Several parenting blog posts recently went viral among my Facebook friends.
First there was Glendon’s cry to not carpe diem and to soak in the kairos moments. Then the Huffington Post offered “Apologies to The Parents I Judged Four Years Ago” about one mother’s conversion from harsh critic to sympathetic insider.
But as post after post popped up on my friends’ walls, I noticed one thing. Only the new mothers were sharing them.
Moms with babies, toddlers and preschoolers leapt on these stories – of being real, of encouraging each other, of stopping the cruel judgment. But the moms I know with grade-schoolers, high-schoolers and beyond? Silent.
Did they not need the same reminder to play nice? Was the battle no longer theirs? Did they simply stop caring?
As someone swept up in the worries of new parenting, I found myself floored by this obvious fact. All the wise and experienced moms I knew seemed to have risen above the mommy wars, while my friends were firmly entrenched in the fight.
When would I, too, reach the place where I was confident enough in my own parenting to let all my silly insecurities go?
All the arguments over how we bear and birth and feed and clothe and teach young children – they’re meaningful to the extent they help us figure out how to take our first few steps in this strange new land called Parenthood. But once we’ve learned how to walk, we’re no longer concerned with bickering over breastfeeding vs. formula.
Because, as this wise and witty blogger describes, little of it matters in the long run.
I often find comfort in the fact that whenever I ask my own mother, over a panicked phone call, if any of her five kids did x or didn’t do y, I always get a pause and then the same light-hearted response: I don’t really remember!
During my first few months as a mother, I simply could not believe this was true. How could my mom have possibly forgotten the Life-Altering Transformation That Is Getting Your Baby On A Nap Schedule or Starting To Feed Your Child Solid Foods or Diagnosing That Strange Childhood Rash?
But now that we’re on baby #2 and seem to have lost any knowledge we thought we gained with #1, I completely understand how it happens.
I barely remember the days, only a few short years ago, when my first was a baby. Now my new obsessions are potty training and preschool, not naps and nursing. With the questions and concerns that arise at every new stage, we lose the worries of the last.
Which underscores the truth that ultimately, most of the daily dilemmas don’t matter. Each human being turns out to be a mysterious mix of nature and nurture, impossible to predict, define or control.
But when we’re taking our first few toddling steps into the world of raising children, we have no idea what we’re doing. We’re bumbling along, trying to make the best decisions with little experience and lots of anxiety – a perfect recipe for insecurity. So even when we try not to trash-talk other parents, the cruel beast of judgment sneaks in and rears its ugly head.
We roll our eyes. Snicker behind others’ backs. Share juicy gossip of “you won’t believe this…” with our spouse over dinner. I’ll admit to it. I bet you’ve done it, too. But for what gain?
In a season of life when the mommy wars are still raging around me, I wonder about peacemaking. At the heart of the Gospel is a call to make peace. Beyond passive observers or angry protesters, what would it mean to be a peacemaking parent among parents? To actively build up instead of tear others down?
I know that I want more peace and less anxiety around my parenting, and I imagine most new parents are in the same boat.
So I’m throwing it out there:
The next time someone invites you to a mommy war – through their gossip or email or jokes or judgment – try not showing up.
Instead, wonder about what it means to be a peacemaker.
Take a stand against pettiness and pride. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Try compassion or empathy. Picture yourself as an older, wiser parent and imagine the better perspective you’d bring with more confidence.
Because wouldn’t it be lovely to live a world of parenting peacemakers? To be at peace? To teach our children the same?
What if they threw a mommy war and none of us came?
“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)
“Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Variations on a theme, it’s a conversation that plays out in many corners.
The latest version I heard came from a mother furious with her son’s soccer coach for scheduling practices on Sunday. “How are families supposed to get to church,” she lamented, “when we have games on Saturday nights and practice on Sunday mornings?”
Raising children of faith – any faith – has never been easy. No matter the culture, it has always been full of temptations, frustrations, and distractions that make it hard to keep spiritual practices at the heart of family life.
Religion is not cool or sexy or popular. It calls for commitment and sacrifice and humility, none of which ever top Parents magazine’s “quick ways to have fun with kids!” or Seventeen’s “must-haves for this school year!” But lots of parents dedicate their time and effort and energy anyway.
They take the babies to be baptized, the kids to faith formation, the whole crew to church on Sunday mornings. They do it for lots of reasons, and sometimes they’re not sure why. But it has to do with helping make their children the “sort of persons you ought to be”: people who treat others well, who act with kindness, who stand up for what they believe in.
All of this work of parenting – the arguments over why you can’t wear those clothes or listen to that music or skip church on Sunday – is the work of preparing a way in the wilderness, making a place in our hearts and lives for God to enter in. Because the truth is that the temptations, frustrations, and distractions “out there” are in our own hearts and minds as well. The wasteland and the wilderness are often closer than we’d like to admit.
Advent is about this, too. About being counter-cultural. About being quiet when the world says noise! About being still when the world says rush! About simply being when the world says do!
About preparing a way to become the people we ought to be.
Have you made any counter-cultural decisions as a parent? What message do you hope this sends your children?