I had an epidural with my first birth. I hadn’t taken any natural birthing classes, and I was simply unprepared for what was about to happen. In the end, it worked out well for me. I was induced early in the evening, and later in the evening, they told me I was three centimeters dilated and to take a nap. An hour later I woke up to chaos and confusion as the nurses checked my progress and noticed that my daughter was about to be born. Imminently.
My husband went out to tell my mom the good news; the nurses were rushing around preparing for the delivery, and I was alone. In the middle of the room. Teeth chattering, mind spinning.
What I remember most from those minutes was the sheer panic going through my mind. I wasn’t ready. I knew I wasn’t ready because I was still suffering greatly from clinically diagnosed anxiety, and I hadn’t overcome it. I couldn’t parent while I still had this handicap. I desperately believed that I needed to keep her in until I could come up with a solution to this decades old problem of mine.
And perhaps it’s thoughts like that which lead people to occasionally consider me slightly shy of rational.
But rational or not, the fear was very, very real. I had this brand new baby girl resting inside of me, waiting to be ushered into the world, and I was the one who was being charged with teaching her how to maneuver through it.
She would get it all from me. Her security, her strength, her sense of herself and her place in the world, her sense of normal. Everything she would learn in her first few years would be filtered through her relationship with me, and here I was. Totally broken.
I’ve been a mother to her and to her two little sisters now for five years, and I can say in complete honesty that I have not overcome my problems with anxiety. I have improved. But overcome? Nope. Not at all. Not one little bit.
And yet my girls thrive.
And it leads me to thinking. Daily we offer up our strengths to our children. We instill in them a love for our passions. We build up their ideas of themselves. We find patience we never even knew we had. We find enthusiasm somewhere deep inside of us when perhaps all we really want is to lay down in a soft bed with a good book. We offer up these inner strengths, and we use them for the benefit of our children.
But perhaps while we might not think of it as often, also we are offering them our weaknesses. When they see us struggling, they learn about struggle. Through our fears and our deficiencies, whether they be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, financial, cognitive, educational or any other deficiency of any sort, those too are offerings to our children.
From these weaknesses, they will learn what it looks like to persevere in the face of adversity. They will learn how to find happiness despite an imperfect life. They will learn that the most important part of falling down is standing back up again.
It’s not easy to face our weaknesses. Often they are the most painful parts of our lives. But like anything else, if we can use them for strength and growth, we can find tremendous growth, both for ourselves and for our families.
I don’t know you or what your weaknesses are. I don’t know where you struggle. But what I do know is what it is like to struggle and sometimes feel defeated by that which can occasionally overcome us. And I know that you try your best and you put your best foot forward for your children. And I know they will grow from that and learn from that and use those lessons throughout a lifetime of dealing with their own strengths and weaknesses.
It’s hard to wear our struggles as a badge of honor, but perhaps that is what we should start doing. We should own them and embrace them but define ourselves not by their presence but by our ability to overcome and persevere in the face of them.
No one can go through this life without adversity. It’s my hope that I can use my own adversity to help my children learn to deal with their weakness and that in others with grace, dignity, and an eye towards progress.
If I can do that, perhaps we all will be better off.
What about you? What do you want your children to learn from you about weakness and struggle?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Amanda Knapp, M.A., writes about life parenting her three young children on her blog, Indisposable Mama.