“It looks great!” I tried to reassure you. “Your, “a,” is touching the belt line and the foot line and it’s a complete circle! I’m going to draw a star next to this one because it’s my favorite.”
I swear I saw your eyes roll as I drew a star next to a little “a” in your handwriting book.
“I don’t like it. I’m done with this stinky book!” you snapped.
I sighed. So much for my “summer school” attempt.
My sweet Hadley, I have had many conversations with you about what to do when things get hard. I always tell you, “when things get hard, that’s when our brain grows and that’s when we learn. If we aren’t ever challenged, we won’t ever learn. Things would just be easy and boring.”
I tried to explain to you that day that your ability to persevere is the important thing, even more so than a perfect, “a.” I’m not sure you wanted to hear it at the time or any of the other times we’ve talked about, “trying your best,” but my hope is that it will eventually stick.
“I want Mama to do it,” your two-and-half-year old brother irrecoverably yelled. His face was flushed and his red curls matted. A tired tear fell down one chubby cheek while both his hands clutched the hem of my shirt.
“Okay. I’ll brush your teeth buddy, but you have to listen and do exactly as I say or Daddy will do it.” I wiped the tear off his cheek with my thumb.
Brushing you and your brother’s teeth has always been one of my least favorite things to do, I fully admit to this. It has been a task your daddy sort of unknowingly assigned to himself, along with filing your fingernails, and washing your hair. He has a sort of tenderness and care for these necessary jobs that I just don’t seem to possess.
Yet lately, John has only wanted me to brush his teeth. Why?!?!? I brush too vigorously, I’m impatient, and I’m not as thorough. Yet, “I want Mama to do it!” has been a nightly chorus line chimed repeatedly at bedtime for the past several weeks.
Brushing your teeth is hard! I don’t like it. But I do it (at least I do it when your dad can’t or he argues it’s my night to do so), otherwise you might end up with “green pirate teeth.”
“I don’t ever want to be a mom!” you declared.
Your cheeks were pink and stained with tears as you lay on your bed, clutching your blankets, curled up in a fetal position.
“It’s not fun!” you continued. “You never have any fun.” The sobbing persisted and I sat there on the edge of your bed.
“Of course it’s fun!” I reassured you. “But being a mom can also can be hard. Sometimes that doesn’t look like fun, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.”
I wanted to tell you so many things that night, but sleep was definitely high on the priority list for you. You are also starting kindergarten next week and I have some additional thoughts on that I’d like to share.
Being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever done. It doesn’t stop being hard, I am beginning to gather. But I think the rewards and benefits of parenting begin to reveal themselves little by little. It’s as if life doesn’t want to give you too much sweetness at one time, so it rations it for you, making it last, helping you avoid a stomach ache.
I must confess something to you. I don’t like when things are hard. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a “go getter.” I like to be comfortable. But motherhood is the singular thing that continues to be hard and it is the one thing I feel I have shown the most grit and perseverance for in my entire life.
I continue to get up each and every day and be a mother. Some days are hard, but it is a commitment I made and I am never giving up. I can never give up. This seems to me to be the very definition of having grit, perseverance, or “to keep going when the going gets tough.” So you see Hadley, if someone like me, can do one of the hardest tasks I’ve blessed with undertaking. I know, you can do hard things as well.
Being a mom might not seem like its fun to you. That’s because I’m putting in a lot of hard work right now developing your character and helping build your sense of “what’s right,” in the world. I lay boundaries. I say no. I am not here so you can just have fun. I am here to raise you. I am here to help shape and mold who you are, this doesn’t always come out as fun, but believe me, it is rewarding. Being a mom is not easy, but it can be fun, despite what it may look like.
You are about to start kindergarten next week and so you’ll embark upon a long journey in school and education. I wanted to share some additional thoughts with you that I hope you’ll someday find helpful.
It’s going to get hard. There are going to be some things you don’t know. There will be some people who aren’t entirely kind.
You have some extraordinary gifts. You’re an encourager, you are empathetic. You tell your friends, “believe in yourself.” You must tell yourself this as well.
When your brother recently fell out of bed one night, you were quick to comfort and remind him, “It’s okay John. One time I rolled out of bed and my sheets came with me!” You chuckled and turned to your side, falling quickly asleep.
My hope for you as you start your kindergarten year and things get hard (and I hope they do) is to remember this: Be the best you. There is no one else like you, Hadley. You’re it. You are the only you. God made you with care, paying attention to every detail. You are wonderfully made.
Persevere, just keep trying. You might not have the hang of something yet, but you will. Dory had it so right when she kept saying, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
Be kind. Be patient. Continue to be the encouraging classmate who looks for someone who needs a friend.
Most of all, try the hard thing. It might be saying “hi” to someone new, or taking the time to add details to your work. It might be to practice writing your lowercase letter “a.” But I promise you, the reward is worth the risk. Even if you fail. Because succeeding was never the reward in the first place, it was the effort put forth and that fact that you gave your all.
I hope you see when you are older, even though I wasn’t a big fan of brushing you and your brother’s teeth, that I did my best to raise you and I love you. I have grit when it comes to being your mom. I will keep coming back. I will wake up day after day, I will fight, I will not give up on you. Being a mom is my hard thing. You are the sweetest gift life has rationed to me.
Take the risk kid, write the lowercase “a.” Write it a million times, because soon it will become easy, it will become rote, and it will be shaped the way you’d always hoped it would be.