Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Truth of the Matter

Shuffling through my registration papers, I traced a line from the title of the sectional to the room location. Acting without thought, I began to make my way from where I stood on Illinois State University's campus to where I was scheduled to go. I did not know the speaker then... but had heard already many times that if you have a chance to hear Julie Barnhill speak, you have to take it.

A knot grew in the pit of my stomach. It is one thing to hear a well-recommended speaker... It is another thing ENTIRELY if the topic makes you cringe.

I looked down on the paper again. I glanced at the map and wished I was better with directions. Time was ticking away and I knew I would not walk in late. Where was this room? What was it called? Braden... I was looking for Braden. Glancing at room names, now back in the main building, my unfamiliarity with all things ISU was obvious. I was not yet lost but certainly not found and I knew I could not ask the way. Then, they would know...

I had not expected Hearts at Home to be so... well... honest. There was so much laughter, so much joy but I was caught off guard by the fact that people talked about the struggles they had. I had anticipated a lot of sharing about our kids, our successes, our moments of pride. But, this sectional confirmed for me that this was a place about more than all that... not separate from it... but interlinked. The good AND the bad, the beautiful AND the ugly, the moments most proud AND those filled with shame.

I looked down again. The title looked back. "She's Gonna Blow!", it read. And there I stood, just outside the door.

Now, there are no perfect mommas. I know this very well. But I have always wanted to do a good job. I have always wanted to be kind, connected, compassionate. And yet, standing outside of Braden, not knowing what to expect, the reality had hit me full force. In the two years since Mark and I had left Trinity with Noah and Benjamin, our number of children had literally doubled. Our home was too small, my patience was thin and I was juggling the lives of school aged children and babies not yet in school. My frustration with many things had gotten the best of me and sometimes my tone was too strong and my anger too big as I sought to care for our fast-growing brood. I wanted to do better. I wanted to be better. And now, standing outside in the hall, I wondered what people would think if they saw me enter this room? What would my friends, my MOMs Group, my family think if they knew I was going to a sectional about anger?

I stood there for a moment feeling lonely and shameful and small. Surely, this room would hold only a handful of moms who struggled with anger from time to time. Feeling conflicted, I decided that I had come to this conference for help, for support and maybe it could be found on the other side of the door. Grabbing the handle firmly, committed now to the task at hand, I opened the door and could not believe the sight that lay before me.

Braden was not a room. Braden was an AUDITORIUM. It was, in fact, the name of the auditorium that held ALL the mass meetings at Hearts at Home, making the space easily able to hold thousands of women. And, inside, there were hundreds and hundreds of women taking their seats.

I actually, physically stopped then, amazed at what I saw. In even walking through the doors, all these women admitted to having struggled with anger in one way or another. Some had been angry for years... some for a day here and there. But, however it happened that they had come to this place, this sectional, it did not really matter. It mattered that they were here and that they were telling the truth. Sometimes, parenting is HARD. Sometimes, it gets the best of us. Sometimes, we need to admit that we get mad at our kids. For some, seated in that room that day, their anger had turned to rage. Some were just afraid it might. But, what struck me most was that there were so many of us there. And all of a sudden, it became real to me... this is NORMAL.

I love my children with all that is in me to love. I play with them, wrestle with them, read to them, care for them each and every day. I want what is best for them and want to do right by them... but sometimes.... all this closeness and all this love and all this hope and all this planning and working and trying and doing come right up against the unpredictable reality that is child-rearing at it's core. And sometimes, I get mad. Sometimes, I manage that in a way that is good and healthy and sometimes, I find myself regretting my tone, my volume level, my choice of words. And you know what I learned that day in Braden Hall? It happens to you too. And, in letting that truth sink into my soul, healing took place.

There were a lot of people there that day. And Julie spoke such grace and truth to the whole of us. She shared her story and, in doing so, gave us permission to own our stories as well. The room was full of people who are trying to do better. Our kids see that, you know. My kids see that there are more days that I pull them close than days when my voice sends us all in different directions. There are more days of laughter and game playing and working together to cook or bake than days when we fall into bed frustrated and still a little bit mad. More days of laughter, less days of tears. And it is good. Can you see it, too? We are not called to be perfect. What good will that do our children?? No, my friend, we are called to be real. REAL. And in doing so, we help our precious babies to see what life really looks like. In being real, we show our kids what it looks like to fall and get back up, to make a mistake and ask forgiveness, to be sad or angry and find a way to laugh again. That is what they need from us and that is what will impact their every day lives for years and years to come.

Seeing that group of women gathered together on that day impacted me in significant ways. I know what it is like to feel alone but on that day, at Hearts at Home, I realized that I stand in good company with thousands of mommas, just like me. We are all doing the best we can and our kids are blessed by our efforts.

Today, you may comment if you choose, otherwise, just leave your name and maybe your state and, if you would like, the names of your children. And, we will spend this day knowing that the work may be hard but the company is good.


Kathy said...

Fabulous post, Nadia! As I homeschool my children are with me basically 24/7, so there are definitely times of frustration and anger in the life of a sinful mom trying to do her best for her also sinful children :). Great reminder that it is an emotion we all have to deal with, by the Grace of God.
Kathy in WI, mom to William, 8, Nina, 5, Joshua, 3 and Ani, 3 - 2 through the miracle of birth and 2 through the miracle of adoption :)

3timesamom said...

Excellent post Nadia!
Sometimes we all have roadblocks placed in our way, but I do believe that God gives us the direction to either go around or go through those roadblocks. He gives us all that we stand in need of each & every day! What more could we ask for! :D

Nickie in Michigan ~ Mommy to Ryan 10, Sam 7, and Lauren 2.

Lisa Marz said...

Thank you for understanding my frustration so well! Life actually is really good right now, but there are those moments! My boys are 13, 10, 2 and 1 and it can be a challenge dealing with all of the different stages of development at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Nadia!

Wife to Paul, Mom to Anna(13)Katelyn(9) Micah(9)Kyle(9)Daniel(9)Kara(8)

Sarah said...

I read her book a couple of months ago - I had the same reaction - so EVERYONE deals with anger with their kids. It is so complicated a subject, so wrapped up in how we were raised, what we didn't get from our families, the pressure we put on ourselves to be 'perfect' with our kids. It's the journey we all have to take...

Anonymous said...

Your honesty and sincerity shone through. First time I checked out your blog, but I'll be back!

Carolyn in ID mom to Valerie, 28, Zack, 26, Lacey, 21 and Elizabeth 2 3 by the miracle of birth, and 1 by the miracle of being born in my heart and adopted.

The Bille Family said...

A perfect topic for me today Nadia...I just had one of those days, just a plain bad mood/angry and no apparent reason for it. I don't know if I showed any joy at all today. What a terrible waste of a day! I'm going to bed and praying tomorrow some joy and sanity will be back. But it's good to know I'm normal. :)

Chinamama4 said...

Found you through the IL Int'l Adopt Yahoo group...
I've heard Julie at HAH - she's awesome, and speaks with such wisdom and humor. She'll be speaking on that very topic at our church's moms group in January - looking forward to hearing her!
Becky (chinamama4)
Mom to Hannah (9), Rachel (6), and Abigail (4), and waiting for Sarah (LID 8.14.06)

Debbie Mumm said...

I loved your post. It is so true. Motherhood is one of the most difficult yet most rewarding jobs there is. Many people think I am an angel or perfect mom because we added two children from Russia to our almost grown family of 3 sons. (I am not an angel, and don't pretend to be one...lol) My kids are Brandon, 25, Travis, 23, Kellen, 18, Tania, 14 and Alex, 9. They are not all at home anymore but I still manage to keep quite busy.
Debbie Mumm, The Adoption Coach

Andrea said...

Hi Nadia,

I like your site. I saw your post on the fundraising for adoption group. As a single mom, I know how challenging motherhood is--it is my greatest challenge and my greatest joy.

PJ said...

Thank you Nadia for posting on the yahoo group. I never read blogs before but decided to have a look. I am a 46 year old mom to two beautiful girls, ages 2 and 3, from China.
I decided to home school from the beginning but every day I think, I am not going to have the patience for this. At 2 in the morning I am on my knees asking for mercy for the previous day and grace for the next. He always hears.
Pamela in IN mom to Lilly and Lacey and wife to Gary

Anonymous said...

Wow...Nadia you are such a gifted writer! This was a great piece. And the subject affects all of us more than we would like to imagine. Thanks so much for sharing this! :)
Amy P
Mom to TJ(19), Amanda(7),& Joey(5)

totaljesusgirl said...

You are absoultly not alone...you are in great company!!

wife to John and Mother to Destinee, Junior,Spencer, Gabriel and Nathaniel
Williamsburg Virginia