Have you ever thought that when you see someone post on social media about how amazing things are going for them with work, kid(s), relationships, etc., with an edge of sarcasm in your thought/words? I unfortunately feel as though it's possible that my struggle with NOT thinking that from time-to-time has increased since becoming a mom.
For instance, recently, a friend posted how their son, who is less than 2 months old, is in 9 month clothing... my son is 16 months old and is in 9 month clothing, too.
Another friend whose child is slightly older than mine has quite the vocabulary and is very mobile; my son has Mama and Dada down, says "Ma" on occasion when he wants more of something and just this week has started saying things that sounds pretty close to "towel" and "bubble," respectively, and now we are working on making associations with what those words mean. And at 16 months, he is finally learning to crawl forward and can cruise the furniture, if we stand him up next to it.
Let me pause here to share some background information: my son is notably smaller in size than every one of his peers and has had a life of low weight gain to date. He was nursed exclusively until about 8 months (we tried food at 6, but he wasn't very interested) and I'm still nursing on demand when I'm home now that he is 16 months old (he is eating quite a bit more at this point, thankfully). We have undergone many visits with the Family Practitioner and various specialists, to determine if there's a reason, besides our genetics of both being from small families on every side, to point to why his weight (and height for that matter) haven't yet hit a stride of steady and consistent gain over time.
While we continue to seek answers (although our guts have always been that we don't suspect that there is anything besides a possible food and/or environmental allergy that we have not yet discovered), we have learned that our experience of parenting is so much different than most parents that we know. Because of this, we have kind of been "hermits" and only shared some of these struggles with a few trusted friends. My sweet and wonderful son also receives free in-home early intervention therapy to work on the developmental delays that correlate with his small size (gross and fine motor, primarily) and we have taken him a number of times to clinic-based physical/sensory therapy (challenges with self-feeding and tactile defensiveness) and occasional speech therapy since January (again, the self-feeding delay, now more on speech and overall communication). He is truly such a joy and blessing, these challenges included.
Back to my original line of thinking, I do have off-days, and on those days I often find that my reaction of "Must.Be.Nice." is in higher frequency. I have learned to realize that this response points me to what the real issues are. Not the least of these are my pride, my unnecessary defensiveness, lack of focus on gratitude and the "anxiety hot-spot" that triggers anxious thoughts and unrealistic responses/expectations and difficulty recognizing reality, to things I would otherwise not be bothered by (thank you to my therapist for helping me realize this connection, so I don't feel like such a crazy person).
I have sometimes struggled with jealousy of how nice it must be not to have to drive your kid all over town trying to uncover clues that may possibly point to some underlying cause. Or it may not. Or bitterness regarding how the medical field works, no offense intended to care providers at all, I just wish I understood how to navigate better. I also know that there are parents who have to see many more specialists and make many more visits and spend many more thousands of dollars caring for their children - it's just that I don't really know any of those people, so the reality seems hard to grasp. What ends up happening is I feel that I can't really talk about it, because it's not serious enough for a diagnosis (yet) and it's not small enough to ignore. And there's also the part where most people have no clue how to respond to such things and often say things that (although well-meaning) are hurtful and perpetuate rather than provide a moment of relief or support in our challenges. I also struggle with many other components, wondering if we should have or could have done things differently at such-and-such a time and be somewhere with more answers, and have to remind myself that I can't go back and change that now. I can use those thoughts to help navigate going forward, but there is no point in dwelling on what could have been.
There are lots of lessons I am learning, some thanks (again) to my wonderful therapist, with whom I have talked a handful of times, and many through prayer and being willing to ask God what He thinks about all of this (and my reactions and responses to our challenges). Here are a few of the things I'm learning and looking to God to help me with, maybe they can be a source of encouragement to you...
I have learned that I struggle with anxiety. Anxiety means there are triggers that cause a reaction in my brain that is very black or white, often extreme and/or sharp and it is the lack of the ability to think logically if a trigger takes over, before you can change your thought pattern. I am learning to re-map my thought path, so that my behavior can change (namely my sarcastic, extreme remarks, short temper and other not-so-lovely and otherwise uncharacteristic traits that appear when anxiety strikes). I have also learned that my unnecessarily defensive responses are because I am worried that underneath what people say, they are thinking that I'm not a good mom or doing the right thing for my son. I want to defend myself, to prove how much we do for him, but there is no need. God sees everything we do for our sweet boy, and He entrusted him to us, because He knew the care and love we would give our son. The Bible warns "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done," in Philippians 4:6. Why this is such a challenge to remember in the heat of the moment is beyond me, but I'm working to memorize this and practice this response when I feel anxious. This verse also touches on my struggle to be grateful when I feel like "Nothing is going right and why do I even bother?" I've learned that thinking is a bi-product of my anxiety when I let it have full-reign. I don't like when that happens, so I'm getting more into the Word and am prayerful about the Holy Spirit being in control, so the anxiety can't be. When I realize I'm lacking gratitude, I pause to remember the reality of those to whom I'm comparing myself.
The friend with the two month old in 9 month clothing, has another child who just turned one, and the 2 month old was in the NICU for 10 days. And their family had just moved to another state. I can't imagine the stress and questioning God's plan she may have gone through herself.
Or my other friend whose child has learned many words and is very mobile, has had a year of extreme challenges in other regards. I can't imagine the challenge of trying to balance the things she has had to in addition to a child who was anything other than "in great health and on a great track."
What was I thinking when I thought, "Must.Be.Nice." to either of these women and their statements of gratitude?
Pride, jealousy, anxiety, doubt, defensive, that's what.
To the challenge with the occasional bout of jealousy, in Mark 7:21-23, the Bible says, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." Yep I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that coveting covers the "ideal" child, spouse, job, health, house, dog or whatever that any one else has and you don't. Let me go one step further... Wishing you didn't have the challenges you do or that your child did the things so-and-so does or was the same size as so-and-so = coveting your neighbor/friend's kid. That's ugly no matter how you say it, and it's sinful, lumped in with all of those other yucky things like lying and killing people. I do not want any of that junk in my heart or on my tongue. Ick. Pride of wanting to be seen as "good enough" to other people is also in this camp... Pride and jealousy, you are evicted from my heart, I want no remnant of either of you in me.
This isn't to say that I'm right or wrong or to ask for sympathy, it's part of how I process what is going on inside myself, but maybe it's also to share that you're not crazy. If you're facing a unique challenge in any way, maybe you can relate to some of the feelings I've shared. Or maybe you have a friend like me, who has confided some of his or her own challenges with a certain season of life, and you haven't quite understood or known how to respond, maybe this will help.
My prayer is that the Lord would continue to refine me and remove from me the pride, jealousy, unnecessary defensiveness, struggle with being grateful when anxiety strikes, anxiety itself and the other "junk" that I have not yet uncovered. I want to be the mom that God created me to be, and be confident in who I am in Him, so I can handle it and respond better when people say hurtful things. I am finding I have a lot of rough edges that need to be smoothed out, and what I am so thankful for is the heart God has given me that desires His continued work on me. What is your challenge? How can I pray for you?