I can’t prove it, but I have a strong suspicion that how we meet people is how we best and most permanently remember them. For me, it’s that initial imprint that sticks most strongly in my mind. And I don’t think I’m alone with this quirky myopia.
Apparently there’s something to the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Consider your much younger cousin who used to pick his nose and had a permanent red juice moustache? No matter that he operates on people’s brains now…in your mind, he’ll always be the tagalong your mom made you bring whenever ‘the big kids’ wanted to do something fun.
Or maybe an acquaintance had a few extra pounds when you’re first introduced. No matter that he drops 20 pounds and even gets moderately fit; you can’t help but see him as ‘big boned’ in your memory block.
I think in many regards this hard-to-shake-initial-imprint goes beyond just our physical appearance; I think it’s true about our positions and professions in life, too. If someone’s riding high from a recent professional success, we come to view them positively. If they’re knee-deep in financial woes, that’s pretty much how they stay cataloged in our mind.
And…if someone is a mother when you met them, you can hardly picture them any other way. That’s how we met ‘em; so it follows that’s how they’ve always been.
Enter Exhibit A…me.
In more than just a few people’s minds,
I’ve apparently always been a mother.
I say that, because, rarely a week goes by these days that I’m not asked by some young mother how I handled this issue of childhood or what I did about that problem when my kids were little. And did you ever experience this or do battle with that?
See what I mean? They came to know me as a mother and so it follows, I’ve always been a mother.
And so, because I appear to have crossed some mythical parental finish line and they’re just starting out on their adventures in mommyhood or are just now beginning to experience their first real bit of parenthood turbulence, they think I know how to help.
I’m flattered and humbled, young friends, but you’re giving me way too much credit.
Way. Too. Much.
That’s not to say I haven’t been where they are and remember it crystal clear, because I so emphatically do: baby spit-up on everything I owned, permission slips piled high on the kitchen desk, and emergency appointments at the ortho for broken arch wires. I most certainly have been where they are, done what they’re doing, and still marvel at the exceptional young adults my children have turned into—despite my sometimes shotgun approach to parenting.
So when the young mamas ask, I always preface it with this caveat: all I know is what I know (deep, huh?!). All I know is what worked for my family, my kids, their temperaments, their tendencies. And every word of encouragement or counsel I share always begins and ends the same way—with the turning point in my approach to parenting that saw me through the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly.
Cue the harps, blur the picture as I travel back in time…
The kids were almost-5 and just-turned-two and I was deep into sippy cups, all things Little Tykes, and coming to the tragic realization that my kids were not quite as perfect as I once suspected. They were developing distinct personalities and this annoying habit of having ideas of their own.
Trouble was clearly brewing on the horizon.
I remember as a young mother searching earnestly for an older lady or two (and by ‘older’ I meant somewhere around 42; maybe even 45!) whose children had ‘turned out well.’ And by ‘turned out well,’ I meant kids who hadn’t given up on God, had no prolific drug use, surprise pregnancies, or DUIs. If their kids were active in their faith, morally strong, academically sound, and showed the occasional hint of independence, bonus points were awarded and I probably would have shadowed their every move.
For a while there, in the monotony of everyday mom-ness (you know the kind where you put in, put in, put in into these little ones but don’t see the fruit of your labors for years…or decades!) I was on a constant vigil looking for super mom.
Women at church were my first go-to source. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I came to realize that these picture perfect homes I had always thought to be a smooth-running, argument-free family units had issues big and small under their roof. Turns out, their kids were imperfect, too.
Next stop: professional friends and acquaintances. Because Double D was an ‘up-and-comer’ at his company, we frequented lots of corporate events when the kids were little. And because we were among the youngsters of the group back then, I had a host of older women (both those working outside and inside the home) from which to draw tips, techniques, and practices. Most dinners, receptions, and holiday parties, you could find me regularly working the room and asking loads of questions. It was no that wonder that I could pretty much tell you the status of everyone’s marriage, kids, and mortgage before the plates were cleared and coffee was served.
Guess what? I came to the same sad conclusion from these women as I had with the group from church: their children weren’t perfect, either, and the prevailing cynicism of this group led me to believe they considered the whole parenthood success/failure results something akin to the odds at a Vegas craps table.
Encouraging? Not so much.
More and more I was finding women who seemed to be succeeding in one or two areas, but not this one.
Or that one.
I couldn’t believe that, in all of my vast exposure to strong, accomplished, confident, and inspiring women, not one had, by herself, figured out the formula or cracked the code.
And then, in a moment of sweet, sweet grace, The Lord confirmed the very truth I had been running from: no one woman on earth really has it all together—especially when it comes to the overwhelming, help-me-Rhonda, nothing-like-it-in-the-whole-world adventures of parenthood; but He does.
The message was so clear, so unmistakably divine, I can tell you right where I was when my heart was moved. The clouds didn’t part and the words didn’t sound all King James-y, but they were every bit as endearing to my soul.
And from that day forward, on the best, the worst, and the million days in-between, these words were my strength and comfort. They guided my days from preschool to college graduation and beyond; and they’re the words that have come to mean the most to me from Christ—you might even say it’s how He’s stuck in my mind.
And all He said was, “Trust me. I got this.”
Am I the only one who tried to do the whole mom thing on her own and soon realized she needed ‘outside help?’ What? You, too?