When Hudson, my first-born, was a baby, I saw a kid wearing a onesie that said, “My mommy doesn’t want your advice.” For years, I’ve wished I owned that onesie and could shove it into other moms’ mouths as they offered unsolicited advice. I daydreamed about dressing my child in it as I went to a public place, hoping to ward off unwelcomed advice from those busy-body, I’m-better-than-you-and-I-can-prove-it mothers that I often encountered. I was elated when I recently saw that very onesie at a consignment store, and I immediately knew that I wanted to buy it for my 2-month-old twins. Grinning like a woman eating Swiss chocolate, I threw it into my basket, mentally listing off the names of other moms who I hoped would see the onesie and get a clue! I just couldn’t believe my luck!
My devioius inner-monolgue was so loud that I barely heard that teeny-tiny voice in my head that whispered, “Is that REALLY the message you want plastered on your child’s body? Is that even what you believe?” Oh, brother. Suddenly, my heart was exposed. I could see bitterness oozing out of it like the thick, unsightly, black oil my old minivan recently spilled onto my driveway. “Am I really THAT bitter?” I thought.
I didn’t want to be bitter. I didn’t even really realize that I was bitter. I didn’t want my heart to be like dirty oil. And, the problem with oil is that it stains. It’s not easy to clean up the mess that it makes.
I started to ask myself some hard questions. “Why was I so defensive when other moms gave me their opinions? Why did I feel the need to put up a wall and exclaim to all who were watching, “I don’t want your advice!”?
When I first became a mom, I was very interested in asking others for advice. I was desperate for it! I knew nothing about raising kids. I barely knew how to change a diaper. I’d never given a baby a bath, tried to get him to sleep, or dressed him. I will never forget the first time that little Hudson cried. I thought, “Oh my gosh! I have absolutely no idea about what to do here!” It was a feeling like I’d never experienced before—I had a precious life in my hands and I was SOLELY responsible for it.
Somewhere along the way, I started to notice that Hudson wasn’t “on-track,” developmentally, according to those guilt-inducing emails I received each week, claiming to know my child and what he should be doing that week. I began to ask my mom friends for advice. But something changed in my heart. The advice I received began to sting a little. Some well-meaning friends claimed to know THE answer. And, when it didn’t work for Hudson, I felt like I must’ve been doing it wrong. Maybe I was the reason Hudson wasn’t sleeping well, wasn’t talking yet, wouldn’t drink from a sippy-cup, and many other things that he should’ve been doing at his age.
Again, I’d ask for advice, but this time, I was defensive about it from the start. I began to feel like friends were looking down on me—wondering why I couldn’t just get my kid to stop screaming, start eating vegetables, sleep through the night. “That’s easy,” a lot of them would say. And then they’d offer their simple solutions, but most advice that I received didn’t seem to work for my child or for me.
I guess somewhere along the way, I stopped asking for advice all together. And guess what? I began to feel alone. Very alone. I felt like I was facing the biggest challenge of my life (raising kids), and I had no one who could help me with it. It was a very scary, dangerous place to be in.
I was insecure. Which led to rejection. Which led to shame. Which lead me to disconnect from my community. Therefore, I was alone. Insecurity and shame locked me out of my community and threw away the key. Like an awkward 11-year-old pimple-faced girl, sitting at the back of the playground by herself, I had isolated myself and was missing out on the joys and privileges of living in community, of learning from others’ strengths and giftings. Like the insecure preteen, I was alone instead of playing on the teeter-totter and jungle gym with the other kids.
Living in isolation was not the way God intended for me to raise my kids. It does them no good to only learn things from me—to only learn to do things the way I do them. Even though I’d like to think I know it all (ha), my kids’ lives are like blank pages from a coloring book, just begging to be filled in by many different colors and shades and hues. I can only contribute a few colors to their page. I only know how to be red, whereas my mom is crimson, my mother-in-law is ruby, my sisters are russet and auburn, and friends are fire engine, burgundy, scarlet, and maroon. My kids’ lives will be so much more colorful, and so much more beautiful if I will humble myself, put aside insecurity, and ask others for their advice and opinions.
I’m reminded of 1 Corinithians 12:19-24 (from The Message Bible)
No matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”?
Do I really want to isolate myself from the rest of “the body”?
You know something, I’m frustrated every time I see those ugly oil spills my van deposited on my driveway. I don’t want my life to be spotted, spilled, and ugly–dripping bitterness on every surface it encounters. I want to learn about all the shades of red—and every color. I want my kids’ lives to be dripping with color.
And so, I took the onesie out of my shopping basket and moved along, dreaming of how many things I need help with while raising my 4 kids, and of the many moms whose advice I will welcome.