At twenty-four I went from childlessness to being an instant mother of six. I’d always wanted a large family, but the plan had been to ease into parenthood one child at a time. Through an odd turn of circumstances, my then-husband and I found our home filled with the delights of a mob of tiny humans, ages six months to nine years. I knew it was God’s plan, and my mothering instincts needed no convincing it was the right thing to do. I was dauntless although everyone else thought I was insane.
Eight weeks into the process of foster-adoption, while also in the throes of planting a church, I made a startling discovery. I was pregnant. If that wasn’t enough chaos for a lifetime, I decided to home-school the four oldest children. It brought incredible joy to my heart to embrace this new life, but it also filled my house with pure pandemonium.
As I limped and blundered my way through early motherhood, many people—mostly strangers—felt obligated to share opinions regarding family choices.
Folks voiced negative observations about the size of my herd:
“Don’t you know what causes that?” No. Can you please explain it to me?
“Lady, are you nuts?” What tipped you off?
“Ever heard of birth control?” Birth control? What’s that?
In tandem with those reactions I heard comments about my parent/child relationships:
“Which ones are yours?” Hello? All of them.
“Do they ever see their real parents?” They only see their fake ones, I’m afraid.
“Do you love your adopted kids as much as your own?” All my kids are my own.
In reality, the ignorant and intrusive remarks were the easiest to manage. It was the compliments I struggled with.
“I truly admire you.” Ouch. There’s nothing to admire here, believe me.
“I could never do what you’re doing.” Doing? If you’re existing, then you’re nailing it.
“These kids are lucky to have a mom like you.” These kids will be lucky if they survive childhood.
“You have such a good heart.” I am so messed up.
“You must be some kind of Wonder Woman.” Ah, my old friend Wonder Woman.
A Five Year Old’s Hero
Rewind twenty years. My first day of kindergarten was a dream come true, thanks to Wonder Woman. Captivated by the television series, I was savvy to the mysteries of Diana Prince and her secret identity. Imitation was my chief tool as I navigated the new territory of the red brick building and its surroundings. Many new students cried on day one, but I faced the adventure with eager delight. Nothing scared me because I was Wonder Woman, and that rendered me unstoppable.
For weeks I soared around the playground in my invisible jet, saving friends and spying on enemies. Mission during recess number one: hide behind the bushes, take down pigtails, and twirl in a circle to ensure complete transformation. Recess number two’s mission: wrap up all operations, restore pigtails, and stash my golden lasso—a.k.a. fancy new jump rope—in a backpack.
Twice a week my secret powers were at their peak because I wore my most prized possession, Wonder Woman Underoos.
Imagine my shock the day I was required to abandon my covert exploits. I had lassoed a classmate, lacerating her arms and shoving her headfirst over a rock. I rolled her down the grassy hill until she cried for mercy. Dumbfounded, I sobbed when the teacher, Miss Gregory, laid me across her lap in order to administer the board of education.
“But I was on’y trying to make her tell the troof.”
Didn’t Miss Gregory understand my line of reasoning? She found my logic faulty and left me with a sore backside. The Underoos offered no protection. Wonder Woman had let me down. I tossed her aside like a broken toy, passed my undies down to little sis, and determined to salvage my battered ego and find new endeavors.
Over the years Wonder Woman morphed into a societal term synonymous with someone capable of doing it all. As an adult with seven, then eight, and eventually nine kids filling my life, folks assumed I had my act together. People looked at me in admiration as if I had real super powers.
But if someone had thrown a golden lasso around my arms, the truth—along with a river of tears—would have come spilling out.
Some days I aced homeschooling, but the house looked a wreck. In seasons when my home organization skills stayed on point, our classwork bordered on sloppy. If I focused on church activities, my waning energy left me emotionally unavailable for my family. When I made family a priority, I failed to meet external commitments and my own spiritual intentions.
Whenever I concentrated on cooking nutritious and wholesome meals, my healthy family showed up for church mismatched, messy-haired, and even missing articles of clothing. Shoes and socks, anyone? On the days we arrived looking polished we had traded well-being for vanity. Pop-Tarts and donuts plagued my guilty conscience.
In church circles, Wonder Woman looked suspiciously like the Proverbs Thirty-One Woman, the perfect model of a lady skilled at balancing everything. I cringed every time I reflected on how much I missed the mark. No amount of effort nor fanciful pretending would make me into something I could never be. The impossibility trampled me underfoot, and the downward spiral I experienced left me an emotional wreck. I failed to live up to everyone else’s expectations, and especially my own.
Until the day I attended a women’s conference and the keynote speaker said, “Do you realize you will never be a disappointment to God?”
She quoted, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” (Jeremiah 29:11, KJV).
I’d never understood that if God had a result in mind, then He was responsible to get me to the finish line. It would be impossible to dash His hopes if He was in charge of the outcome.
Tears trickled down my cheeks before turning into an avalanche. In that moment it no longer mattered that I hadn’t achieved the standard of a mythical Wonder Woman. I could, with confidence, live in the plans God had laid out for me. Unlike my fictive heroine, my Father had never left me to fend for myself.
Underoos paled in comparison to the armor of God.Underoos paled in comparison to the armor of God. - Yolanda Smith Click To Tweet
Most of my children are now adults. They survived. My mistakes and accomplishments had far less impact on the outcome than I expected. My kids arrived on the threshold of adulthood by grace alone.
I’m thankful Wonder Woman is a mere role of the past, and no longer a self-imposed life goal. And when I glimpse those shiny red boots and flowing cape sticking out of my closet I say a prayer, shut the door, and remind myself I was designed for something far greater than a myth.