This year I decided to play the Mother’s Day card. Never mind that I don’t actually care about being celebrated. (Never mind that I didn’t even call my own mother on The Day to tell her what a wonderful mother she’s been to me over the years and how I can’t imagine life without her and I love that she’s such a positive part of my life and I wish there weren’t so many miles between us keeping her from being a bigger part of my life.)
Instead of calling my mother like the good daughter I wish I was, I played the Mother’s Day card with my own family: “I’m the mom. It’s my day. I get to pick what we do and we’re going to do it together.” It’s my favorite kind of card. And nobody seems to mind being bossed around, since they’re being forced to do something they all enjoy.
Except for this part. They weren’t a huge fan of posing for a photo with the woman who gave birth to them.
We hiked for a couple hours, then went to Lexington so the girls could experience a mall. This was a fail. The girls told me recently that they’ve never been to a mall before. This was a weird thought to me. Walking through a mall and spiraling into a deep well of loathing for all of materialistic humanity feels like such a normal part of life. How sad that my daughters have lived 10 and 12 years without ever darkening the doors. So we took them to the mall.
After they closed.
Which we didn’t realize, because we walked into Macy’s and out into the rest of the mall. We thought it was funny that so many stores were already shut up, but… it’s a free country; they can do what they want on a Sunday evening. I was disappointed, though, that my girls weren’t getting an actual mall experience. Finally, an employee stopped us and asked how we got in. He seemed to genuinely believe that because the outside mall doors were locked, no one could get inside. Even though Macy’s was still open – and completely open to the rest of the mall. With no “closed” sign in sight. So weird. And slightly naive. And now I’m going to have to take my girls to a mall again someday because they didn’t get the true experience.
Seriously, I hate the mall. Worse than sports.
So… there’s a little piece of my day. And it’s not even what I sat down to write about.
Yesterday morning in church, we got to hear about the Proverbs 31 woman again. Not familiar with that superhero? Read about her here. She follows me around from Mother’s Day to Mother’s Day. Sometimes I think she shows up just to remind me that I’m not good enough.
Hint: Don’t click that link if you’re already feeling down on yourself. She’s kind of a teacher’s pet. She takes everything to the extreme and she gets it all right. If you try to measure up to her, you’re going to have all the joy sucked right out of your life.
It’s one of the more discouraging passages in the Bible. What if I’m not the first person up and the last person to bed at my house? What if I don’t sew my children’s clothing or piece heirloom quilts for their beds? What if I’m not up before sunrise grinding wheat and preparing food from scratch for my family? Sometimes ramen noodles and microwave popcorn feels like a major accomplishment. And that bit about buying land? Hello. I can’t even schedule a dentist appointment. Ain’t no way I’ll be buying property for my family to grow a vineyard on. Unless I can figure out a way to do it through amazon…
The thing is: there are so many ways that I fall short of being a spectacular woman. If this Proverbs 31 woman existed in the body of a single person, she’s phenomenal. I admire her. I would like to be like her in a lot of ways.
I read over this chapter every year or so, and I feel differently about it every time. Usually I look at it like a checklist. How many of these things do I do? How many of these things are realistic goals for my life? How many of these things are completely irrelevant and unrealistic for this century or this phase of my life? (She “supplies the merchants with sashes” – my Wal-Mart cashiers would love this – or at least, they’d love telling their friends about the psycho woman who tries to give them weird gifts.)
Yesterday my thought was: this woman was not doing all this stuff at the same time while simultaneously raising small children. This weekend I spent time with two different families with toddlers. Those babies were all still fresh in my mind Sunday morning as I was reading Proverbs – along with the memory of how tiring and draining the early years of child-raising are. If you’re raising young children or many children, show yourself some grace. Things will get easier. You won’t always be tired. And during this season of your life, you may feel like you’re not accomplishing anything more than raising your children.
But if raising a child is the only thing you’re getting done, guess what? It’s enough.
As I read over the great to-do list of Proverbs 31, I realize that my array of accomplishments is bigger than it was 10 years ago. I’m in the middle of a long and steady journey to becoming something better than I am right now.
And I think maybe the important thing to get out of Proverbs 31 is the idea of continual growth. These verses weren’t written here to discourage us. It’s like that verse in Matthew– “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Am I ever going to be perfect? No. But I do have a perfect example to follow.
In the aftermath of mother’s day, as we’re scrolling through a steady stream of facebook posts memorializing beautiful mothers everywhere and the sacrifices they’ve made for their children’s health and happiness, it’s easy to feel like we ourselves are somehow less than. But the compare game is always a losing game. Don’t fall for that. Just keep doing what you’re doing without settling for mediocre.