Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Parenting Is The Scariest Thing I've Ever Done

I'm feeling a bit unsettled. Addison started 1st grade today. Trying not to take it too personally that she basically could not get away from me fast enough to get into that classroom. We are talking rising at the break of dawn, dressing herself, standing next to the door waiting for her brothers to HURRY UP AND GET DRESSED. I'm a bit worried about 1st grade. Will her peers continue to be her friends even if she is sometimes a jerk to them (still working on some specific behaviors)? Will she fall so far behind academically she won't want to even try? Kindergarten was such a good experience for her- so inclusive- will this year be good too? Or is that asking for too much? Oh and her thyroid numbers are looking high. Will she be lethargic at school? Will she need medication soon? What will this look like?

Carter turns 5 this week, but misses the kindergarten cutoff by 7 hours. I was fine with this all year round until last week when I looked at him and realized how old and smart and mature and capable he seemed and panicked thinking OH MY GOSH HE NEEDS TO GO TO KINDERGARTEN NOW. This evolved into me totally embarrassing myself with a last ditch effort to get him in which spectacularly failed (apparently they are VERY strict with this cutoff) and made me think- why, WHY did I even try? I knew they were strict. Why did I do this to myself? (Yes, I do ridiculous things like this on a regular basis. I am fully aware of what a complete mess I am.) This kindergarten decision is a big deal. It pretty much sums up the parental experience of "If you choose option A- you will SCREW UP YOUR CHILD'S ENTIRE LIFE FOREVER DON'T DO IT" and "If you choose option B- you will probably SCREW UP YOUR CHILD'S ENTIRE LIFE FOREVER DON'T DO IT." Is it too late to buy a puppy instead of having kids?

Eli is in the full swing of terrible twos. Full swing. Testing everything, big tantrums, extremely sensitive to ALL THE THINGS. He was screaming in anger this morning (three hours after we dropped Addison off) and I asked him what was wrong. He answered with an indignant. "Addison HIT ME!" Um. Caught in a lie much? He saw the look on my face and amended it to "Last night. Addison hit me last night." And so you're crying now? Sounds legit.

Morgan has suddenly been off and on with her eating which has led to a bit of a mastitis/clogged duct situation which has made my week super fun. Not to mention I've been getting lots of "WOW your baby is SO CUTE!!! She must look like her Daddy!". Um. Thanks? And at her doctor appointment she weighed in at 38 percentile which -in spite of her "all healthy and looking good" bill- has me freaking out about her size. Is she too small? Is she not getting what she needs? Does she have enough rolls of fat? Should I be counting them? Did this all happen because I cut out ice cream and now she only gets skim milk? I KNEW IT.

So I am feeling unsettled. And not just because the kids locked me out of the house yesterday while I was talking to a complete stranger out on the deck. And not just because Carter shouted "It's our DADDY!" right as I opened the door for the Chinese delivery guy (embarrassed much?). And not just because our gym daycare which we just purchased a deal where "It's one cheap price for the year for as many kids as you have!!!" JUST changed the deal signage to "It's one cheap price for the year for up to 2 children per family" for everyone signing up now....a few weeks after they welcomed us aboard (I think that is what "regret" looks like in gym daycare language. At least we have the year?) And I'm not just feeling unsettled because of the way my children fell apart in the grocery store today.

No, I am unsettled because it feels like life is spinning out of control. The special needs parent worries on top of the typical kid school decision worries on top of the tantruming 2 year old worries on top of the baby growing worries. Sometimes it just seems like too much to figure out all at once.

Every decision seems monumental, impacting far into the future. Every decision feels impossible. Every parenting strategy seems flawed. Every action feels too late. Every day passed has twinges of regret of not enough done- not enough taught. Every day reminds me of the unknown ones ahead.

Parenting is the scariest thing I've ever done.

I don't say this to ask anyone to "fix this" or load me up with advice or comment as to how I must be somehow doing this wrong or specifically pinpoint an instance from the post above where you have all the answers. No. I say this just to say it. To get it out. To ground my unsettledness in just the tiniest way. To take a deep breath, laugh at the complete ridiculousness that is my life, lean into a strength far greater than my own, and then just do the next right thing as I alternate between bathing each moment in adoring love and bathing each moment in bleach spray and paper towels (ahhhh the magic of potty training!)

To remind myself of the bigger picture and how this somehow ends with me focusing just on the now.

One day at a time. One decision at a time. One breath at a time.

I have some delicious beef and broccoli simmering in the crockpot (don't let me down, Pinterest. We are on a streak!), laundry to switch from the washer to dryer, kids that will wake up soon that need to be loaded up and of course, Addison to pick up. We will play outside. There will be laughing and fighting and playing and begging for MORE snacks (because don't you know- snacks every ten minutes are mandatory to avoid starving! Apparently.) I will nurse the baby while I smile at the older kids using their imaginations as they play. We will cling tightly to these last bits of summer weather even as the brutal winter cold seems a lifetime away. We will learn to share and to play together and to be kind. We will do ALL THE THINGS and yet nothing at all.

I am putting aside the weight of these decisions and questions and parental wonderings and just doing the next right thing. I will feed them dinner. I will bathe them. I will get them dressed for bed and place a kiss on their warm foreheads and I will not yell at them when they bebop out of bed ten thousand times for questions and drinks and more questions.

I will trust in a higher power to help guide not only our decisions but the million other details that make up the lives of our children- the circumstances that surround them as they walk through life. I will look to God to order their steps and their health and their education and most importantly- their hearts. And I will find peace in his bigger plan. His ultimate decisions that trump mine every day of the week. (For example: being in a school district that would not override Carter's birthday to let him go to kindergarten this year. Taken completely out of my hands. I can make my peace with that and trust that this is good.)

Here on the home front- I will just do my best. Today's best. And I won't borrow tomorrow's potential trouble according to reliable Internet sources and the top ten "Maybe This Will Happen To Your Child" lists. (Aaron says the Internet is the worst thing to happen to me. He might have a slightly valid point.)

And I will praise the one who provided me with the tools of "my best" and put me in this specific situation to use them.

Parenting is the scariest thing I've ever done, but I don't have to do it alone. There is an inner peace to be found even in the most unsettling of days. And so I lean on that.

As I watch Addison define Down syndrome for herself and navigate her own education with all the fabulousness you can imagine. As I walk beside a very capable and strong almost-five year old boy who needs all of that energy channeled into something good. As I love on a searching little two year old who is trying so hard to be big just like his brother. As I nurture a darling 6 month old who melts into me even as she holds her head and shoulders away from me with a fierce independence so that she won't miss a thing.

And the more I lean in, I realize how thankful I am for the unsettledness. For the opportunity to lean in. To be in so deep and so beyond my own ability that I have to draw on someone greater. Someone who isn't unsettled at all.

Parenting is the scariest thing I've ever done. Maybe it's supposed to be that way. So that we don't forget for one second who sent us these beautiful children in the first place.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

That Time I Ugly Cried At Costco

So I ugly cried at Costco today. And honestly this had nothing to do with the fact that there were no samples (legit ugly cry reason I'm sure)...or that we had just picked up Addison's brand new glasses and she stomped on them and left them in the driveway for dead one hour later (never a dull moment), or that the crew was all over the place during our stop at the eye doctor- wandering about....not obeying or listening...randomly climbing on displays (oh gosh the climbing!) the crying did not happen during any of this instances.

When we arrived at Costco, we were there seconds after it opened so there were no carts stored in the parking lot, yet the lot was full enough with cars that we had to park a ways away and walk in (still not the reason I ugly cried- the kids did really well holding hands and walking together).

When we got to the front of the store, dismantled our "chain of hands", and tried to position everyone in the cart (yes Carter, this is what I mean by "I do puzzles all day so I don't have to do a puzzle before I'm allowed to watch a show at night like you do") I determined that Eli needed to sit in the front with Addison, so I moved to position him there. Unfortunately, Eli decided he DID NOT WANT TO SIT NEXT TO ADDISON. NO. HE WANTED TO SIT NEXT TO THE BABY!  I use all caps because that's the way he was sending the message across. Body stiffened, head thrown back, mouth opening with explosive screams "NO NO NO NO SIT NEXT TO BABY!!!!" It was the kind of 2-year-old tantrum that caused random strangers to toss condoms into your shopping cart as they walked by (Lady, PLEASE stop having children!!!!). Pride crushing tantrums. Eardrum shattering tantrums. But honestly, this is just another day for me, so this is still not why I cried. I gently held his shaking body as I bent him into his seat in the cart. "This is where you need to sit, baby. You're going to be ok." I whispered in his ear. It's ok to be frustrated. I get that. He was disappointed and he chose a BIG scene to communicate this disappointment. Not as ok, but he's two. We will get it.

He finally settled into his seat with hiccups and a few last sobs, and I pushed my cart laden with children into the store, shoulders slumped, trying not to make eye contact with anyone who just witnessed our super awesome moment of screaming as we rushed to load our cart (or rather, carefully stash stuff between children) and get back home as quickly as possible.

I was thinking about this whole motherhood thing- how there is just so much to teach them. And I wondered- am I teaching it right? Enough? Will my kids turn out ok? We just created a rather significant scene and it stung at my motherhood pride which always wanted to have a cart full of sweet docile children who ALWAYS obeyed and listened. Am I carrying a cart full of future ax murderers? I often feel like I'm completely screwing this up. Like I'm constantly failing. Like I'm not enough. Like my kids aren't being trained properly because I'm such a mess. That I'm too tired to give them the perfect version of "mother" I picture in my head.

Just as my head was spinning with this- chaos on top of chaos after a long week of teaching and guiding and trying to encourage them to be non demanding, grateful, civilized, kind human beings- and yet feeling that I was making absolutely no progress- just as we were rounding the cereal aisle and my head was about to explode with it all ("Don't forget oatmeal squares, Mommy!!!")- I felt a tiny little body fold over into me from his seat in the front of the cart. He wrapped his short little 2 year old arms around me, buried his face against my waist still soft from growing baby sister, and then he lifted his face up to me.

"I sowwy I scweam, Mommy" His long eyelashes were still damp with tears. His eyes were hopeful and yet sad. His sweet little lips quivered.

Wait, what? He tightened his arms around me, and I stopped moving.

"I sowwy, Mommy. I sowwy I scweam." He said it again, staring intently at me, waiting for my response.

"Oh baby, it's ok. Thank you for saying you are sorry- it made me so sad to hear you scream like that. I love you." Kissing his warm forehead, wiping away the last of his tears, watching his huge green eyes turn from sad to happy just like that.

And that is when I ugly cried.

He was sorry that he screamed. My 2 year old. Apologized to me for throwing a tantrum in the store.

That's when it occurred to me that it's okay that I'm failing at motherhood. Because by not being perfect- I am teaching them how to cope as a mistake-making human being- how to graciously admit when you are failing- how to own your tantrums, apologize, and move on.

We all get frustrated. We all have our own version of "tantrums"- how to deal with these disappointments- how to express these frustrations- how to move on from choosing incorrectly- how to deal with mistakes made in the midst of all of this- this is the important thing. Not trying to be perfect. Because who is?

This is a life skill. And it's not one we sit down and learn in a formal classroom environment. It's something we learn from watching- from doing life. From failing. And that's what my 2 year old picked up from me these past few weeks- how to fail.

I straightened my slumped shoulders and pushed my cart full of potential out of the cereal aisle. We finished our shopping as tears were now damp on my own eyelashes. My heart was overflowing. I was encouraged, hopeful, and in awe of the moment that transpired in the cereal aisle. What a sweet little boy with such a soft heart. He will get it. One day at a time. One teachable moment at a time. One kiss, hug, and "I love you" at a time. He will get it. They all will.

And so I, an imperfect-failing mother, pushed my cart full of imperfect-failing children, head held high. Because I will fail again- and so will they. But we are in this together. And we are always just one "I'm sowwy." away from a fresh start.

Monday, August 1, 2016

When They Are All Crying At Once

A few minutes ago they were all crying. Loud sobs, soft whimpers, moderate sniffles- all four of my children were in tears all at once.

Two needed hugs. Long, staying hugs. Just silent "Hey buddy, I'm here for you. Waking up from naps is hard." One needed a snack. Another needed a snack when he saw the other get a snack. In the same bowl. No, the EXACT same bowl. Red. Yes, thank you. The fourth needed to be picked up, kisses gently placed on her velvety soft head and assurances of, "It's going to be okay. Mommy's here."

One is still crying even after I type- long after my crying diagnosis and prescriptive hugs were performed- because he was informed that he must assemble his 200 piece dinosaur puzzle before he could have any screen time. He's feeling the unfairness of this keenly, deeply, and with a cry that is best left untreated.

But back to the point- they were all crying at the same time. And there was still just one of me. One. Pleasant rain fell in sheets outside, quite in contrast to the unpleasant tears falling inside. These sheets of rain effectively were keeping me prisoner in this cell where there is crying. Oh so much crying. No parole. Just snacks. In the red bowl. The RED bowl.

Like bloodhounds, they always seem to find me. With a scent for "MOMMY" and an obsessive need to ALWAYS know where I am (except when I want to find them. Oh no, then, THEN they are escape artists).

But where were we? Ah yes, the tears.

There are days when this just seems too much, too hard, and I spend the day too close to tears myself. Some days. But not today.

Today I gave hugs, administered kisses, and felt no angst over all the crying. Today, I was thankful. A thankfulness that ran deep that couldn't be shaken with frustration. Thankfulness like a field of blooming wildflowers, watered slowly and thoroughly by the gentle rain outside. Thankfulness.

A few minutes before all the crying, I logged onto facebook. Not able to escape my attention was a news article about a friend of a friend. I do not know them personally, but I read in horror how their entire family was in truly horrendous car accident and their van was engulfed with flames and their entire family, including three very small children (not unlike my own) are all gone. Gone. Just like that.

Completely strangers who suddenly I can't stop thinking about. Their life- their loss- their love.

This type of take-my-breath-away tragedy tends to bring life sharply back into focus. The unimportant things are blurred and faded to the background. The things that are true, are right, are worth my all stay clear and focused right in front of me.

Things like crying. And the children who need me oh so very badly. I get to be needed. I get to kiss away my children's tears. I get to hug their soft bodies and feel their breath whisper against my cheek. I get to move on from the moment of "they're all crying at once!" and continue life with my beautiful, oh so very tiny children- oh so wonderful children- who all need so intensely.

Why me? Why not them?

This is a temporary gift. This is a privilege. And it's not lost on me.

There are days when I get overwhelmed by the frustration. The CRYING. The need for the RED BOWL. "HE GOT MORE THAN ME!"s and the struggle to teach these little messes how to be legit human beings. It is hard. Hard.

But in the midst of all the toughness is my field of wildflowers- beauty all around me. Colors, oh so many colors- subtle pinks, cheerful yellows, exciting reds, enticing blues, rich purples, pure whites. There is so much beauty around me that can grow out of the hardest of soils- watered by the consistent and pleasant rain much like the rain falling outside my window.

And so I am thankful- deeply thankful- for today. And for crying.

Now if you will excuse me, now I get to go slide a culinary masterpiece in the oven (frozen pizza) because this morning the kids had VBS at church and they are so tired and I am so tired (thus all the crying after naps that just weren't long enough) and pretty soon RED bowl will need to be replaced with John Deere tractor plates and delicious pizza that they don't even care that I didn't make it from scratch. They are kind like that.

Oh and more hugs. Because "quiet play time" has grown into "He took my truck!" "She knocked over my tower!" and the classic "HE'S TOUCHING ME!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!"

Thanks for the ten minutes, kiddos. (I figure if I can't find time to sit down and formulate long, official, blog posts, snippets here and there might be acceptable. Yes?)

Praying for those who have lost friends and loved ones. Praying for so much hurt all around. It is truly sobering.