There are frayed edges of motherhood that aren’t often talked about. Those places where we’re holding onto our temper with one hand and the belief that things have got to get better eventually with the other.
One night that place rocks me hard as I rock my baby girl in one arm and cell phone cradled between cheek and ear with the other. I kick gently back and forth, back and forth between my quiet confession whispered into the listening ear of my mother-in-law and the loud ache in my gut at what I share with her.
Sometimes I am scared of my three-year-old son.
The one whose name means “gift from God.” The one named after the apostle who was Christ’s rock. I think of him as our bulldozer. Our passionate compassionate child of temper so fierce we catch echoes of his berserker ancestors on an otherwise ordinary Friday afternoon in Virginia when I’m scared of what mood he’ll be in when I pick him up from preschool.
Scared how he’ll react if he gets the blue cereal bowl instead of the red one, scared what he’ll do if we can’t find the Woolworths Teddy Bear come bed time or nap time or car ride time or any old time when he needs it.
He can storm harder and longer than my temper can usually take.
I am tattered and frayed and frightened of how I am starting to feel about him. Worried that I can’t find the necessary reserves of love to remember to like him. I simply want to mute him.
So I rock and whisper my secrets into the phone over the baby’s whispy soft hair and the dark room cocoons both of us. My mother-in-law suggests we go back to the beginning. We trace family trees and genes and remember that blue eyes aren’t the only things children inherit by blood. I stop being mad at him and instead start to research him.
I study my son.
And God starts to show me how to see. Not with a magnifying glass, but a mirror.
I see my own temper. I see generations of temper before that. I see how lazy my prayers are and how haphazard my approach to helping him. How it’s mostly a mixture of embarrassment and frustration.
I see how long it’s been since I’ve enjoyed him.
I begin to exercise my motherhood again. I stretch and bend and pray. I fast and pay attention and listen. Instead of floundering in the stories everyone else tells me about him, I begin to draft his narrative. I write it down. How I want to see this son of mine. How I want to teach others to see him.
I send these words to his teacher,
We so appreciate your partnership. We value Micah and the work that Christ is doing in his heart. He is extremely sensitive to the stories of Jesus and understands that his name means, “Like unto God” and his second name means “the rock”.
We are encouraging him to be a man who lives in the blessing of his name and is a leader and encourager and protector of others.
I begin to sense Micah growing in my heart with flutters much like when I first felt him moving in my belly. I cradle this new story. It is a relief to be writing it again and not just turning the pages terrified of what comes next.
I pray for him more in one month than perhaps the rest of his months combined.
I pray and praying is writing and writing is realizing and realizing is seeing. I see the story God has for my Micah.
I speak it out loud over him.
Sometimes, in the beginning, when I am still finding the words, only when he’s asleep. And when he wakes up and asks me what I’m doing I’m too embarassed to tell him. I start to make something up, to say I was just checking on him. But then I catch myself and I give the truth to his sleep-grogged ears straight, “I am praying for you. I am praying you will be a great warrior for God’s Kingdom.”
He yawns, whispers, “OK,” rolls over.
As I stare at the back of his sleep matted hair. As I listen to him start to snore gently and count the seven, eight, nine stuffed animals surrounding him. As I wonder how he even fits into that bed with all the swords, pliers and puppies clamoring for space alongside I catch something unexpected. My stomach aches with a tender like for this son of mine.
I like that this is how he chooses to sleep.
I like how it so perfectly illustrates his compassion for all living things.
I like how his big, clumsy limbs that he is still growing into are draped diagonally across the bunk.
I like that the radio’s on because he was dancing for me just before going to bed.
I like how he sleeps in the same position as his dad and how he thrives on the same routine every night.
I like the glass of water he always asks for and keeps close to his bed just like me.
I like the discarded book on dinosaurs he was reading and the pen and note pad he always has under his pillow.
I like him so much I can hardly breathe. I just sit in that room between a toy tiger and Casting Crowns playing on the radio and stroke the sweaty forehead of a nearly four-year-old and let the like keep filling me up.
All the way up to overflowing.