One of my most favorite poems (actually a sonnet) is by Elizabeth Barrett Browning titled, “How Do I Love Thee?” In my mind, its one of the classic pieces that everyone should read and contemplate, so if you have the patience, give it a go:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
So why am I spouting out a sonnet? Well, in the last several days I have been greatly challenged by my daughter. And when I say challenged, I mean I have been looking a tad like the frazzled housewife at her wits end because everything is falling apart, and she still hasn’t showered. My darling daughter has reached the age where she is into everything. Ok, people with 6 month olds (my prior self included) think that their crawling babes are into everything. But they aren’t. To be “into everything” requires speed, agility, height, and a devious mind. Case in point, your six month old cannot reach up and grab everything within reach on a counter, table, bookshelf, bed, ect. Right? They also don’t really like to be alone, so they won’t (most likely) wander off and pillage your closet and then hide that one shoe that is so essential for work attire. Or get into your underwear drawer and strew indecent attire all over tarnation. Or have the reasoning to dispose of all sorts of necessities via a diaper genie (such as, socks, shoes, cell-phone chargers, keys). You see what I’m saying? A little crawling babe cannot be into everything in this way.
But its not just the constant disaster that I am talking about. Its also having to say “no” to just about everything. No wonder they hate that word so much! I do too! In fact, I am going to try really really hard to not say it to my next child until they are cogent enough to get what I’m saying, and when the moment truly requires it. Its hard to “win” little battles of the will, and then move on as quickly as my 16 month old insofar as my attitude adjustment. For instance, I can get so aggravated over the repetition of “no,” and the disobedience that ensues, but once we’re over it, its done. I can’t stay mad at my daughter when one minute she’s the devil incarnate and the next she’s a lamb in a pastoral painting. But I do. I get so tired of the struggle that sometimes I wonder how people have more than one child. Woops. Too late for that. Just kidding ????
Well, there you have my confession. Now onto the more positive nature of this blog. No, I do not hate being a mom. On the contrary–its the greatest joy I’ve ever known. But its not an easy role to fill. I’m learning so much lately on motherhood, marriage, and being a woman. Obviously God is working on me, since everywhere I turn I’m hitting the same blasted–I mean blessed wall. Matt and I are in a Sunday Bible study on marriage, and this is our first time ever going through a study with a group. I love it. And some of the things that I am learning in that class can be applied directly to my role as a mother. The book we are reading is called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. His primary tenet is that God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy. Now that would make sense, wouldn’t it? That explains why we have the expression, “the honeymoon’s over.” I think that Marshall’s argument should also be applied to parenting. I am not going to be happy all the time as a mom. But maybe the terrible twos (which I think can ail a one year old) are a great advantage towards holiness. The other study I’m in right now is on the Titus 2 woman, called Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. Ironically, the chapter I just completed was on “Loving your children.” Fortunately, rather than making me feel even more crappy as a downtrodden mom, she confirmed that those feelings are normal. But we are supposed to DO something about it. 2 Cor. 12:9 says, ” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Welp, there’s all sorts of weakness in this pregnant lady, and I am desperately trying to view it as a ground for holiness.
This is Coco with toast and jam plastered to her hair–what you cannot see is the stuff that she shoved into her ears.
As I started with Browning’s sonnet, I think I better explain a little bit of my reasoning for including it. I think I was first exposed to that piece in Mr. Engel’s English class as a freshman. When Matt and I first got together, I would remember that sonnet, and understand it in light of our relationship. (I know, I’m an English nerd. I also wrote down Shakespeare sonnets in my diary–gasp!) I have also viewed the poem in light of my love for God. And now I think of it as a mom, aspiring to love my child in the best kind of love possible…the kind of love that affects the soul. We won’t be perfected until after death, and thats what Browning is getting at when she says “I shall love thee better after death.” I can’t wait to have it all together some day! In the meantime, I am working on loving my child[ren] and husband in holiness. I’ll let you know when I’m there ????
And for my Mom–HUGE HUGE HUGE props to you for having all six of us and never failing to love us. Thanks for your example, and for sticking it out in those fierce battles during my terrible two-seven year old phase. Love you, Mom.