For two months shy of ten years I was a mama in a boy world. Trucks, bulldozers, fishing, fire fighting, jeans with big holes at the knees, hammers, astronauts … these were the language of my days. I loved it.
When I was pregnant with Adam I realized that I was slightly terrified about being a mom to a son. Growing up in a family of three girls, a boy world seemed so foreign. I would randomly see these twelve year old boys and wonder, how in the world would I have any idea how to parent a son?
Then he was born. The world was foreign. I was navigating toy aisles I’d never walked, learning boy language, and what made them feel strong and confident. I built roads in the living room, drew up targets for BB gun practice, and searched the library for books that would help enlarge his world. As he got older, I realized that being mom to a boy was really nothing to be afraid of even if I knew nothing about it before. Boys don’t suddenly show up as twelve year olds. We get to grow up with them, and because we do, we learn how to parent in stages, progressing so gradually from baby to toddler to preschool that we hardly realize how we are evolving along with them.
There were many days I wished I’d get to have a daughter. As Adam and Liam grew older and often went with David, I would remember the girls shopping trips, the times we’d sit around talking and laughing, or the times we’d do a fun project together when I was growing up. And then there were the Saturdays when my heart nearly burst watching two boys trail after their beloved Daddy … and it smiled a little bigger at the realization that I had a day to myself. 😉
Two years ago, Zara splashed our world with pink. While the transition felt surprising in some ways … just getting used to a baby world again was breathtaking … in other ways, it felt so natural. Head bands, twirly skirts, toy strollers with babies to ride in them, and tea sets.
When we found out we were expecting again, I realized I didn’t have as strong a preference boy or girl for myself. But everything inside me hoped so very much that Zara would get to have a sister. I know it’s a narrow perspective, skewed by my own experience of growing up with sisters; but I could hardly imagine life for a girl without a sister! Five weeks ago, I got to peek at the darling little girl who was kicking around inside me. Zara is going to have a sister!
We were all elated! Even Zara who had no idea what all the cheering was about but whooped anyway because her beloved brothers were cheering.
What took me by surprise in the weeks following was how many people found out and then commented with, “What a perfect family.” I’m still trying to figure out what I was feeling inside when they said that. It wasn’t that I felt upset by the comment … I knew they meant that it was super cool that the boys each had a brother and the girls would have a sister and that it wouldn’t have been imperfect had we found out we were having a boy. It was more a bumping inside of me.
Long, long, feels like half a life time ago I remember struggling through the “perfect” family image. When we got married life felt so perfect. Then we had Adam and it felt like we were complete in a way we hadn’t even realized we were incomplete. It felt so perfect. Around Adam’s first birthday, I remember us taking a little walk down to the bridge and almost laughing inside at how we reflected the postcard image of family. Dad, Mom, a boy and a dog. But a while later, our family didn’t feel so perfect. Dreams and prayers and pleading for a baby didn’t bring answers. I wondered if Adam would ever have a sibling and I begged God to please give him at least one. I watched him play with little friends and then come home alone while they went away in twos and threes and fours, the party continuing even at home. I tucked him into his big bed at night and watched him bravely live his little life alone.
I tried to believe that our family was perfect for us, but it didn’t feel like it.
Then the miracle happened and Adam had a baby brother. The profound gratefulness I still feel for that gift is not diminished all these years later. Our family was perfect. Or was it? Their four year age gap felt tricky for awhile. He had a brother, but it hardly felt like it. Instead of curling up on the couch to read stories to the boys, I would read short books to Liam, then read chapters of another to Adam. There were heart melting giggles at bedtime and older brother protection when they walked out the lane to watch for their daddy to get home. But there were plenty of frustrating moments because playing ball was either no fun for Adam or dangerous for Liam. Every game even remotely based in strategy was an instant win for Adam. But in those years as I once again realized there very well may be no more babies, I learned to truly believe that our family was perfect because it was God-designed. As I watched how dynamics differed in small families versus large families and especially how they differed based on sibling spacing, I chose to believe that God had designed our family to prepare our boys for the life that is ahead of them as adults. I chose to believe that our family was perfect, even if it didn’t look like what we would have chosen.
I still think I fully embraced that belief. But the recent “perfect” comments made me realize that lurking in the crevices in my heart were feelings that didn’t feel perfect. I wouldn’t have chosen to raise what sometimes feels like two families. I adore that we got to experience babies again, but there are days when juggling two big boys and baby / toddler life feels like a stretch. There are days when I struggle with wishing we could take the boys on the kinds of outings we thought we’d be doing by the time they’re this age. There are days I feel guilty for the many naps Zara has to miss because homeschooling and being a toddler mom don’t always mesh. My perfect dreams at twenty definitely didn’t include doing a pregnancy at thirty-eight.
But you know what? They’re right. Our family is perfect. Not because we have two boys and two girls, but because it is perfect for us. In all its seasons. In all it’s stages. In the heart melting moments and the moments of juggling, it is perfect because He created it. I’ve never known anything quite so sanctifying as the gift of motherhood. 😉 Which is making me think that maybe God defines family perfection for us as mothers as much as He does for our children and how it will impact their future.
So whatever your perfect or imperfect looks like, I hope you can find rest in the fact that the same God who ended each day of Creation with “that’s good” is defining your life with good, too. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here in my corner, learning to believe that on a deeper level, too, thanks to friends who unknowingly revealed crevices of unbelief in my heart; and wildly celebrating the parts that feel too perfect to be true.
Much love, mama friends!