Seven years ago today this little girl taught me that my capacity for physical pain was far greater than I ever thought when she raced into this world with no regard to my hollering, “Epidural!”
She showed me that she has things to do and places to go. Right now. She was born half an hour after I slipped on my hospital gown.
In the following weeks she taught me endurance, determination, and faith as we put our house up for sale, suffered through mastitis (yes, we ALL suffered through that), colic, ear infections, and the flu, packed up our three bedroom home, said goodbye to dear friends, and moved three states away all by the time she was six and a half weeks old.
If I thought I was a pro with the first two kids I was wrong. In this child’s first month of life I found myself simultaneously making my one and three year old lunch, talking the phone, and loading the dishwasher. While nursing.
I gained a new level of strength as I carried her in her car seat on one arm, carried my not yet walking one year old on my opposite hip, and dragged my three year as she clung to my belt loops. I was convinced I could handle Target without help and I did.
She showed me that it is okay for a baby to prefer grandma over mom. It makes grandma feel really good and at the end of the day it is mom that gets the final smile as she drifts off to sleep.
In the seven years since since she raced into this world-into the hands of the astonished on-call doctor-she has lifted my spirits when nothing else could, shown me a compassion I didn’t know young children could possess, softened my heart when it wanted to be cold, shared the wisdom of her fresh from God eternal spirit, and raised my joy beyond my greatest expectations.
I hope you will still be dancing on the beach when you are my age.
I was lying on the couch tonight watching Home Alone with the kids. Kai was rolling around on the floor, unable to hold still. He was antsy. It was just after 6pm and he had not had a nap. It is hard to squeeze one in with our church schedule so I was trying to keep him awake long enough that I could just put him down early for the night.
I started to doze off when something slammed into my head, knocking my glasses askew. I braced myself before I fell off the couch and then I was slammed again.
Kai was running at me from the other side of the room and grabbing my head and then backing up and doing it again. He was making a frustrated sound and I could see that he (nor I) was going to be able to finish the movie.
I carried him upstairs and laid him in his bed, even though I knew it would mean he would be up late tonight.
“Lay by me mom,” he said, in the way that only I understand.
I laid down by him in his bed and he grabbed my neck and squeezed it tight. He was asleep in less than one minute.
As I held my warm, sleeping, freshly-turned three year old, I thought of a meeting Brett and I attended recently to learn about some assessments that had been done on Kai to see if he qualified for a preschool and speech therapy program.
When he was being tested he completely lost it. Completely. I was across the room talking to the psychologist. The speech therapist and preschool teacher were with Kai in a corner of the room asking him to count some beads. I could hear in his voice, behind me, that his frustration level was building, but I didn’t want to interfere.
The protests escalated to crying and exclamations of defiance. It was nothing I hadn’t heard on a daily basis, but it was unsettling to hear it in that setting.
Soon Kai came running across the room and jumped on my lap and squeezed me while hiding his head against my shoulder. I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted them to be able to finish their assessment and I didn’t want to interfere, but he was very agitated.
I stood up and took his hand and walked him back to the table he had been sitting at. I sat him down and talked gently to him to calm him down. Nothing helped. He did not want to count beads and he was not going to do it. Each time I tried to sit him down on the chair or redirect him for the camera he was trying to grab, he lashed out at me with his little fists. One time he lunged at me like he was going to bite me, but the teacher caught him and he missed his mark.
His eyes were red and tears streaked down his face and I couldn’t catch his eye or connect with him. I was near tears myself, but was trying desperately to keep control while surrounded by therapists, teachers, and the psychologist.
We finally were able to redirected him to an art easel and we quickly finished our meeting.
Two weeks later, as I sat across from the same group of women that had witnessed Kai’s breakdown, we were told he had made it into the program. As we talked I asked them about why he lashes out at me as he had at the previous meeting. I felt hurt that he always chose to hurt ME when he was frustrated or upset and I wanted to know what I was doing wrong.
One of the therapists paused and then looked at me and said, “He feels safe with you. He knows that no matter what he does to you, you will still love him and protect him and care for him. He needs to get it out, so he turns to the person he most trusts. You are his safe place to fall.”
As I lay in bed with him tonight I thought about that again, as I have many times since then. It hasn’t stopped me from getting angry when I get smacked in the head. It hasn’t kept me from raising my voice or sending him to him room when I just can’t take it anymore. (Although, it has stretched my limits a smidgeon.)
But it has made me view it in a new perspective. A much better and a much broader perspective. I am grateful to be the one that he trusts enough to know that I will show him love and forgiveness when he needs it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I sat in church today listening to a lesson on trusting in the Lord (and others) it made me think about how this same concept applies to all the members of my family.
I cringe at times at the things I hear my children say to each other in a moment of anger. I cringe at times at what I hear MYSELF say at times when I am angry, whether to my kids or my husband. Sometimes we use a tone with each other that we would never use to our friends, coworkers, neighbors or even a stranger. When I see my daughter grab her brother in frustration and pinch him I find myself repeating, “You would never do that to your friends!”
Well, of course she wouldn’t. She knows her brother is going to walk away and come back fifteen minutes later excited to share a new plan to rule the world (or the house). He will forgive her and look at her with adoration again long before the fingernail marks have disappeared from his arm.
This doesn’t mean that I think treating each other poorly is okay. I don’t. I would love for unkind words to never be spoken again in our family. We do show each other love much more frequently than not, but there are those times we are weak and we regret the things we say.
As my family learns to curb our tongues and watch our tones we also learn about love and forgiveness. We learn to say “I’m sorry” and we learn to say “It is okay, I still love you.”
I have watched so many of my Facebook and blogging friends write about what they are thankful for this month and I have not chimed in.
This month, I am grateful for my family and for feeling “safe”.
I was sixteen years old and spending the afternoon at the mall with my parents and grandparents. I wasn’t one of those kids that was embarrassed to be the youngest in the group. (By thirty years!)
We window shopped, chatted, and I probably held hands at some point with each of my grandparents.
We ate lunch at my grandma and grandpa’s favorite place, Taco Time. We were relaxing on the benches next to the food court when my grandma decided to walk over to the bakery across the wide hall and get some cinnamon rolls.
She would have been in her late 70’s. I am sure she had on solid colored pleated polyester pants in a pretty pastel with a coordinating button up top with a catchy pattern, topped with a cardigan. I don’t remember every detail, but I know she had on a long necklace, probably beaded, and matching clip-on earrings, because she always did. Her hair and makeup would have looked perfect. She would have had on comfortable, if not bulky, walking shoes with crisp white anklet socks and a medium sized purse with short straps slung over one arm.
Grandpa put his arm around me and gazed ardently at grandma as she walked across the hall and stood in line.
“Isn’t she beautiful,” he whispered.
I don’t think he saw the pastel, the L’Oreal, or the Aqua Net covered curls. He didn’t notice if the purse was alligator skin or vinyl. The necklace was just one of many he had given her.
She turned to wave and gave us one of her magnetic smiles.
The kids got new rollerblades last weekend. They have been saving their money and talking about it for weeks. Brett and I decided to kick in the remainder of cash they needed to ease the disappointment of a cancelled trip to Utah.
We laid out the rollerblades and padding and explained each piece of equipment. We showed them how to put everything on and make sure it was secure. I drilled it into their fragile little heads how much trouble they would be in if I caught them skating without their pads, and most importantly, their helmets. I told them all the ways they could get hurt if they forgot to take the safety measures that they were being taught.
Then we took off. I had a blast skating with them even though I hadn’t worn my rollerblades in years.
We skated each of the next few days and I was feeling good about my balance and proud that I hadn’t fallen once despite being out of practice.
When Kai slammed into me from behind with his bike causing me to flip up and back onto the pavement, landing on the back of my head, I thought, “You idiot.”
After all my nagging to the kids about pads and helmets I thought I was okay with just my wrist guards and knee pads because I “knew how to fall”.
After laying stunned in the road for a couple of minutes and thinking, “What have I done?” I shakily got up and took Kai in the house.
The kids hadn’t been skating long and they were doing so well and I knew they would be disappointed if we stopped so I put my helmet on and went back out. My head was still numb and I skated slowly around with them for a few minutes until I realized I felt like I needed to throw up. I didn’t, but it made me realize it was time to go lay down.
I spent the next 21 of 24 hours in bed with a horrendous headache and feeling exhausted and thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t worse.
As a mom of four I should have realized sooner that it was just as important for me to protect myself (their mother) as it was for me to make sure they were protected. I have a responsibility to them to keep myself as safe and healthy as I am trying to keep them.
I am sure as the headache and nausea fade over the next few days it will give me ample time for me to think about how hypocritical my actions were to my kids.
The broken laptop was the last straw for me tonight.
I had been wanting a laptop for a long time and was kindly given an older one a few weeks ago that did everything I needed it to. I could read my email and friend’s blogs as I settled in for bed, or write in my journal or look up “sandboxes” on Craigslist. It was perfect!
I walked into my bedroom tonight and Kai said, “look Mommy!” and pointed to the laptop with several buttons from the keyboard scattered around the room.
Brett tinkered with it for nearly an hour and determined that too many pieces were snapped off and not a single key could be replaced. We are still not sure if it can be repaired or used again.
I smoldered at the dinner table while I thought about the computer. I also thought about the pen that Kai had snapped in half yesterday, dumping half of the ink on my carpet and the other half on my favorite quilt.
I could not get the kids in bed fast enough and then I aggressively cleaned my kitchen in a huff. It didn’t make me feel better.
As I walked through the living room on the way downstairs I stopped at the piano. When I really need to unwind or let off some steam, pounding it out on the piano is just what I need.
I didn’t have anything in mind to play so I reached into one of my bags stuffed with music and pulled out a book. I threw it up on the piano and flipped it open to one of the songs I was familiar with. As I started to play I felt the tension leaving, but the sadness building. It took me a minute to realize that I was playing a song that I played years ago at the funeral for a baby girl. The mother was the little sister of a friend of mine and it was her second child and her second funeral as a mother. It was also the last child they would have because of their fear of burying another baby. I don’t remember all of the details, but because of an incompatibility genetically, their chances of having a baby that did not get terminally sick were very low. I remember keeping it together as I viewed their beautiful baby girl in her coffin, as I played “Love One Another” as the family entered the chapel, as I played “In the Arms of His Love” as a special number, and as I played, “Families Can Be Together Forever” as the coffin was carried to the hearse. As soon as the chapel doors shut behind the last family member I collapsed into tears.
I went straight home and scooped up my three babies and smothered them in kisses.
I also smothered Kai in kisses tonight as I went to check on him a couple of hours after putting him to bed. He had awakened and Lincoln had just finished reading to him. He was finally drowsy again and starting to drift off to sleep. He gave me a tired half-smile and wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed my cheek.
“I love you Kai,” I said.
“Yuh you too,” he softly replied.
I thank a loving Heavenly Father for guiding me to pull out my old piano book tonight so that I could be reminded of the blessings in my life. Carpet, quilts, and computers are temporary. I would give them all up in a heartbeat for the promise of endless more nights of hugs, kisses, and “I yuh you too”’s.
“You probably noticed that I got new glasses,” my kindergartner said to a boy from her class.
We had joined a family in town for a Memorial Day barbecue and I couldn’t help but notice my daughter’s attempts to catch the eye of her classmate.
“Mmmm, sure,” he replied without turning his head to see new glasses that she was referring to. He couldn’t have been less interested.
I saw disappointment briefly flash across her face before she shrugged and skipped away to find someone else to show her new frames to.
I wanted to take the little boy’s hand and turn him around and point to her glasses and say, “See! See how cute they are? Don’t they frame her eyes so beautifully and bring out the natural blush color in her cheeks? Can’t you see that?!”
I cared more than she did. I didn’t want her to feel hurt or rejection, until I realized…she didn’t. She had moved on. She was now singing and twirling in the other corner of the yard.
How many times have I told my children, “don’t worry what anyone else thinks!”? Too many. I am now wondering if caring what others think is something kids learn from adults.
Next time someone hurts my feelings I am going to try shrugging, smiling, and skipping off. I think it will feel great!
I made a new goal today. My goal is to start cussing more.
Yes, you read that right.
I realized today that my inner me and my outer me are a little out of sync. My inner me cusses like a sailor and my outer me cringes at the utterance of most swear words.
My internal voice has had the vocabulary of a Hell’s Angel since my early teenage years, but rarely does it break free and slide past my lips. I am sure most (with the exception of a couple of friends from my middle school years) would be surprised by this. Even my husband will be surprised by this.
Things are about to change, damnit!
I have good intentions with this resolve. I figure if I release a little bit of the steam once in awhile it won’t build up to an onslaught of profanity worthy of a college football tailgate party inside my head.
The other day, In a moment of extreme frustration, I let a word slip (twice! Oops.) that I abhor. It is one I have made a major stink about when Brett has let it fly so he seemed more than a little stunned when it flew out of my mouth. And then out it flew again. It was probably the first time he heard me use it. (If only he had known how common it was inside my head, he may have recovered his speech quicker!)
So here I go. My little experiment might result in an even more abject inner dialogue, but “Hear! Hear!” for good intentions!
The baby was asleep in his car seat so I read in the front seat of our van while the kids played on the play structure that was about thirty feet away from where I sat. I had the windows rolled down so I could hear them squealing and laughing as they played.
I glanced up from time to time to see to see the kids chasing up the stairs or racing down the slides. Their heads bobbed in and out of the various tunnels and tubes.
One time I looked up to watch them playing hide and seek with a young boy and girl who had arrived with their mother. I waved to the mom to show her that I was close by and watching them.
The next time I looked up I saw an old man standing at the corner of the park with his little dog.
A few minutes later he was walking very slowly down the sidewalk next to the playground. His dog running circles around him as he puttered along.
Then he was sitting on the park bench just a few feet away from my children.
His sweats were rolled up high above his ankles and knee socks were scrunched down, leaving a few inches of skin peeking out between them. He had a fanny pack on over an oversized Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. The old golf cap was pulled low and silver hair was poking out the back.
I didn’t look back down, but watched him as he watched the children play. I had an uneasy feeling. He hadn’t taken his eyes off my kids since I saw him standing at the corner. What was this man doing at a playground without children or grandchildren with him?
I had just read an article the week before about a convicted child molester who had been discovered hanging out at a city pool watching the children. Possibly looking for his next victim. He had gone day after day and sat on a bench watching until finally one of the regulars got concerned and had him checked out, thank goodness.
I got out of the car and walked a little closer as one of my children got close enough to him to ask him about his dog.
“Oh, she is friendly. You can pet her.” a shaky high-pitched voice responded.
It wasn’t an old man. It was a woman.
My heart instantly softened and my mind was filled with pictures of a lonely widow who came to the park to watch the kids play as she thought of the years she had raised her own children.
I stepped back to my van, still in listening distance of the conversation. My other two children had joined them by this time and she was directing them on how her dog liked to be scratched behind the ears.
I felt shame.
I don’t like to misjudge people and I don’t like to jump to conclusions. It made me wonder why I had felt so alarmed when I saw this person near my children. I am sure the article I read had something to do with it, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It shouldn’t have mattered whether it was a man or woman watching the kids, but for some reason my reaction was different as my perspective changed.
This happened last summer and I still think about it. How often do I misjudge others? What can I do to keep my children safe, without letting my worry for them interfere with a realistic view of the world and those around me?
As a parent it is my responsibility to figure out the balance between guarding and protecting my children and letting them discover their surroundings and develop who they really are.
I am a little bit better at it now than I was last summer.
I owe many of you an apology. I have judged you. When I have heard you complain about how hard your toddler is I have inwardly chuckled and thought to myself, “I’ve had three of them and they are not that hard.”
I have had babies and toddlers who wouldn’t sleep. I have had whiners, criers, and sassers.
But my first three obeyed. Almost always. They might have complained when I put them down for a nap, but they napped.
They might not have liked it when I told them they couldn’t eat a cookie before dinner, but they didn’t do it.
If they wrote on a wall it didn’t happen again. If they used scissors on something that wasn’t meant to be cut I knew that there wouldn’t be a repeat.
If I really needed (or wanted) a nap I could turn on a movie and lay on the couch and they would watch the movie while I snoozed and not get into things they were not supposed to get into.
#4 has taken all of my parenting knowledge, skills, and intuition and wadded it up in a ball, spit on it, stomped on it, peed on it, put it in the garbage, doused it with gasoline and threw a match on it.
This week he has:
Poured olive oil into my tub of brown sugar.
Combined the two half used bottles of ranch dressing, resulting in a slimy white kitchen floor.
Dug up my basket of grass that was my pretty spring table centerpiece.
Snuck out of the house to play in the mud 4 times.
Pulled all the books off the bookshelf in his room. (okay, they all did this at his age)
Pulled a chair to the open fridge to pull things off the top shelf.
Made each of his siblings cry.
Made me cry.
Made me pray.
Cut his lip.
Bruised his forehead.
Wore his sisters slippers out in the mud.
Went through four changes of clothes.
…..oh wait, did I say this week?! No. That was just today. If I include the rest of the week:
Tried to microwave a bottle of bubbles.
Unplanted my wheat grass seeds from three pots and replanted them into all the dirty cups that were in the sink.
Sprinkled baby powder all over his room while he was supposed to be napping. We had to wash all the bedding from two beds and the clothing from three drawers and wipe every surface because he also sprinkled it in the fan that was ON.
Tried to wash his “soft bear” in the washing machine. Thank goodness I found him before he tried to add the liquid soap that he had just climbed up to get off the shelf.
Sprayed and emptied a full bottle of cleanser from our Swifter onto the kitchen floor.
Snuck out of bed at 11pm to watch “Leave It To Beaver”. His new favorite.
Wrote on the carpet with a purple marker.
Wrote all over his bedroom wall and door with a pencil.
Tried to clean up the pencil on his wall with a whole container of wet wipes.
Emptied a bottle of grape seed oil on the bathroom floor.
Made his siblings cry.
Made me cry.
Made me pray.
…I know there is more! I KNOW there is!
This little guy has challenged me in ways I didn’t know possible.
BUT, he also:
Gives me endless hugs and kisses.
Calls my name first every time he wakes up.
Helps me (it is the thought that counts, right?)
Sneaks into my bed almost every morning when the sun comes up and lets me cuddle and kiss him while he falls back to sleep.
Makes me laugh.
Makes my kids and husband laugh.
Smiles at me.
Teaches me patience.
Comforts me if I cry.
I understand now. I will not judge you mother’s of two year olds any more.
I get it!
I am thankful every day for this mischievous stinker and I am a blessed to be his mother.