As a mom, I’m full of words of wisdom. But sometimes even I don’t like to hear them.
“It’s time to brush your teeth.” I planted two fists on my hips and faced my six-year-old daughter. She lounged at the kitchen table gluing pink sequins into her Hello Kitty scrapbook. “This is the third time I’ve told you to put away your craft. Brush your teeth now, or we’ll be late for school.”
“Okaaaaaaay.” Sloth-like, she slid her bottom from the chair and sauntered to the bathroom. I scrambled to finish packing lunch, zipped little sister’s fleece, then stood by the door, waiting. My kindergartener reappeared with her jacket on and her backpack slung over her arm.
“Ready to go, Mom!”
My eyes zoomed to her feet. “Where are your shoes?”
“Oops! I forgot!” She padded back down the hall and returned with a pair of sneakers.
“We’re running late now.” I watched the clock tick while she looped rabbit ears at a tortoise pace. “This is really becoming a problem in our house, my love. From now on you’re not allowed to play with your scrapbook or anything else until you’re ready for school—and that means teeth brushed and shoes on.”
“But Mooooom! I want to work on my scrapbook! It’s more fun than getting ready for school!”
A deep sigh rose from my gut, and I replied without thinking. “Sweetheart, sometimes growing up means doing what you’re supposed to do, not what you want to do.”
Whoa. As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I regretted them. Not because they’re false. They’re not. They’re true.
But I’m not sure I want my kids to know yet.
Growing up isn’t always fun.
And it never ends. I’m still growing up. Aren’t you?
For me, relinquishing my “wants” has been the greatest ongoing challenge of motherhood. Call it sacrifice, obedience, or dying to self—the gist is that raising kids requires a lot of “supposed to” duties and fewer “want to” freedoms than I’d known before becoming a mom.
I love my kids. And I love my quiet. The two don’t coexist well.
I love rowdy family game nights. And I love private time with my husband. I get a lot of one and not much of the other.
I love being needed at home. And I love going where I want, when I want, whether it’s to a coffee shop or Home Depot or the bathroom, for goodness sake. But mom duty lassoes free rein.
So some days I trip through life in my stocking feet, whining. “But God, I want to work on my scrapbooks. It’s more fun than packing lunches and carpooling!”
“Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,’” (Luke 9:23).
My selfish heart needs to believe this: Denying myself is a good thing. Because learning to sacrifice and obey—to give up some “wants” in exchange for some “shoulds”—is ultimately the practice of becoming more like Jesus. And, last I checked, that was still a primary goal of the Christian life, yes?
I’ll tell you what the goal should NOT be. It’s not to bide my time until the kids are grown. As if I’m just dropping anchor until my girls are tucked away in college and I can become selfish again. I want to sail into my empty nest years a better person, wiser for the journey. Don’t you?
The right “shoulds” will help us get there. I teach this to my kids. I need to let God teach it to me, too.
“Mom, can I work on my scrapbook when I get home?” My daughter stepped into her car seat while I buckled her sister for the ride to school.
“Yes. That will be your reward for working hard at school today.”
And what’s my reward? For working hard at home today, tending to the job God gave me. I settled into the driver’s seat and caught a glimpse of two little girls in the rearview mirror. My heart swelled at the sight of those beautiful faces. There it is, Momma. There’s your reward.
Funny thing about “shoulds” versus “wants.” When we lean in close enough, they look a lot alike.