Perfect Imperfect Motherhood:
5 Lessons My Children Taught Me About Raising Them.
It’s June, and graduation cakes are in every grocery store I look! Maybe that’s how my subconscious mind is programmed these days, because my son is graduating from high school. Yes, the last one! Praise the Lord! My baby boy is growing and moving out! (yes? no? maybe?)
Almost 26 years ago, my husband and I started a family. We made an unspoken and unsigned agreement that I would be the one carrying the child in my womb. Each time I held a brand-new baby in my hands, I cried from a mix of emotions. Some from the long labor, followed by the sutures, and mostly, I had tears of joy! And each time, I also silently prayed.
“Dear God, thank you! Thank you for the gift of a healthy baby.” And then I asked Him: “Dear God, are you sure? Are you sure you trust me with this brand-new baby? Please help me God. I don’t know how I’m supposed to take care of this baby. Please help me, please!”
I was scared by the prospect of being a mother, and of how I didn’t really know what I was doing. How was I going to be a perfect mother who would never fail!
Very rapidly, I was put to the test of motherhood, beginning with the lack of sleep and breastfeeding more times in a day than I could count. And why does a baby always wake up when it’s diner time? How does it know?
I wished for my own mother to be there and show me the ropes of motherhood. But my mother was nowhere to be found. She lived in another country, on another continent! So, I would have to be on my own and raise these babies to the best of my knowledge! And the best of my knowledge was truly no knowledge at all when it came to raising babies!
Before I had children, I was a perfect parent! I looked down on those parents who yelled at their children or punished them. I fantasized about being the perfect mother who would never yell, or God forbid, spank my children! Actually, in Africa, they don’t spank children, they give them the beatings! And before you say anything, know that they love their children very much even as they are whipping their behinds!
I can still remember my grandfather hitting me with his walking cane whenever I misbehaved. He would chase me and hit me with it on my behind, my legs, or even on my head if it were what he could reach. I drove him crazy running from him and hiding.
“Come back here child…, come back here! Soon or later I will get you!”
Grandpa would threaten, because my hiding worked up his anger. And until he had given me a good correction, he never let go. Unlike my grandmother, he never let me get away with anything. Even when I hid from him for a day, Grandpa would still punish me when I resurfaced. And whenever my grandfather started whipping my behind, my grandmother defended me, telling him to stop.
“Leave that child alone! What will I tell her mother? She entrusted us with that child!”
Grandma would say between coughs due to her chronic asthma.
“You tell her that you spoil this child rotten. That’s what you will tell her mother or I will!” Grandpa would menacingly say. Silently, I vowed to myself that when I would have my own children, I would be a perfect mother!
Boy, was I rudely awakened when I became a parent! Whenever I disciplined my kids, I felt guilty. And the more they misbehaved, the more the disciplining, and the more guilt I carried around. My children went through a time when my life confusions and my responsibilities collided. They were the ones who suffered the fact that I had no family support, which would kick off my early “middle-life crisis” that followed.
Fast forward to today. My kids survived my trials-and-errors I made in raising them. I’m a proud mother of three, and my one and only son, my baby just graduated from high school! My two older daughters already graduated from college, and are now working adults, dealing with adulthood. My children are the best gift God has blessed me with. I thank them for choosing me to be a carrier who brought them into the world. I know they have their own souls, and are here for a purpose beyond just being my children. I encourage them to figure out what that purpose is, and to follow their true callings.
I know for sure, I messed up big time. I am not a perfect mother, but a perfect imperfect human being. I did the best I could, provided what I knew at that moment. My children are good people who are loving, caring, intelligent, compassionate, and I could go on and on, bragging on the blessings I received each time God put a baby in my hands.
So, for those of you who are raising young children, or parents to be, don’t you worry! You will mess up! No matter how many parenting books you read, even if you had a perfect childhood yourself, parenthood doesn’t come with a manual of instructions. It is the most difficult, and yet, the most gratifying job of all! No one can ever pay you enough to raise decent people who become productive members of society. Sometimes, children will test you, and bring out the ugliness in you, with fire coming out of your ears that you didn’t know was there! And at other times, they bring out the best in you (especially, when they’re sleeping)😊.
Below are the mistakes I made in raising my children, which qualifies me to share the 5 lessons I wish I knew before becoming a mother.
- Perfectionism: Drop your perfectionism, and don’t raise your child to be perfect because, obviously, you will quick find out that you are not perfect either. And that’s okay! No one is.
- Competition: Don’t compete with other parents. Run your own race, and teach your children to have love and compassion for themselves and others.
- Comparison: Don’t compare your children to other children. Being compared to others can turn anyone into a rebel. Instead, guide them by example in what you do, and how you carry yourself.
We live in a comparison and competition-driven society, where you want your child on every team, every dance competition, every club, every after-school activity you can find, and at the same time, maintain a 4.0 GPA! This does not leave time for raising them to be humans and not robots. Now, it’s a good thing to have your child in extra-curricular activities, so he or she can explore where his /her passion meets the needs of this world. But don’t overwork them. Allow them to have downtime. And even for you, take some “you” time to regroup.
- Know Thy Child: Sometimes, I think our oldest children got the worst of our parenting skills.
My husband and I never asked them what work they were passionate about; rather, we told them what they should do. Fortunately, both our two daughters were wise enough not to listen to us completely, and are now finding their own paths in following their passions. Ask your child and listen to what he/she is passionate about, and help him or her to hone the skills needed for that passion. Help them develop their natural gifts instead of trying to force gifts into them. Gifts are God-given and we all have them. When kids are younger, they show their natural gifting, but as they grow older, we, parents, lovingly want to change them or instill new gifts into them.
Don’t try to change the course of their lives by telling them what you want them to do, as opposed to what they are naturally gifted to do. I’ve heard many a story of parents complaining: ” My son has failed me, he was supposed to go to medical school, but he is a musician!” The key word here is, “me”. We think kids are the extension of who we are. We want our children to fulfil the desires and dreams we couldn’t fulfil for ourselves. And that can drive a wedge between a parent and a child; or even cause kids to feel like they disappointed their parents. The consequences can be disastrous: kids who look for approval outside of the family, and even depression can occur when teenagers feel like they disappointed you. The lack of confidence in mapping their own destiny makes them choose non-gratifying jobs and relationships just to escape being trapped.
When I think back to my own youth, I remember I wanted to be a French TV news anchor. I was always mesmerized by journalists who read news in French on television. With my good French pronunciation, I was confident I could be just like them! So, after high school, I chose journalism school. But, a dear family member who loved me very much was adamant that he wanted me to study economics, so I would wind up a minister of finance, a president of a bank, or something in those lines. Even though I knew that wasn’t what I wanted, when I came to North America, I studied finance and worked in financial and accounting fields. Needless to say, those were the jobs where I felt miserable in my career life.
But then I discovered my gift of writing. Anytime my job had anything to do with composing long sentences, I excelled at it! But my accounting work had little room for words, and so, I failed miserably in those jobs, until I called it quit, or got fired! So, all this is to say that when you have faith in your own abilities to choose wisely to follow your own passion, trust that your child will do the same.
5. Know Your Best Legacy: If you raise your children to be good human beings who care about other humans, let that be your best legacy, more than any money you could leave them.
You’ve probably heard it said that, it’s not what you leave to your children, it’s what you leave in them that matters most.
Now, here is my six-million-dollar question to you: How Do You Define Being a Good Parent?
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About the Author:
Seconde Nimenya is an international award-winning author, inspirational speaker, and evolving talk series host. For more information about her work, visit: www.SecondeNimenya.com
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