If there is one thing that I know for sure about parenthood, it's that being a mother has made me a better person. Unequivocally.
Don't mishear me, I'm no saint. But there are three small children who are with me all my waking hours, hear all the words I say, see the expressions on my face and know how I spend my time. Three children who look to me for guidance, love me fiercely and follow me blindly. For better or for worse, it's my voice they listen to, and my acceptance they strive for. I am acutely aware of my influence on their lives. It's a glorious burden to bear.
And so I'm learning that I have to actually BE the person I SAY I am. I hope it's not an enormous adjustment and that I've always lived some semblance of the principled life I have strived for. Even so, the alignment has become tighter and the details attended to more minute. We spend our time and our energy teaching our kids the values we hold most dear. We talk about what we stand for as a family, and are intentional about establishing overarching values and goals that influence our life on a grand scale and our parenting on a daily one. The conversations are endless, between Adam and I, and between us and our kids, seeking constantly to teach that they are loved, valued, cherished, accepted, safe. We revisit constantly the ways we can instill in them that they are brave, strong, kind, enough. We try to teach them to listen to their inner voice, to use their words to express their hearts, to stand firm in their convictions, to look out for others and themselves. To love big, fully, unconditionally. To be gracious, forgiving, thoughtful, giving. To be bold, courageous, adventurous. To be all the many things God created them to be. We worry, we stress, I may even obsess about how we can best equip these little wonders to be their best selves, to live their best lives, to make their world the best place it can be.
It's so hard.
And we fall SO short.
But in the trying, we are succeeding, and where we fail we rely on God's grace.
And we know that all our words will ring hollow if they stand alone.
They are listening to our words, but they are copying our actions.
I am constantly telling the girls they can do hard things, and so I must do hard things, too. I tell them I am proud of them, so I tell myself I'm proud of me, too. I want them to be unhindered and joyful, and so I sing and dance with abandon. I want them to stand up for themselves, so they hear me stand up for them, and for myself too. I want them to love reading and the world it will open for them, so I make sure they see their mother reading books instead of playing on my phone. I want them to use their beautiful imaginations and so I must engage with mine. I want them to love being outside, testing their limits, listening to their bodies and so I show them I do the same with mine. I want them to be persistent so they need to see my persistence. I want them to care about justice and the well-being of others so they need to see me out there, getting my hands dirty and doing the work I say I care about. I want them to cling fiercely to their beliefs and convictions so they need to see how firm I stand in mine. I want them to listen to the voices deep in their heart so I have to show them that I am listening to mine. I want them to follow their dreams so I have to show them that I am following mine, too.
It's tremendously inconvenient to align my words with my actions, but it's profoundly freeing as well. One great gift of parenting has been learning that I, in fact, can be any type of person I want to be. It's not too late to be the things I hope my girls will be. In fact, it's necessary that I am.
I want the world for them.
I am claiming the world for myself.
Raising our girls to be the best people they can be has forced my hand.