A story by Erin Chan Ding
Several weeks before becoming pregnant with our son, I jumped out of an airplane. When I was few weeks (unknowingly) pregnant with him, I ran a marathon.
Four years later, around the end of the first trimester of my pregnancy with our daughter, I ran another marathon. (This time, knowingly pregnant.) Six days before she was born, at 38 weeks pregnant, I run-waddled through a 5K—while pushing my son in a jogging stroller.
Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me, then, that parenthood so far has unfurled into one adventure after another, one moment of suspended breath after another, one joy after another, one tear after another, one conversation after another, one expression after another.
Our son, Chandler, whose nickname is “Pooks,” after a cartoon piggy in an animal board book, is now 8 years old. Our daughter, Callie, whose nickname is “Skoop,” which is “Pooks” backward, just turned 5 years old last week.
Mommyhood has been a lot like hanging onto the wing of that tiny Cessna plane and deciding to let go. You plunge into an expanse, and your heart trembles, and you think you might not make it.
And then, all of a sudden, a chute opens. Four schedules collide, and a friend offers to pick up your kids. Or someone comes over with food. Or your kids start enjoying the happiness of others, of play, of discovery, of community, and you just watch the landscape, in awe.
In motherhood, I feel a deeper connection to my own Mama, who died at 52 years old from a flurry of autoimmune diseases, before she got to attend my wedding or meet her grandkids. Yet in becoming a mom, I feel closer to my own. When I go through tantrums with my own kids, I think, “Now, I know a little bit of what she felt like.” Or I think, “This my payback!”
When my son started speaking in a microphone in front of his school for the spelling bee, my stomach convulsed with nervousness, like hers probably did. When he broke into a huge smile at advancing, I felt the pride she must have. When he sobbed after misspelling a word, I wrapped my arms around him, like she once did around me.
I look at what she could have done differently, and I try to do what she did not. She slept just a few hours a night, staying up late and getting up early to work, and I try to prioritize sleep. She barely made time to exercise, so I try to run several miles every day, often taking the kiddos out to run, too. She regretted not making a lot of time to spend with me while I was young, so I go to baseball games and soccer practices. I take tae kwon do lessons with Pooks and Skoop. We make time to roll around on the grass and be silly.
I look at what I so admired about Mama, and I try to do that, too. I watched every night as she pulled out her Bible, and I try hard to be intentional about studying God’s Word. I looked at how she treated people with kindness and unleashed a smile for everyone, and I try to do that, too.
I loved how she and my Baba took me on all of their global adventures—to Spain, to France, to Switzerland, to Greece, to Egypt—and sent me with other kids to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Fiji. I, too, want to show my kids the beautiful earth God has created, the cultures he has caused to flourish, the people around the world made in his image. So my husband, Charley, and I have taken our kids to hang with the indigenous Kuna of the San Blas Islands, to cross the Panama Canal, to scale the Great Wall of China, to “Skywalk” 764 feet atop Macau Tower (before Mommy bungy jumped off), to shoot over Barcelona in a cable car, to eat at a fish boil in St. Lucia and to tunnel through a glacier in Iceland.
At my mom’s funeral, I told the audience I felt like God had lent her to me for 22 precious years, to help shape me, to love me. I don’t know, of course, how much time God has allotted for my kids and me. I hope it’s a lot, but that’s an unknown. What I do know is author Elizabeth Stone captured it so well when she said having children is making the decision “forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
I think about how that must be like for God, to have 7 billion pieces of his heart, of his imago dei, walking the earth He created. I think of the magnitude of that love, all those suspended breaths, the joy and anxiety and desire to shape and to teach. It must be exhausting, but that’s why He’s God! And yet, for God to give us the opportunity to experience a fraction of all those feelings as parents, of shepherding the pieces of our hearts as they walk, what an extraordinary gift. What a good, good Father.
Celebrate Mom at Willow Creek this weekend, May 12/13! Learn more here.