When Motherhood is All About Me
I’m pretty sure the elementary school principal had my number on speed dial last year. For the first time, both of my boys were in the same school— 2nd grade and Kindergarten. I’m not sure Alexandria Monroe Elementary School was ready for both Canfield boys. See, the Lord has blessed me and my husband with two strong-willed, or as some like to call it “spirited,” boys. Unlike me, who has always been a compliant, affirmation-seeking, follow-the-rules, people-pleaser, my boys like to do what they want to do, and authority rarely deters them. They just like to do things their own way.
So on this particular spring day as I answered another call from the principal, I wondered which kid had put a classmate in a headlock or gotten a little too rambunctious in the hallway. I was informed that my oldest son, Ian, had gotten frustrated on the playground during a football game and started to choke another kid. Because of the school’s no physical contact policy (which I TOTALLY agree with), he would be suspended for two days.
The first emotion I felt? Embarrassment. What would other people think? Surely everyone would assume I’m a terrible mom who can’t control her sons and who allows physical violence at home. How would I tell my friends, especially those who don’t have strong-willed kids? I felt ashamed, frustrated, and honestly, a little hopeless.
Funny how I made that moment all about me.
See, my pride has shown up in some pretty ugly ways since I’ve had kids. Pre-mom, I was able to control things pretty well. If I tried hard enough, put in the effort, and did all of the ‘right’ things, success was usually the outcome. I’m an Enneagram 3, an achiever who likes to get things done and look successful doing it.
Enter two spirited boys who don’t like to play by the rules. No matter how many books I read, how consistent I am with my discipline, or even how often I pray for them, my boys don’t like to follow my plan. That leads to a lot of side-eyes at the grocery store, well-meaning advice from other moms, and phone calls from the principal. And frankly, it leaves me looking unsuccessful as a mom. For the past 10 years I’ve struggled constantly with feeling like a failure. Ian came into the world as a colicky baby who hated sleeping. From the very beginning of motherhood, I started comparing myself to other moms who were getting a full night’s sleep. I mean, I read Baby Wise, like everyone told me to, and it DIDN’T WORK!
People assured me after having a super strong-willed first born that #2 would be a breeze. That turned out not to be the case, as Silas has blessed us with his own spirited temperament. As a mom, I constantly fight the lie that it’s me who’s the problem. I must be a bad mom who can’t control her kids, who doesn’t discipline enough, or who isn’t really hearing from the Lord. I’m the common denominator.
So when I found out about Ian’s suspension, it felt like another sucker punch to the gut. When I dreamed of becoming a mom, this suspended-from-school scenario wasn’t in the playbooks, so I had no game plan. Yes, I wanted Ian to know his offense was serious, but I didn’t want to shame him, which in my perfectionism, I tend to do.
I hung up with the principal, laid down on my unmade bed, and cried. I felt helpless. Inadequate. All I could do was call out to Jesus, pleading for His wisdom. I asked Him to make this less about me and more about training my son’s heart.
As a work-from-home mom, having Ian home for two days was inconvenient to my schedule, especially since he lost all screen time (nooooooo!) But I did my best to set work aside. I talked with him throughout the day about how God loves and forgives us no matter what, but that our actions have consequences, and we get to learn from our mistakes. No shaming. No guilt. No lectures. I'm certain my words came straight from the Holy Spirit in a way they never had before. He gave me new eyes to see my son, and He gave me the words that my son needed to hear.
This sounds strange, but looking back, it’s one of the best times we’ve had together as mother and son. Ian did extra chores gracefully without complaining, which I KNOW was the Lord working in His heart. I can’t really explain it, but I felt the presence of the God so strongly. I wasn’t wishing, like I often find myself doing, that the He had given me a compliant easy-going child. I was genuinely thankful that He had opened up this opportunity to train my son’s heart in a safe and loving environment. And I was thankful that at the same time, the Lord was training my own heart.
As Christ-followers, we know that the hard things and the struggles in life are what refine and sharpen us. But especially as moms, we often lose sight of that in the mundane, daily tasks required of us. Whether or not you have a strong-willed child, the Lord uses our kids to bring us closer to Him. For me, God is slowly chipping away at my pride. I know I’m the right mom for Ian and Silas. But more than that, I know that they are the right kids for ME. These two boys are tools that God is using to save me from my own pride and selfishness. These two boys are bringing me to my knees and closer to Him.
In the words 8-year old Ian after two long days of extra chores, lots of homework, and no tablet: “Being suspended is a hard thing to go through.”
Yes son, it is. But I wouldn’t trade that time with you for the world.
Katrina is the Executive Director of Communications for Revelation Wellness, a non-profit that uses fitness as a tool to share the love of Jesus. She also teaches fitness classes in Anderson, Indiana where she inspires people to move in joy and freedom. She's been married to Troy for 13 years, and they have two sons, Ian, 9 and Silas, 6.
Katrina loves harmonizing (musically and socially), slowly sipping coffee all morning long as she works from home in her jammies, and riding through small town USA with the top off of her 20-year-old yellow Jeep.