I was headed up the stairs, ready to pop into bed and settle down with a good book; I was done with my day. It was then that she came to me.
My teenage daughter was having trouble with a homework assignment, wanted reassurance that she was on track with how to complete it. I was happy to help her. But as we dove in, I realized she just how hard my daughter’s AP US History class is, and how long it’s been since I’ve been a student myself. That is when I took a breath and whispered:
“Help me, God, for I am not equipped.”
It took an hour, but somehow we waded through the highlights of the Jacksonian Democracy. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been much help without that (answered) prayer.
In fact, the older I get, the older my children get, the more often I find myself uttering these words under my breath. Because if there is anything I’ve learned in all my years of parenting, it’s this:
I don’t have all the answers.
I wish I did. I wish it were that easy. I wish I could just close my eyes and the answers would come.
But it doesn’t work like this. Instead, I find myself cruising along in mom-mode only to be slapped in the face with the need of the day. I’m never prepared. Never have wise words, historical knowledge, or a life-changing quote in my back pocket. So instead, I panic. Stumble. Sweat. Pray.
I remember a day long, long ago when I was overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood. I had a newborn and a toddler and a husband working long hours. And after a string of sleepless nights, and a long day filled with coughs and runny noses and tantrums and insecurities about my ability to get these kids to adulthood, I simply lost it. My eyes fell upon a cheap plastic shopping cart, and kicked it across the family room. All the way across the family room. I kicked it so hard it broke. And then I broke.
I put the kids in bed for their naps and went to my room, where I lay on my bed, and sobbed. I told God I couldn’t do this. I told him I was sorry, but this was too hard. I told him I was going to ruin my children. And guess what? I felt God’s response. Felt it with every fiber in my being. Guess what it was? Laughter. God laughed at me. Okay, it was more like a chuckle, but still, it startled me. Made me feel silly for being so upset, like I was making a mountain out of a molehill, which I was. Then he whispered these words into my heart:
You’re doing fine. It’s going to be okay.
It was a really strange experience. But to this day I’ll never forget it. And it has led me to be closer to Him. Led me to believe it will be okay. Led me to realize my husband and I can’t raise these kids on our own. We need Him.
Because: I don’t have all the answers. But He does.
He knows what my kids need more than I do. He knows the situations they face better than I do. He knows what they must go through to become stronger, wiser, more reliant on him.
But then there is that one tricky thing…
I am the one right sitting with them at the kitchen table. I am the one who has to say something, do something, be someone who can guide them through whatever they are facing. And as my kids grow older, what they face becomes much more complex.
No more worries about sharing or tying shoes or learning to ride a bike.
Instead we’re figuring out relationships, responsibilities, reactions to the world and all that is in it.
Lately there has been many a night at the kitchen table. One of my three, in need of me. So I’ve been pondering how to best handle these nighttime chats at the table. I’ve been worrying about having the right words. Sometimes though, there are no words.
But last week I went to lunch with a group of friends. We had a great time talking and telling stories and revisiting our youth. One friend shared a story of her first love. She mentioned that while her mom was not fond of who turned out to be Mr. Wrong, she was still a great support for my friend at that time in her life.
Here it is, I thought, my chance to learn from a mother who did things right! So I asked, “What did she say?” Help me God, I’m not equipped.
“She just listened,” said my friend, “She didn’t judge, and she didn’t tell me what to do, she didn’t withhold her love.” And when my friend’s world completely fell apart, her mom simply said to her, “What can I do?”
This is it, my answer. I don’t have to have all the answers. I can talk, I can encourage, I can impart wisdom, but really all I need to do is listen. Support. Love. And if one of my kids faces a moment when she feels her world is falling apart, I can say, “What can I do to help?”
Thank you God for your constant presence. For your help in those moments when I feel lost. For speaking to me through others. And even, for laughing at me all those years ago.