Most moms will tell you that the birth of their first child defined them. Heck yes it does! You are now a mom! Forever! And whoever coined the phrase “having a child is like putting your heart in the middle of the highway” had it right! Congratulations… You have now become the most vulnerable human being on the planet.
I experienced all the highs of motherhood, in abundance. Twenty-five years later I can still recall—in living Technicolor like it was yesterday—the exploding-heart feeling I had the first time I laid eyes on the daughter I had dreamed about since I was a 5-year-old with a baby doll and waited 30 years to have and hold.
But the birth of my child didn’t just define me as a mom; it redefined me as a human and as a woman. One who had not experienced the sacrificial love of a man until her very late 20s, had never been anyone’s princess-worth-rescuing. I realized that I had inherited generational codependency and received the relentless criticism that I had let define me throughout her adolescent, teen and young adult years.
By psychologists’ standards, I should have felt about my daughter the way my ancestors did about their kids: a mix of natural nurture and natural irritation for ruining a life that had never felt valued or special. Therefore I should still have craved someone to fill that void. Because you sure can’t get that kind of validation from a screaming infant or toddler!
You have now become the most vulnerable human being on the planet.
Instead, I was head-over-heels in love. I learned that I was NOT the people who came before me, or even before them, but a mom who could be tender, fun, wise and even selfless. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3
The things I was criticized for as a girl—like my opinions—I found absolutely beautiful in my daughter and worth bragging about. My family’s propensity to pretend the elephants didn’t live in the middle of the living room floor flew out the window, as I tackled her growing-up problems of friendships, boys, rejection, God, and family dysfunctions head-on so she wouldn’t collapse under cluelessness and hatred like I had. I learned to say, “I’m sorry” every time I failed. Two healing words I often wished had been spoken to me.
The things I was criticized for as a girl—like my opinions—I found absolutely beautiful in my daughter and worth bragging about.
When people make excuses for their behavior by blaming it on their parents, I’m a perfect example of why that lie doesn’t fly. No one has to be like parents who were abusive or unloving. Everyone has a choice. Having a child taught me that. How I treat people is a choice I make consciously. If I’m mean, it’s my fault. If I’m nice, it’s not because I’m a nice person but because the other person deserves it.
Crashing headlong into the grace of my faith made that all make sense for me. God gave me my daughter, and then He showed me there was a better way. I was reminded that I have reasons for my actions but no excuses for them. Each of us can be renewed, restored, and redeemed from whatever our past may be.
I am now in a season of praying about my grandchildren. I didn’t have a single grandparent who encouraged me, laughed with me, played with me, sang to me or talked to me about how much God loves me, but I hope to do that with mine.
I can’t wait to be redefined, again.