Thirty-two hours. That’s how long it took for my parenting plan to fail.
My daughter was born on February 17, 2000, at 1:04 p.m. By 9:00 p.m. on February 18, the fantasy scenes I’d envisioned for myself as a mother did not match the scene in my hospital room. Exhausted, I asked everyone to leave so I could have a good cry over how quickly things had gone awry.
It all started with a newborn photo shoot scheduled for what I quickly found out is the worst hour of the day for moms with little ones—the sixty minutes before suppertime. Into the already not big enough hospital room, we gathered the new grandparents, great-grandparents, and even an aunt and uncle along with my husband, the sweet little wad of beauty we named Casiday Hope, and me. The photographer posed and snapped more photos than we’d had at our wedding. It was stressful, yes. But I felt sure we’d treasure those photos forever (and we have).
Let’s face it, though, new mommas have hormones. A lot of hormones.
By the time the last picture was taken at roughly 7:00 p.m., both my girl and I were hot cranky messes. She was hungry, and I was ready to nurse. (Past ready and in pain, truth be told.) We were tired. Both sets of grandparents and everyone except Scott hugged us good-bye as they headed home with promises to come back early the next morning. After the last kiss was given and the door was finally shut, the dam released. She cried. I cried. I think even Scott was ready to cry. Gradually, Casiday’s cries turned to wails and finally screams. This was not a happy baby.
We tried bouncing, nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, unswaddling, changing diaper, and begging. Nothing soothed our girl. The screams echoed off the walls in room 269 of the Helen Keller Memorial Hospital Maternity Center.
Because I am certain my daughter’s wailing was disturbing the other moms and babies on the floor, a nurse, who had undoubtedly heard this sort of meltdown before, entered the room and offered a pacifier.
“Thank you, but we won’t be needing that,” I said, as my child’s piercing cries caused all of us to flinch.
A pacifier was not part of my parenting plan.
Smiling, the nurse laid the pacifier in the bassinet. “That’s fine. But here it is if you decide you want it.”
As she closed the door, Scott opened the pacifier’s packaging. For the next hour, our child’s screams were punctuation marks in the first big argument we had as parents. He was not on board with the “no paci” part of my plan — especially not when she was turning blood red from screaming.
With my vast store of parenting experience, I assured my doubtful husband she’d wear herself out crying and fall asleep. But our baby girl had (and still has) a stubborn streak a mile long.
By 9:00 p.m. I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed the pacifier from Scott’s hands and slid it into my daughter’s wide open mouth.
It was beautiful.
Her tears dried up as she happily sucked on the pacifier and slowly closed her eyes to sleep. My tears dried up as I fell on the bed, utterly exhausted. And Scott, well, he might have been thinking, “I told you so,” but he was smart enough not to say it as he leaned over and kissed each of his girls on the forehead, whispered how much he loved us, and wisely headed home to give me time to recover from the emotional upheaval I’d experienced that night.
The Problem with Plans
It sounds silly now. But at the time, the decision to give Casiday a pacifier felt like my plan had failed, like I had failed. Funny, isn’t it, how hard it is to let go of our ideas about parenting? Even when what we thought would work is obviously not working, we still hold onto the plans we’ve made.
Let’s be real—parenting is hard work. It is scary and uncertain and comes with no guarantee of success. We’ve all seen fabulous kids with less-than-stellar parents, and we all know godly parents whose children have chosen rebellious paths. You’re probably a lot like me and wish someone would give you a ten-point plan for perfect parenting.
The problem with plans is they usually work better on paper than in reality.
But what if we decided to let go of lists and plans in our parenting? What if we chose to give up our expectations and desires and instead pursued a different path? What if we made our focus in parenting less about today and more about eternity? What if we chose to parent with purpose?
Our dreams and desires for our children are not wrong. Nor are our goals and expectations for ourselves as parents. But we cannot allow them to take priority over God’s purposes in our lives and the lives of our children. As mothers, it is hard to lay down what we hope and plan for our children and choose to trust in the Lord, especially when we can’t see the whole picture.
My daughter is now sixteen. It seems impossible that she is just two weeks from beginning her junior year in high school. I had so many plans for what our home was going to be and what kind of mom she would have and what her life would look like. It’s safe to say, not all plans have come to fruition. For nine months and thirty-two hours I worried about pacifiers. Since then I’ve had plans about almost everything from bedtimes to social media. Sometimes I’ve clung to the plan even longer than thirty-two hours before I finally let it go. But I’m learning to hold my plans and dreams loosely. Not because they are bad, but simply because I choose to believe God’s purpose is best.
A Prayer for You
Lord, you see us down here worrying and fretting and stressing over every little thing. But the truth is, you’ve got it all under control. Help us learn to rest there, to trust your care for us and for our girls. When we’re grasping hold of the plan like it’s all we have, remind us that your Presence is far better than any plan we could form. Give us wisdom to parent well but, even more, give us humble hearts to trust you more than our plans. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I guess now is the time to tell you my daughter had a serious pacifier addiction. She was one of those kids with one in her mouth and one in each hand at all times. And, she was about to start Pre-K before she finally gave up her pacifier at nights.
One of my friends at church was worried because her three-year-old still carried a pacifier all the time. I smiled the way only a mom who ha been there can and assured her, “She’ll give it up. Don’t worry,” as my own teenage daughter moved past us with her friends, no pacifier in her mouth but a huge smile on her face.
Here’s to letting go of the plan and trusting the Lord!
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