I had a late night conversation with another momma the other night. Both busy, both balancing, we mulled over the pressures and fears of young motherhood. We reminisced the mantra that haunts many a post, blog, many a grey haired wisdom handed down to the next generation, it threads mothers together across working at home, from home or out of the home. We all are told again and again, cherish every moment, it goes so fast.
I agree, I get it, I really do. In fact, it resonates so deeply that if I’m being completely honest, I many times sense some sort of sadistic, ominous threat behind this heavy phrase. Cherish every moment. It’s as if my papery wrinkled self lying on my death bed lifts gnarled finger towards me ,and shaking it heartily whispers,
You didn’t build enough Legos, read enough books.
You spoke too firmly, didn’t laugh heartily enough.
You didn’t get messy enough; you were distracted.
You didn’t soak it all up, cherish them well, and, now, they’re gone.
It’s a creepy confession, really, but in all vulnerability, this unrealistic scenario, seemingly straight from some sort of Christmas Carol/horror flick for a mother’s heart looms quite heavily at times.
Am I doomed to deathbed regret when I walk out the door for the day and hand over the care, the cherishing to someone else for the better of my family. Like when I grab the vacuum instead of snuggles. Like when I pick up the laundry instead of a hand. Like when I shut the door for some peace and quiet and forgo the reading, the crafting, the playing.
Is this the cherishing I’m letting slip through my fingers?
My momma recently shared a vision she had dreamed years ago. Two well-meaning individuals with a brood of children stood busily at a outstretching apple tree. Round and round they went with pride, but quickly she realized, the fruit they so earnestly stood shining were in fact withering apples extending from the branches. As they admiringly reached, appreciating with each polish, the tree began to wilt just a little bit further, die just a little bit more.
In the vision, she knew it was actually the roots that needed the attention.
I used to believe that this “cherishing” simply meant the soaking up of the small moments, being grateful for every instance, the amount of rocking and playing and singing and dancing. And, yes, there is some value in this at times, but as of lately, I’ve been made so acutely aware that it goes so much deeper.
Cherish. It’s true definition actually explains it as lovingly protecting and caring for something or someone you hold dear.
Our calling in motherhood is the real cherishing, and, oh, it's so much grander so much more rewarding than the doting over the visible, the appreciation of the simple, the tender salve of motherhood, if you will.
The sweetest fruit of motherhood will blossom in my children’s lives when I seek out the tough stuff, embrace the the hard things of parenting, when I dig in deep to nurture the roots, to invest in the lasting. The greatest reward is tenderly cultivated when I tune in rather than tune out in the moments for gentle discipline, when I leave the playdates early because it’s time to care for my children in the form of one-on-one redirection, when I prioritize consistency and modeling rather than coddling and empty threats. The blooming is provided for when I mindfully consider the words, the phrases, the melodies, the influences that will find home in their hearts. The blossoming comes when I slow the pace, minimize the busyness in order to leave space for the careful tending of my children’s roots.
It can be somewhat of a lonely calling at times. Pinterest doesn’t typically display the beauty of this kind of mothering on their homepage, and I’ve never read it in the “Top Ten tips for Great Kids” gone viral for the day. I know I personally don’t typically blog pictures of the days spent only at home crafting attitude adjustments.
Quoting a single source opens myself to debate, I realize as parenting advice is sensitive and sources are many. I also don’t claim to agree with any single source completely as every situation varies with every child with whom there are no two alike. Combine that with the complex demands of life and the sincere belief that we as mothers are all doing our best in each moment, the above doesn’t seek to condemn or judge any mother or child-rearing perspective. However, I’ve found great inspiration in the following picture as found here-
“Every gardener knows what I mean by "tomato staking". A tomato plant grows fast, big, and wild. If left untended, it soon sprawls out into an unwieldy heap. As the fruit grows, it weighs the plant down to the ground. Propping by this time is too late. Any attempt to retrain and redirect the growth of the branches will result in breakage and substantial loss of the fruit due to rot, disease, and pests.
On the other hand, a tomato plant which has been properly cared for, will produce an abundance of excellent fruit. From the beginning it must be watered, cultivated, pruned, fertilized, examined for pests, and staked up. The branches will grow the way they were propped and trained, and when the fruit is large and ripe the branches will have the strength to hold those beautiful tomatoes up off the wet ground. What a delight!
Think of your child as a tomato plant. Most parents provide too little staking for their growing young tomatoes. They care for them intimately when they are babies, but soon afterwards, begin letting them grow their own way. They feel uncomfortable assuming authority over their children and resort to the “Putting Out Fires” method of parenting. They try desperately to overlook misbehavior and avoid conflicts, unless forced into it by the magnitude of the offense or by their own anger. Serious character flaws and bad behavioral habits, once established, are very hard to change, just like the neglected branches of a tomato plant. Catching problems now and then won’t begin to make a dent in the problem. And just like the sprawling, unattended, unstaked tomato plant, there comes a point when it's simply too late. Your child’s heart will become firmly fixed in the position it has been growing for all the many hours in between your sporadic corrections and over the years when you’ve allowed outside influences and peer pressure to do your staking job for you.”
“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”
Yes, there are so many celebrations in these early years. So many endearing quirks and nuances, memorable phrases and mistakes. And, just as there was some joy in the fruit that did blossom from that withering tree, much can be appreciated in the everyday. However, this ideal of cherishing I believe doesn’t stop there.
How much greater the reward of seeking to cherish the roots, carefully investing in the foundation of my children’s character. How much sweeter the fruit will be when I choose to keep my children close to me, mindfully tending to their heart proactively praying over them, with them, guiding them through the “terrible twos” and “dreadful threes” and “sassy fours” and all the complex stages to come.
What a beautiful, promising challenge I’ve found in this ideal of “cherishing”, to keep my children close for the nurturing, to pour my heart into the cultivating. In tender loving mercies my own Heavenly Father has carried me in each moment with his omniscient presence, guiding through the struggles of my growth for my good, at other times with jubilant rejoicing, vigilantly keeping us close for the tending.
The LORD your God among you is powerful— he will save and he will take joyful delight in you. In his love he will renew you with his love; he will celebrate with singing because of you.
What glorious fruit must await me when I seek to “tomato stake” them, to carefully, mindfully, protectively tend to my own children just as my Heavenly Father cares for us.
I can only imagine.
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