Holding It All Together

This blog originally appeared on my first website www.scrapsofsoul.blogspot.com, in August of 2010, when I was a passionate mommy blogger. I've moved on to other subjects and (I hope) found a broader audience. But I find some of my best thoughts about God, myself, and others came in these early years of child-rearing.

This weekend, our family is headed out on our eighth camping trip to Big Sur, CA, and it may be our last, as our eldest goes to college next year. The first time, Sophia, now 17 but then six, gave us a family name, The Four S'mores, and I got the code-name Marshmallow. This blog, about her impressions of me as a mama, as we left for our first is particularly poignant to me, as she saw me then as someone who is over-emotional. I have worked so much to be a stabilizing force in her life since then, and yet, 11 years later, still I struggle with finding how to be an authentic woman in a house where I am raising two of them -- balancing comforting them with finding comfort for myself. I conclude now, as I did all those years ago, that I am NOT always a strong mother, but God will step in where I fail.

And by the way, we did have matching shirts made, which we grew out of. I'm making more as we speak. (This will make sense as you read.)

Wasn't I brave, camping with these tiny children?

One week from tomorrow, we are heading off for our family of four's first ever camping trip all on our own. The real kind of camping, with tents and fire pits and everything. It will be an adventure for sure, and not necessarily in the way Hubby is envisioning it. Realistically, I think my Mommy jobs can only get more complicated by the simple life in our camp site. But we're going for it, and I'm excited.

The kids are over the moon about the trip. Sophia (age 6) felt we should have a team name for our family while we camp. So she dubbed us the Four S'mores. Hubby and I like it so much we're considering having matching shirts made.

When my sister-in-law heard our new name, she wanted to know which of us represented each s'more element. We decided Hubby was the chocolate, sweet Livie was the graham cracker, feisty Sophia was the fire, and I was the marshmallow. "Because as the mom, you're the one who holds it all together," sis-in-law said.

What a nice compliment. Too bad, though, that the next day, Sophia asked, "Mom are you the marshmallow because it falls all apart, and you fall apart?"

Ooh. That stung a little bit.

But then I laughed, thinking about the ways in which I did "fall apart" over the weekend that prompted my recent "cranky" blogs: like when I surveyed the damage in our backyard on Sunday, filled with the detritus from a day at the beach and a morning of my husband's garage sale foraging. Or when an econo-pack of toilet paper rained down on my head while I was trying to get picnic supplies off the laundry room shelf. Or when Livie had her 10th tantrum on Sunday, apparently not caring that the Sabbath should be kept holy.

"Well, sweetie, Mommy does fall apart sometimes," I told her. "Sometimes I just get very tired. But that's not why I'm the marshmallow."

In one of my finer "Fun Mommy" moments

Look at me: I'm growing. A few years ago, Sophia's comment would have sent me in a week-long Bad Mommy Shame Spiral. Now, I'm comfortable with the fact that sometimes I do indeed fall apart. But only because I know how hard I'm working to hold it all together.

I'm in charge of feeding, cleaning, dressing, supplying the house, signing forms, making appointments, keeping the social calendar. I'm responsible for my kids' relationship with one another; for socializing them with their peers; for teaching them to respect their elders. I plan the birthdays. I schedule babysitting and make sure Hubby and I get date nights. I'm the one who makes the dreaded statement, "Honey, we need to talk about our relationship." I say the bedtime prayers and answer the questions about the universe, nature, God, what TV does to their brains, and what sugar does to their teeth.

And humbly I can say, this job is too much for me. I don't mind the fact that my daughter knows that. Being a woman is hard, wonderful, scary stuff. So I'm allowed to fall apart once in a while. And when I do it in an unhealthy way, like yelling or saying something unfair and hurtful, I don't mind apologizing to my kids for losing it. It gives them the opportunity to extend grace to me, and teaches them how to ask for forgiveness, too.

That, in fact, might be the best lesson I have to teach my kids: I am not enough for them. I am not strong enough for this job. But I don't have to always be strong, and neither do they.

I rejoice in 2 Corinthians 12:9: "But he [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

When I fail the kids, I can point them up, to their perfect parent, who loves me so much that I can make mistakes without feeling condemned. I can tell them that freedom is available to them too. I also rejoice, that God gives me the opportunity to be the marshmallow, the one that holds my little children's lives together, and gives me the power to do it, not perfectly, but well enough.

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