Today, I was leaving the store with my three little kids. It had been particularly crowded with all the holiday shopping, but the kids had been miraculously well-behaved. We survived the trip, cashed out, and steered our cart toward the exit.
As we were leaving, we heard raised voices. An older man and middle aged woman were shouting at each other on the way out to the parking lot. When we walked outside, their voices became louder, and profanity after profanity started spewing from the man’s mouth.
My children gaped at this behavior. They silently stared as our cart approached.
I was feeling more and more offended that they weren’t thinking of my children as we walked past. My kids, who are seeing all the signs and cards that proclaim the season “Merry & Bright.” My beautiful children, to whom I am nearly always repeating myself about not screaming or hitting, being patient, using kind words.
Have you noticed the “one word” trend for each new year? I don’t know where it came from, but the idea is to pick a particular character quality or aspiration that can be summed up in one word, then use it as your personal motto or goal for an entire year. A good friend of mine is aiming for kindness. Other words-of-the-year that I’ve heard recently are “flourish,” “rest,” “joy,” “balance,” “freedom,” etc.
I’ve never jumped on board with the one word deal. How in the world could you pick just one quality that you wanted to focus on for an entire year? To me, it just seemed gimmicky and lacked depth. Life is, after all, multi-faceted, and the lessons to be learned can’t always be boiled down to just one principle.
Of course, I’m sure the one-worders would agree with me on that. Picking one word is just a tool, not an ultimatum for life- and I’m all for whatever tools help you grow. (But still. It’s just the part of me that can’t pick up a self-help or parenting book without squirming in my seat a little.)
Despite my aversion to year-long words, the trend got me thinking about a lesson that I’ve been very slowly learning: peace.
The weight of parenting worry is a heavy load to bear. I still have to regularly beat down the monster that tells me I don’t deserve to mother these beautiful children.
Though my last pregnancy was desired, I came to be terrified of having our third child. I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be able to manage it. I actually had to have a good cry and tell my midwife that I changed my mind about having another kid– during my labor. (Ha.)
My pregnancy had been soured by my own fear. When I needed to practice acceptance, I was clenching my jaws in nervous anticipation. When I should have been grateful, I was consumed by anxiety and self-pity. What a waste of what should have been a happy time.
But then when I had that baby, I fell in love all over again. She was so tiny, so soft, so beautiful. I felt almost physically pained by the regret of how much I had dreaded her arrival, and wanted nothing but to hold her and treasure the moments before her infancy vanished.
Everything about her pointed me to this- that I needed to be at peace with the undertaking that is motherhood.
Yes, it’s hard. I yell too much, sleep too little, pick too many battles. It’s easy to be cranky at home. It’s far simpler to be the miserable bear I don’t want my kids to be than it is to model the peace and joy that I want for them to embrace.
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It’s easy to despair, to compare myself to other mothers, to fret over all the things I’m not doing that I should be doing, to be guilty over the habits I probably shouldn’t allow to develop… But maybe I’m just getting overwhelmed by things that really shouldn’t be so concerning.
So even though I don’t usually pick just one word for a year, maybe I can at least take a hint from those who do. Perhaps being at peace- and sharing that peace with those in my family- is what I’m supposed to learn at this time in my life.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” Isaiah 26:3