Micah and Paul were born at the exact same minute. They were the exact same height and almost the same weight. They were both tongue-tied. They both had the same blue eyes, and even though Paul had a shock of red hair and Micah’s was mousy brown, it was obvious they were twins.
But by the time the boys were six months old, we knew Micah was behind. By the time they were a year, we knew something was wrong. It was painfully obvious. By then, Paul was crawling all over everything and was on the verge of walking, but Micah couldn’t follow him because Micah had yet to crawl. He didn’t even slither.
Our pediatrician was at a loss as to what was wrong. She said all kinds of scary things before scribbling out a referral to Children’s Hospital in Seattle where Micah was examined by a team of neurologists. They wrote lots of notes on little pads of paper while Micah smiled at them and tried to find the Cheerios they’d hidden under brightly colored cups. “Micah does not play with his toes,” they wrote as they watched him. “Micah does not roll over. Micah does not bend his knees. Micah can’t right himself if he falls over. Micah can’t grasp a finger. Micah can’t…Micah can’t…Micah can’t….”
Then, the doctors went out to talk about their findings. I waited a long time while Micah sat on my lap and played with my necklace. I wondered what life was going to be like for my sweet little boy. It is one thing to be behind. It’s another thing to be behind when you’re a twin. He had a built-in reminder that he didn’t measure up.
Finally, the chief neurologist came in. She shook my hand warmly and told me what a delightful child Micah was. “He’s very bright,” she said, and I breathed a sigh of relief. “His delay is not cognitive; it’s muscular.” It seemed that every muscle in Micah’s body was weak. Every muscle was behind. “He needs a personal trainer and a baby gym,” she concluded.
We were assigned a physical therapist who told me to write goals for Micah. “Micah will learn to hold my finger. Micah will learn to roll a ball. Micah will learn to stand unassisted.” I wanted to write, “Micah will learn to climb up the steps all by himself!” because at 16 months old, he was heavy.
But Micah could not achieve that goal. Paul was climbing steps like a monkey, but it didn’t matter what Paul could do, or what any toddler could do. It didn’t matter what was normal or expected or even desired. Micah was not any toddler. He was Micah, and I had to adjust my dreams, wishes, and goals for him based on who he was, not on who I wanted him to be.
Months passed, and then years. The progress was painfully slow, but still, it was progress. I quickly learned that achieving the goals was not the goal. Success, for Micah, was about making steps in the right direction.
I watched Micah and I wondered if I was willing to accept that definition of success. I like goals. I like reaching goals even better. I am not so good at being content with progress, especially when it seems like everyone else is running and I’m just crawling along. It seems like I should be able to do it! I should be able to keep my house clean and my kids dressed like they just stepped out of a magazine. I should be able to make that creative birthday cake and look like I didn’t eat a piece of it. I should be able to write two blog posts a week, for heaven’s sake, and keep all my kids happy and well-fed and educated. After all, Facebook and Pinterest tell me that other moms can. Why can’t I?
Every day, I get up and I aim for that goal. I do the best job I can. It’s not always Pinterest-able, but it’s generally a step in the right direction. So why do I feel so guilty when I am still so far away from the goal? Why do I feel like everyone is staring at me, writing down notes on their little pads of paper, Kristen can’t…Kristen can’t…Kristen can’t…?
It’s because I forget that I am me. Not my mother. Not my sister-in-law. Not the other mom of five kids who does everything better. I’m just me, the me with gifts and the me with shortcomings. Like Micah, I must accept that some things are just going to be hard for me. It doesn’t matter what is normal or expected or even desired. I can only do so much. Some things I will do really well. And then there’s the rest.
Motherhood involves such a myriad of skills and abilities; it would only stand to reason that I would stink at 50% of them, maybe more if you count sports. Some things I am just not naturally able to do. I am deficient. I am broken. Sometimes, I really mess it up, and I wonder why I’m the only one who can’t get it all together.
But God did not give these children to the woman who has it all together. He did not give them to the woman who is better. He gave them to me. He didn’t even check out my Facebook profile to see if I qualified. He didn’t look to see if I am good at planning birthday parties or if I know 50 ways to sneak vegetables into macaroni. He did not ask me if I felt adequate because it’s never been about being adequate. It’s about letting God be adequate enough for the both of us.
At the end of the day, when I’ve poured myself in to these lives God has given me, and I am tempted to think that I haven’t been or done enough, I remind myself that I am a lot like Micah. When I first became a mother, I could not even crawl. But by God’s grace, I have learned to walk. His hands have steadied me, and now I can even run. I may not qualify for a marathon, but then, I was not made for marathons. I was made to walk with Someone holding my hand, and that is enough.
Micah is now four. He still struggles with significant speech issues because he can’t seem to get his tongue to do what it should do. I can’t always get my tongue to do what it should either, so I understand. He will never be the star of the soccer team. I understand that, too. But every day, he continues to try. He lets me help him make steps in the right direction. That is something I understand best of all.
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. —2 Corinthians 12:9