His chubby hands were pressed against the glass panes on my back door as he uttered a never-ending chorus, “Mimi, side, Mimi, side, Mimi, side.”
My two-year old grandson, Walker, knew his Mimi would eventually cave into the pressure and grant him his wish to go “side” (translation: “outside”).
History had proven that his persistence would pay off. As predicted, I relented to his pleas in less than a minute. Like so many times before, I buckled Walker into his plastic toddler swing and was rewarded with an offering of sweet baby giggles on the first push.
I was struck by the irony of the moment. My husband (aka: “Pop”) had assembled this swing-set nearly two decades ago and I had pushed Walker’s daddy on this same swing-set. I’m sure I never imagined at the time that I’d someday be pushing my son’s son on the same swing-set. Nor did I imagine there would be a day when I would put my grandson down for a nap in his father’s crib after of course, reading him his father’s favorite book, Go, Dog. Go!
It’s true what they say that these years go by in a blink.
In these reminiscent moments, I sometimes wish I could go back and have a little chat with my younger mom-self. There are so many things I’d love to tell her.
As a recent empty nester, I have the luxury of looking back on the full-time parenting chapter of my fairy tale with a more relaxed and objective perspective. I’m on the other side of it now and the details I once worried and obsessed over are now an inconsequential blur.
If I could go back and encourage my younger mom-self, I’d tell her:
“Stand over the crib and watch that baby sleep just a few minutes longer. The laundry can wait.”
“Go on more weekend get-aways with your husband and don’t worry about the kids so much when I do. Even if they cry when you leave, they won’t remember it five years from now.”
“Don’t worry about silly things like your baby not taking his first steps as soon as other babies his age. What seems like such a significant detail in the moment you will someday have to look up in a baby book.”
“Don’t be so over-protective with your children. Let them climb more trees and skin more knees.”
“Don’t worry so much when your child fails to get the teacher you requested. What you consider a travesty, your child won’t even remember a decade from now. Nor will you.”
“Let the kids pick out their own clothes, roll down hills, and play outside in the rain more often.”
“It’s okay for your kids to be bored. Don’t pack the calendar so tight that you miss the value of learning to be still and more importantly, handing it down to your children.”
If given the opportunity, I’d tell my younger mom-self that my daughter who thought I was so annoying in her teen years, would tell me I’m her very best friend in her young 20’s. I’d tell my younger mom-self not to nag my oldest son about getting a haircut, even if his bushy hair helmet could justify it’s own zip code. I would tell my younger mom-self to be less surprised when my children went through periods of rebellion and more surprised had they not. Most importantly, I’d tell my younger mom-self that all those times I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mother, God in fact, had my back.
As moms, we knock ourselves out trying to achieve this ideal of an A+ mother. I say “ideal” because there’s no such thing as a perfect mother. I’d tell my younger mom-self that some days are just going to be pass/fail kinda days, but fortunately, God grades on a curve.
The same urgency I feel in those moments when I look back in my rearview mirror on past chapters motivated me to write Ever After.
Women get caught up in this idea of a fairytale life: the perfect prince, a beautiful castle, and perfectly obedient children playing peacefully on the front lawn in matching smocked rompers. The truth is, life will never measure up to our preconceived fairytale expectations. And trust me, that’s a good thing.
Princes are imperfect (as are princesses!). Castles are messy and rarely resemble the homes we pin to our Pinterest pinboards. And you can forget about the children following a fairytale script. That may work when they’re little, but they will eventually discover their own story lines.
As I gave my grandson another push in the swing that day, I thanked God for showing me that every chapter of my life is significant. No detail, difficulty, struggle, or heartbreak is ever wasted in God’s economy. When we hold out for the perfect fairytale, we miss the bigger story that’s in play—God’s beautiful love story of redemption.
With another push, I said a prayer that the remaining chapters of my life would point my grandson to the best story that’s ever been told. And that’s what I’d tell my younger mom-self matters most in this life.
Vicki Courtney is an author and speaker with a ministry that reaches more than 150,000 people a year through events, books, and online resources. Vicki has done hundreds of radio and newspaper interviews and appeared on CNN, Fox News, and CNN Headline News as a youth culture commentator to address various issues impacting tweens and teens. Vicki’s new Bible study, Ever After, is available now.