Mashed Potatoes and Parenting

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Have you ever been deceptively deceived by food in disguise?

I have.

In 2010 I traveled to Zambia with my husband, an 8 week old Sienna in utero and a team of young people; in one of the locations we stayed we were served up the good old British ‘delicacy’ of mashed potatoes with a delicious Zambian sauce poured over the top. I was at the back of the line waiting for food but the servers confidently assured me that there were mountains of mash in the kitchen. The few students in front of me were served from a fresh tray of ‘said’ mashed potatoes when all of a sudden there were cries of “blargh, what’s this?” It became apparent that what seemed like copious and extra amounts of creamy mashed potatoes were actually trays of nsima (n’SHEE-ma); a delicate mix of maize and water. This is a wonderful Zambian staple served daily in their homes but it is incredibly bland on its own (in my opinion) – especially if you thought you were eating mashed potatoes. The students were disappointed, the servers were embarrassed and I had my first experience of nsima.

Parenting can be a bit like this. Have you ever felt ‘this is not what I signed up for’? We see the cute babies and gorgeous tiny clothes, glossy magazine shots of glamorous parents laughing whilst rolling around their immaculately made up beds dressed with white linen and scatter cushions, and then we give birth! And we don’t sleep and we drink cold tea and we walk and work in a daze and life goes on beyond the magazine cover.

Maybe we expect it to be hard but I don’t think anything can prepare us for how much it will truly rock our world forever.

But just because something isn’t what we expected, or is hard or different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Here are 3 little things they don’t tell you in the parenting books:

1. There Are No Experts

No matter how many people claim to be a ‘leading expert’ in the parenting field, they probably haven’t spent a day with your children. Here’s a newsflash, YOU are the leading expert on your family; try putting that in your twitter bio. No one else in the world can love, nurture, disciple and lead your children the way you do. God made you for them and them for you. Be proud of your position and lavish in that glorious game changer!

2. You’ll Experience An Emotion Explosion 

You’ll feel love so deep that it will scare the pants off you. The bravest of warriors will go into that quiet and darker place when their child is hurting or suffering; there’s not even a word for that one. You’ll feel lonely at times in your personal parenting journey. You’ll feel guilty a million times and guess what, you might once in a while feel like you don’t even like your child (what?!). And that’s ok. But please don’t stay there. Emotions are meant to be felt, it’s a reminder that we’re alive and sensitive to words and actions and reactions. But it’s how we respond that is the power tool right here. When you feel love deeply, show them; when you’re afraid, talk to someone and pray, pray hard. When you’re lonely, reach out and when you feel guilty,  process and move on. And if, or when there’s a moment when you feel like pushing your child away, draw them in – hold them, hug them, tell them you love them.

When it’s hard, do the hard thing.

3. Children Don’t Need Everything

All they need is love (and food and shelter, oh and a bed…and books!)

But really, we do over complicate it! Do you remember that list of ‘must haves’ that you made when you were pregnant with your first child? That list your husband almost took a second mortgage over…and when your second baby arrived it radically shortened…and with subsequent children you merely breast-fed for 2 years and bought nappies (and even they were cloth)!

Don’t worry too much about what the ‘book’s’ say, I guarantee you won’t use half of it!

Maybe we need to spend more time preparing our hearts for our children more than our homes?

I can’t live your life and you can’t live mine but I can give myself the gift of freedom by not judging you; I want to be the best version of me I can be. So as the saying goes ‘free mothers, free others’.

Moments On Mothering

Have you read Moments On Mothering yet? Available to download on Amazon Kindle; individual creative essays on motherhood that should take you no longer than 10 minutes to read each. Check out the reviews here – enjoy the read!

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Bittersweet

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I’m taking that piece of 85% decadent dark chocolate full of flavonols and flavour and I’m biting down hard because it’s good and full and rich – and a little bit bitter.

This morning I woke up to a 6 year old using my butt as a pillow, an almost 4 year old with freakishly long legs casually strewn across our king size bed like she owned it and a dog nudging my arm with his wet nose to get my attention – and somewhere through this repeated reprize of yesterday was my husband, inching his way out of the bed in an attempt to start his day.

But it’s not like I ask for the uncomfortable holding on to the edge of the bed kind of nights but I don’t fight them. And this post isn’t about my organic parenting style, I think it’s about love and leadership and the sacrificial matrix of mayhem and melody that we, that I live in – in abundance!

The ‘familiar’ taste of bittersweet in our wide open mouths continues to take us by surprise as we navigate holding that longed for child as they cry sleepless for the 4th night in a row; we clutch our caffeine laden cup and offer thanks through tired eyes, or the prayed for on knelt knees growing church gathering of broken, laid out lives that require our time and leading and laid down life again and again.

Dickens describes a period like this as being “the best of times and the worst of times”; that polarised place of passion and pain, beauty and blackouts, an epoch of the ever present elation and ache. And I’m not being ‘cup half full’; may it never be! I’m taking that piece of 85% decadent dark chocolate full of flavonols and flavour and I’m biting down hard because it’s good and full and rich – and a little bit bitter.

This parenting, this people leading, this leaning-in requires all of me being all present in the process. I’m ‘all in’ despite the achy muscles the morning after, the pounding heart after helping someone make a fresh-start; the sacrifice of time and home and neat and ever sweet is wrapped in arms of fully loving, embracing and chasing what He fully meant when He said ‘and life in abundance’.

Hannah walked the long road to the Temple clutching Samuels hand; sweating, heart racing, doubting but in knowing readiness to release him into the fulness and promises of God; the parting song of her heart was “my heart rejoices in the Lord…”. As Mary received the news of God’s choosing; she considered what she was ‘losing’ and declared ‘be it unto me as you have said’, and Jesus, in the garden – voiced without pardon “not my will but yours be done”.

And this is our life; we don’t ask for the clutching onto the edge hard stuff – but we don’t fight it. We step fully inside, we walk the path, we consider and breath deeply, we give thanks and allow God’s ‘higher ways’ and our sweat and tears to shape and form who we fully are. His.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also – Matthew 6:21