I set out that day to create fun art projects and activities that Harper and I could do together, bond together over. My intentions were pure, but I pictured this perfect craft day in my head and became determined for it to happen. We made hand painted cards for dada and the grandparents; we made our kid valentines and thought about baking something yummy... but by the time it came to that, we had already had a major melt down... and by that, I mean ME.
You may now think this is the norm for me (if you remember a post about a major meltdown just a few weeks ago), but we've been in a rough little stretch with Harper - whining, pushing the limits, disobeying and asserting her three-year-old will... all amidst me being bone-tired. I learned a lot on this particular Valentines Day, after I wound up on the kitchen floor (once again) welling up with tears because I felt like my three-year-old was pushing me to the brink of insanity. Thankfully, Jeremy came up from his office at that exact moment - me in tears on the floor - and he asserted a much needed break between Harper and I.
As I laid in bed later that night, mulling over my little girls' behavior and my response, I was struck by a few things:
- I had set out that day to be perfect, not real, but perfect. I had fallen for the trap of comparing myself to other mommy-friends who always do the craft-holiday thing well, and their kids seem to be completely compliant with the process.
- I had gotten caught in the "I am the parent, you need to obey me" trap... I realized that I had completely allowed myself to get too busy, too overwhelmed to stop and respond appropriately to the specific needs of my child. Very often, I forget that my day needs to allow for fluidity - meaning, sometimes the check list needs to wait... because my children's emotional and physical needs can be unpredictable and are far more important. I have learned that my daughter does SO much better when she is about to head towards a tantrum, when I stop and try to verbalize and validate what she may be thinking and feeling and then redirect her. Very often, I've found that this disarms her frustration and she easily moves on.
- I also was falling into the pattern of not drawing a hard line. I was turning into the "parent of the grey area". I wasn't ever saying "no"... just "maybe". This is a deadly trap for a parent to get caught in. Kids need boundaries and they need clear, firm answers in order to be able to respect those answers. I needed to start fresh and let my "yes" be "yes", and my "no" be "no".
- I also, and most importantly, realized I had let my schedule and to-do list control me and had set my priorities on the back burner - I had not been spending my regular time in my Bible and in prayer. This is the foundation on which all of my values and beliefs stand. Without intentional focus on these things and listening to the Holy Spirit, I am lost and chaos and confusion set in.
In reality, my perfect Valentine picture wasn't all that perfect. Behind it was a genuine heart to love my kids and our friends - but the tides of perfectionism and comparison pulled me in that day... I share this because I desire women, especially my friends and family, to not get sucked into the comparison, perfectionism worldly trap. I want to be real, transparent and supportive of each other as we all navigate these sometimes rough, sometimes beautiful waters of parenthood and life.
I read a quote recently by Theodore Roosevelt that said, "Comparison is the thief of joy". I read about this concept, particularly, how it plagues and poisons women, in one of my favorite books, "You Matter More than You Think" by Leslie Parrott. This is the truth: We live in a culture that thrives on comparing people, looks, talents, worth, status, careers, etc. Everything within me says, "this was never Jesus' intent for us!"... it makes me think of Psalm 139:14,
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."
It's a life lesson for me, but I want to be real about my struggles and I want to be constantly striving for growth. I am pushing to appreciate who God has created me to be, to be grateful for the gifts and talents He has blessed me with; and to be joyful for the gifts and talents He has given to others. I want to be a woman, a friend, who brings refreshment, truth and the love of Christ to those around me.
Today, I am going to lay aside the facade of perfectionism and not allow comparison to steal my joy... for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... my soul knows it very well.