I have a sweet friend who recently told me a story about her mom. My friend is pretty amazing, and I am always curious about amazing people’s parents. Her mom’s name is Mary. She told me that there was a family in her church that had a son who grew his hair out really long. Mary, like many Mormon moms, liked her own sons to be a little more clean cut and always wondered why this woman did not just make her son cut his hair. At this time Mary was in a really good mothering stage. She had lots of kids who were turning out well, obeying, and she was feeling pretty good about her parenting abilities. This other woman’s son struggled for years with a lot more issues than anyone outside of his family knew. He eventually ended up taking his own life.
Many years later Mary’s own high school age son started to grow his hair out and test his boundaries more. Mary hated it. She would always fight him to cut it. One day she was at church talking to the other woman, complaining about his hair and explaining how frustrated she was. The other woman looked at her and said, “Oh Mary, there are so many more important things to worry about than hair.”
It changed Mary. This other woman was not saying that long hair didn’t matter because she was trying to make Mary feel better. She was not saying it because she couldn’t think of any better cliche about love at that moment. She was saying it because she would give anything to have her long haired boy back with all his imperfections. She would give anything to hold him and tell him he was loved and he was enough one more time. Not because it might have changed the way things turned out, but just because that is what is most important. After that day Mary started to focus on loving her long haired boy and not worrying about something as meaningless as hair.
I have not been able to stop thinking about this story. Two things really latched on to my heart. One: Each child comes down with his or her own bundle of imperfections, almost like an arsenal of weapons ready to throw at Mom whenever she gets a little too comfortable in her abilities. There is no ready-made-how-to list when things go wrong. There is only a parent standing in the battle field feeling vulnerable. Sometimes in those moments it is easy to see the child as the enemy on the other side of that field, all locked and loaded, armored up with defiance and rebellion and tricks we have never seen before. This story about Mary and this other woman made me realize that before I armor up to battle I should really look at that little or big soldier on the other side. Chances are that their armor is on and ready for a lot more reasons than simply wanting to defy. Is this a battle that is worth the fight? Some are. But some really are not. And whatever I choose, I better make the choice based on what is MOST important. I have a feeling it probably won’t ever be easy to figure out. Each battle will change the playing field on what is important and what isn’t. I also have a feeling that remembering the woman from Mary’s church and her sweet son who she is missing will help guide me.
Two: I don’t know what is going on in other people’s families. Ever. Even if I think I know, I don’t know. There is always more. So, stop judging and start lifting. You think a mom is doing it wrong? Guess what? She has a different kid than you. She was raised by different parents than you. SHE is DIFFERENT than you. Love and support and prayers are the things every mom needs more of…not unsolicited advice, the “right” baby merch, or judgement. I, like Mary, have been in a really good mothering stage once with my first baby. I couldn’t figure out why any mother would every complain about getting up in the night to feed a sweet little newborn. I did it with love, patience, and even joy. I must be a real angel of a mom. Then I had my second baby. That was when I learned some babies, no matter WHAT you do, do not go back to bed. Ever. Instead they cry all night, every night. I truly had not believed that a baby would do that if you did all the “right” things. Bennett proved me wrong. I stopped giving so much advice and judgement to mother’s with babies and started just saying, “You are super mom!” if they seemed to have one of those good babies. Or, “Im so sorry. Let me pray for you,” if there baby seemed to be the one armoring up for battle. It truly helped me become more judgement free. And Mary’s story helped me to see that this message carries through until these babies are grown, and even then. We just don’t ever know the full story of other people’s lives. So let’s just not judge.
You do you. And do it with love and for the right reasons. And see those little soldiers as little humans that are as vulnerable as you feel. Love them, with all their imperfections. And send some prayers out to all those other moms feeling a little naked in the battle field, we all need it.