As I have written before, my mom did not model good parenting. For her, most every emotion came out in anger – fear, disappointment, frustration, insecurities. She’d show only anger – mean, manipulative anger.
Her anger was often in the form of yelling or gossiping about others. Or calmly making a shopkeeper know by her hateful words dripping with threats that they must do as she requested or else. Her calm voice, full of veiled threats was even more terrifying than her raised voice. Sometimes she resorted to hitting or throwing things. At us.
This is what was modeled for me: Get your way every time or make them wish they had. Control everything you can so others can’t hurt you.
I saw it didn’t work in the long term. I saw her friends walk away. I saw my dad and older siblings move out. And I saw her tears late at night when she thought I was asleep. Later I saw her with her scotch and water each morning. And all day. Later, I saw she was lonely and paranoid. Still with a drink in her hand. Estranged from almost everyone.
That wasn’t the life I wanted.
But how did others function in a world full of frustration and disappointment? How could I function in a world where I don’t control others by my outbursts or manipulate them by my tears or make them feel sorry for me so they do as I want them to? How could I show fear or insecurity without others hurting me as she had so obviously been hurt? How could I learn to express my emotions without anger, knowing that to do so risked being hurt by others?
Friends invited me to church. Others lived a life that quietly shined Jesus. One girl in my sorority house especially shined Jesus. Sally Staires. These people had a joy and peace in the trials. I wanted what they had. I asked them how I could have what they had.
I accepted Christ.
I wanted to know how to serve Him. But I didn’t know how to learn to study the Bible or have better relationships. How do people learn these things?
Control and manipulation still were my first responses even though I was a Christian and wanted to learn a different way.
I married an amazing man. I adored his family. My sweet mother-in-law modeled what it’s looks like to be a good wife and mom. I learn some from them, from her. But we didn’t live near her. I wasn’t close enough for her to help me learn all I needed to learn.
I wanted to change but didn’t know what that would look like.
I made many mistakes. I hurt my kids. Not by beating them as we had experienced, but I yelled. I was harsh. I didn’t know how to play and laugh and love them.
Ron helped me learn to be a better mom.
It took time. And lots of “I’m sorry”s and “Please forgive me”s. I learned. The hard way. Through tears and yelling. And with the help of a few good Christian counselors. But my older kids were teens by then.
Looking back, I so wish an older godly woman had taken time to get to know me, to see my parenting, to watch how I interacted with others, with my kids. I wish she had gently called me on things I could and should change. I wish she had spoken the truth to me in love.
I know the women in our church saw how I handled my kids. I saw the stares. I heard the comments made when they thought I wasn’t listening. It hurt. I was failing.
I was drowning but no one was willing to step to the side of the deep end of the pool and say, “I know how to swim. May I help you learn?”
I wish I had someone who loved me enough to say, “I saw the way you handled that. Doing things that way won’t work out well for you. I know; I’ve been there. Let me help you.”
I wish I’d had an older women who demanded nothing of me but who offered to be my friend and help me with my gaggle of young children. To watch them sometimes and help me get them to activities when Ron was gone on business. To love them enough to help me learn new ways of disciplining them without harsh words. To teach me appropriate discipline techniques without judgement.
I wish I had an older woman in my life who loved her husband and her kids. Who enjoyed being around her adult kids. And who was transparent about her own failings in a way that helped me see she had changed by the grace of God and through hard work. That she had listened as someone taught her the hard lessons. That she had had to repent and be teachable. That she had been willing to learn a better way.
I wish I’d had an older woman in my life earlier who was willing to teach me to study God’s Word and how to apply it in my marriage, my parenting, and my relationships with others.
Would I have listened? Would I have learned? Probably not at first.
But as I saw she loved me and loved my kids…
…as I saw she had nothing to gain from sacrificing her time for me, for my kids…
…as I saw she didn’t give up the first or second or third time I was ugly to her, threatened her, yelled at her, or told her she was the cause of my fear and pain…
…as she loved me even in my selfishness and ugliness…
…perhaps I would have listened.
Perhaps when I finally saw she loved me and demanded nothing in return, had nothing to gain by her sacrifice, perhaps then I would have listened.
Perhaps I could have learned new ways of disciplining my kids earlier and avoided many of the struggles.
Perhaps I could have learned new ways of expressing my disappointment, frustration, and fears without taking them out on others, without slandering others, without alienating those around me.
I don’t know how it would have turned out. I’ll never know because it didn’t happen until my older kids were teens, when a couple of moms began to love me and helped me see a new way of doing things.
I don’t know how it would have turned out if an older woman had taught me to live righteously earlier in my life.
But I do know we who have been there can be that older woman.
We can love the younger women in our lives. We can encourage them when We see them doing well.
We can challenge them to do better when we see them falling in to old habits.
We can love their kids. We can offer to give rides, help lug their babies into church, or watch their kiddos while mom goes to the doctor.
We can speak the truth in love.
We can teach them to study God’s Word to learn truth for themselves.
Not all young moms will want help. But for those who do, I’m available.