Wemi Omotosho shares a story about resilience, and the uncomfortable experience of navigating new circumstances. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko on Unsplash
Her big, dark-brown eyes welled up and her lower lip trembled as fat tears slid down her cheeks. I sat in mystified silence for a few seconds before asking, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she replied, sniffing back tears unsuccessfully.
“Then why are you crying?” I asked, trying not to let my frustration bleed into my voice.
“I don’t know.” She was making a valiant attempt not to cry, but tears covered her red cheeks faster than she could wipe them away.
As the days and weeks passed, I learned that this interaction was par for the course during homework time in my house—specifically math homework with my 5-year-old daughter.
Though my daughter was normally precocious with a love for learning that made me proud, math had the ability to reduce her to a scared, weepy puddle. The transformation from Miss Fiercely Independent with a go-getter attitude to a teary child with slumped shoulders was almost unbelievable. I dreaded homework time. Many sessions ended with me playing the role of Shouty Mom quickly followed by Guilty Mom.
Until this point, my daughter’s learning journey had been fairly bump-free. Reading and writing were her favorite things to do and she’d happily spend all day making lists and writing cards. Words came easily to her; numbers did not, which I get.
Then I noticed that not only was she put off by the questions she didn’t know, but she was also reluctant to answer questions that she did know. Cue the tears whenever she didn’t understand a question or simply feared she might get it wrong. Her class teacher made an observation that stuck in my head: “She’s doing great, but she just needs some resilience in not being afraid to answer questions even if she may get them wrong.”
Resilience. The ability to roll with the punches. To get up and try things again even if it looks hard or you’ve already failed at it once.
It’s something I’ve tried to instill in both of my children from an early age. I let them know that sometimes things won’t work the way we want them to, but that’s okay—we can try again.
My daughter was being stretched by math, and she clearly wasn’t a fan. She needed to develop resilience so that she could take the risk to raise her hand in class, asking and answering questions.
My refrain throughout the year became variations of “It’s okay, don’t be scared just because it looks hard” and “Don’t give up. Even if your answer is wrong, it’s okay. That’s why we are doing this, so you can learn how to do it.” I sought for teaching moments outside of the dreaded “M word” to reinforce this principle and seized opportunities even during the things she enjoyed.
Don’t be scared.
My own words reverberated in my mind and I wondered when I would take my own advice. Here I was, always pushing my kids to not only try new things, but also not to give up when the going gets tough—yet I had spent pretty much the entire year fighting change.
After the quiet and monotony of five months in lockdown, life started ramping up and returning to the familiar busyness. I once again had to settle into my roles of juggling work and home, with school runs, evenings spent doing homework, or driving my eldest to swimming lessons, and staying on top of school events and commitments.
On top of this, my role at work had changed to one that demanded more of me. It required me to step outside my comfort zone and not only learn new things but take an active leadership role. Although the professional side of me saw the opportunities for growth buried in this change, I resisted as if my life depended on it.
Having started this year of global unrest with a challenging medical diagnosis that had only one prescription—rest, and lots of it—I was desperate to cling to the old and familiar. I simply did not feel I had the headspace to take on the responsibility of the job change being offered. But when it came down to it, management’s decision was final, and I had to make the transition over to a new team to replace a colleague who was leaving.
During the first few weeks of my new role, I mourned the loss of my old position—one that I not only enjoyed but could do almost on autopilot. It had been perfect for a year in which I needed to have lots of rest, visit the hospital and doctor’s offices, and look after (sometimes homeschool) two children single-handedly while my frontline-working husband labored for long hours at the hospital every day.
I had more than a few tearful moments during those first weeks. I mourned the loss of the old and comfortable and very reluctantly started to step into the new. I was being stretched and didn’t much care for it.
Added to the mix, my husband and I decided to put our 9-year-old son forward for some entrance examinations as part of his preparation for secondary school. This meant we needed to prepare him for the exams, which included scores of past papers, test booklets, and online resources covering different topics.
In a season when I already felt overwhelmed, the added pressure of coordinating my son’s extracurricular studies led me to frequent grumbly, under-breath murmurings and wrinkled brows. So many things had battered my defenses, leaving them paper-thin and ineffective. I was cranky, tired, and constantly felt on edge. Any time I thought there was about to be a semblance of normality, something would shoot out of nowhere and knock everything off-kilter again. I felt like I was in continual transition. Whether it was from illness to healing, from an old role to a new one, or from homeschooling to in-person school and possibly back again, I was fed up.
As I went through the concepts of number bonds with my daughter, I saw the parallels between us—I am also very reluctant to drink from the unpalatable cup that has been placed before me.
Looking back, I know I didn’t handle the bumps of the year with the kind of grace I want to have. More often than not in this season, I want to throw a tantrum and bury myself under the covers, even though I know that God may be using all the bumps to stretch me in readiness for whatever the future may hold—not unlike what we are doing with our 9-year-old.
However, instead of being flexible and open to change like my son has been, I haven’t transitioned well. Choosing instead to be dragged out of complacency into the stretch, I’ve entered my new season with tension and pushback.
In the midst of this, I’m encouraged that God does not abandon me in the stretch. Rather, He reassures with: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
Perhaps the fact that I haven’t given up yet is resilience.
Resilience, I’m learning, is worked out in the stretch and in real-time on those days when I lack the grace and strength.
I see this in my daughter when she willingly joins her online math tuition class every Saturday morning and when she dares to give an answer to a question asked by her teacher.
I continue to show up and give my best every day in my roles at work and as a mom, just like my daughter does with her schoolwork. I may never fully willingly embrace the stretch and the growing pains that come with it, but perhaps just continuing to put one foot in front of the other is enough. Enough to traverse the rocky terrains of life and enough to teach my children to face challenges head-on and not give up.
Wemi Omotosho, PhD is a London-based writer who wears many hats as a scientist, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. She also serves as a worship team vocalist, bible study writer, and coordinator for the publicity department in her church. She is constantly awed by God’s love for her despite her mess. Her writings have appeared in (in)courage, Iridescent, and Awake Our Hearts. She shares her reflections and poems at reflectionsinthemess.com. You can also connect with Wemi on Instagram and Twitter.