Sunday, April 1, 2012

Vicarious Mothering

The jury is still out as to whether or not this "mother" thing will ever happen to me personally. In spite of this, I do believe I have been given the gift of vicarious mothering opportunities over the years via different relationships in my life.

Relationship #1: Sibling
As the second oldest of seven, I have had my fair share of caring for children. I've often thought of myself as a live-in nanny, though it wasn't necessarily by choice. There were ups and downs.
  • Watching them fall asleep while feeding them
  • Helping them learn new things
  • Making them smile
  • Playing with them
  • Watching their personalities develop as they grow older
  • Kissing their cheeks
  • Taking care of them (when I was in a good mood)
  • Being stuck watching them for hours on end with no idea when my mom would come back home
  • Changing dirty diapers
  • Cleaning up after them
  • Dealing with strong wills with absolutely no authority to do anything about it
  • Taking care of them (when I was in a bad mood)

For some time, I felt the need to balance "sisterhood" with "nanny-hood" because there were so many times where I had to be responsible for their well-being. But as the years have gone by, my relationship with my younger siblings has slowly morphed into sister/equal, which I quite enjoy. The transition has been a unique experience.
Holding Christine at my Kindergarten graduation when I was six. She is the middle-middle child of us all. We had "school" when she was little and I helped teach her spelling and math before she was even in pre-school! I have enjoyed watching her grow up and develop her many creative talents (art, music, communications). Once I graduated college, I felt strongly about encouraging her during her college years. For the last six months she has lived with my husband and I. It has been a privilege to mentor her as she makes the transition into adulthood. She has taught me many things as well! I will miss her!
Holding Christopher when I was six, right before going into 1st grade. I remember planning his birthday parties with my other sisters when he was little. He and I are similarly strong-willed and passionate about what we believe, so it was always a character building experience to watch him when mom was gone. He made it very clear to me that I was not the "boss" of him. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow up to be a man who is a deep thinker, born leader, and hard worker. He has taught me how to love no matter what!
Multi-tasking with Nathan when I was in high school; I'm playing checkers, feeding him pretzels, and eating the pretzels he's offering me at the same time. Of all the siblings, he's the one I probably helped raise the most, primarily due to my age at the time. I made a point to make sure this child had a proper baby book, took him to the pool, picked him up from school, and the list goes on. I kind of spoiled him, too. After moving out of the house, I can remember being emotional at the thought of him growing up. I will never forget the day I called home and heard a deep voice on the other end: "Chris?" (No) "Dad?" (No) "Nathan?!!?!" (Yes) Yeah, I started bawling. He's in high school now and I am so proud of him!
Holding Hannah on a weekend home from college. I had the privilege of caring for her in her toddler stage. While I didn't have as much time with her compared to the others, I did have a year with her. I would feed her, put her down for naps, take her on walks, dance to music with her, and of course spoil her. She's always had such a funny personality. At 3/4 years old she would call me at college to talk. I would ask, "Does mom know you're on the phone?" She would usually dodge the question and change the subject. She's in grade school now. I love getting to know her and having "sis time" together.

Relationship #2: Aunt

Being an aunt is so much fun! I love my nieces and nephews! The great thing about aunt-hood is that you have all the benefits of the "ups" listed above, but hardly any "downs" (that's what the parents are for!). Though, I will say I have had to change diapers with these guys, and some pretty nasty ones at that, but it is worth it! I find it miraculous how much love can come out of a person. Just when you think you've loved it all out, another baby comes along and you find more.

These are my older sister's kids (she is older by 1 year). I love these guys! Each personality is so unique. Watching them grow up is so cool! Of course, every time I see new pictures on facebook I get teary-eyed because they live so far away. I cherish every visit!
These are my younger sister's girls (she is younger by 1 year). I'm so lucky to be close enough to be able to see these sweeties every few weeks. They bring me so much joy!

Relationship #3: Friend
As a friend, you don't have quite as many opportunities on the "ups" side and virtually no downs, unless you elect to babysit! But you still have the joy of watching the kids grow up and hearing the stories of the crazy things they do with their parents. They can be quite entertaining at 10:30 p.m., especially since they are not your own!

Relationship #4: Teacher
I've had the privilege of being a Sunday School/VBS teacher at different parts in my life. Most recently, I have lost some of my patience for misbehaved children that stems from lazy parenting, so I have not been as involved. But, in my earlier days, it was so much fun. I really tried hard to help the kids learn about Jesus and tried to incorporate memorable/out-of-the-ordinary activities in my teaching to make a difference. I find so much joy seeing from a distance how these kids grow in the Lord. It is an honor to have been a small part of that development.

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