Friday, September 18, 2015

Toilet Seat Necklace

Earlier today, Eli broke the toilet seat off of the toilet. The older two were at school, and Eli apparently felt that mere toys were beneath his royal highness to play with. Only the toilet would do.

We went out immediately and purchased a new toilet seat (because...of course), but since installation skills are beyond my abilities, we had to wait until Daddy was home for the switch. I propped up the old toilet seat into a functional manner for the rest of the day.

(Hang with me, I promise this post is about more than just toilet seats.)

All was going fine until Miss Addison arrived home from school. We were all playing outside because this weather is gorgeous and we don't dare waste a single moment of it (hello, quickly approaching long winter). She needed to go potty, so I sent her into the house alone to take care of it-- completely forgetting about the non-secured toilet seat.

That is...until a few moments later, when Addison walked proudly out of the house wearing her school outfit, lovingly adorned by....the toilet seat worn around her neck like a necklace.

My face went pale and I had trouble swallowing. This is the sort of moment that makes me realize how completely unprepared I am for motherhood. (Is it too late to back out of it? No?)

She was beaming and patting her new accessory with joy, glancing around for no doubt whistles of approval and maybe even some clapping.

The way I see it, I had two choices of how to respond to my daughter in this moment.

1. Gasp in horror and YELL LOUDLY at her since this was clearly the grossest thing I had seen all week (and believe me, this beat out some doozies by her brothers and their overactive bowels...ok I'm sorry, I promise this post is about more than toilet seats and bowels.)

2. Recognize that she is extremely creative and can indeed make an accessory out of...anything. (I would say she made it look good too, but the truth is I blacked out a little bit and can't remember if it looked cute or not.)

I have been thinking about a lot about this lately. My children continue to leave me faced with many sticky situations. My first impulse is to yell and rush to clean up their mess with a HOW DARE THEY attitude. But the more and more I reflect on these situations after they occur, I am realizing how much more there is to these moments than simply something "gross that I have to clean up".

My children are intelligent, creative people, searching out so many things about life right now. It's up to me to respond and guide them in the right way. This is a huge responsibility...and one that I fail at more than I care to admit.

Don't get me wrong, when rules are broken, discipline is served. That's not what I'm talking about. This is about an overall attitude. An attitude of being willing to explore the "why did they really do this? Is there more to the story?"And talk through it with them to get to the bottom of the story instead of assuming ALL is known by first glance and by the extent of the mess. An attitude that I can't always admit to having, but one that I'm striving toward in my motherhood.

So today. Me. Deck. Addison....Toilet Seat. How did I respond?

There was definitely a gasp of horror. And a rush to help her take it off. (And a shudder for all eternity.)

But there wasn't loud yelling and lecturing about the GROSS MESS THAT I HAVE TO CLEAN UP. Because really I don't think she was trying to be gross. She was trying to make a necklace. (Sorry Addison, I don't think I'll be borrowing this one.) Honestly I don't remember a ton beyond that because I think I blacked out again until I got the toilet seat back into the bathroom.

We then had a new lesson, called "Toilet Seats Don't Make Cute Necklaces And Here's Why." (Chalk this up under "Sentences I never thought I'd say".) No discipline was served. We just talked about it. Because how could I punish her for something that I hadn't taken the time to teach her?

I've thought even more about this since the incident earlier today. I want to look at my children and see potential, not problems. I want to craft their genius the right direction, not destroy them through guilt and shame. I want my kids to feel like I am their listening ear, not a hammer waiting to strike down on them. And most of all, I want them to be met with love. Even if this is sometimes the love of discipline.

Toilet seat necklace- horrible gross thing? or expression of an eager 5-year-old's creativity? I think it was just the right mix of both. Taken away quickly. But acknowledged for the look she was trying to achieve. (an edgy porcelain sort of look)

Just so you know, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing over here in this motherhood thing. I just take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. One broken toilet seat at a time. So to sum up- one giant party.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bending...But Not Breaking

As my belly continues to grow, I find that more and more people are asking me, "How do you do it all?" as they glance at my crew of 3 small children and the expectant bump proclaiming an addition to the madness. I'm not offended by this question because honestly I wonder this at times too. (and my old answer of LOTS OF COFFEE doesn't hold because it hasn't settled well in my stomach for months so I've had very limited coffee lately. gasp.) My days are filled and overflowing with children, children, and more children. (The other day Aaron was talking about swapping childcare with another family and I was all like, "Yeah, but I'm just not a kid person." And then we both stopped and laughed at the ridiculousness of this statement.)

Last Mother's Day, Aaron bought and planted 5 apple trees for me in our front yard. Come spring they were bursting with luscious white flowers, and they have bravely gone on to grow a LOT of apples. I was surprised at how fruitful they were only one season in. As the season has progressed, I have noticed those blossoms first growing into tiny apples and then bigger and bigger and bigger until the poor baby trees are now bending from the weight of the huge apples that they are producing.
It's interesting how theses trees are bending from the weight of the apples, but not breaking. Every day the apples grow just a little bit bigger. Every day the trees bends just a bit more to accommodate the weight of the apples. But not a single branch has broken.

When I walk past my apple trees to load my 3 little ones into the car, I notice this, and I without fail think-- that is exactly how I feel right now. Overloaded and bending under the weight of my responsibilities, but not breaking.
When I had just Addison, I felt this same way. When I had two babies under two, I felt this same way. When I added my 3rd baby, I felt this same way. Now struggling with pregnancy while keeping up with 3 extremely active children, I feel the same way. As my responsibilities have grown, so have my capabilities. It's a slow stretching that I didn't even notice at the time until I looked around one day and said, "WHOA. How am I juggling THREE KIDS? I struggled when I had just one baby. How did I get here (insert inappropriate birth control joke) and how am I actually pulling this off?"

I am the tiny apple tree (use your imagination on the "tiny" part...I claim pregnancy on this one). I am loaded down with blessings, GOOD things, a beautiful family. And I am surprised how far I can bend to do what the Lord has sent me to do without a single branch breaking.
(photo by Norrie Thompson)
We are going to pick those apples soon. (I already snuck a couple off and they are DELICIOUS.) The trees will grow that much stronger and be ready for next season. A slow growth with capabilities to grow more and more apples-- to bear more and more weight.
I didn't wake up one day and all of a sudden have a kindergartener with special needs, a preschooler with obedience struggles, a toddler whose mission in life is to destroy and mischief-make, and a baby girl on the way with a lot of unknowns. I grew to this place. Day by day, just doing the next right thing, loving on each child one hug at a time, putting in one more day of pregnancy, making it to just one more bedtime, enjoying one moment of children bliss at a time. The apples only got a tiny bit bigger each day.
I think this is why I'm not panicked about adding #4. I know it will be a transition, and at times it might seem impossible. But as our family grows, so will my ability to mother them. And as their seasons change and their demands in life grow alongside them, my tree will have the strength to carry them along because of all of my gradual growth up to that place. (growth that I really can't take the credit for)

Maybe it's a bit weird to feel a kinship with my apple trees, but hey, I've been accused (and guilty) of far worse. I feel the weight of being a special needs parent, of being a parent with three small children who are still working on being civilized human beings, of being pregnant, of being a wife to a man with such a demanding career that I am left alone with the kids all weekdays most of the spring/summer/fall, and the weight of trying to be a decent human being in the midst of it all (confession: I realized today that I scowl all the way through the grocery store as I juggle children, coupons, and more children. I will work on it.)

I'm bending...but not breaking. It's been a fascinating study to watch these tress continue to bend, and the beautiful apples that have grown out of those tiny white blossoms. Lucky for the trees, it's fall, and they will get a break soon from their load. Just in time to gear back up for another season. The fun never ends. (-;

I am thankful for my weights, thankful for the beauty of growth, and thankful for the strength of someone much bigger than myself who holds a hand out for those large apples to rest on just when I think my branch might snap. After all, he's the one who created the tree in the first place.