At some point with each of my five children, I have fallen into the temptation to treat them like they are older and more mature than they actually are.
The first time I was conscious of this, I had three boys ages 3 and under. My middle son was talking by 18 months and could identify the letters in the alphabet by 21 months. And sometime after I had our third baby, I allowed his abilities to distract me from his frame and I created a habit of treating my middle baby as though he should behave like his older, three-year-old brother.
One day, I was feeling particularly bothered with his lack of self-control, and as I prayed in frustration, “What do I do about this?!”, God graciously helped me by bringing to mind the realization that Jack was just a big baby who could talk. The truth was that I had two babies and a toddler, and I needed to get a grasp on that reality.
With that understanding, I was able to repent of my mindset and how I had been responding to my son, and I could practice shifting my perspective and choices from expecting childlike behavior from a young toddler, to understanding that my baby would act like a baby.
And I soon found that accepting and embracing my children’s frames became an invaluable mentality to hold onto as a mother.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, ESV)
Now those boys are all several years older, but I find that I still face the same temptations, and have to regularly check my expectations. My three-year-old daughter has hair past her waist (despite having had it cut twice) and it’s often easy for me to look at her and let her hair length distract me from her frame, and then begin expecting more than what she has grown in and been trained to do.
I’m sure as mothers, we can face this internal struggle with children of any age and stage. Our expectations don’t match reality at the best of times. And when expectations meet reality, if we leave the result unchecked, we can easily find ourselves led into disappointment and despair.
He remembers our frame, and if God has called you and me to be mothers, this motherhood is how He is discipling us.
Some days I feel I could easily give in to guilt over my own sins and failures, including the times I’ve had unrealistic and overly-high expectations for my children. But reminding myself of the ways God works with me as my Father and how He remembers our frame truly helps me in my struggles to see myself and my children rightly.
In Psalm 103, David reminds us that, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, ESV)
When God looks at us, He looks compassionately. Sometimes, as we get caught up in mothering little ones, training them, and correcting sin issues, it’s easy for us to be so focused on the ways God cares about our children that we forget how He is parenting us.
But He not only cares deeply about our little ones, He is attuned to our needs and weaknesses as He trains us and increases our growth in Him. He remembers our frame, and if God has called you and me to be mothers, this motherhood is how He is discipling us.
Our Father knows we are made from dust. He won’t forget to breathe life into you and me. He hasn’t forgotten how to fashion you as a mother, because He hasn’t forgotten how He breathed life into Adam and fashioned Eve.
Jesus calls us to bear His light and easy burden. He’s not asking us to shoulder tasks that He will not equip us for. If I practice remembering that when God looks at me and sees that my life is hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3), my focus is shifted. Instead of dwelling on my own weaknesses or my children’s, or being discouraged with myself or them for what we’re not matured in yet, my eyes are on Jesus and the work He is accomplishing in us.
He gently leads those who are with young (Isaiah 40:11) and as you lead your young ones, your good Father will lead you. Preaching that truth to myself helps me to find joy in my mothering, because my eyes are off my own abilities and expectations, and on the One who will never forget my frame or my children’s.