16 Things I Learned {About Motherhood} in May{cember}

by | May 30, 2014 | What I Learned

I learned why many term this month Maycember for the amount of extra activity associated with the end of a school year. Today, as I reflect on my daughter’s last day as a high school senior, this list more accurately highlights what I’ve learned over last 18 Mays as a Mother.


Dear Empathetic Reader,

1)      As you watch your child walk to his/her car on the final day as a high school student, there won’t be a band playing a celebratory song on your front lawn or confetti falling from heaven. The birds will chirp their morning song as God whispers, “Well done,” and you’ll still struggle to believe it. Because doubt is the backdrop of Motherhood that keeps your knees pressed into the carpet.

2)      No matter if you are 18 or 50, the longing for love and acceptance from your parents will never leave you.

3)      Children know the difference between love and obligation. Sometimes it is prudent to stay home instead of meeting for breakfast at the Waffle House when your heart isn’t in it. Silence in absence is better than careless criticism with your presence.

4)      Words have the power to unleash greatness or suck the life out of your children. Choose wisely. I admit I haven’t always done that.

5)      A clean and tidy bedroom will never be a priority for a teenager.

6)      Those children who keep their bedrooms neat during high school are an anomaly; don’t use them as the standard for how you parent.

7)      Character determines the path of the future more than the chords of accomplishment hanging around their neck at graduation. They will learn what that means by watching you.


8)      This is apparently what one serving of cake looks like to a teenage boy. Did I mention ice cream is an accompaniment to cake like ketchup is to French fries?

9)      No matter how much you teach your children to prepare them for adulthood, you will feel as though you’ve forgotten something important. You will lay in bed at night recounting how you could’ve taught them better and then wake up in the morning and watch life take over your idealism.

10)   You will never, I mean never, take redemption for granted. The posture of redemption in Motherhood is thankfulness.

11)   Motherhood is a daily surrender to your ego and a wrestling match with your control freak. If winning is your goal, broken relationship will be your legacy.

12)   Children learn how to navigate pain and difficulty by experiencing failure. This will only happen when you stop orchestrating outcomes. Ask me how I know this.

13)   Responsible adults are often children trusted with responsibilities that seem beyond them. Children will rise to the level of expectation you set for them. If the bar is low, don’t expect them to exceed it.

14)   God has a plan for your children in spite of your failures in parenting. You will never get used to the way they extend forgiveness and look to you for guidance.

15)   For their heart to be turned to Christ in all things is the most important prayer you can utter as a Mother. It covers all the bases.

16)   On the last day of school, when you pack their last lunch and they take your “I love you” for granted you will realize that motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding accomplishment of your life. And you’ll thank God for trusting you to do it while you cry off your mascara.


What have you learned this month?

Linking with Emily Freeman, the one who started the “What I Learned” lists. Photos taken by my friend and artist with a camera, Kelly Sauer.


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  1. KristinHillTaylor

    It goes by fast, huh? This is a lovely post. I love these lists that Emily inspires. And I’m glad I linked up next to you this morning.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, it does indeed go by too fast. Thanks Kristin!

  2. Lori Harris

    You make me cry, Shelly. Well done, mama!

    • Shelly Miller

      Aw, didn’t mean to do that Lori but I think you have a tender heart, yes?

  3. Diane Drake

    Last August I wrote this just before BOTH of my kids left for college – “I hate my front door.I mean, there are many great front door memories – long-awaited family members, surprise visits, unexpected packages, a neighbor just stopping by to say hi. But in just a few days, that door will close behind two of the most special people in my life as they walk out to new adventures and open other exciting and wonderful doors. I am sure that my front door and I will become friends again, but for right now, I am dreading the click and lock of it with my children on the other side. ”
    Now, in May, they have both RETURNED through that same door!! My table is full again, the noise is wonderful, the extra laundry and lack of food in the fridge is WELCOMED! I LOVE May!!

    • Shelly Miller

      Diane, I am going through some boxes of keepsakes in the attic and came across several letters you wrote me. One was an encouraging card you sent when you found out I was pregnant. I thought the serendipity of finding that letter today along with your comments was special. Love seeing you here! I miss you.

  4. Glenda Childers

    Well done, Moma. And from a moma (whose kids are grown) … the best is yet to come.


    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for the encouragement Glenda, your words bless me.

  5. Christie Purifoy

    Beautiful, inspiring, challenging. Thank you!

    • Shelly Miller

      Aw, thanks Christie, glad to know that.

  6. Kelly W

    How do you “know this”? 😉

  7. Yuko @ northfield gate

    Shelly, this is beautiful and so insightful. I’m still at the very beginning of this motherhood journey, and I’m often uncertain if I’m doing a decent job. I’m going to print out this post and keep it with me. Because some days, I need a gentle reminder of how to go about motherhood 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      I think we will always wonder if we are doing a decent job Yuko. He gives us glimpses of the fruit of our parenting along the way and it often astounds me. Mentors further along in the parenting journey are truly a gift too. I’m touched that you would print this out, that makes it worth writing. Thank you.

  8. Karrilee Aggett

    I love you so… I am packing up my girlie’s room and she is moving out. Last night was teetering on way too much emotion – so full of lasts and I-won’t-be-saying-that-anymore’s… Just Amen to every one of these ‘things’ you have learned! You and me, both sister! You and me both!

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my goodness, I can empathize Karrilee. A bittersweet time for sure. Thinking about you today and adding you to my prayers this weekend. Hugs.

  9. Janel A

    oh how I love those pictures of your dear family, but mostly the last two with you two dear souls holding each other close. Thank you for sharing your heart today dear Shelly.

  10. Shelly W.

    Yep. You’ve pretty much covered it. And now, with one actually moving out for good (*gasp*) the lessons get bigger and my mouth closes a little bit more. Ah, it never gets easier!

  11. Mary Bonner

    Shelly, this is all so true and beautiful and wise. What a gift to those walking this road.

  12. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, this is so beautiful in so many ways–your wisdom, the way you say it, your vulnerability, your photos, your love for Murielle (and Harrison) and how you two look at each other and the way you embrace. It’s such a monumental moment for you both–so, so poignant. I think your #15 says it all. Oh…..just to see our children turn to Christ–in everything! I love that I see Sheridan turning to Him so often in prayer, as she reads His Word on her own each and every day. It’s a habit I was able to guide her to undertake since she was young. But she does this of her own volition now, and not from habit, but desire. I know that Murielle turns to the Lord, in part, because you and H have led her to His throne. What wonderful parents she has, and what a beautiful daughter and wonderful son you have.
    Congratulations! I’m so happy for you all.

  13. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Oh, Shelly, this is beautiful. Even though my oldest is just 12, I can already see the truth of so many of these. This one caused me to stop right now and pray this very thing for each of them sleeping in their beds: 15) For their heart to be turned to Christ in all things is the most important prayer you can utter as a Mother. It covers all the bases.
    I truly appreciate you passing on this gracious and vulnerable wisdom.

  14. DeanneMoore

    Here sits Empathy in tears, thanking God for you for your gift of words, your wisdom, and his faithfulness always. Yesterday, I had a full size mattress laid out in the living room and my grands were jumping on to it from the hassock. We pulled the little slide in there as well, and Naomi said, “Dandy, this is a playground.” The circle of life turns and its blessings are full. I snatched up some “foreboding joy” trying to creep in and steal the fun. What I learned from my recent lasts with Luke? I learned the last day of school is harder than the graduation ceremony; however, it could have been that I was just tuckered from the crawfish boil graduation party we had right before the ceremonies :). Of course, there’s the end of the summer, the next big thing…packing him up, my last to fly, well we’ll see how I do then…((Great Big Hug))

  15. Laura Boggess

    Well, I’m just all weepy now. Beautiful, Shelly. We have one more year with our Teddy until I really understand your heart here. Much love, sweetheart.

  16. pastordt

    What a great list, Shelly. You have done such a fine job parenting these kids of yours. Truly. And you pretty much had to learn as you went, if I read between the lines correctly, because you did not have an experience of good parenting yourself. All the more reason to celebrate who you are becoming and how God has used you to raise up these children. (Beautiful, fun pictures, too!)

  17. Traci @tracesoffaith

    Such a good list! Touching and real. It is taking me a lifetime to learn what you learned in May(cember)!

  18. Kailey

    Oh sweet friend, I love catching up with your life every month and I have loved following you in this bittersweet time! Many prayers for you as your children grow up! They have an awesome mom! 😉

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