Yesterday was our anniversary. Five whole years. We were finally experiencing acceptable spring weather. April had been unable to decide if it wanted to be hot or cold until now. These last few days have actually felt like Spring in Virginia, not January or July. We went to a local brewery where there was a lot of outdoor seating. Both of the kids were with us due to no available babysitters, so we let nature do the babysitting. We sat outside in the beautiful Virginia spring air, drank yummy beer, and filled our bellies.
We talked about how much life has changed in just five years; how much both of US have changed in five years. Looking back on our premarital conversations, we remembered how both of us were so flexible when it came to how many kids we would have. I grew up with six siblings, he grew up with 5. At the time, both of us wondered how many we would have. Five years down the road, we are still wondering the same thing. I won’t speak for him, but I will say how much I now struggle with this question and with how inflexible I have become. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for my children. I know many couples desire to have families like my own but cannot. But there is something about having children that has made me struggle, deeply and painfully.
As I talked to my husband about this last evening (yay for verbal processors), I began to understand something. Before I had kids, many of my mom friends (wisely) advised against setting expectations for my children. I couldn’t possibly know what kind of children I would have, what things they would struggle with, what their weaknesses and strengths would be, etc. I knew better than to put a picture in my head of what my children would look like in terms of personality, so I tried hard not to! And both of my sweet babies have turned out to be more amazing than I ever could have imagined. But there was still this underlying struggle. My mom friends also (wisely) advised me to not set unreasonable expectations on my husband. Every man responds to fatherhood differently. Some take more time to adjust and that is okay. So I attempted to keep an open mind. (For the record, my hubby is an amazing father and blew any expectations I might’ve had out of the water.) But STILL, there was this underlying struggle. I wasn’t ungrateful because I thank the Lord every day for these three incredible people He has placed in my life. So what was it?
Well, as I was talking yesterday evening, I was finally able to figure it out. While I was avoiding setting expectations on my kids and my husband, I quite unintentionally placed a great deal of expectations on myself. I left a blank space for a picture of my children and hubby as a father, but I still had a precise picture of myself as a mother. And you know what? I have disappointed every single one of those expectations. Every. Single. One. I am not at all the mother I thought I would be.
That underlying struggle? It was grief. I was grieving all of the things in my picture of myself that I so looked forward to. I was grieving a standard I could not keep. Disappointment is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the person with whom you’re disappointed in is yourself. I’m still trying to swallow it. Grief, mild or severe, has different stages. I think now that I’ve finally discovered that I’m grieving and what I’m grieving, I will be able to process things properly. It will take time, but now I will be able to form an accurate picture of what kind of mother I actually am.
My husband is the best. After I had finished verbal vomiting at him, he gently and kindly reassured me and said that maybe I wasn’t the mother that I thought I would be, but I am exactly the mother my husband and children think I am. They don’t have a false picture of who I am. They don’t have expectations that have all been disappointed. They think of me as exactly as I am and they love me for it.
I am still grieving. And that’s okay. It’s all part of a process. But now that I see things more clearly and understand what exactly my heart was experiencing, I am able to properly equip myself. I know what advice to seek out. I know how to state what my heart is telling me. I am able to understand why I no longer feel flexible towards having any more children. I know now it was not at all because I was ungrateful. My lesson (hopefully) has been learned.
Nature is peaceful and turbulent, beautiful and destructive, hot and cold. It doesn’t choose to be any of these. It doesn’t have a picture of itself that it needs to live up to. Nature just is and is changing every minute of every day. Don’t we experience peace and turbulence, beauty and destruction, heat and cold? Life is ever changing and it is not possible for any of us to maintain our original picture of ourselves. Life changes us and that’s a good thing. So when an area of my life requires me to switch gears, I will pray for flexibility. And when I begin to develop a picture of what kind of mother I think I should be, I pray I will remember that I am already the exact mother I am supposed to be. It is no accident that I am the mother to my children. My being a mother is not a mistake. Just like a mountain is flexible after a devastating forest fire, producing brand new life, I must be flexible to change, allowing growth and knowledge to enter in.
I just love how this conversation, the correlation between my life and nature, and a certain type of reconciliation to myself happened while I was talking to my husband. Encouragement came from the man whose opinion I value and respect the most on the day we celebrate our marriage. And I especially love how it all happened outside, in the calm spring Virginia breeze, trees were blossoming around us, and the birds were serenading us as we sat there watching the sun fade behind the mountains.