"Humility." i'd offer. Simply, plainly - there is no other quality that has saved relationship, opened doors of communication or allowed for thoughtful discipline and discipleship.
We exercise it during our pregnancies - allowing our bodies to grow and stretch to accommodate the life of another precious human being. Stretch marks, exhaustion, a gentler pace, appointments and care make it a good time to lay down ego and see ourselves in a new context - one where we become "a part of" rather than the whole.
Humility grows during childbirth. Our bodies each break in unique ways. It's empowering - but also humbling - to be brought to that place of surrender as we birth and are born ourselves as mothers. In post partum - we heal at different rates, some struggle to breast-feed, some are plagued with depression. There is joy, euphoria, satisfaction and goodness - but it's all better when it's accompanied by humility - the willingness to forego hubris and instead connect to those around us, acknowledging need and allowing ourselves to be fed as we learn to feed another.
But these are only the sweet beginnings of the blessing that humility brings. Maybe your tiny one will melt down in public, call someone fat or tell you they don't like you. Pride demands a red-faced reaction, "No child of mine!"... Humility tends to their heart. Later, when they're the last one to learn to read, humility brings patience - the ability to compassionately teach those letters again and again and again... consciously blind to deficiencies - always aware of our own insecurities and struggles, humility lets us keep their heart when pride would have lost it. Our children learn that it's safe to talk to a parent who is humble. Whispered shame-filled confessions aren't met with shock and revulsion. This can be a tough one... We can get so used to white-washing our kids' behaviour that when we see something put before us so black and white - something that we can't explain away - we want to distance ourselves from it... from them.
Humility closes that distance.
Humility breaks down boundaries, it binds the broken-hearted, it is the kindness that leads to repentance. It allows us to keep our eyes off of the judgemental glare of the world and instead gives us eyes to see roots in our lives and our children's lives that need to be either plucked or tended. It allows us to close our ears to the cacophony of advice and instead, we can learn to hear the heart-cry of the tiny human we were given to shepherd. Humility makes us worry less about what others think of our parenting, and instead helps us to become better parents.
Let's make every effort to respond without shock to each and every indiscretion our children bring to our lives. Let's keep the horror from our faces - so that they're not afraid of us - and so that the older ones don't cynically label us a self-righteous hypocrite. Our reactions matter - and they're not something that is beyond the scope of our control.
Humility sees past the awkwardness of the pre-teen, the acne, the grammatical errors, the outbursts. Humility refrains from reacting in anger, vengeful pride or embarrassment and instead extends a gentleness that is resilient in the face assault; a kindness that is more stubborn than selfishness, a compassion that is bigger than self-consciousness.
Humility has single-handedly shaped me as a wife and mother - taking away my need to explain the actions of my husband or children and instead giving me a greater capacity to understand, empathize, to love.
So, if i was asked by a new mama what the most important quality is for a mother to possess in this life-long journey of motherhood, i don't think i'd hesitate.
"Humility." i'd offer. Simply, plainly. It'll come whether you want it to or not - and wisdom would suggest that you welcome it as a friend.