Recently, I posted a video on my YouTube channel about my greatest teacher in life–that being: motherhood.
I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection lately, which naturally causes one to think about life and all the choices, experiences, ups and downs, twists and turns that come with it. And out of everything I’ve experienced, thus far, motherhood trumps them all as having taught me the most about myself, my behavior, my flaws, my strengths, my resilience, and everything in between.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother…but I also knew I wanted to be my BEST self when I had children. I wanted to be married, a college graduate, living outside of Virginia (where I was born and raised), and making six figures! Well, unfortunately, when both of my children were conceived–none of those were my reality. I was in an on-again, off-again relationship with my high-school sweetheart who was having trouble committing; I was working and in school full-time–definitely not making anything even remotely close to six figures; and I was still living in the same town I grew up in. Needless to say, I was slightly depressed.
But I did what any woman who knows how to pull up her big girl panties would do: I sucked it up and handled my responsibilities. You better believe this came with a price…
Here I am, 7 years later–trying to understand how my life became what it is. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not ALL bad; I make a point to count my blessings. I have two wonderfully amazing kids who I genuinely adore and love with every ounce of my being! Their relationship as brother and sister shows me every day that I’m doing something right; they truly are best friends (who bicker at times, like any set of best friends do LOL) but they would do anything for one another, and there is no one that has been able to come between them. I can only pray that they continue to protect, care for, and love one another like this all the days of their life.
Being their mom has taught me–and I’m still learning–to give myself some kind of credit. I am definitely my own worse critic and treat myself like crap most of the time. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m working on it. Because I am realizing more and more that my kids are more likely to pick up these habits by simply watching me if I don’t make a change. It’s not something I do on purpose or even with a whole lot of consciousness, honestly. And that’s the scary part. I think I got some of that–if not all–from my mom. I grew up with a single mom who worked multiple jobs just to make sure her three girls were taken care of. This glorious woman did not have time to spend on herself–let alone practice the art of “self care.” That was a foreign term to me up until about two years ago. I watched my mom GET. IT. DONE! No excuses, no hesitations, and no tears. And while she never made a point to “teach” me these things first-hand, it’s what I saw and witnessed up close and personal; and it had a major impact on my life…my viewpoints…the way I see myself…the way I see women…the way I parent.
A very profound revelation really struck me this past year as I realized that my children will only be as healthy as I am. This goes for physical health (watching how I treat my body; do I take time to eat the right foods, exercise?), my mental health (do I know what my boundaries are when it comes to over-extending myself? Do I know when to say “no”? etc), my emotional health (they will behave and mimic my behaviors…or do the exact opposite of what I do, in an effort to not be like me, when it comes to how I handle situations–whether good or bad). They will see the relationships I allow into my life and how those relationships affect me…and that will subconsciously teach them how to deal with people in their life. An example of this is what I recently had to make a difficult choice to not be around certain family members because they tend to speak to me in a way that isn’t healthy or kind; they also have bad habits, treat others like they are less than, are overly-religious, and simply have bad energy. I’m so big on FAMILY and maintaining relationships with people–that I often open myself up to people who don’t deserve space in my life or I keep people around because I love them–yet they bring more harm than good to my well-being. It is because my CHILDREN that I have began setting boundaries about what I will and will not accept. I’m not sure what I would do if it weren’t for them. I’d probably still deal with these relatives and allow them to treat me like crap, all because deep down I want to feel valued or loved by the people I love and care about. But at this point in my life, Jesus could be the only one showing me love–and I’d be okay with that. Which brings me to my next point: it’s not just about the mental, physical, and emotional health that we automatically think of; it’s also about spiritual health and well-being. My children will only be as healthy as I am spiritually, which I have to say is the most important one. If they see me subjecting myself to spiritual harm or abuse–I raise the probability of them having to endure the same thing(s). And THAT, I REFUSE to do. Maybe I’ll talk more about this later…but one example I have is that my kids started doing yoga at school. I’ve always been interested in the practice, but being raised in the church–it was viewed as a pagan practice and even considered a satanic form of worship for some people. I always thought this was a little off…but I decided that I would stay away from it since I had heard so many awful stories about people needing deliverance from demonic spirits from it. If you weren’t raised in church or in a religious setting, what I’m saying could sound completely crazy to you! And I get it. Others may think I’m crazy for what I’m about to say next. But basically, my children started doing yoga at school and I prayed about whether or not to keep them from participating; I genuinely wanted to know if it was something that would have adverse effects on them later or cause problems for them (or us as a family), but I did not feel the need to stop them or the divine urge to pull them away. Instead, I paid attention to how they talked about it and what they were learning from it. When I saw they were enjoying the practice and the health benefits (mental clarity, stillness, inner peace, etc) from it–I decided I would try it. And I did. And I loved it. Call me a rebel *Kanye shrug*
Like anything else, yoga can go “left.” Meaning that it has the potential to be harmful just like anything else (INCLUDING RELIGION, EXERCISE, and anything else) that we allow to take over our lives and make it an idol. I would also say that as a Christian, we do have to be mindful of what we open ourselves up to in the spiritual sense–but with that said, we can’t live in fear that touching anything outside of what our traditional church has taught us is demonic. I believe I have enough God in me that He will tell me if I’m doing something wrong or if something is getting “off.” And that’s where I’ll leave that.
Motherhood has also taught me that I am my mother’s child! My mom did not play when it came to her daughters. If she felt like somebody was mistreating us or bullying us, she was ready to confront you at the drop of a dime. What makes it so beautiful to reminisce about is that my mom is kind of shy. She’s a soft-spoken, quiet woman who stays to herself and doesn’t do too much talking (although that’s changing too! lol) However, as I mentioned–she was not the one to mess with when it came to us, and I am the same way when it comes to my kids. I don’t always defend myself or speak up for myself when I need to. That’s one thing I’ve always hated about myself, actually. I think that’s one reason I’m so willing to stand up for my kids…but not only that–I demand them to speak up for themselves. I refuse to sit back and watch them be silent in any situation where their voice deserves to be heard. So I teach them to “USE YOUR WORDS!” Anyone who’s been around me and my kids for any amount of time can attest to the fact that I will make them (to a fault) speak up–particularly when they don’t want to. But hey, so far it’s been working out.
Additionally, motherhood has taught me that I have more patience than I thought I did. I’m not the most patient person on earth; it’s an ever growing characteristic within me. Yet, I will pat myself on the back for progress. When I see other people with their kids, I realize that I actually do have patience when it comes to my own. Being a mom–a parent, in general–in HARD WORK. I’ve had quite a few jobs in my life so far (more than 10…yikes, right? lol) and none of them compares to motherhood. I don’t mean for this to sound grueling or daunting. And actually, I think it’s because I care SO much about doing right by my kids and giving them the best chance they can have in life–that it’s hard. Who was more stressed out in school–the kids who wanted to succeed or the kids who didn’t care? The kids who wanted to be successful! It may have appeared as if they had it all together or that they weren’t as stressed out, but anyone who cares about the quality of their work will be motivated by the stress that comes from doing your absolute best. And that’s what I’m comparing motherhood to (for ME). It is the most challenging role I operate in, yes, but it is also THE most rewarding.
The last point I’ll make about what motherhood has taught me is, hands-down, the most controversial lesson I mentioned in the video on what I’ve learned…and that is that I am just now beginning to understand unconditional love. In the video, I said that I haven’t walked out what true, unconditional love is until now. I realize that sounds harsh, but it’s also how many people are–they’re just too afraid to admit it. Here’s what I’m saying: I HAVE LIMITS. Do you hear me? Limits.
Yes, I have been married; I am the daughter or two people; the sister of two people; and the relative and friend of many. So does it sound bad to say that I’ve only shown unconditional love to my kids? To some people, it might. What I’m saying is that I’ve only begun to experience the true definition of walking it out the way that I have in motherhood. Someone may read this and think, “Wow, Crystolyn sounds like a b****.” And that’s okay lol I’m just more honest than you might be used to…or more direct than most people are willing to be. Understand this, I was molested by a relative of mine for years–and I can be around that person today and not have any malice or hatred in my heart towards them. So…I’m not saying I don’t show unconditional love. That also doesn’t mean I will willingly make a point to put myself around this person for an extended period of times, and they definitely wouldn’t be around my kids. I also stayed in a marriage longer than I should have after dealing with neglect, disrespect, apathy, and a host of other things for years–before I finally got fed up. What’s my point? My point is, we can APPEAR to be doing the right thing–walking in love, forgiving people, helping people through their flaws/weaknesses…but it often comes with an expiration date because there are certain boundaries we just won’t allow people to cross–at least after a certain point.
Let me put it to you like this, for those who are having a hard time admitting that they just might love their kids more than anything (lol): So if your spouse cheated on you, was involved in habits/activities you did not agree with, couldn’t keep a job and didn’t help financially—–how long would you keep them around? (This is an example). Some of you might say that you’d stay no matter what; you may think that your vows before God meant that you have to put up with everything marriage throws your way.
I’m not an advocate for divorce by any means, but let me be crystal clear: I’m not on this earth to be mistreated, misguided, or mishandled by any man. And God, my Father, does not want anything less than stellar for my life. So I’m of the persuasion that I’m doing MY KIDS more HARM than GOOD if I choose to stay in such a situation (which, again, was just an example). THAT is what I meant when I said my kids have taught me unconditional love, because NO MATTER WHAT: I will always be here for them. I will leave a marriage if it becomes toxic, I will cut off relatives who are negative and nasty-acting, and I will beat somebody up for my kids if it came down to it–but my kids will always have me in their corner.
I think I just did a poor job of explaining that LOL but that’s the thing about motherhood! I really can’t even put into words how much these little boogers mean to me, and how much I am willing to sacrifice to make sure THEY are good. I feel so very blessed to know that God allowed me to participate in the making and raising of these two beautiful souls. He trusted ME with helping develop a little boy and girl into the people they will become, and that responsibility means more to me than anything else.
In my experience, relationships come and go…jobs comes and go…people are fickle…people will use you…and happiness can’t be bought–but one thing that will never change is how I feel about my gifts: Zerah Lynn and Canaan Joel.
If you’d like to watch the video I posted on this same topic, check out the link below!