A mother’s endurance will be rewarded

Categorized as 07/28/08 Goshen News column

In the beginning, a mother endures sleepless nights and a demanding infant who dominates her schedule. Her world is filled with countless feedings and fresh spit-up on her shoulder not five minutes after changing her blouse. Going away with her baby requires a mountain of paraphernalia and an earth mover, and many days she’s just too tired. In those months of exhaustion, she nearly forgets how the little critter was made in the first place. She certainly doesn’t think of that stretch mark as a badge of honor or of herself as doing something extraordinary, but it is and she is.

When the baby becomes a toddler, a mother may never relax because she must know where he or she is at all times. She fears he will dart out into traffic. She watches vigilantly for kidnappers when out in public. She knows that turning her back for two minutes is plenty of time for him to express himself artistically. When he uses the wall as his canvas and a red crayon as his medium and draws “gwamma,” she does a bit of shouting. Then she calms down, kisses his head, and cleans up his work.

A mother endures two to three years of toxic fumes and nuclear waste powered at first by liquids, and then by solids like goldfish crackers and Cheerios. Though her eyes are burning and her hair is falling out in clumps, she simply puts on the rubber gloves that meet between her shoulder blades and once more cleans up his work.

In time, the diapers give way to bicycles with training wheels and macaroni and cheese by the ton. There are boot marks on the floor from a cowboy who cannot be separated from his boots. There is grape jelly on the floor and spilled juice on the table. Fox News in the Morning is replaced by Big Bird, and there’s so much love between Barney and his friends that it makes her teeth ache. At bedtime she will try again to catch up on the news, but she will fall asleep before the first commercial.

When the big, yellow bus comes for the first time, she will secretly shed some tears. As she watches those pigtails or that rooster-tailed head step into the classroom, what she’s really seeing is the infant she held in her arms just a few yesterdays ago.

The school years are a blur of homework, sports, PTO, and peer pressure. Instead of ballet slippers and boots, there are sneakers in the hall and sweaty socks that never quite make it into the hamper. The refrigerator door slams incessantly, and the pantry contents seem to evaporate.

Then adolescence comes and the waters get choppy. This season is often marked by volatile emotions and mood swings on both sides. The cuddly toddler who used to sit on her lap and listen to Dr. Seuss by the hour has been replaced by a pimply-faced teenager needing deodorant. In between heavy issues, there is enough laughter and fun to keep the mother from resigning altogether. Usually.

Again, sleepless nights are part of a mother’s lot. Once her teenager begins to drive, she doesn’t sleep soundly until she hears the back door opening and closing and a pair of feet going up the stairs. When her son goes off to fight in a foreign land, her heart won’t fully rest until she knows he is safe and sound again on U.S. soil. Her prayer life flourishes during this stage, and she requires more caffeine due to the hours spent awake in the watches of the night.

There are many, many days when a mother doubts that she is a good mother at all. She knows all too well the extent of her imperfections. She believes that she is supposed to have all the answers, but very often feels that she has none.

She worries about her children’s friends. She worries about their future. She worries about their health and their spiritual wellbeing. If she is wise, she will spend much time in prayer, carrying her fears and her children to Someone greater than herself. When she blows it, she seeks forgiveness quickly. When her children blow it, she offers forgiveness freely. Knowing she is living on borrowed time, she packs in as much training and laughter and happy memories as she can.

This, then, is what endures – her love and her prayers. It’s not the perfection of either a mother or her children, but her faithful obedience that will one day earn her the ultimate reward…a smile on the face of her Heavenly Father and the words, “Well done, you faithful servant.”

And that, in the end, will be worth it all.

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