On Mother’s day the year I was 28, I was just hours away from giving birth to my youngest son. Being a dutiful pastor’s wife I went into labor at 1:30 am on Monday thoughtfully allowing Rick to complete his Sunday responsibilities. At 5:15 that morning Justin Ferguson was born (He will turn 30 in a week.) His 18-month-old sister Kate and 5-year-old brother Brett waited for him at home. After this things get a little blurry: three small kids, Rick in his first senior pastorate plus working on his doctorate, money was tight and sleep was deprived. A growing church and growing family — both demanding. There were countless ear infections, chicken pox, days at the pool, pets (including a raccoon), spilled milk (before sippy cups) and chubby faced children playing, fighting, laughing and crying. Rick worked long hours and I had long days at home with small children.
From my perch at fifty-something looking back on raising three small children is dotted with some clouds of regret. I want “do-overs” in many areas. No one does this perfectly and the years help us sort out real priorities. Below are things I wish a young Kathy Ferguson could have known. To my 28-year-old self on Mother’s Day:
- Your patience will grow — because it will be TRIED. When a 30-pound human being defies you to your face they will have the ability to push you over the edge. Repeatedly.
- Resist the mother comparison game. It begins when your kids teethe late and really doesn’t ever end.
- Don’t stress over potty training or poor spelling in the third grade. (See above.) (And I hate to tell you this — there will be bigger issues.)
- Adorable, happy, polite children are good but that is not exactly the goal. Aim for the finish line of launching adults with character, life-skills and hearts that pursue Christ.
- Motherhood is powerful but it is not your identity. If your child becomes the measure of life, or your sense of worth or platform for success, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed.
- Deal with your kids firmly yet lovingly. It’s easy to become harsh when your emotions are stretched thin. Give yourself some grace but teach your children to control their emotions by controlling your own.
- You aren’t poor — you are GREEN. With those cloth diapers, a well-used clothesline and newspaper as gift-wrap — you are just ahead of your time.
- I heard Elizabeth Elliott once say, “It takes “G-U-T-S” to be a mother.” She was RIGHT. Let’s revisit this when you have teenagers. (She spelled it instead of saying it because she said it was “crass” — OH MY, how the world has changed.)
- Some nights you will go to bed feeling like a failure. But you dust yourself off and do it again tomorrow.
- Be silly. Often. Run through a sprinkler fully clothed, sing into a hairbrush, do a cannonball and have impromptu dance parties.
- “Little Visits with Jesus” time is important. But a woman living out a life-long, authentic faith in front of her children in good and bad and in life and death is CRITICAL.
- Give your kids Jesus. Not religion, not church or not morality but the Jesus of the Gospel.
In the spirit of giving your kids Jesus, listen to Natalie Grant articulate so beautifully what we long to do. (Get kleenex now. No seriously, get kleenex.) If possible, sit down with cup of tea or coffee, listen to “When I Leave the Room” through the video below, and celebrate Mother’s Day. Please feel free to weigh in your own thoughts to your younger self in the comments below!
Published May 7, 2015