Mommy of the Year. That was me. For three straight years. Don't be jealous. It was a trophy that I earned well. Because for one very long day, that lasted roughly 3 years, I did not like my daughter.
Don't misunderstand. I LOVED her. Desperately. My heart could have burst with the tremendous depth of love I had for that child. At the very moment she exited my body and entered the world, my heart doubled in size…at least. Love for your child is something that cannot be explained. It is an ageless feeling that once again proves the existence of an Almighty Creator. It is not in the human capacity to feel this kind of love. It can only be explained by something so much Greater than oneself. It is miraculous. And until one holds their child in their arms (whether they were birthed from their body or from someone else's) one cannot truly grasp the kind of love I'm talking about.
Like, however, does not always walk hand-in-hand with love. And there was a time that I fell out of "like" with my daughter.
I was recently recalling these years with a friend who is currently not liking her daughter. I was able to tell her that I've been there, done that. I am on the tail end of not liking a second daughter. I am in the throws of not liking a third, and I will not like a fourth someday. But this season of the mother-daughter dynamic will pass for each one, and I'm sure it will come around again when puberty rushes in. It is seasonal. It has an ebb and flow, at least in this house where the estrogen level should have it's own richter scale.
But through the season of loving someone that I felt was unlikeable, God opened my eyes to lessons in motherhood that I would have never learned had I always liked her. Lessons, that had they waited for teenagedom, would have served me too late. Lessons that, though difficult and humbling, I wouldn't trade. But isn't that what the whole of motherhood is? Ebbs and flows of love and lessons? For the child AND the mother? I think so.
Let me tell you about my oldest. You see, I never envisioned having a daughter. Not at first. (God is HILARIOUS!) I had two brothers growing up, no sisters. I knew about boys. They stink. They're rough. They make a lot of noise, both vocally and bodily. But for the most part, they have good hearts, and they love their mamas! So that was my plan. My firstborn was going to be a boy. (A GIANT eye roll to all those mothers who say they knew from the moment of conception what they were going to have. Whatever. If that intuition is a real thing, mine is broken.) When the ultrasound technician told us we were having a girl, I was floored. So surprised. I realized that I hadn't even thought about having a girl. But what fun! A little angel to mimic her mother. We would wear matching outfits and frolic through fields of flowers. Everyday would be a picnic. We'd bake and laugh and snuggle and play with dolls. My very own mini-me. Bliss.
I should have known when my little blond-haired, Daddy-clone came out, that my ideals of what a daughter would be, should have been thrown out with the bath water. Live and learn. She was a mama's girl though, from the very beginning. Lots of snuggles. Lots of clinging. She was my first-born and possessed the stubborn-streak of BOTH of her first-born parents. We had three "oldests" living under one roof. Stubbornality was the family personality.
Fast forward five years and two little sisters (did I mention that God is HILARIOUS?!?!) Miss Stubbornality had also taken on Opinionality. About ALL THE THINGS. And the problem? Her opinions and my opinions did not understand each other. No comprende. If math is a universal concept, then I suppose our relationship equation would have looked something like this:
Stubbornality + Opinonality + No Comprende = Yelling + Fighting + 0 Likes
We fought about everything, but clothing won first prize. How was it possible that a teeny-tiny, American child who had never seen anything beyond a PG movie, whose most regular outing was church and who hadn't even started school, was determined to dress like a miniature hooker? Why were t-shirts with ice cream cones and kitties so appalling? After all, she liked ice cream cones and kitties! Why were all things short, tight and sparkly worth a battle to the death? Sunday mornings were their very own WWF around our house. Preacher Daddy was at work, but Control-Freak Mommy and #1 would duke it out (figuratively speaking) week after week while #2 and #3 quietly complied and wore whatever sweet little dress I picked out.
Of course it wasn't only clothing. It was tv. It was food. It was chores. It was friends. It was books. It was nail polish. You name it. If it could be discussed between two human beings, we were going to argue about it. She was trying to exert her control, and I was determined to keep mine. We were at a crossroads, and I realized one day, with terrible mommy guilt, that I did not like my first born child. I hadn't liked her for a while, in fact. And that broke my heart. How could I not like this child that I created in my very own body, the first person to teach me what a mother's love really was? I was tired of pretending in the rare moments of peace that I truly enjoyed her, because I was always on guard that the next moment would be a fight. A battle of the wills.
So I prayed about it. I asked God to help me like the child that I loved so much. It was not an elaborate prayer, but I know He knew my heart. And He answered. Slowly. The first lesson He taught me came through the words of a very wise pastor's wife/friend. She has raised two daughters and as I poured out my mommy guilt, she looked at me and said, "what if the person God has created her to be, can't dress the way you think she should? What if she's called to reach people that wouldn't give her the time of day if she was wearing cutsie clothes or acting just so?"
Jesus + Pastor's Wives + Wisdom = Lessons + Lightbulbs + Aha Moments
Through the course of weeks/months and a great deal of thinking on this, I realized that God created my daughter to be HER, not ME. I was trying to shape her into the miniature version of me, the "her" I THOUGHT she needed to be. God had His very own plan, His very own destiny for the child He entrusted to me. He gave her opinions and taste and choice and freewill just like the rest of us. I was called to shape her, to guide her, to protect her, to raise her…not to control her.
God changed my mommy prescription that day. I no longer saw my daughter through the lenses of my expectation but through the lenses of God's loving plan for her. And that changed everything. Controlling my child with a vice grip was a lot harder than molding her with a loving hand.
I don't know how she'll turn out. But you know what? I don't know how I'll turn out either? Each day that she grows and changes, so do I. That is one thing that will remain the same: we will both be constantly changing and evolving into who God created us to be. We have many lessons ahead of us. Many mistakes. Many aha moments. But I wouldn't trade the ones we've been through or the ones that are to come. And with three more daughters after her, I'm learning more and more to relax and enjoy the ride. Who they are now is not who they will be tomorrow. And if I keep viewing each of them through the lenses of God's prescription the math works out for itself:
Jesus' Guidance + Mommy's Willingness to Learn & Lead + Love = Jesus' Plan + Daughter's Molding + Lots of Likes