One of the things I love about being a Mom are the life lessons. I like finding out, for instance, that I am capable of more than I think I am. When I gave birth to Joel, even though I was slightly panicked and thinking medication might be the answer, I was encouraged to press on without and I did. And it was a defining moment for me. For the girl who was told she doesn't handle pain well or that I just "wouldn't be able to do it"... well, I did. And it's amazing what one moment in time and sixteen hours in pain will do for your mental strength. When you know you can do something, well, then you know you can do something.
I have found good truths about myself and less flattering ones. I've found I really can exist on less than eight hours of sleep, but I have also found myself short tempered, impatient and aggravated. Having a baby is like that first year of marriage... where you think, oh hey, I can't wait to be this man's wife and live in his house and cook him dinner and wash his socks... you can't imagine being anything apart from him. And then you wake up post-honeymoon and you think, umm, what happened to my life? My space? My way of doing things? Loving someone means getting over yourself and that's not always an easy thing. It doesn't mean you don't love them to pieces. It only means that everyone is sinful and we all want what we want sometimes.
Joel is becoming more and more a kid. He is exhibiting a wonderful little personality and also a strong, stubborn will (that's his father's German side coming out). While he recognizes tons of words, phrases and commands, he's reluctant to say much other than "Dad" and "Dog". However, he's excellent at getting his message across. I wonder how many times during a day I correct his tone and say, "Joel, stop whining." I think I've already said it a half dozen times today and he's only been awake two hours.
I had a kind of light bulb moment as I was changing his diaper and he started to fuss at me. He's a kid and he wants to play indefinitely. He doesn't want to stop and have to mess with some menial task like diaper changing or eating. He's too busy. And while I hate disrupting his play and his learning,sometimes duty calls. So as I laid him up on the changing table and set to work, he expressed his annoyance with me. I tapped his little baby leg with my index finger and said, again, "Baby, don't whine."
And I thought... Hmm. Even though I haven't had anyone to express my ugliness to yet this morning, mentally I've been very whiny. In my head I griped as I drank my coffee, focused on how I didn't feel real great, how I don't want to go to Walmart, how I wish my husband wasn't working an extra long day today, meaning that I'm going to have an extra long day alone with Joel-Baby, and, and...
Stop whining, Mama.
Because we are now sponsoring a child in Africa (see previous post), my thoughts are frequently on her these days. Aaron and I were commenting on a picture of her that a friend posted last night, just how happy and joyful she is. She doesn't even know how little she has. She's just grateful for the formula in that cup and those loving arms and the cuddles and attention that I know she's getting. Her needs are met and she is content. When I think of her and the other children in that home and elsewhere, I feel juvenile and guilty and painfully ungrateful and immature for complaining about ice cream from McDonald's that was melted before I got it or for being ugly to other drivers or impatient with those in line at the grocery store. Why are we in such a hurry? Why do we think we're so important?
Why are we so two years old?
I saw a quote the other day that said, in essence, for all the ways we say how amazing this life is, we sure complain about it a lot. Isn't that so true? We say we're grateful for life, but we don't act like it. Why do we think we deserve one more day and why do we fill it with discontent? We should be joyful, always. Grateful, always. I realize we're human and we're still sinners and we're never going to be perfect... but that's no excuse to stop trying. To stop melting ourselves into God's will and design for us. You really do have a choice. You really can exhibit self control, bite your tongue, not complain about the plate set in front of you.
"For God gave us a spirt,
not of fear, but
of power and love
~ 2 T i m o t h y 1 : 7
While my son is still learning what I mean and what I expect from his behavior, I certainly know what God expects of me as a thirty-year-old adult and follower of Him. Yes, I have a headache. What of it? Yes, I may have a long day ahead, but so will millions of people all over this world for different reasons. Are my discomforts and less than sparkly moments really worth the breath that God has given me to spend whining about? Is that why He's given me another day? Just so I can greedily take it in and misuse it?
I wonder what would happen to me if I disciplined myself as diligently as I do my boy. I wonder what I would sound like and act like if I was continually directed back to the right path vs. just sitting and calling up a friend and going on and on about what I don't like about my day or my feelings or about someone else's behavior.
We have made a habit out of being ugly and we're all so justified. I mean, of course you would be frustrated, irritable and snippy about that situation. Anyone would. But still. Just because a situation justifies an ungrateful attitude, is that ever really a justifiable option for someone who claims to be redeemed by God? We act like spoiled children much of the time. We stomp through the store, through the Post Office, through the church, even. We are so good about being in a hurry and we skim right over the humanity in front of us. We cut in front of someone. We don't give the elderly respect. We yank on little arms and roll eyes and grit teeth.
I tell Joel not to whine because I don't want him to make those whimpers a habit, a way of expressing himself. I'm not angry at him when he whines because I know right now it's his only way of getting me to understand that he wants (or doesn't want) something. But I correct him because I don't always want him to stand at the fridge and say, "Uh, uh, uh!" when he wants a drink. I correct him because I am teaching him the right words to use. I smile at him, as if to say, it's okay, I understand you, but say it this way.
I understand life has its frustrations and pains. But you know, there's a reason why there's that saying about crying and spilling milk. We get worked up over the little things that shouldn't even be things. We write statuses and blogs and send tweets that are ultimately, frequently, just whiney responses to life. To something God has given.
If I don't want Joel to grow up griping at me, then maybe I shouldn't let him grow up watching me gripe about traffic, my day, his Daddy or when things are simply moving slower than I'd like. I can't demand a behavior and response out of my child that I'm not willing to discipline and cultivate within myself. I have to practice what I preach unless I want my child to grow up and realize that his mother was false.
When you stop complaining, you redeem the moment you are in. When you are focused for what is joyful in it, what there is to be thankful about, you quickly diffuse the impatience, annoyance and spike in blood pressure. I don't want to waste my days whimpering. I don't want to look back on my mornings of coffee and sunshine as merely another moment to sigh and wish I was back in bed. I mean, seriously? We need to stop grunting at what we want and crying about what we don't.
It's time to grow up and use our words. Real ones.
"A man without self-control
is like a city broken into
and left without walls."
~ P r o v e r b s 2 5 : 2 8