply made me feel guilty.
Thank heaven, we’re past the “cute craft” stage, but I don’t do what I’m supposed to in this one either, it seems. Not long ago a co-worker complimented me on getting all my international students’ school paperwork in before the deadline.
“I have to,” I told her. “I have this two week window in the late summer when I drop everything else and do all my kids’ school ‘stuff.’ If it doesn’t happen in that window of time, it doesn’t happen. Don’t ask me for things in October. The window’s closed, and I won’t do it.”
Her eyes got a little goggle-eyed until I told her I was kidding.
But I really wasn’t, not completely.
I don’t enjoy volunteering at my kids’ school activities. I’ll read to kids, but that’s about all I like doing. No one has EVER asked me to be a room mom—there’s a reason for that, you know. Last year I sent in a special day snack to the wrong kid’s class and I completely forgot to show up for kindergarten lunch relief one day.
All of this can make me feel like I’m not a good mom, that other moms are better, but I’m not writing this to ask for affirmation or for advice on how to be more nurturing. I’m writing it because I think a lot of other moms the feel the same as I do.
Last week a friend told me, “I think I’m missing the ‘mom gene.’” At her son’s football game the week before, the team mom passed out lanyards with laminated photos of the individual boys. My friend’s immediate thought was, “How did she even think of that?” but then she realized all the other moms were oohing and aahing over the pictures.
“What’s wrong with me?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I told her. I was talking to myself, too.
And because I think we’re not alone in this, I’m talking to a whole bunch of moms (and dads) who get stuck sometimes on who they are not as a parent instead of who they are.
I am mom to Em, Jake, Maddie and Patrick. I am host mom to Judy and Kelly, acting as a support to their beloved mom, Josie. I am equipped with a specific and correct ‘mom gene’ to fit each of these kids and their needs and personalities. I can trust God didn’t forget to complete my DNA; He didn’t match me with the wrong kids; and He doesn’t require me to act like some other mom to be a good mom—the right mom—for the ones in my home.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying this is easy—far from it. Parenting Em is different from parenting Patrick or Maddie or Jake. Daily I need wisdom, grace, patience, and love—most of all love.
But even in motherhood’s perplexing and frustrating moments, even when one of my own children says to me, “Well, so-and-so’s mom does it different,” I can know that “so-and-so’s mom” would not be a better fit for my kid.
Because the best mom for my kids is me .
Even when I send the special snack to the wrong classroom.