Sunday, May 10, 2020

Things that I have learned from being a mom...

If you know me, and have known me for any amount of time, you will know that I never wanted to have children.  It was never my desire.  Marriage sure, children, not so much.  If you do not know this about me, and wonder how I ended up with not one or two, but seven...well, I'll get to that in a bit.

As another Mother's Day is upon us, I want to first and foremost say to all of you moms that do this alone, for you I have the utmost respect and admiration!  Even if you have had great help along the way from your siblings, parents, neighbors and friends; it is just you that the school calls, it is just you at 2 am when your child has a fever or a nightmare, it is just you that soothes their broken hearts, their physical hurts... Hats off to each of you out there that are single moms!  You are doing great work, you are making an impact not only your children, but on people like me who see your strength and applaud you!

For the moms that have impacted my life over the years of whom I also respect and have been or am encouraged by...

  • The moms of my friends who's homes I would hang out at on the weekends growing up, that made time to sit and talk with us and listen to our silliness.  Thank you, I still remember you! 
  • The moms of my children's friends, that over the years have impacted my parenting by challenging me, walking beside me, and be-friending me.  Thank you, you all have a special place in my memories! 
  • The women to whom I am related to by marriage, who are the truest and most authentic examples of what a sisters should be.  You ladies rock! I look forward to growing old with you and enjoying sister time when our kids are grown. 
  • The women in my life that are moms, with whom  I have the privilege of calling friends and sisters in Christ, who not only love me for who I am, but love my children for who they are, provide accountability without criticism and have walked through the fires of life with me.  The fires are inevitable, your wisdom is my source of encouragement, you all know who you are, I I love you!  

Then there are my moms...

  • My biological mom that made the choice to give me life, and let another raise me.  There are no words to describe how valued this makes me feel every day.  I know that was not an easy decision 50 years ago.  Thank you! 
  • My mom that loved me as her own, raised me, taught me life skills, how to be kind, how to be generous all through the example of her life.  I miss you much!  I know that I will see you again someday, and look forward to that day! 
  • My mother in law who raised a son that was kind and compassionate like herself, to share my life with and to grow old with.  Your son is my constant anchor, cheerleader, friend and best partner in crime that there ever could be! I would be lost without him! 
  • My step mother, who while she entered my life when I was an adult, gifted me with a great sister and cares deeply for my father and has been faithful in kindness and encouragement to me over the years.  Thank you for your willingness to join our crazy family! 
Each of these women, ALL of them, are shining examples of grace, kindness! They have been and are authentic and genuine beings! Thank you!   I would not have been able to become, or to be the mom that I am now... the mom that I never desired to be, without your influence and love.  

Yes, back to that.  I never really saw myself as a mom.  I wanted to do more, be more and not be confined to the space and years that it would take to raise children.  Which back in the day,  I foolishly thought was about 18 years plus gestation each.   How did I get to this place?  I have no other answer than simply put, the Lord who created me, knew me better than I knew myself.  

My first, and she knows this, was an opps... Medication interaction that resulted in the most amazing and incredible experience of my life.  In 1993 her arrival taught me that no matter how hard you wish or pray,  that baby will not turn out to be a boy if it is supposed to be a girl!  

However one look at her sweet and tiny over baked self, had me awestruck.  The Prince and I were both head over heels in love.  While reality came at us fast, and as new parents we knew that we could not do this alone, family stepped up and stepped in to help us settle into a new normal.  I was blessed to be able to share with my own mother, who was never able to have children, the process, including having her in the delivery room and holding a newborn in her arms.  My first child was spoiled by everyone that knew us.  Her milestones taught me how to look at all things through a different lens, the lens of exploring, learning and growing.  She taught me to see things from a small person's perspective with awe and wonder.  To slow down, and to experience her wonder anew with each of her new discoveries. 

Nonetheless, I was sure that this was a once and done situation.  As Doc progressed through her stages of development, we would pass down that items that no longer did she need, with the bold assumption that she would be a one and only child. 

Years passed.  Life was good. However, with the passing of the Prince's father,  and as we were making arrangements for all the things that he left behind, our hearts softened to the consideration of perhaps adding one more dwarf to the kingdom, so that our eldest would never have to face a hardship of this magnitude alone.  

In 1997 the world was introduced to Dopey.  If you think having one child is something, when the second arrives you are astounded that there is just as much space and love for the new addition as there was for the first.  Dopey has taught me how to stay alert and on my toes.  His wit and whimsy from an early age was infectious to all that he met.  His temper was a mirror to my own hearts sinfulness, and often he and I would indulge in significant battles of the will.  At the end of the day however his heart is soft and kind, and he could always sooth out any issues that we had with a great big hug. He has shown me how to be fierce, yet loving in ways that were unknown to me prior to his arrival.  He also tried to show me, however it would be many many more years until I learned this lesson, about not having to die on every hill.  Sometimes compromise is a good thing. 

It was not much longer after his arrival that the Prince made a deal with me.  The Prince had always wanted 6 kids, I none.  HIs offer, if we could just have one more, we could consider it a compromise and a full house.  

Two years and one week later, in 1999,  an impatient and rambunctious bundle arrived in our lives.  Sleepy (her dwarf name is spot on) was the only of the Lingle dwarf that taught us that prayers can and are answered.  I remember praying for her to be a baby that would sleep. My other kids were not fans and I was starting to feel the stress of sleep deprivation.  Sleep she did!  Alot!  Then I panicked and doubted.  We poked and we prodded her, we kept trying to wake her.  Until someone wise said, "that baby will wake up when she is hungry or uncomfortable.  Let her sleep! "  

Once I recognized her sleeping patterns were an answer to (an all be it selfish) prayer, she taught me in her arrival to be grateful for answered prayers. During this time I also had learn how to maximize my time while she slept those early days away.  She also showed me how to be persistent, as she relentlessly pursued walking at an early age, as a way to keep up with her older siblings I saw a determination and drive in her that showed me I needed to be a bit more like her in that way.  Like her momma, I doubt that she has ever met a stranger , and the whole family considers her my mini me, which I think is amazing because I do not believe that I was ever as task oriented and resilient as she. In addition she has an amazing selfless streak that puts me to shame, and her compassion for others has been a lesson to me, that I still work at daily.

We settled into life. While hectic, it was good.  My dwarves taught me to be more selfless.  To make choices and decisions that would be for their good, even when I was afraid, or concerned that I had made the wrong ones.  

They were forgiving.  I was not the best mom, especially in the beginning.  I could be short tempered,  frustrated, irritable, and over all just too busy to always stop and do or say the right thing that could potentially have been used for a life lesson or for their growth and edification.  

Raising kids that mirror who you are at your core is a very hard way to see your short comings.  It is also a painful way to realize that you have to make adjustments to who you are, especially when they start manifesting your poor attitudes and words in their day to day life.  

In 2005 we were presented as a family with a unique opportunity to add to our family through adoption.  By this time we were settled into a routine, with our eldest dwarf being 12, the middle being 7 and the youngest being 5.  As an adoptee, I knew first hand the benefits of a life with a family that loves you and cares for you.  Since I was already entrenched in this thing called parenting,  what difference could two more make?   A bit more in groceries, a lot more organization, and if you can love three as much as one, certainly the same applies to four and five, regardless of if you birth them yourself or not.  Children need love.  Children need stability.  Children need families.  We could provide all that.  

While we were not sold 100% at first on the idea of adopting, we did pray about it and ask others in our circle of church and friends to join us in praying for the potential of expanding our family.  About this time I remember a sermon point from our pastor that said, "Sometimes when the Lord presents you with an opportunity to do something, He may not actually have you follow through, but instead is measuring your  hearts willingness to serve Him."  In the process of moving forward through the uncertain waters of fostering and adopting we chose to trust the Lord and wait on Him to open or close the doors.   

At this point, you all know how this turns out...  after two years in our home fostering to adopt, we were finally able to add Sneezy and Bashful to the ranks of the "little Lingle's".  The addition of two dwarfs that I did not have the privilege of birthing or raising "from scratch" placed me on a huge learning curve as we navigated waters of uncertainty in regards to the needs that accompanied them to our home.  

Trauma, anxiety, vision issues, medication, asthma, social and cognitive delays were amid the top contenders.  I learned with their addition to the ranks,  that I needed to be patient, I needed to explain things that we took for granted or accepted as normal.  Their being part of a family was a relatively new concept to them. We were after all strangers to them in a strange land.   

I also learned, that up until that point, I had been incredibly blessed with the health and abilities of my first three children.  While they each had their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses,  I foolishly thought that I knew exactly how to make things work for our new additions, because the first three, in my mind, were doing so great.  

Here is where I learned to eat humble pie.  I had to admit I knew nothing. The world of special needs was a foreign land that I had been thrust into.   I had actually no idea what would help these children reach their full potential.  I learned to search out resources, to be crafty in my requests for information about their past, to be an advocate for those two, who did not yet have a voice.  

I also learned about how your past, no matter many years you live in it, has repercussions that last a very long time, good or bad.   In these days there was always something to do, to be done, or to be preparing for so I often  had to bow to selfishness,  and embrace interruptions, and become more flexible in some regards in our life, and more strict in other areas of our life.  

It was thirteen months after the arrival of Sneezy and Bashful, that the state of West Virginia asked us if we knew that they had two brothers.  We had heard rumor of this, but it was not verified until that moment.  Of course as the case working was finalizing the adoption of two children to our home, that opened her case load for two more, that just happened to be their brothers.  

At this point I do not remember there being much discussion about what the right thing to do was, or if this was something that we wanted or would consider doing.  I do remember saying "no thank you",  to that wonderful caseworker Judy, signing the documents that she had brought that day,  and waving good bye as she headed back to West Virginia.   If you fast forward two months, the arrival of Happy and Grumpy rounded out our family of nine.  

As I look back on that inclusion of two more children to the home, I think that there was a part of me that had a bit more confidence than I should have had.  While the initial stages (we know this is called the honeymoon period) were not horrible;  they sort of just rolled in, started getting acquainted, and learning to adjust to routines and life in a busier home than where they came from,  there were some small cracks showing that we were unsure about.  

This again sent me back to learning about these already formed small humans in my care that I had to piece and puzzle together their specific and yet different special needs. Here is where I learned about FAS, intellectual disabilities and heart problems.  I had to learn even greater flexibility in regards to my daily and long term expectations.  I had to be more diligent in following through and making sure things and small people got where they needed to go, and I had to really dial up my skills of food purchasing, prepping as well as other organizational skills such as laundry and routines.  

Fast forward to this year's Mother's Day.  This is my 27th celebration of being a mom.  When I think about the Lord's sense of humor, I shake my head.  Clearly,  the orchestration of this process had to be all from Him, as if it had just been the Prince and I,  we would have made a big (or bigger) mess out of this child rearing thing. While it has not been pretty at times, I am humbled that the Lord has chosen me to be all their mothers.  For in His wisdom He has shown me my constant need for Him, and has allowed me to minister to many other parents in ways that allow them to know that they are not alone in their journey in motherhood or parenthood.  

Here are my final thoughts on some other things I have learned over the years as a mom.  

Every family has it's own language.  We make up sayings and phrases that keep simple ideas,  simple for young minds.  Some of my favorites over the years have been, (and I am not saying I made them up per say but we used them heavily) :
  • Brush and Flush: which indicated you had 30 minutes to bedtime, and you needed to brush your teeth, use the bathroom, and get in your beds.  
  • Back to the Back, Crack to the Crack, Seat on the Seat, Feet on the Floor: the proper guidelines for sitting at the dinner table, or in the pew at church on Sundays when your dad was preaching. 
  • Hard is not bad, hard is just hard: when trying to encourage or console a dwarf going through a challenging or tough time. 
  • Last out of the rack, makes the sack: reminder to turn around and make your bed daily. 
I have to understand that they are just mine for a short while.  I have just as many days to influence their lives as they have had to influence mine.  How we influence one another is based on mutual unconditional love,  mutual admiration, and mutual respect for one another.  If any of those components are missing there becomes a disconnect in your ability to influence and impact one another in a positive way.   

Because my kids are now all almost grown, as a mom, I have learned that no matter how much you want better for your kids, at some point they are going to make their own choices and write their own story.  Sometimes that story is not at all what you would have chosen for them.  Be encouraged, God loves them more than you do and is not at all surprised by the fork in the road that may be separating or distancing them from your family at this current time.  He has a plan.  Trust in that plan!

In regards to others, their plans, again while may not look like what you would have thought or desired for them, you are still proud of them for working hard, being true to themselves, and being tenacious enough to go after what they desire in their hearts.  

I am and have always been, the middle part of my children's stories.  Regardless if you have adopted kids, raising grandkids, or have your own biological children, we as moms (and parents) are just the middle of their stories.   It is my hearts desire that I have instilled a legacy that will linger beyond my lifetime, influencing them when they are no longer wanting or needing my care and supervision. Most likely we will pass from this earth before them, and  it is my hope, prayer and desire they will continue on their chosen paths without us but with the memories of a life filled with love and grace.  

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms in my life that often feel like they are overlooked, overworked and under appreciated .  May those that call you mom, actually take the time to call, text, send a gift just to say they love you and to say thank you!  If they do not, try not to take it personally, and remember all the rest of us in the trenches with you - love you, appreciate you, and see how hard you are working on their behalf!!  Happy Mother's Day one and all!!  

1 comment:

  1. So much wisdom in this post. Beautifully articulated, my friend.