Moving Overseas is Making Me a Better Mom


The tears started as soon as I took the cart away to try and turn it around. My independent girl wanted to do it herself and any interference, especially on this day, meant full on meltdown. Her defiant voice echoed through our tiny market.

We figured it out and started moving again. Peace restored. The meltdown ceased almost as quickly as it started and we went about our day to grab those eggs and that milk that we set out to get in the first place. As I looked up after a conversation with my girl, I met several eyes. They were taking in the site of an english speaking mom and her girl. I bet it was hard not to watch.  But a surprising thing happened in the seconds that followed. I smiled back at those faces.

As we walked up and down our 7 isles of our little market, I noticed my heart rate hadn't spike when my girl revolted. I didn't feel the need to hurry up and get out of that store stat. We took our time, and off to home we went. We ate a chocolate egg on our way. Grace won out.

I'm not sure when my heart started changing. Lord knows that those first months of moving here meant me having as tight of a grip on anything possible, including the behavior of my child. While we're still all about training our toddler, and we don't negotiate with two-year old terrorists, my heart seems to default on the soft side recently. This is a miracle in and of itself.

When we first moved here, we left comfort and resources and landed in an empty apartment smack dab in the middle of a culture we didn't recognize and a language we couldn't speak. While we have a great gift of nearly everyone here having the capability of speaking english, that's not the official language here, and it's only by grace that natives answer our questions as we fumble through.

When Eowyn entered into full-fledge toddlerhood, it coincided perfectly with us landing here in Finland. It also went hand in hand with that positive pregnancy test and my love-hate relationship of 4 months with our couch and toilet. Google became my mom-group and while I kept asking various questions, I kept getting not-so-satisfying answers. As the saying goes "google doesn't have kids."

It got to be too overwhelming to try and sift through a million responses of how to respond to x, y, and z and I became increasingly aware that the quick-fix mentality that can work so well in newbornhood does not-will not-fly when working with a little heart. My girl's character is forming right before my eyes and no babycenter forum address that.

As almost every toddler mom concludes a million times over, maybe toddlerhood is more refining for me than it is for her. My heart and its selfishness and all its fears came right out on the table as soon as our days were tallied by a power of wills. Being overseas only exacerbated those fears and selfish desires "I don't want to fail this girl. I don't want her to turn out poorly....unlovable. I want her to behave. When she doesn't, it looks like I'm a bad mom. and this is kind of my only she's responding poorly, what does that say about me?"

 and there it was. my biggest heart issue.

I think all of us want our kids to be awesome. When it comes down to it, if we're honest, we don't care so much about them being the smartest, or best in any category, we just want them to be lovable, respectable, agreeable. We want our kids to 'succeed' however we define it. Perhaps for some that does mean being the best. For me, that meant being well-liked. I just wanted for people to think that this american chick was actually pretty awesome at raising a well-mannered kid. I wanted Eowyn to enjoy people liking her and not to feel the rejection that I had felt throughout my childhood as I fumbled through social relationships and failures. I want her to be approved of.

And uh toddler tantrums? Not so well-mannered. Definitely not approved. Her first steps into the social world based on those standards aren't very graceful.

And so I think I convinced myself a bit too early that we better reign in that toddler business in before she got to be unlikable.

Perhaps that's really where the work in my heart began. Maybe it's not moving overseas entirely, but the sudden harsh reality of feeling like we were always being observed. Being foreign made me want to conform. And the more I pushed for what I thought that meant, the more my sin came out.

'cuz while I believe the gospel is big enough for sins, a lot of times I worry it isn't big enough for personality. And what if E doesn't have a personality that people like? I've bought into a lie that 'lovable' by world standards is worth conforming to. Never mind that every culture it changes.  Never mind that trying to be liked by strangers is the absolute worse thing to try and live your life for.
Never mind that this way of parenting spits in the face of the gospel and the reality that we're all unlovable, all unable to earn his love, all a product of grace.

So, several weeks in God kept etching away at this reality.  you care more about peoples opinion than your girl's heart. Than my heart. 

I know too well how easy it is to lose a heart in the sea of performance. I know too well how long it can take to sort through who God is when all he feels like is a list of to-do's.

So one day, I bravely put down the google machine and turned off the 'stranger-pleaser' in my heart. I told Ben that it's okay if people don't think I'm a good mom, and it was probably a good time to start going to the expert regarding Eowyn.

So to sum up this whole blog post: moving overseas made me pray a whole lot more and care about things a whole lot less.

My heart change followed suit.

So, we're changing. Momhood these days looks a lot like training and being consistent, but having conversations that take time and praying through what the heck I'm doing. It's looking at my girl and seeing how often she glances just to make sure I'm paying attention. It's making room to just sit, when so often she wants me to just be with her. I'm learning that this is enough. It's agreeing with people when they compliment my girl, rather than the too often "Well, you should see her on her bad days..." comments (because, goodness that's such a jerk move. Why did I ever even do that? If Ben responded that way when people complimented me, I'd wither.) It's showing her that even when she's showing her full range of emotions, that doesn't change the fact that she's lovable. That she's forever loved. That she can't earn or lose it.

It's me asking her how she's feeling when she's feeling emotional, rather than telling her it's not a big deal. And apologizing when I'm doing a poor job of treating her kindly. Momhood right now is me learning grace for both of us and letting our days be more than good behavior/bad behavior and seeing this season as God building character in both of us.

And with all this I see a change in our hearts.

As time progresses, I hope we maintain this culture. This culture where she knows she can ask for time and it be given. Where she can feel all the feels and she can learn how to process those in a safe place. I hope her childhood is marked by the reality that regardless of where we move, and how people expect her to act, she knows that her position in her parents eyes is constant. She's loved in all her glory. She'd doing a fine job at being her joyful created self.

And when I get overwhelmed and concerned she 'may not turn out alright' I just keep reminding myself that her story is still being written.

When she's a preteen and her heart seems so far away and I can't figure out what to say next, I'm going to remember her story is still being written.

And when she's a teenager and is spitting out words that make my heart bleed and I can't figure out where this is coming from, I'm going to remember, her story is still being written.

When she's an adult and all those hours upon hours of training don't seem to result in the choices I would hope for her, I'm going to remember her story is still being written.

Because that's how the gospel lives and breaths. It's not just me teaching her how to behalf just so, and her following all the rules. It's showing her that time and time again-because of the grace I've been given to walk in freedom-in Jesus I can invite her to that freedom. Her position in my heart is secure. She's lovable and lavishly loved.

And our story is still being written.

"He makes all things beautiful in its time."

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