Levi is cute, smart, funny, so good for my big kids, the best little caboose ever. But if you want to ask me, personally, the biggest blessing that has come from having this 6th child, I'd tell you: Levi has changed how I feel about myself as a mother.
I've spent my whole mothering career feeling pretty mediocre. I had some ideas about what a "good" mother would be and I didn't think I was those things (selfless, nurturing, liked tucking her kids in at night, in control of her temper...) I knew I wasn't awful, but I sure wished the kids I loved most in the world could have someone with better parenting skills hanging out with them all day.
I tried really hard. I made lots of goals and asked for lots of help and forgiveness from Heavenly Father. It's just really discouraging and sad to feel like you're not that good at your MAIN job.
When we realized that Heavenly Father wanted us to have another baby, I was really scared. I felt super overwhelmed and sub-par at the job I was doing with the 5 kids I had. I remember praying and listing the many other women who had less kids than I did and who I felt were WAY more skilled at motherhood than I was. BUT...I have a deep testimony that Heavenly Father knows what we can do and what will bless us and that He gives us commandments only because they will make us (and our families) better in the end.
I clung to that belief, HARD. I remember being 6 months pregnant and going to Emma's high school orientation and literally sobbing as I drove home. I had no idea how I was going to manage high school (all new to our family) and middle school and elementary school and preschool and a newborn. Complete craziness.
Levi was born and I began taking care of those 6 kids. He was my worst sleeper AND I'd lost my milk. I researched those problems and trouble-shot and tried new things that I'd never done with other kids. I kept waking up and loving him and the rest of them and giving my ALL to those kids. Eventually, I got my milk back and I taught that baby to sleep and Ryan kept telling how impressed he was with the way I'd worked so hard to do the things that were necessary to nurturing a child. I took that baby to concerts and track meets and carpools. I taught Faith to read, encouraged Gabe in his running, read scriptures each morning with Jane and Seth, made decently healthy dinners most nights. It was really hard. It blew my mind at how much I was asked to do each day.
A defining moment happened at the end of the school year (2014). I had felt promptings at the beginning of the school year that Seth was dealing with Inattentive ADD. I made a few calls to people that might help, got a little reading material but, honestly, I couldn't follow up on it. It was just not possible. I talked to his teacher (who had taught him in 2nd grade and moved up with the whole class to 3rd grade) and she said "oh yes, he for sure has it, but he's smart and he's managing school just fine. I have a grown son who has ADD and I know how to help and I'll let you know when I think Seth needs more." At the end of the year, she called me in so that I could help pick his 4th grade teacher (something that the teachers are NOT technically supposed to do) and we talked and decided who we thought would be best for him. I could feel her love for him and felt so grateful for her. As I walked down that hall thinking of how lucky we were to have Mrs. Gothmann in our lives, I felt the Spirit clearly say to me "I knew that you couldn't give Seth what he needed this year, and so I made sure he had a teacher that could." I began to cry as it really sunk in that I am not doing this huge, important job alone. I KNEW that Heavenly Father was my total partner in all my efforts and I felt this huge weight lifted. I can be a good mother BECAUSE I have Him.
There are two other things I've realized during these last 18 months.
1. I am able to do the really hard, selfless things that being a mother requires. I saw myself sleep less, read less, be with friends less, exercise less so that I could be the mother my kids needed. I think I've always been afraid that I wouldn't be able or willing to do that stuff. But I did and I am. I am selfless enough and nurturing enough and better-at-not-yelling enough. I am! (I still don't tuck my kids in bed though...) It was almost a relief to realize I had it in me.
2. My kids don't deserve a perfect mom. They don't! None of us do. We deserve a mom that tries, and gives us a lot of her best stuff, but we also deserve a mom who fails and messes us up. Seriously! We are all made better as we learn from our mother's successes and failures. I have, for the most part, stopped feeling horrible for all of the times I fall short. It doesn't make me try less, at all! I just don't berate and hate myself. I simply remember that 1) I have shown that I will do that hard mom stuff and 2)Heavenly Father is making up the difference and I keep striving and loving those children.
Isn't that so so great? Isn't that so lucky that I got to learn those lessons at 39? How grateful I am that we have this soul-stretching calling and that Emma, Gabe, Jane, Seth, Faith and Levi are mine forever.
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