Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mom Guilt vs. Big Picture

I was in the kitchen trying to wipe down counters. I could hear Carter coming my way. I had to hurry and finish cleaning before he got here. Once he arrived that would only mean one thing- pulling out of drawers, standing on them, climbing up onto the counter, undoing the wiping down, and tasting everything within reach. I could practically smell the toddler evil as it neared the one clean spot in the entire house with a will to destroy.

While scurrying to finish this task (the first successfully completed task all day...and it was 5pm), I heard a noise in the bathroom. The toilet lid. Addison was in the toilet. Of course. No doubt she was washing her hands (again) or fiddling with the toilet paper before she threw it all in the bathtub and turned the water on high (to properly soak through the entire roll, of course.)

I tucked my bowl of soapy water far our of reach of short toddler arms, placed the sponge in the sink, and went running to my new #1 priority- fishing Addison out of the toilet. I passed Carter mid-run and saw guilt on his face that made me wonder what else I should be worrying about.

I skidded as gracefully as possible into the bathroom (soooo not gracefully at all) and stopped short when I saw what was really going on. Addison had been in the big toilet- yes. But only to set up her potty seat. When she was unable to climb up onto it, she lifted the lid off of her little toilet and was frantically trying to strip off all her clothes. She was tugging at her diaper and had a look of panic on her face.

"Potty" she said "potty" and signed it too before tugging at her diaper again.

I quickly finished getting her clothes off for her, and she sat down on her potty with a sigh of relief. Almost immediately? She began to fill her little potty with the urgent need that brought her into the bathroom in the first place.

"Sing." she said "More sing" Her standard request while sitting on the potty.

I started singing her latest favorite "Do(e), a deer, a female deer..." and she laughed and clapped along.

I was happy because she was happy, but mostly? I felt guilty. In that moment it became obvious to me that if Addison had a less pregnant mommy- she would probably be so much closer to fully potty trained already. If she didn't have a mommy exhausted and short tempered from dealing with a little boy in the throes of the terrible twos, perhaps her potty training would have been given more than a brief thought for the past two months. If she didn't have a mommy whose sanity had long gone they way of jeans with zippers and fully caffeinated coffee- maybe she would be so much farther along in certain areas- like getting rid of diapers.

Mommy guilt. It hit me hard. It's my fault she doesn't have more successes like this.

Her smile was broad, and her infectious laugh filled the air. She sat, naked on her tiny potty in which SHE initiated a successful potty time. SHE did her business like a big girl. SHE requested her next song "Row, row, row" complete with a dramatic rowing motion.

I asked her if she was all done and she said "NO!" and requested another song- even though it was obvious her business was finished.

Right before I let the mommy guilt carry me away, my mind jumped to a moment just a few hours ago. Both kids were dressed (success!), mommy was wearing clothes that covered all of her (success!), and we were all loaded up in the car to go stock up on Costco necessities like coffee, dishwasher soap, apple cider, and milk.

I was quiet while driving. I needed some space from the two in the backseat. The classical station was sweetly playing tunes for the brain development of the three littlest members of the family. Traffic was slow. The sun was finally shining for the first time all day.

While my mind was stuck in a rut of frustration from the day, I heard a little giggle. I peeked back in my mirror and saw two faces leaning up agains the back of their carseats, facing each other, and giggling with pure joy.

We stopped at a red light, and I got a closer look. They looked at each other so adoringly. Carter made a funny noise, and Addison laughed. She made a silly face and he laughed. They looked so happy- so thrilled with each other. Smiles. Giggles. Hysteria. Reaching out to grab the small hand a carseat's width away- this is the family that we are building.

I remembered that moment while singing to Addison on her potty. And in the height of my guilt over the potty training, I let that moment of sibling unity win over the mom guilt. It was no contest really.

I am trudging through these end of the pregnancy days feeling shredded, overwhelmed, vulnerable, frustrated, exhausted. I find breaths of air here (MIL folding my laundry!) and there (church Preschool mom's breakfast!) and pray for grace during the rest of the moments.

I am doing this so imperfectly. I am failing my children in so many areas. And yet- big picture- I am building something bigger than my failures. A family. A family who I will one day bring up their toddler evil right when they're on a first date with that cute girl who NEEDS to know how he smeared that diaper all over himself (ha).

I watch my children interact like two halves of a whole, and smile with joy (even when they are plotting against me) because someone much bigger than me is creating that beautiful relationship.

I am learning the art of apologizing to my children for my impatience. I am learning that I can't do it all, and sometimes it's OK to not have a clean house because that time is better spent teaching a little person to pick up that ONE object instead of me just doing it all myself. I am learning that Addison is resilient like the best of them and will survive this period of less attention just like thousands of little girls before her who were preparing for a new baby brother. I am learning that my best isn't perfection. But my best is good enough. Because family doesn't demand perfection.

I clapped and cheered with Addison over her potty success, and then I beamed with pride that she didn't even demand chocolate as a reward. She did it- simply because she knew it was the right thing to do. I made a mental note to give her more opportunities, but knew that she didn't hold the lack of potty training pressure against me.

After she was all dressed and ready for bed, I spent extra time cuddling her. Her head fit right on the baby (who she kept kissing), her arm wrapped neatly around me, her hair fell soft under my fingers as I played with it. We looked through Instagram together- identifying the people and objects that she knew. And really- just being together. Mother and daughter. No guilt. No frustrations. No impatience. Just deep breathes and back tickles. Perfection.

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