We Are Five, We Are Free

My daughter Noelle turned five yesterday. My oldest baby is five.

As I removed the classic, waxy number five candle from it’s packaging, while children gathered around plates of cupcakes, it struck me hard.

She. Is. Five.

We are five. Five years of mothering and daughtering together.

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Five years of stories, kitties, curly hair and a bouncy brown eyed daughter playing upon my every imaginable emotion.

As I looked down at that candle in my palm I fought the urge to stop the party, scoop her up and never let go.

How can she be five? Telling jokes? Heading to kindergarten? Starting to make her way in the world?

Where has it all gone and for the love of mercy if I cry this much at preschool graduation, how on earth am I going to weather further milestones? I think I’ll have to bring a therapist and an oxygen mask to her high school graduation, and college? Forgetaboutit.

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This weekend has been a time of celebrations, streamers, kitty masks and cupcakes.

But it has also been one of reflection for me, of inner processing and renewed resolve.

There is something that happened inside me over the last five years, this season of raising a daughter while grieving my broken, painful relationship with my own mother.

And this weekend it all came into focus for me: I have been mothering my daughter out of fear.

Fear that she will grow to hate me, fear that I will hurt her more than help her, fear that she shares all my worst flaws and that the world will hand her more than her fair share of pain and steal her joy.

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Noelle and I are cut of the same cloth temperament-wise. We are extroverted, busy, bright and distractible. It’s more personality type than a diagnosis, more learning-style than disability, but here we are.

This shared temperament didn’t serve me well as a child, maybe it was my peers or the adults who had influence over my life, but I grew up a sad, lonely little girl.

I spent years of my life believing that although they said God didn’t make junk, that I was the exception to that rule.

I fought to fit in and generally failed, I grew up feeling rejected and small.

The past five years with Noelle have been spent worried that history would repeat itself, that she would feel rejected by the world and that our relationship would somehow be strained and broken.

That my life was somehow starting over again, through hers.

I don’t know if you project your worst fears and past issues on your children’s lives , but I do. It’s far more inward than outward, but I worry and wonder if all the worst things of my life are guaranteed to play out in theirs.

I worry, then I do everything in my power to give them a foothold for better.

Did I ever tell you why we named her Noelle? 

It’s because Christmas was a revolution, the baby in the manger came to offer a fresh start, a new thing, a rhythm of grace and love open to all.

Given the broken, painful homes we came from, we wanted something new, a fresh start, a revolution.

So we named her Noelle, the beginning of our revolution.

Yet these past five years haven’t felt too revolutionary, how could they when I’ve spent them mothering in fear?

This weekend as she bounced through the celebration of her life God showed me something new, something beautiful, something intrinsically true.

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She is Noelle, she is His creation and she is exactly who he had in mind for her to be.

She will be loved, if not by all than by many, for she embodies his joy and creativity in her approach to life.

He will sustain her through the inevitable brokenness, just as he did me.

She is my beautiful daughter and the energy we share will flow through her to bring about good works, to bring grace to pain.

I need not fear her or what we share, rather I shall join in (finally) in celebrating what I have spent too long worrying about and projecting upon.

This is my daughter, sent to me by a wise and wonderful God on purpose, with purpose for the benefit of so many.

She is holding up to her name, she is healing brokenness through God’s work in her life.

And she has started with her Mother.

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Do you project your worries on to the life of your children? How has God set you free from that?

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Our Children, God’s Eyes

My three year old beauty

My best friend and I always used to laugh about how when it came to kids, she wanted all girls and I wanted all boys.  Even in my early twenties I  was anxious at the thought of being the mother of a daughter.

But here I am, the Mother of a three year old little girl who looks a lot like my husband Kel, yet acts so much like me.  She is full of more energy than she can manage and her creativity astounds me.  Lately I’ve been devoting hours of my week to worrying about her being bound to repeat all my hurdles, all my pain.

There is a corner of my heart that is still convinced that History is going to repeat itself in her, in me.  I hate this truth but it does no good to deny it.

80% of her day is spent pretending to be a kitty, and I have to remind her over and over again that I don’t speak kitty so she needs to use people words.

I bought her a set of wooden stringing beads this weekend so that she could play with color patterns and learn to work the lacing string through the holes.  She has no interest in stringing them and instead takes her shoe and fills it with the beads, zooming it around, pretending they are puppies in a rocket ship.

Lately I’ve been finding myself asking “is that normal?” over and over again.  I spend countless moments worrying that the way she is playing indicates an internal problem that will hold her back in life.  I scan other children at birthday parties comparing behaviors, wondering: “Is she going to be okay?”

But, what if the only fruit of this worrying is her learning to feel abnormal or “all wrong?”  What if she wonders if she’s loved just as she is?  Or feels like a burden or bother in her own home?

Well that just won’t do.

I can’t make sure that she’s an academic whiz or a soccer all star or the diva of the choir room.  But I can do everything in my power to teach her, show her that she is loved just as she is.  I can help her learn to channel her energy into passion and find systems to make sure she gives attention where it’s needed the most.

I will advocate for her, whatever comes down the road, set her up for success, but most of all I want to make sure that she leaves our home knowing that she is Beloved.

She is a child of God and He is the One who poured into her all the life force I worry about harnessing properly.  He wove the world together to thrill and delight her, and I’m here not to worry, but be the hands and feet of love and direction in her life.

May we all be able to see our children with these eyes, God’s eyes.

May we love them for the people he created them to be and may our prayers be filled  with requests for more wisdom and understanding of how he wants us to nurture them.

May we teach them thankfulness and delight by showing thanks and wonder over his Creation in a way that is so authentic that it’s contagious.

May we all worry a bit less about what exactly normal looks like and spend more time loving our children just as we find them today.