I'm sorry for another post so closely on the heels of the last one, but I had to follow up on the day.
Thanks for indulging me my outlet yesterday morning, because frankly, it was kind of a rough day- especially with my very strong willed 2-year-old (the one who flushed the contacts).
Last night as I put Eli William into his bed, tiny body resting on freshly washed sheets, tucked in safely under his big fluffy blanket, I felt the guilt of the day wash over me. Yesterday I wasn't on my A game. You might even say I failed at the day. Spectacularly failed.
"You know how much I love you, right?" I whispered down into his huge green eyes that were staring at me with absolute adoration.
He grinned in response.
"I'm sorry we had such a rough day. I'm so thankful to be your mommy."
"We saw frog. Frog on the front porch."
"Well, yes. But all the rough stuff from before, are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?"
"Frog eat flies. We saw a frog." He was smiling in excitement about the frog.
Twenty minutes into bedtime I had tiptoed into his room, held my finger over my lips, and quietly led him out to the front porch where we studied the frog together while the others were in bed. Green with random black swirls and dark beady eyes and fleshy thighs all tucked under him- the frog didn't seem to mind the intent study. And Eli just about burst with the excitement of it all- the after hours field trip. Just me and him and the super cool frog on our front deck.
Later as I was tucking him in, I realized- he wasn't talking about how I yelled at him for the contact situation, or when he wouldn't nap or obey, or when he threw all of those clean towels into the fully drawn bath, or when he wouldn't listen, or when he....all the other things from the day. The times that I lost patience as his actions all stacked on top of each other to equal far past my breaking point.
No, it was as if his mind was wiped clean of my responses to him after our brief chats and my many, "Sweetie I'm so sorry for getting frustrated. Can you please forgive me?"
He had moved on. And all he remembered from our day was the exciting frog study. Together.
I placed my cheek against his warm cheek and felt chastised. No one forgives like a small child forgives. So easily moves on. So easily forgets. Granted no doubt this is a developmental thing. An almost three year old isn't capable perhaps of processing actual forgiveness- he just does it naturally, like a reflex. Perhaps so much living happened between then and now that his mind pushed the memory out.
I started at him, so big yet so small, and I could almost feel him crying out for me to just love him. Love him right where he's at. Just like the baby cries when she needs to be fed, he acts out as he explores life- his boundaries- his curious nature. And yes he needs my firm hand as a guiding parent and yes he has so much to learn and it is my job to teach and teach and teach some more- but most importantly he needs my love.
When he's acting out the most, that's when he needs love the most. When I am the most frustrated, perhaps he is too. Perhaps that's why he needs me to love him the hardest right then.
People often say that having a child with special needs requires unconditional love. I venture to say that all children do.
Yes- the same applies with Addison- and when she frustrates me with delays or speech or bolting- it isn't my job to hold her to a higher standard and tell her she just doesn't measure up. No. Those are the times that I love her the fiercest. Right where she's at. When she appears the most unloveable- that is when I dig in deep and find the greatest love of all. The unconditional service in motherhood might outwardly appear more pronounced at times with a child with special needs, but truth be told, unconditional service- unconditional love is required for every minute, every second of typical parenting as well. Sometimes even more.
So why would I hold Eli, my sweet, mischievous, trying-so-hard-to-grow-up son to a different standard than I hold my Addison? Does he not deserve my unconditional love as well? Even as I am blind from no contacts, the bathroom is covered in soaking wet towels, and I'm exhausted from trying to get him to just listen- this is when I need to love him the fiercest. And remembering this helps with the frustration. Remembering that this acting out is him begging, pleading for love. Just like I pick up my crying baby and nurse and comfort her and show her that she is safe and loved.
As I hear my son excitedly chatter about our frog time, I remember how I'm pretty unloveable and yet I'm unconditionally loved by my Savior. I act out in ways he doesn't like yet he always forgives and teaches and loves me. Who am I to not keep this same attitude toward my children?
I've moved on from the "kissing the frog and finding my prince" stage of life. I'm now into the "study the frog with one of my tiny princes" stage. It comes with its ups and downs, but I have to say- this stage is pretty spectacular. Spectacular failures included.
After an impossible day, Eli and I studied a frog together. We lay still in his bed and talked about it. We prayed together (he asked me to pray for all the cows). No one was yelling. No one was frustrated. And that's all he remembered. The love. The fresh start. And we will do better tomorrow. I will be more patient. He will not act out as much (ish).
Together we will grow. And I will love him every step of the way. Even when- especially when frustrated.