You become a mother when you hold fresh life, all limp and exhausted from its womb journey, and you think, "I will keep you safe and make your life grand."
Much later the baby won't stop crying in the restaurant, or the toddler pitches a royal fit on the toy aisle, or the grown child loses all sense and screams at you- in public, and it can be tempting to care too much about looking like a good mother.
When looking like a good mother means more to you than it should, the only remedy is to embrace failing forward.
I wish I could say that I haven't failed my children over the years.
But I have.
More times than I can count, I have come face to face with my lack of wisdom or self-control, apologized to them, asked for forgiveness, begged God for grace, and picked myself up to start over.
The nasty sting of public opinion can take some time to lessen its grip on me, though.
From the dark regions of my mind, embarrassment at my lack of mothering skills taunts me like the mean kid from third grade who knew all the rotten words that rhymed with my middle name.
It's a sickening thought that there are people out there who have seen you at your worst, and it is pure horror to imagine they might think you suck as a mom.
Because shame accuses from somewhere far off, "What if you do suck as a mom?"
But a question birthed from that fear can never be answered satisfactorily. It is a riddle without an answer to try to please the world with how you care for your children.
This motherhood deal can never be fundamentally about what other people think of you.
It surprises me every time, the way my four little non-angels seem to love me more after I apologize for letting them down. They learn grace and forgiveness by sowing it in their mama's heart. Mamas and non-angels alike need this kind of training.
Then, when I decide to let go of the taunting fear that I am the worst mom ever, they see the way we can let grace write our stories instead of shame. Those non-angels definitely need that example.
In my house, we are all learning together how to fail forward into love and forgiveness, truth and grace, new methods and new mercies.
I will need a lot of that in the coming years, when we have three non-angel teenage boys in the house.
There are a million potential ways I can mess that one up, and a million and one ways those boys will need to know how to apologize well and how to stand on grace against the tide of public opinion.
All this practice at failing forward will pay off some day- for all of us.
Today I look at these lanky children who are finding their footing on the rocky path from childhood, and all I can think is, "I will hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will make through this together. And this life, it will be grand."
I'm a mama, full of love, beset by failure, saved by grace, and crowned with love. And forward is the only direction I am willing to go....