By the time I had our firstborn when I was 22 years old, I had a solid ten years of babysitting under my belt. I'd lived with a family as a nanny during college, taken a job with a professional nanny agency right after I graduated (we needed the money and my music degree wasn't paying any bills yet), and considered myself a well-seasoned pro.
That was my first mistake. Over a decade of changing diapers, playing with babies and toddlers, entertaining elementary kids, and giving parents a well-deserved break, I developed an overwhelming sense of pride in myself and this ability to care for children. I had this down, and I was going to do it right. Without God's help, ostensibly.
We took Growing Kids God's Way parenting classes, and the name just sort of lays it out there - we were doing it GOD'S WAY. Sheesh. I listened to Focus on the Family and read parenting book after book after book by Christian authors. For a decade, at least, my head was in those books and my eye was on my methods, but my heart was not listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.
My heart listened to me.
That was my second mistake. I know my kids saw the ugly pride and my self-reliance but they were kids and could not explain the self-righteousness they were living with. They just knew that this mom who poured her life into them was not relying on the Holy Spirit she liked to talk about.
And then there was the crib tent. Holy smokes, how I liked to roll my eyes at the people who used crib tents to keep their kids in bed at nap time. I would mumble something about "not being able to properly train their children" under my breath, and the hideous root of pride would send out shoots and tendrils into my consciousness, invading any place that showed light and choking out the grace and mercy of God.
Until one afternoon when I found myself weeping just outside of our 18-month-old's room. She was our 6th child, which meant I also was raising and homeschooling a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 9-year-old, and an 11-year-old. She would not, for love nor money, stay in that crib, and we fought it out for at least 45 minutes before every nap and bedtime. This was the beginning of the end of my rope. I shuffled back to my own bedroom, weary, exhausted, and defeated.
That evening, my kind and compassionate friend delivered her crib tent to me so that I could get some much-needed sleep. After constructing it to fit our little one's crib, I blew a kiss to my toddler safely enclosed in her crib tent, and marveled when she waved her fat little hand, smiled, then lay down to go to sleep.
Just like that, I was humbled by a crib tent.
That toddler is now a giggly 10-year-old, and while we've launched two sons into adulthood, we've still got 6 kids and teens at home. Last month, I was reminded of the crib tent when I placed an order on Amazon for a child safety leash.
What do you think the mother who struggles with the idea of using a crib tent feels about walking around in public with a kid on a leash? Yeah, that. But this was for our brain-injured 6-year-old who darts into traffic and jumps off of divider walls. I have lived in fear of losing this boy in a crowded place for the past 6 years of his life.
We test drove our happy little rainbow-colored child safety leash at the mall one afternoon, and Mighty Joe was, for the most part, happy to be attached to me. He was safe. It was good.
Further humbling for a mom prone to rely on her own "right" choices. But further refining beauty, too. The most beautiful thing to come from knocking down my self-erected idol of parenting perfection? Adult kids who have forgiven me, text me, laugh with me, and partner in prayer for our family. Teens who want to be in our home, hang out with me, lay their burdens down at the end of the day and ask for my support. Redemption.
That's our God: He takes a prideful, arrogant human mom and redeems her mistakes, exchanging them for something lovely and rich.
What's your parenting mistake? He'll redeem that, too.