Doing “The Dance”- How Feelings About Parenting Can Change With Age

by | Feb 14, 2023

As a mom, is your life what you thought it would be? Have you ever looked back over your life to see the circuitous route it took to get you where you are today? Did any of your “I’ll never do that!” turn into, “Well, of course I did!”? God has such a sense of humor. He allows us to think and plan whatever we like but, in the end, it is His plan that will prevail.

REFLECT: As you review your life experiences of motherhood, can you see God’s hand at work, behind the scenes, protecting you from your plans? What do you think your life would be like without His guiding presence?

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 NIV

I am the youngest of three girls, so, I never had to care for a younger sibling. As I grew up, I watched my aunts care for their children and that cured me. I knew I didn’t want to have children because of the heavy responsibility they bring, the constant and vigilant care necessary. I was afraid I wasn’t up to the task. And for that matter, I didn’t want to do all it took to raise children. They were just too needy.

None of my friends had to care for younger siblings, so I never witnessed the delicate dance they did of babysitting, changing the diaper, feeding, changing the diaper, burping, cleaning the baby up, changing the diaper, lying her down for a nap, picking her up to stop the screaming, changing the diaper. Well, you know, “The Dance.”

Sometimes I would walk up the street to where my sister babysat. I watched her and it scared me to death. Those children were under her constant supervision, and it seemed like they could go twelve directions at once. She had to do everything for them. No way could I handle all that day in and day out! So, once again, the “no babies” rule cemented firmer in my mind. Wanting the total responsibility of caring for all the needs of another human being…no thank you!

REFLECT: Have you ever thought that way? Did an experience impact your motives for security in the future? Was there a desire to prove to yourself that you could do it without help? Has your plan gone off the rails, throwing you down on your knees?

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains
fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Psalm 46:1-3

When I married at twenty-three, my husband and I discussed having children. He agreed with me, he didn’t need to be a parent to live a fulfilled life. He is the second oldest, first boy, in the first set of twins. Having nine siblings, he did The Dance on a very regular basis. So, we were just fine enjoying our life of secure full-time jobs, traveling, and doting on our dogs and cats, who were our “kids.” We had two of each and that completely satisfied any “motherly moments” I might have. We were free to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted.

When someone asked me why we didn’t have kids, you’d be shocked how many said, “What? Are you serious? You really don’t want children?” The judgement was palpable. My standard answer was, “Well, when they are housebroken and can communicate, I’ll be glad to take them on.” That wasn’t the response they expected, but it did shut them up.

In Minnesota, where my husband’s family lives, there were kids scattered everywhere! Four of the sisters lived in town near his parents, and his mother often babysat. One summer while we were visiting, she was babysitting three of her grandchildren. Another daughter called and asked if she could bring her two over. “Of course,” she said, “what’s two more?” That made five kids all at once, all under the age of eight. That made such an impression on me. After having had ten children, she knew exactly what to do and how to handle each and every situation. On the other hand, I sat on the couch in awe, watching her navigate The Dance with ease, grace, and joy. It was obvious I was missing that “mothering” gene.

I seldom talked to the young children because they are so honest. I was afraid they’d reject me and I’d be embarrassed, having a child turn me away. My husband has no fear and is friends with all the kids on our street. I never learned how to talk to them. Fear of rejection kept me away.

I didn’t live very close to my sisters, so only saw my three nephews occasionally. Of course, I picked them up and cooed at them, but I dodged The Dance as much as I could. Once they were older (housebroken and could communicate) they came each summer to our home for two weeks. That absolutely satisfied any desire for motherhood. In fact, one nephew asked, “KK, why don’t you have kids?”

I bent down, smiling sweetly, “Because I get y’all two weeks each summer, and that cures me of wanting kids for at least nine months!”

My husband and I, married for twelve years, thoroughly loved this season in life. And I truly didn’t see it changing.

REFLECT: What seasons have you experienced? Were there times you wanted a season to end? Have you wanted a season to never end?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

That is until I turned thirty-five. I had held fast to my commitment of no kids, and I truly felt happy and whole. But without warning, my mind sabotaged me, and my entire attitude and desires completely changed.

I had always been afraid of childbirth, or that something might be wrong with the baby, or maybe we couldn’t afford to have a baby, or maybe the child would need to live with us for the rest of our lives. But most of all, I knew I wouldn’t have just a baby, but another human that I would be completely responsible for no less than eighteen years! These fears were genuine and ruled me for years. I didn’t question my concerns. They made perfect sense… to me. I didn’t need that burden.

But at age thirty-five, all those fears were simply lifted. They dissipated like fog before the sunlight. None of that mattered anymore. My desire to be a mother was stronger than any of the fears and concerns that had ruled me. I did have the “mothering” gene. I was ready to do The Dance. And so was my husband.

Once we made the decision, all I could think of was “Baby, baby, baby,” like that old Ross clothing commercial, with the woman standing in the dark, at the window, saying “Open, open, open.” She had to wait. So did I.

REFLECT: Do you have an unmet longing? Have you had a longing that finally came to fruition? Is there someone you can encourage who is going through such a waiting season?

… but the Lord closed Hannah’s womb.  I Samuel 1:5b

Then, in June 1990 and 1992, God blessed us with the most precious gifts we could ever receive… our precious daughters. I did not know I could love that deep, and constant, and fierce. My father once told me, “Until you have kids of your own, you’ll never know how much I love you.” I really didn’t believe him because I loved him a lot. But oh, he was right, so right. My girls are the beat of my heart.

REFLECT: What intense love experience have you had? Was it unexpected? Who have you shared that experience with? Talk with them about the experience and ask how they recall it.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Psalm 127:3-4

I had emotions and feelings I never knew existed and couldn’t comprehend until the doctor placed my precious baby in my arms. Motherhood was now my new role, and I was ready to embrace every facet it entailed. 

In the hospital, The Dance began, and my husband was the first of us to change our daughter’s diaper. He did so anytime he was in the room with us. The Dance is something you don’t forget.

So, I did The Dance and to my utter surprise, it truly was no big deal. I loved my children, so it was my heart’s desire to care for them, to see to their comfort and wellbeing. Of course, The Dance lasted quite a few years until they were “house broken”, and our first daughter came out of the womb “giving instructions!” It was a wonderful time… trying and tiring, eventful and exasperating, lonely and loving. And I wouldn’t change one moment.

REFLECT: Motherhood can be as difficult as it is joyous. Do you have a mentor who you can call at any time to ask for their perspective on a situation? Can you be a mentor to a younger mother?

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31

I had no fear of their rejection. I was their Mommy. It was easy to talk to them. They came to me for love, comfort, and guidance. I’m not a “baby” person, always wanting to hold them. I will absolutely look and coo at them, but I just don’t have that innate deep desire to hold them. But it was totally different with my daughters! Instinct took over, and I clutched them to me with ease and confidence. I sang and rocked them, loving the feel of their tiny body next to mine. I never wanted to put them down. Well, almost never.

I felt each of their joys and their heartache. I felt it all. I thought I had this parenting gig down. Yet sometimes my reactions weren’t the best, and my daughters took their cue from me. Once I said a cutting remark. I was short-tempered and just wanted compliance, not questions. And I remembered the hurtful, judgmental words I had experienced. “What? Are you serious? You don’t………(want kids)?”

REFLECT: Do you have a way to stop yourself before speaking harsh words? If not, what plan can you put in place to curb your tongue? Is there anyone you need to apologize for your harsh words?

They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.

Psalm 64:3

As the years passed, The Dance changed. Instead of diapers and eagle-eye care, it turned into wiping tears and skinned knees, the give and take of conversations with opposing opinions, navigating arguments and frustration to end with compromise, eyes wide each-and-every night they were out with friends, especially the boyfriends. Grace based parenting was my goal. I missed the mark many times and mercy was given to me by my children.

Finally, I realized what The Dance truly was. It was the nurturing care God puts in our DNA to care for His image bearers. Sometimes, that motherly instinct blossoms early, sometimes late, and sometimes God has other plans. Granted, there are parents who lack this ability to care, and for those, God provides His arms and love through others.

It was a precious time and the eighteen years flew by. I can’t recall the last meal I spoon fed them, changed their last diaper, brushed their hair or picked out their clothes. I don’t remember the last time I picked up my child when they asked, “Hold you,” or said, “Watch me!”

I didn’t know it was going to be my last time for those precious moments. It was just another day. But it wasn’t. It was the passing of a season that slips through our fingers if we’re not aware. I was not ready to let either of my daughters go off into the world without me. Yet, through the years, we had prepared them for this very moment. They were ready, we had equipped them, we had done our job. We had given them roots and wings.

And now my deepest joy will occur. I will be a grandmother. And I will have no hesitation in doing The Dance with him.

REFLECT: What older adult can you share your children with? Can you and your children make a craft, like flowers or bookmarks, or cards, and give them to an older relative or those in a nursing home?

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.  Proverbs 17:6

Throughout our lives we will do variations of The Dance and God is our skilled, ever-present, loving partner, taking the lead as He waltzes us through life.

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