Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Family / Life & Faith / Motherhood

Tenderness

One sibling photo a week throughout the year. 39/52

It’s so easy to excuse ourselves for the snippy words that we blurt out when we’re short on sleep, short on time, and ultimately short on patience. It is understandable, in that one can totally understand why the short temper leaps into control at a moment’s notice on occasion. I am guilty. Very guilty.

The clock mocks me, while I race around the house, locating shoes and gathering lunch items while kids stand at the door, fighting about who gets to go out of it first. The baby toddles around, stuffing her hands into a left-out cereal box, leaving a rain shower of cereal bits all about her. Others walk by and crunch the cereal under their shoes and I cringe with every crunch, unable to do one thing about it in that moment while my arms are full. One person has two shoes that don’t match in their hands with a helpless look on their face, and another is wearing pants that definitely do not fit them in the ankle-zone, but assessing our destination and the level of grace others will offer me when we arrive there, I decide it isn’t worth it to be any later than we are to make him change the pants. The shoes get rectified, since that just has to happen.

Inevitably, squabbles will break out over something entirely trivial, and I will lose my cool. Don’t they understand how incredibly challenging it is to get everyone properly dressed, fed, (possibly) groomed, and prepared with whatever supplies they need before we get out the door? Maybe close to on time? No, they definitely don’t understand. I breathe in through my nose and somehow I can smell the temptation to blurt out something else that is less than gentle and I forcefully blow it out through my mouth without voicing it. At least, I attempt to. Sometimes it escapes, and every time it does, I wish I could have a do-over.

It is so very easy to let tenderness get shoved to the back of the closet while I’m herding them out the door.

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Years ago, I remember waking up in the night to a crying baby and feeling angry that the sleep I desperately needed was being interrupted. I would respond, of course, but not without muttering under my breath and stomping my feet every bit of the 20 feet to her bedroom. I would gruffly whisk her out of bed and settle in to nurse her on autopilot, struggling to stay awake, and struggling to deal with the resentment I felt at how spent, how poured out, how exhausted I felt. I didn’t want to be nice. I didn’t want to be tender. And I didn’t want to be awake any longer than I had to be.

With time and more babies and countless experiences of God’s faithfulness and tenderness toward me in many different circumstances, I have changed my tune about the night hours, and the role I wish for tenderness to play in my mothering. It still eludes me at times, when I am feeling the stress or exhaustion, but I try to recognize when the danger zone is coming, and take steps to bring myself low and quiet where I might find the tenderness I’ve dropped so I can pick it back up again.

Tenderness is something I’ve come to hold as a central value in my heart toward my children. I fight hard for it, and I do fail, but I will keep fighting hard for it, because I see that it is the tenderness that wins them, and grows them, and builds the trust between us I hope to always have. I strive to look them in the eyes and give gentle correction with a tender voice, even as I must hold firm to the expectations I put forward. When we are racing out the door and the stress is boiling up, I get us to the car and own it. I say out loud, “Will someone please say a prayer for me? I am feeling stressed and grumpy, and I don’t want our whole morning to be like this. I am sorry for being short with all of you.” Every time, one of them will speak out a tender, honest prayer for me and tell me how much they love me. I am humbled again by the grace they freely give.

When the babies wake in the night, I try to go with a light and willing heart, believing that I have been summoned not only to comfort, but also to pray in the night hours, and that this time is sacred; a quiet invitation into surrender and service that does not go unnoticed by the Lord. I draw the baby near and stroke her hair while I rock in rhythm and soothe her, taking care to communicate the magnanimous love I have for her by the gentleness of my touch, as that is after all, what God has done for me time and again.

Every new season of motherhood humbles me, and tenderizes me, and it is so completely good for my soul (though increasingly challenging as I journey) that I keep signing up for more of it. I guess if I could give one thought to the young mother, it would be to fight hard for tenderness toward your babies, especially in the moments that you’re undone, and you’re poured out. It doesn’t come naturally at first for some. It didn’t for me. But we learn as we go, that we can do hard things, and we can do them with a gentle spirit if we want to. You cannot spoil a child with kindness, only with inconsistency, so let us be consistently kind while we guide them through their early years, teaching them without words that they are important, valuable, irreplaceable treasures to be cherished.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

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Update on run/walk goal for week 39 (the goal is to complete at least 10 miles per week): 13.5 Run/Walk miles traveled, 462.5mi in 2015

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1031. stunning fall colors, 1032. 20 weeks in the books, 1033. fruitful brainstorming session, 1034. clean kitchen (a giant gift from a friend), 1035. a name picked, 1036. successful chemistry experiments with 6 & 7 year olds, 1037. trader joes ‘easy’ foods, 1038. opportunities to do things I love to do, 1039. returning library books on time, 1040. the boy’s first totally solo soccer goal this season

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