It was Saturday night. I was snuggled down under my covers and my eighteen year old daughter, Hannah, was sitting on the bed beside me. A freshman in college, she had just received a surprising grade on her English paper. Expecting an A, she received a C. Confused and upset, her tears slowly rolled down her face. Knowing she had to head back to ECU the next day, she said something I thought I would never hear.
“Mommy, I don’t want to go back to school.”
I never, ever, ever in a million years thought I would hear my teenage daughter say that. In saying that she didn’t want to go back to school, she was saying that she wanted to stay home. In my home. In my imperfect home with me, her imperfect mother.
It’s hard to sum up in a few paragraphs why I was thoroughly convinced that when my daughter headed off to college, she would NEVER want to come home again. The idea was built in my head slowly, over time, by a master craftsman we call the devil.
I was an imperfect mother and no one was more aware of this than me. I made big deals out of unimportant things, like red nail polish or wax on my creamy white carpet. At times, I yelled, laid on heavy guilt trips, and got all bent out of shape when something unexpected came up. My type A, OCD-like, inflexible personality seemed diametrically opposed to graceful, Christlike motherhood.
Add homeschooling to the mix and it seemed a recipe for disaster!
In a difficult season of my parenting, there was another mother who intimidated me. She was a strong woman who I really admired. I wanted to be her friend, but for years I felt like she did not like me. And then she was critical of my parenting. She was parenting the right way and I was doing it the wrong way. I was too controlling, in her opinion.
There is nothing more devastating to an insecure mother who is sure that she is ruining her children than to be told that yes, indeed, she is ruining her children.
To cement my growing idea that I was a mommy failure, I listened to a Christian radio program about mothering. It said that your goal as a mother was to create a home environment such that when your children went off to college, they would want to come back home to visit.
Was my home one that my adult children would want to return to? Was it full of happy memories or bad ones?
Was it safe or dangerous?
Was it peaceful or stressful?
Was it full of freedom or control?
I firmly believed that once Hannah left home for college and was free from my imperfect perenting, she would never want to come back.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
It has been almost a year since her tearful confession on my bed that she didn’t want to go back to college and that she wanted to stay home instead. At times, I still struggle to believe it. I struggle to believe that I was an okay mom. My thoughts still condemn me and say that I was a total failure.
In the past year, Hannah has come home and come home and come home again. Some months, she has made the 2 hour drive to be with us three weekends in a row. There have been many tear-filled embraces as she has said goodbye. She loves our home. She wants to be with us. She even likes us.
We are a great family with a safe, peaceful, happy home.
Thank God for grace.
The devil will constantly tell you that you are ruining your children. He will forever remind you that you are a bad mother and he will be sure to point out the great mothers to you. He will show you those who are parenting the right way and tell you that you are doing it all wrong.
Well, he’s a liar.
And the women who tell you how to parent your children are not their mother. You know what is best for your family. Stand your ground.
My heart still needs some healing, but with every time my sweetie comes home, I believe that actually, I was not a horrible mother after all.