Somewhere between his graduation from Basic Training at Great Lakes, Michigan, and the Tuesday morning in Coronado, California—when one of our sons took off his numbered helmet, laid it down, and rang the bell signaling that he would not, in fact, become a Navy Seal—he showed us a book of mantras. Just a little book, with one page per original mantra, each written by one of his BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) classmates.
Our son was married and in his mid-twenties at the time, so his mantra was appropriately inspirational, grammatically correct, and it actually made sense. As I read the others—many written by mere teenagers—I thought, “No wonder in a few short weeks this class of 300+ men will diminish to about 30.” Most of the mantras were not powerful enough to get an eighteen-year-old out of bed in the morning, much less get him through the most grueling training in U.S. military history. My personal favorite: “The more it sucks, the cooler it will be to talk about later.”
Our son decided to quit on a Monday, but took a day to pray about it and to talk to his wife, his brothers, his dad, and his mentor before he made it official. When he rang that bell, he was sure. I won’t share his reasons (all good ones), but suffice it to say every female in our family breathed a sigh of relief. And every male grieved a little.
A mantra is not a guarantee of success in any endeavor, but it does have its place when the going gets tough. And parenting has its days when it sure feels like underwater demolition. Deborah, Old Testament prophetess, wrote her mantra into a song, and I start with it here in my short, incomplete list of bursts of inspiration and wisdom for Moms:
1. March on, my soul; be strong! Judges 5:21 (A long time ago I painted this on a board and placed it above our back door. It’s pretty generic, but it moved me whenever I felt paralyzed in our four-wild-boys household, which was more often than I want to admit.)
2. Pain is not the end of the world. (In fact, your kid will most likely benefit if he or she experiences it in reasonable doses.)
3. Ditto failure.
4. Learn how to give comfort when 2 or 3 happen. (Unlike sympathy, comfort is the “feel with” kind of love given when—especially when—we bring pain or failure upon ourselves.)
5. Sass happens. (Yes, you’ll have to address it, but take a deep breath first. It may simply be a young child’s best effort at affability.)
6. Regret never made anyone a better parent. (Good old-fashioned repentance, now that’s another story. Say you’re sorry when appropriate, to God and to your children. You’ll do this a lot. It’s really okay.)
7. Refuse to give in to other-parent peer pressure. (Decide for yourself if your children can read Harry Potter or watch a PG-13 movie or whatever today’s Parent Hot Button No-No happens to be.)
8. Trust your instincts. (There are a times when “because I said so” is a decent reason. Your gut feeling about a party or a new friend is probably more reliable than your child’s opinion. Of course this only works if you are reasonable most of the time.)
9. At approximately age twelve everything your child has learned from you will atrophy. (Completely. Don’t panic; things like good manners, healthy habits, and study skills will come back eventually.)