In the very first days after my eldest daughter was born, I remember grieving my loss of sleep and discussing my exhaustion with my mom. She empathized with me and then said something that has stuck with me as I’ve navigated the twisted roads of motherhood. It went a little like this: “When your kids are very young they need your energy and constant attention because their problems are frequent but small. They are easy to fix but they happen repeatedly. When they’re older, your kids need your wisdom and your heart because their problems are fewer, but they’re bigger and there is less you can do on your own to fix them.”
Vivienne turned seven this month and her younger sister Georgia recently turned five, and although they still have many years head of them, I’m astounded at the depth of our conversations at this point in their lives. I’m always a little sad when I realize they are old enough to comprehend that the world isn’t perfect, that some people are mean or that I can’t give them every answer to soothe their tender emotions or settle their confused minds.
All moms are familiar with the gut-sinking-bitter-sweetness that comes when you discover that your kids have outgrown their clothes and need an entirely new wardrobe. There’s a double-whammy that hits while weeding out old clothes and buying new ones for our children. The first punch goes to our checking account—time to budget for clothing this month! The second punch goes to our hearts—our babies are getting bigger. And bigger. And as their bodies grow so do their minds. Their brains fill with new information, new concepts. Their eyes notice behavior and social structures. Pretty soon these children start to ask very good questions, very challenging questions that make us stop and consider, “Hmm, how am I going to answer/handle this?”
And what complicates this for me even more is that my girls are SO different. They have shared a room since my younger daughter was five-months-old, a bed since she was two, and they are the best of friends. But they could not be more opposite if they were characters in a story. Often a tactic or method or even tone of voice that I use with one does not go over well with the other. I must get creative with tailoring much of my mothering-methods to each of my three children (because my youngest is a boy—talk about different!) and their personalities, while maintaining the convictions and ideologies that my husband and I feel are important for our family.
My night-and-day daughters have tested me lately in my ability to succinctly yet thoroughly answer their concerns in a way that will assuage their fears, teach truth and be considerate of their immature emotions. My oldest daughter is very into science and dinosaurs. She has just learned to read and will devour any text about dinosaurs that she can find. But not all these books agree about exactly when dinosaurs existed, how long they lived and how they became extinct. My husband and I are Christians and believe in Creation, but we are old-Earth Christians, so we tend to agree with scientists who maintain that the earth is much older than the 6,000 years that the new-Earthers claim. We happen to own a book about dinosaurs by one of these new-Earth apologists, Ken Hamm, that we picked up from our local consignment store before we realized its angle. He claims that dinosaurs were roaming the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. But just last week, Vivienne came home with a book about dinosaurs from her school library which supports the traditional scientific view that dinosaurs predated humans and even evolved into birds! (An entire blog-post could be derived from this example about different schooling options for Christian families, but I’m not going to go there right now).
You can imagine Vivi’s confusion when she read these two conflicting accounts. I pointed out to her that the school library book was aging the earth at millions of years old, whereas Ken Hamm’s account ages it at around 6,000 years. I asked her what she thought. She said she agreed with the library book from the school because: “There’s no way people and dinosaurs could have lived at the same time because the dinos would have crushed or eaten the people!”
(Amazing the logic of little kids sometimes.)
So, I ended up encouraging her to take a faith-filled posture on this one. I explained to her that there are some things we will never know this side of heaven. But what we do know is that everything comes from something. Every creation has a Creator, and the timing is mostly irrelevant. We believe that God created all things for His glory and purpose, and that science helps us to learn about His creation and to reveal Him within it. She seemed satisfied with that. I believe her very words were, “I know that Mommy.” And then she waved me away so she could continue reading her book on her own.
Georgia’s interests are not in science. They are in performance, dancing, play-acting and looking pretty. I think that this is a confusing are for girls and women in our current climate. On one hand, people spend way too much money and time worrying about being beautiful. Just the number of YouTube make-up tutorials, Pinterest pins and beauty products is overwhelming. On the other hand, there is a growing movement among feminists which is telling females that beauty is shallow and unnecessary. This perspective suggests that beautiful women who take care of themselves are enslaved to some patriarchal system, and that they are brainwashed ignorant bimbos.
I believe both groups are wrong. I believe that my God loves beauty—it’s all around us in the animals we admire, the gardens that we cultivate, the mountains upon which we gaze, and yes, the diverse patchwork of humanity across this globe. So, my task with Georgia is not to squelch her interest in beauty and the pleasure she takes in looking pretty. My task is to put beauty in its proper place, to encourage her to focus more on cultivating a beautiful spirit and heart than on wearing an outfit or a hairstyle that others will notice.
She threw a fit the other day when I would not allow her to wear her play make-up to school. Now, the child is five, so it’s not like she was going to be in full super-model make-up anyway. But I know that she sees me wearing make-up most days, and she has asked me why I do it. I must be very careful about my answers because I don’t want her to ever think that her value lies in her beauty. And she is lovely—she has creamy white skin, big blue eyes and light blonde hair. She is blessed with a lean, muscular frame and her muscles are well-defined without that much physical effort. But I know that God created us in His image, and all beauty is ultimately there to point to Him. It’s nothing we can claim on our own because it was given to us. I also know that nothing spoils beauty in a person like an ungrateful and selfish heart.
More questions and explanations are sure to come. I hope that God gives me enough wisdom to communicate what He’s taught me, and that He’ll help me to tap into His grace when I get things wrong. Please pray for me as I continue to nurture these feminine souls, knowing the struggles and expectations that are waiting for my girls as they grow. Now my son, Roman, well…he’ll be an entirely different ball of wax!