Humility: Your Child’s Gift to You

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It's early – even the birds are cranky at this hour. I've been awake for 10 minutes, and I have already stripped the vomit-soaked crib sheet, thrown it into the wash, and nearly finished bathing my feverish toddler. He's screaming, trying to climb out of the tub, and yelling for the waffle he's supposed to be eating instead of being subjected to the torture of bath time.

The events of this day will be similar to the past two. My clock will be synced to the directions on his prescription bottles. My hands will smell strongly of vaporizing rub from massaging tiny feet. It will be hours until I remember to eat and seconds until I think of the only thing I want: sleep.

I vaguely remember what it was like having time to do anything at all. There are fuzzy memories of lazy weekends reading books and tanning at the beach. It seems like a lifetime ago, someone else’s even. Maybe it’s because my life isn’t my own anymore now that I’m a mother. I don’t say this with regret but with a kind of bittersweet contentment. While I miss those days of independence, I’m really coming into my own with this new season. I’ve learned that giving more of myself, especially when I don’t want to, can be strangely gratifying. I’ve learned that making personal sacrifices for my child may wear me paper thin but they never leave me feeling disappointed.

There are a lot of lessons my son has taught me, but no other message is as true to motherhood as humility. It’s an integral part of parenting – completely unavoidable. We mothers are schooled in meekness daily. It greets us during early morning wake-up calls and late-night hours while the rest of the world sleeps. It’s present during our delayed mealtimes and frequently interrupted moments of privacy.

Regrettably, I tend to retreat inwards if left to my own devices. I can get too caught up in myself. While there is nothing wrong with a healthy sense of self-worth, I never want to make the mistake of thinking I’m more important than anyone else. Thankfully, Blaise knows exactly how to keep me grounded. It’s difficult to feel overly significant when you’re cleaning up someone else’s waste. It’s hard to feel smug when you rarely win dinnertime food negotiations with your 2-year-old. It’s tough to even feel the slightest hint of self-righteousness when your son delivers perfectly-timed public meltdowns, as if he can sense your confidence level is too high. 

I used to practice humility out of necessity – it goes without saying that I put my son’s needs before my own. Fortunately for me, necessity gave way to habit. This state of humility has turned automatic as I experience daily conditioning. It makes me happy to know that this unpleasant process yields such a worthy virtue and that prioritizing my son’s well-being is slowly turning me into the person I’d like to be. When I think less about myself, I make more room in my mind for others. I am more sensitive to my neighbor’s needs and can try my best to help meet them. I am in a better frame of mind to offer kind words to all I come in contact with.  

May I never be so absorbed in my own problems that I forget those who suffer in other states and countries. May I never think my prayer list is too long for one extra request. May I never be so concerned with my own happiness that I fail to bring joy to others.

I find it so appropriate that it took a little boy with only two years of life experience to teach me something I was so resistant to learn. The message had to come from someone I couldn’t argue with, someone with whom I couldn’t negotiate terms, for it to finally register. It's not all about me. Thank goodness for that.

Eden Klinedinst is the author of Letters to New Moms: An Unusually Honest Look at the First Year. A portion of the profits will be donated to The Mommies Network. 

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