Being a Mom is one of life’s greatest joys and struggles. I love my children, and yet they drive me crazy. I want to do fun things with them, but I’m often just too exhausted to put forth the effort. The bottom line? I want to be a great Mom.
But it’s really hard.
The girls and I recently read through most of the Ramona books, by Beverly Clearly. It was so fun, and as I read through them, light bulbs kept going off in my head. Ramona’s character is mischievous, outspoken, and quite frankly bad. But what I love about Ramona is the way she expresses her thoughts and emotions. I gained some insight from her life and she helped me to be a better Mom by showing me three things about children.
Children need to be noticed and praised for their efforts. Ramona was constantly being reprimanded for her behavior, rightly so–just read the books, but as she got older she was working really hard to improve. She wanted to do right, pleasing her family was important to her, and she attempted to make wise choices. During the neighborhood brunch, Ramona was entertaining the little girl of one of the neighbors. She had been told to be kind and put up with the mischievous antics of this little girl. Ramona was trying, and still:
“Be a good girl!” whispered Mrs. Quimby, who had forgotten the marmalade. I’m trying, thought Ramona, but her mother was too flurried to notice her efforts.”
Mrs. Quimby was performing her role as hostess well. She had invited the neighbors over, made yummy food, and was striving to serve them. These are all wonderful qualities. However, she neglected her daughter. She assumed that Ramona wouldn’t listen to the earlier reminders about good behavior and in the midst of her well-intentioned hospitality, she neglected to extend grace to her daughter. Ramona was doing her best to help make the brunch a success by playing with the obnoxious neighbor. She craved recognition and praise over the fact that she was at least trying.
My children are never going to be perfect. Some days it feels like they will never obey or listen to anything. The truth is that there will always be something to praise. I need to keep my eyes and ears open, paying attention to their actions, words, and interactions with others. I’m often too busy with my own things or in too much of a hurry that I only see the negative behaviors. I want to be quick to encourage and uplift.
Children long for companionship with their parents. Ramona and her mother were home on a Saturday morning and Mrs. Quimby had decided to spend it sewing.
“Can I sew, too?” she (Ramona) asked, picturing a companionable morning close to her mother. She imagined a neighbor dropping in and saying, Ramona is her mother’s girl, as the two of them stitched away together. Yes, her mother would answer, I can’t get along without Ramona.”
Ramona was thankful for a day at home with her Mom. As most children probably do, Ramona decided that she wanted this time with her mom to be special. She wanted the closeness of her mother’s presence but also the feeling of like-mindedness as they sat and worked together throughout the day.
My desires resonate with Ramona’s. I want the feelings of shared interests and bonding with my children. My children want this too; they want to engage with me on many levels. And how quickly I dismiss them or say, “Not now” or “Just a minute“. Sure, there may be things to do and I can’t always cater to the wishes of each child. But am I crushing their dreams of a mother-child relationship in the name of taking care of my family?
I want my children to look back on their childhood with great joy. I want them to feel valued, treasured, and connected with me because I took the time to keep company with them. I want us to have a friendship that develops over time. I can’t assume that when they’re grown they will want to hang out with me, especially if I’m not showing them how much I enjoy their presence in my life. Companionship needs to start now.
Right now, in this season of raising little ones, this is really hard. I’m tired, playing pretend with ponies or stuffed animals can be boring, and getting dirty outside isn’t how I want to spend most mornings. Daily I have to make a choice to engage with my children, on their level, participating in the things that interest them. It also goes the other way, and this means I let them help me with chores or bake in the kitchen. Sometimes it means that a task might take longer than expected, or may not get finished at all.
Seeing their eyes light up when I agree to their play or allow them to help me with my tasks makes the extra time and energy completely worth it. I’m choosing to believe there will be a great return on these daily investments.
Children want their parents to relinquish some sensibility. Ramona’s older sister, Beezus, wanted a hair cut. Not from her Mom, but a real salon styled bob. Mrs. Quimby finally agreed, but it was a stretch. The girls commented to her on the abnormality of this decision, and she confessed that she was a ‘sensible’ Mom.
My girls agreed that I tend to be sensible. I told them they should be thankful for their Daddy–the fun, crazy, goofy one who keeps them laughing, buys fun treats, and makes life more exciting for all of us. We make a good team. But I’m learning that sometimes I need to do the nonsensical thing. Let them eat cake for breakfast, get super dizzy on the tire swing, crazy-dance while I sing at bedtime, say ‘Yes’ to painting and play-doh and glitter and all the crafty things that take time and make such a mess.
Most of us want to be great in our roles as Moms, and we’re probably doing better than we give ourselves credit for. Yet, there’s always room for growth and we can learn a lot from older Moms, wise counselors, God’s Word, our own children and even a fictional elementary student who just wanted to be a great kid.