August 9, 2006

I’m the Mom Now

2006 1522 page26 cape were thrilled beyond belief while expecting our first baby. Then finally, after 18 hours and the mercy of a good epidural, she was born. We looked at her, fell in love, and were awestruck. Visitors brought balloons, cards, gifts, and contraband treats for me. Then we got her home and the real fun began. We found ourselves enrolled in Parenthood 101. There were no course prerequisites, no tutorials (that we could easily choose from anyway), and no quick reference guides. It was just us, Queen Baby (a title befitting the new chain of command in our home), and some tips and tidbits we thought we learned from our parents.
2006 1522 page26sidebarOf course there were the obvious things that shake new parents to their very core and make them better for the experience: breastfeeding (why was something supposedly so natural really frighteningly stressful and wrought with malfunction and distress?); sleep deprivation (did the Lord really design humans to need eight hours of sleep?); physical changes (read: stretch marks, or battle scars, whatever sounds more noble); mental and spiritual growth (caring for a helpless human the size of a small watermelon causes smart parents to rely on God, period); and profound, life-changing love (closest thing to God a human can experience—to love your own child).
We had big plans. Brought up in very different households, my husband and I melded together to devise a plan of parenting that would blow the roof off of all previous notions of child rearing. Our children would be guided with love and firm, but gentle admonishment. They would be raised to know Jesus as their Best Friend, and they would be constant sources of joy and amazement to friends, relatives, and innocent bystanders. And from our collective growing up experiences, we were sure about the things we would carry on from our parents, as well as the things we hoped we never would.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Growing up, I personally loathed this brand of “parental hypocrisy,” as I coined it. I vowed to be the mom that was happy to obey the same orders as those imparted to her child. So how was I to tell my daughter to finish her glass of milk, when I am myself an ardent, nonmilk drinker? How were we to justify Mommy and Daddy getting to share a room when she had to learn to sleep by herself (this struggle now being repeated with equally confused baby brother)? We certainly prayed for wisdom. God, in turn, seems to have blessed us with children who are much smarter than we ever bargained for—smart and forgiving. But there have certainly been times when the only answer to those questions I could spurt out was “Because I said so,” or “Because I am your mother.” And here I had hoped to explain in clear and coherent English my exact reasoning behind the edict in question.

The Sabbath Morning Pestilence
I recall with a mix of mild amusement and disdain the mayhem that was our home on Sabbath mornings as a child. My mother, bless her heart, could not bravely face the congregation unless both her daughters’ hair was perfectly “hot-rollered,” the house was immaculate (for Sabbath dinner guests of course), her sari was pleated with military precision, and Sabbath dresses remained stain-free through a hurried breakfast. Enter in the Sabbath morning pestilence. This particular imp makes appearances in the homes of families with small children as they desperately try to get to Sabbath school sometime before the offering collection. It manifests itself in children who wake up grumpy and irritable (not to mention late), who toy with their breakfasts instead of eating them, who take too long in the bathroom, and parents who suddenly find themselves void of blessed Sabbath peace as they get increasingly more irritated. The arrival of this Sabbath disturbance causes parents to wipe the smiles off their faces as they ready the troop for church, and morphs them into instruments of annoyance that bark orders and take the joy out of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath morning pestilence made stops at my home as a child, and certainly does so now. Sadly, on occasion, I too have succumbed to its influence and have failed to impart the true spirit of the Lord’s day of rest as we head to church. I’ve read the chapters on motherhood in Adventist Home, and know I can clearly do better. But I take courage in the fact that the Lord can help me, and all of us for that matter, to not lose sight of what’s really important: our family worshipping together on His Sabbath day.

Don’t Make Me Call Your Father!

We’ve all heard that threat, usually coming from the female parent in the home, when her children fail to heed her very clear warning and test her patience. But is deferring to the other parent when you fail to make your 2006 1522 page26point really effective? Not really. Growing up, my sister and I, as in many homes, knew the drill. Tick Dad off one too many times and you had better leave town. Tick Mom off one too many times and chuckle at her expense. Fathers by nature can be strong disciplinarians, as many mothers are too. However, I believe mothers are blessed with the God-given gifts of problem solving and troubleshooting (strong assets to any IT department). Many try desperately to steer their children in the direction of choosing good over evil before resorting to punishment. This innate talent of searching for compromise sometimes backfires, resulting in firecracker-smart children figuring out pretty quickly who could be “toyed” with. My sister and I certainly pushed Mom’s buttons. And now, at times, my children do, too. In my case, if I couldn’t listen to the vice president, the CEO was called in. And as mentioned before, it was time to head for the hills.

In navigating the waters of discipline, my husband and I always agreed that we needed to back each other up, be on the same page, and show a united front to the children (even if there might still be room for slight negotiating later). When our now 6-year-old gets a “No” answer from me and tries to con her dad, he defers to me, and vice versa. However, there are certainly moments when she doesn’t seem to want heed my wisdom, and in frustration as family VP, I’ve called in the CEO.
The lesson to be learned here? Probably that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Can it be said that our parents, lacking all the cutting-edge technology, information, and Discovery Channel specials that we have today, still knew a thing or two that we can benefit from? I’ll say yes to that. Bottom line, my husband and I know our parents—like us—made mistakes. But at the end of the day, all they wanted was to raise good kids for God. They prayed over us, worried about us, and loved us.
Today, our methodology and knowledge may be vastly different, but our goals are still the same. I think we’re still on the same page.
Wilona Karimabadi is a freelance writer from Ellicott City, Maryland.