Monday, February 23, 2009

Authors Words to Go--The Invisibility of Motherhood

This week, four authors will chat with me and share their stories of mothering. Their stories will resonate with you if you are a mother or have one.

But what I would like to do, even staring down computer issues this morning, is to precede these chats with what I see as our moral obligations as mothers. My view of the world and of our culture has been from the top as a pastor’s wife. I see into the sensitive fabric of women’s lives, the relationships that they strive to hold onto and the ones that collapse leaving them stunned. But there is one foundational truth as a mom that I’d like to parse today, that of building character. It should be the first tool in a mom's aresenal. But personal goals as a parent can interfere.

That is often because of the tendency in our culture to keep our children busy. I once served a boss who, due to his lack of knowing how to build a team, kept us busy. His checks-and-balance system was nothing more than an exercise in futility and sick control. If we aren’t careful as parents, we’ll throw the same harness over our kids and call it parenting.
This point was driven home one day as I observed this practice in action.

I was observing a group of little dancers performing for a small audience at a local Celtic festival. My own daughter Jessica, before she passed away, loved dancing. She danced for anyone who would let her. She taught dancing to children and fellow college students and even her own brothers. So I attend these sorts of gatherings because they make me feel close to her. But there was one little blonde-haired girl who was in the middle of this group of Irish step dancers who drew all eyes. She danced in perfect time with the older girls in the group. The older girls, however, were smiling, and she was not. As her feet moved in perfect precision, her eyes glistened with big tears that soon began spilling down her face. The pressure to perform spilled over. While this little girl did not miss a step, she wept openly. As a mother, I wanted to scoop her into my arms and tell her that she never had to dance again if it gave her that much sorrow. Like so many children forced into the arts or sports programs ill-fitted and probably not destined for it, she was not being taught to love dance and the arts. She was being taught to perform.

I do believe that a child who begs to be a part of a program should follow it through to the end of that season or the weeks to which she has committed. But that is not a performance mentality. It is a matter of building character into her training. But as a mom looking back, the most important traits that we passed along that had remained a constant in our children’s life choices was character and virtue.

The arts and sports programs or academic pursuits are going to flourish in different ways in each individual child’s make-up; they’re not little clones of us, made to fulfill our unfulfilled longings. They’re not to be the cheerleader we could never be or the Einstein to whom we ourselves could never live up to.

Only God knows a child’s purpose. We don’t have to worry about finding our child’s purpose. Train a child to operate using character and that child will find her purpose.

A new laptop is on its way to the Hickman hacienda. So if you’d like to leave feedback, the book give-aways will continue and I'll be able to finish last week's Big Haired Southern Book Give. But today, how about we leave feedback about either character building or the futility of performance works. There’s so much to discuss, you probably have a lot of wisdom to share with fellow sojourners. We’d love to hear your thoughts. And Friday, yes, more book gives. Where there is imperfection and problems, opportunity is our teacher.
I hope you enjoy our author chats this week on “The Invisibility of Motherhood.”