I was headed home after golf when my friend Bubba stopped me to say hello. Bubba, as his name would suggest, is one of the most gregarious men I know. He could have a funny or heartfelt conversation with a total stranger at a funeral home. His humor and kindness stretch that far.
“How are the boys?” he asks.
“Oh they’re fine. Finishing up second semester,” I say with a sigh.
“Was it a tough one?”
“What you’ve done with those boys is amazing Kären.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“No, it is,” he insists.
I shrug off his affirmation like I do when anyone says something similar.
“I’m just doing what any mom would do.”
“But not every mom does,” he said. “That’s the difference.”
I shrug this off as well. When he sees this he says,
“Listen, I’m not trying to flatter you. It’s not a compliment. It’s encouragement. It’s my way of saying you’re on the right track. Keep at it.”
This thought was more palatable to me.
“Thank you Bubba,” I said with a faint smile. “I’ll try. I get tired so I appreciate that.”
He put his big hand on my small shoulder and said,
“Then I’ll remember to say it again.”
I laughed and started toward the door. When I put my hand in my pocket I felt the penny I’d used for a ball mark that afternoon. God whispered,
I hope you took that to heart.
Driving home I started thinking about what makes for a good mother? Is it patience, playfulness, faithfulness or something else? As I was musing about this something caught the corner of my eye so I slowed down. It was a large rabbit crossing the road. There was my answer. A good mother is like the mama bunny.
Let me explain.
When my oldest was born my Aunt sent me a box of what she considered the best children’s books. The must haves for a child’s library. In it was a copy of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.
As the story goes the mama’s baby tells her all the ways he’s going to run away. She responds gently to all his threats explaining she’ll become whatever she needs to take care of him. It’s a story about transformation as much as unconditional love.
When I got home I found the book and read it with Bubba’s words floating through my head. Maybe I have done a great job? Not “raising them” whatever that means, but changing to meet their needs. Is the measure of good parenting not how they turn out but how I do? Perhaps it is.
I’m far from perfect but like the mama bunny I can say I’ve become whatever my kids have needed me to be: baby whisperer, autism expert, disability advocate, tutor, nurse, sports fan, chef, driving instructor, and to my surprise an expert on glue. Not to sniff—to fix all the things boys break. Name the surface I know the right adhesive.
If I think about who I was before children (BC) and who I am now the change is staggering. BC my idea was that with love, consistency, and a firm hand I could shape my kids into Godly capable people. What a joke! While the Godly and capable part are still my goals the road to getting there has required more detours than I could have imagined.
Twenty-three years later what I know is they’ve changed me more than I’ve changed them. Their abilities, disabilities, personalities, and desires have required I learn how to bend without breaking. They’ve been the mirror I’m forced to look in every day and say, “How will you adapt to meet their needs?
It’s not been easy. Change that a person initiates is always welcome but change you don’t want is not—it hurts and it requires living with a little heartache.
I think this is what my friend Bubba was eluding too. Behind his comments came the recognition that I’ve embraced the challenge of putting my children’s needs over my own. That’s what “done a great job” means. It doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else. It means I’ve accepted the pain that comes with the journey.
I’ve always said that if it doesn’t hurt you’re not doing it right but have I actually believed that? No. I’ve said it as a joke when in reality it’s the absolute truth. Transformation is always a no pain no gain proposition that comes without guarantees. Your kids might not become all you’ve hoped for—however you might become who God’s always intended you to be.
“If you become a rock on the mountain high above me,” said his mother, “I will be a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.” – The Runaway Bunny