Ten years ago this week, I was heavily pregnant in Cape Town and due to give birth to my firstborn.

My mom flew in from the States for the occasion — she couldn’t wait to meet her first grandchild.

We were as ready as we were going to be.

This week, my girl turns ten.

I might be a little bit sentimental about the whole thing. A whole decade is kind of a big deal.

In my moments of retrospection in recent days, I’ve had to smile and even laugh at some of the things that stressed me out and just plain surprised me in those early days of motherhood.

Here are ten things I wish someone had told me ten years ago before I became a mom.

 

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1. You know all those sections you skipped when you were reading the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Those paragraphs about Caesarean sections? Those chapters you didn’t think applied to you, because you weren’t planning to have a C-section? Read them. Or don’t. It might not matter. Either way, recovery is going to hurt. A lot. You won’t be able to turn your body in hospital enough to reach the phone that is ringing on the table next to you. But you’ll survive. In fact — you’ll even do it again for the next kid in 22 months.

2. Speaking of C-sections, if the doctor tells you not to do any strenuous activity for six weeks, he actually means that you shouldn’t do any strenuous activity for six weeks. That includes vacuuming. Even when you think you feel great at the time — you won’t feel great the next morning. Rather just leave the crumbs on the carpet.

 

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3. Remember how you were shocked by the magnitude of your own selfishness after you got married? That was only the beginning. Wait until the kids come. Shocked is about to become an understatement.

4. The waves of selfishness that swell up behind you will be closely followed and swallowed by greater, stronger waves of service. You will serve in ways and degrees you never imagined you could or would — because you’re a mom. They’re your kids. And you love them more than words can describe.

5. Remember how you cried a week before you gave birth, “What if it’s a girl? What will I do with her hair?” Those were legitimate tears. It will be a girl, and it will take you nine years to figure out what to do with her hair. You’re not the only one who will shed tears over her gorgeous Afro. In fact, a time will come when your daughter will scream so hard while you’re combing her hair, the neighbor will knock on the window and ask if everything’s okay. You’ll say yes. You might change your mind when, on an entirely different occasion, she cries so hysterically that she vomits in the bath water — the same bath water that her brothers are sitting in. Your boys will jump out of the tub and run to you, naked and dripping, just as you open the door to a visitor. Just laugh. Just keep laughing, or else you might cry. Then blog about it in ten years. In the meantime, give her a lollipop and a box of tissues, pop in a Curious George DVD, and keep combing.

 

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6. There will be countless moments when you think to yourself, “Oh, I should write that down!” Do it. Don’t just say you should. Don’t think you’ll remember. You probably won’t. Then you’ll kick yourself and wish you’d written it down. First words, funny antics, moving moments. Keep a notebook in the kitchen, in the car, in your room. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, Creative Memories scrapbook. A lined, spiral notebook from the Dollar Store will suffice. In ten years, your kids won’t stop asking you to read and re-read all the stories you record.

 

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7. Sing. That’s all. Just sing. Sing in the morning and in the afternoon and before bed. And when you know the tune to Brahm’s Lullaby but don’t know the lyrics past the first line, just make up your own. But remember what you make up, because she’ll ask for it again. And again and again, nearly every night for the next ten years. And you’ll keep on singing and praying that she never stops asking for one more song.

8. Practice saying, “I’m sorry.” Just because you’re about to become the parent, you’re not above repentance. You’re not immune to the need to ask for forgiveness. Start practicing now, and model it so your kids can follow in your example.

9. Listen with your eyes. You’ll be tempted to multi-task and say “mm-hmm” with your hands in the sink and your back to her face. You’ll be tempted to tune out the incessant flow of words that come from her mouth day in and day out. Look at her. Get in the habit of paying attention to her. If you get this right, you’ll reap the benefits in years to come.

 

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10. Give her Jesus. She’s never too young for the gospel. Tell her now. Tell her tomorrow. Give her theology. Concepts you think are way over her head — explain them anyway. Teach her about grace and repentance and obedience and salvation. Teach her about the cross and sin and punishment and eternity. Teach her to pray. Lean on Jesus and give her Jesus, and everything else will pale into insignificance in the light of His glory and grace.

 


What do you wish you’d known before having children?

What has surprised you about motherhood?

What would you tell a new mom, if given the chance?

Yesterday, a sunny, humid, 80-degree day in August, I told my kids that some friends had invited us to go boating today.

They were ecstatic.

The last time they’d been on a boat was over three years ago, and they were counting hours with giddy anticipation.

This morning, we woke up to rain.  And thunder.  And lots of rain.

My husband called from work around 9:30 in the morning and said our boating adventure had been postponed because of the weather.

I conveyed the news to my kids, and their shoulders sank in disappointment.  My seven-year-old was the one to voice his discouragement: “But I wanted to go TODAYYYYY!”

I did my best to console him by telling him we could go next week.  He went straight for my phone to check what he likes to call “the weathercast” — he wanted visible proof from the radar that it was, in fact, going to rain ALL day.

After the masses of green on the screen convinced him that boating was not in his immediate future, he conceded.

A few hours later, I was down in the basement with my kids, and we were crushing empty boxes for recycling.

Suddenly we were standing in wetness, with rivulets of water flowing past our feet on the concrete floor.  I’d like to say I remained calm, but we all went ballistic, trying to determine the source of the leak.  After realizing the water was coming in from the windows, dripping down the walls and across the floor, I called our landlord to figure out what to do.

He guessed that the source of the problem was a blocked window well.  After offering to come over, he suggested that in the meantime, we try to clear the leaves and other debris from the wells outside.

The rain was still pouring down, so I told my eldest two kids to stay in the basement and try to control the water flow on the floor, while my seven-year-old offered to help me start digging and clearing leaves outside.  He eagerly ran to the closet to get my rain coat for me, to the kitchen to get garbage bags, and finally to the garage to grab shovels.  I ran upstairs to change my shoes and promptly slipped on the wood floor — it, too, was covered in water, thanks to my negligence in forgetting to close the window.  I called my eldest two up from the basement to dry my room and headed outside with my youngest.

 

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As we stood there, hovering over window wells, hands covered in mucky leaves and soil crawling with insects, my son said to me, “Well, now I can see why we didn’t go boating.”

For a second, I thought he was referring to the fact that it was still raining, but his tone indicated a deeper meaning.

He went on: “If we had been on the boat, your whole room would’ve flooded, and we never would’ve known about the water in the basement.  It’s a good thing we stayed home.”

Even in his disappointment, he recognized the providence of God.

I commended the maturity of his thinking, and we talked about God’s providence as we hunched over and dug wet earth together with plastic, kid-sized snow shovels.

If given a choice, he would have much preferred to be gripping a rope attached to the back of a boat, skidding over water as the boat sped along with a giant inner tube bouncing behind.  Instead, he was gripping a plastic garbage bag while I heaved piles of sopping leaves inside, water skidding off both of our backs, our feet planted in soggy mulch.

But in that moment, my son realized that God’s plan for our day was better than his own desired plans.  And he was okay with that.

Every so often, we get to witness these full-circle moments as parents.  Moments that come so unexpectedly after years of teaching and consistent reminders.

We do our best to teach our kids about the providence of God, and then one day they start teaching us.

 

Photo credit: Tom Grundy Photo, Flickr Creative Commons