For the third installment of my “Surprises of Motherhood” series, I asked my close friend and small group leader, April Knapp, to share with us what has surprised her about motherhood. April is a homeschooling mama to three kids with her fourth baby on the way. She is one of the most industrious, handy, and creative people I know and she’s an amazing cook to boot! She is serious, yet playful, and lives life with deep intentionality. I love and admire this lady and I’m thrilled to welcome her to this space.
Get cozy, mamas, and enjoy this piece April wrote for us!
God grabbed me by the heart in motherhood.
I had always had a relationship with God. It grew with my parents’ divorce, and when I moved to China to chase a dream (and a boy…who ended up being my husband). It grew a lot when we got married and both had to learn to truly be selfless without making each other into idols. I thought my faith was strong.
But nothing could have prepared me for how much time I would spend on my knees in motherhood, begging God for the wisdom that seemed (and still often seems) to elude me.
Birthing babies is hard work, and there are many aspects of keeping those babies alive that can be surprising. (Why is breastfeeding, the most natural thing in the world, so unnatural? How has the human race survived?! And how can so much brain space go to whether a newborn is sleeping, eating, peeing, and pooing too much or too little? What about vaccinations, the transition to food, moving to a big-kid bed, potty-training!!? It is an endless list.) But for the most part, I felt prepared and able to roll with the punches that came with mothering little ones. When my children were babies, I felt like a good mom.
It was when those babies actually started to become little humans that motherhood began to surprise me. How quickly my little angel two-year-old started to challenge everything and how selfish he became, and how angry and selfish his mama became right along with him!
As good moms, we spend so much time with these little souls and pour so much of ourselves into them. As a result, we feel such a deep responsibility for their ultimate success in life, faith in God, ability to be a good husband/wife…and just do their own laundry! I have a tendency to take every little thing and magnify it into a future trait, for good or bad. “Oh, she got a cup of water all by herself, she’s going to be such a leader someday!” “Ooohhh, he hit his sister, he’s going to go to jail for domestic violence someday.” “Oh, he learned to read at such a young age, he’s going to be so smart!” “Ooohhh, she isn’t talking yet, she’ll never graduate from college.”
This puts so much pressure on my kids, and so much pressure on me too…to make every little disciplinary moment into a conversation or consequence that will actually CHANGE my child.
Ultimately, I have realized, that left to my own devices as a mother, my kids are in deep trouble. What I think is right is often wrong, and though I have made every effort to be in-tune with my children and know them well, their subtleties often escape me. Also, when I think I have it all figured out with my oldest, I realize my other children have totally different issues, which need completely different solutions!!
It was after reading my 500th parenting book, many of them excellent, that I finally realized – things were more confusing than ever before! Were we supposed to be parenting gently or enforcing the “rod?” Was I supposed to be attached to them or promoting their independence? Nothing seemed clear at all. I realized that if I was going to do this whole mothering thing just by my own best efforts, even though I was willing to give it my all, my kids were completely doomed, because I had absolutely no wisdom on my own.
It has been through seeking God and His wisdom, that I have been surprised by grace in motherhood.
I have always known grace as a beginning (salvation) thing, and an ending (heaven) thing, but motherhood has forced me more than anything else to claim God’s grace in all of the middle moments. Motherhood has humbled me more than I could have ever imagined and left me in tears and in prayer, often with my young kids right there, seeking the perfect answers for their unique souls.
It has been with deep gratitude that I have started to understand that God’s grace covers all of those faults. Not just as a happy accident, but that grace was MADE to cover all of my faults. With sheer joy, I have started to realize that I am completely insufficient as a mother, just like everyone else, but that grace fills in all of my gaps. I am enough, and though I often feel badly that they are stuck with me, I am the perfect mama for my three (almost four) kids.
I am still learning these lessons, but it has brought brightness to some heavy days. I can expose my kids to good things, but it is not my job to make them good. I can try to be a worthy example, but can admit to my children my many mistakes. I can love them with my whole heart, and know that it will never be enough, but that God’s deep love for them and me will always be enough.
Motherhood is a rocky road, much harder than I could have ever imagined. I still catch my reflection in the mirror while holding one of my babes, or tripping over a doll stroller, or cursing over a Lego underfoot, and am caught in complete shock that I am actually old enough, or responsible enough, or wise enough to be a MOTHER to these people. It seems like a daunting task, and it truly is, but thankfully God surprises me once again, and again, and again.
Written by April Knapp
New to this series?
Check out the other guest blog posts on the topic of “The Surprises of Motherhood”
Part Three: see above ^