It's been a long time since I've had a 3 minute conversation that covered like 56 topics. It's probably been since I myself was five. But now I have a daughter who is 5 and the luxury is mine once again. Luckily Haylee was in the backseat . . . and it was dark, so she couldn't see me trying to suppress my laughter.
Me: Oh, dang it! It's getting foggy. I hate that!
Haylee: What makes fog?
M: Well, it's kind of like clouds that are really close to the ground.
H: Tanner told me that rain is clouds so angry that they're pooping.
Silence . . . okay, and then laughter
H: Tanner's a liar, isn't he?
M: Well, I think Tanner likes to tease you.
H: Okay, so what makes rain.
M: (A brief explanation about evaporation and precipitation and blah, blah, blah.)
H: Where did you learn that?
M: Probably in school.
H: Like college?
M: No, probably long before that.
H: You went to high school!?
M: Yep. Believe it or not, I even went to Kindergarten.
H: (gasping) Was Mrs. Hall your teacher too!?
M: I hate to break it to you, but Mrs. Hall wasn't even born when I was in Kindergarten.
H: Oh, so she was still in heaven with me then?
H: Then we go from heaven to being born to growing up to getting married to having babies! I'm never getting married. That's embarrassing.
M: Why is that embarrassing!?
H: Everybody's staring at you!
M: But you'll look so pretty! If you don't get married how are you going to have babies?
H: Do you have to be married to have babies?
M: (long awkward pause about the technicalities of that question) Um, yes, you most definitely do.
H: I guess I won't have any then.
M: But look how cute babies are! Look at Parker! Don't you want to be a mom?
H: Does it hurt to push out a baby?
M; Well, yeah, it does.
H: Yeah, not doing that. I'll hold other people's babies.
And she went right back to talking and singing to herself. There you have it folks, fog to an aversion towards marriage and childbirth in less than 3 minutes. Admit it. You wish you were me.
We have a very obstinate passionate toddler. Avery actually reminds me of my son, Tanner, at this age. Everything is high intensity. Everything is felt on such a deep level that it's almost as if they can't control it. Happiness, anger, sadness, frustration, silliness . . . emotions never hidden, but instead very much apparent to anyone within 100 yards. Tanner has mellowed a tiny bit over the years, but his intensity of feeling is very much still him. (Okay, honestly, he hasn't really mellowed. He just no longer throws toddler-sized fits. Everything else is still intense.) So I have hope that this same flair for fit throwing intensity of feeling will simmer down in my now 2 year old also, but I'm currently not holding my breath. Plus, you know, we have a new baby at our house, which I don't think helps my displaced baby. AT. ALL.
You don't believe me? Here's a list of things that have resulted in a screaming fit in the last 24 hours. Sometimes hitting mom even coming all-inclusive.
I told her she shouldn't wear shorts because it was below freezing outside.
I didn't roll her jeans.
I rolled her jeans wrong.
We ran out of fruit snacks.
I wouldn't drive on a sheet of ice to go get her more fruit snacks.
She wanted more milk.
It wasn't her turn to take a candy cane off of the advent calendar.
An hour later it STILL wasn't her turn to take one of those candy canes.
She wanted more milk again.
I told her she needed to quit peeing in her Pull-ups and to go in the toilet.
I wouldn't give her her candy reward for going in the toilet because . . . well . . . she didn't.
I told her she couldn't have a granola bar because dinner was in 5 minutes.
She couldn't have her princess blanket at nap time because she peed so much in her sleep that she leaked on it and it was in the dryer.
Hunter wouldn't give her the pencil he was doing his math with.
I told her I couldn't read her a story until after I finished giving Hunter his math lesson.
I only read 3 stories and she wanted more.
I was nursing Parker.
I used the purple brush to comb her hair instead of the brown one.
She wanted to take a shower in my shower and I told her she had to wait until after I took the kids to the bus.
I made her get out of the shower.
I thought she was pointing at a different shirt than she actually was and took the wrong one off of its hanger.
Tanner took the last of the popcorn and she had to wait for another bag to be popped.
She wanted more carrots.
She didn't want to finish her carrots.
She wanted candy instead of lunch.
She didn't want to take a nap.
She wanted her door shut for her nap.
She wanted me to get her pajamas because there was something scary at her window.
She didn't want me reassuring her that there was nothing at her window.
She didn't want me fixing Parker's binky even though she gave it to him upside down.
I told her she couldn't have a sippy cup with raspberry lemonade because the pulp clogs the top.
I told her she couldn't hit Parker.
I told her she couldn't call Parker a bad baby.
I told her she couldn't sit on Parker while she smothered him with apologetic kisses.
I told her she had to go sit in her bed for hitting me.
I actually stood up to take her to her bed.
I had the nerve to really put her in said bed (at least 16 times today).
I opened my eyes and decided to breath today.
Now is it just me or could most of these things be resolved by a simple request or an ounce of patience? Or a 2 year old's ability to make up her own mind?
I've totally turned into THAT mother. You know, the one who seems to have zero control over her children because . . . well . . . she doesn't.
I had a meeting at my house this morning. My oldest son, Hunter, informed me at dinner that during said meeting he ate twelve Otter Pops. Tanner was a close second at eleven. Haylee "only ate six" and therefore proclaimed that the boys were going to be WAY sicker than she was. I just stared at the children who wanted to make sure I understood their awesome level of restraint because they "only let Avery eat three."
This is AFTER I caught them trying to get more out of the freezer. The problem was that they weren't frozen yet. They'd eaten all of the frozen ones. Obviously. So they tore into the strands of liquid Otter Pops and exploded a total of five all over my kitchen. The sticky juice covered the inside of my freezer, the front of my fridge, the floor that I mopped yesterday, the kitchen counter, and my fresh stack of mail.
I, of course, as the responsible mother that I am, insisted that they clean up the entire mess themselves which explains why my flip flops stuck to the floor when I was attempting to cook dinner. It's also the only appropriate explanation for my blue freezer. Whatever. Maybe next month when I actually attempt to mop my floor again it'll stay clean for two days.
And I mean, is this really any worse than last month when I had to coax Tanner off of the roof of the local bowling alley? Not hardly. Besides, that wasn't his fault anyway. "Why'd they put a ladder on the building if they didn't want me to climb up there?" Good point, son. Or not.
Truthfully I don't know why I even pretend to have any sort of semblance of control.
I'm the mom who herds her children to the car, only to have Tanner on the roof of her SUV in three seconds flat. Threatening him doesn't help. He thinks it'll be fun if you speed down the highway with him clinging to the roof rack. He's strong after all. He "can hold on."
I'm also the mom who doesn't let her five year old have anything. Haylee informed (at the top of her shrieking lungs, might I add) that I hated her for not buying her another pair of shoes. She only has six pairs. And they're not the right ones. Oh, did you think that was in the privacy of our home or vehicle? No, sorry, that was in the shoe department at Kohl's where we were most definitely not shopping for her.
A lady I ran into at the mall that very day told me I was a brave soul. There I was waddling with four kids into Old Navy because Avery desperately needed new flip flops. Hers were hurting her feet and she tried to throw them out the car window. It was the only logical thing to do in her two year old mind. I didn't have the heart to tell the woman that my blood pressure shot through the roof just walking in there. She was inspired and felt that she could wrestle two kids in the mall if I could do four. I hope she didn't actually do it, poor soul. I thought about writing down the link for her to my "never go into another mall with your children again as long as you live" post. Instead I smiled and pretended it wasn't that bad.
I try to be honest in my writing. In fact, that's why I do it. It's an outlet for me and I sincerely pray that it brings hope and laughter to the other parents out there. I'd like to assume that all parents attempt to demonstrate the truth about parenting in their social and written interactions as well. I notice, however, a ton of rainbows and butterflies in most of the stuff I read and hear . . . and I've even noticed it in my own writing. For me that's because I am hopeful, my faith is firmly planted, and I want my readers to know that.
But I also want to make sure you know that sometimes I want to stab my eyes out with a fork. Sometimes I'm at my worst. And truthfully, sometimes I feel like I'm going to drown and can't possibly accomplish what's being asked of me, either perceived or literally.
You should know that I cried yesterday. You're not the only one. I cried for 15 minutes right in the middle of my day. I could pinpoint the straw that broke the camel's back, but I couldn't possibly share with you the mountain that got me there. This is my reality lately.
So I want to tell you something about reality while I squash the illusion that somehow our hope or our faith or our strength make us perfect.
The reality is that I have a six-year old little boy that has managed a complete flip-flop in his personality. He went from intensely sweet and logical to intensely mean, defiant and unreachable. That same little boy is sick and on medication that he would never normally be on . . . and will be for a long time. That little boy probably feels terrible and is not quite capable yet of expressing that in a constructive way. Heck, I'm not even capable of doing that on a consistent basis.
So the reality is that I weep for this little boy that I so fiercely love. But the reality also is that this new behavior pushes me to that edge where mothers and fathers make terrible decisions. Even understanding his pain and his fear, I stare into eyes that are so filled with defiance and anger that I go to that place. My eyes fill with that same defiance and anger (he probably got it from me, after all) and sometimes I explode. I don't react with love or patience or kindness. I equal the playing field. I protect my heart instead of his. That's the reality. Then I weep because I chose poorly instead of fighting the correct fight. You're not the only one.
Exhaustion is the reality. I have a two year old who has slept through the night twice. Twice. During her entire existence in our home . . . only twice. I would love to tell you that I am magically equal to the task every day, even after only 5 hours of inconsistent sleep, but I'm not. The reality is that I'm not always equal to the task. I'm exhausted. I walk around like a zombie. I fall asleep everywhere. And I don't accomplish half of what I plan or need to. That's the naked truth. There are dark circles under my eyes and my house could fairly be considered a disaster. This is reality. It's not just you.
In reality, you're going to run out of swimming diapers. But you're going to let your screaming toddler run through the sprinkler in her swimming suit anyway. And then you're going to be mad as heck when she poops in it. While you're attempting to clean that mess, she's also going to pee all over your bathroom floor. Sorry, folks, that's the reality. Your kid isn't the only one.
Your 5 year old is going to scream in a really high pitched voice. She's going to do this while crossing her arms and stomping her feet. And she's going to do it where there are a million judgmental people watching. Welcome to reality, my friend. It doesn't just happen to you. You have my word.
The reality is that we all get tired. We all make incredibly poor choices and wish we hadn't. We all get frustrated by the daily routine. We all get bogged down by things we can't control. We all hurt and make mistakes. We all get desperate. And I promise you you're not the only one who sits in the corner and cries.
But here's your hope. Perfect performance is not required of you. Perfect effort is. I'm hopeful, I'm faithful, and the reality is, I'm stronger than I think. This doesn't exempt me from making mistakes or being a total idiot, but it does plant me on the right road where the only direction is forward.
We have a loving God who has paid for every stupid thing I've ever done or will do. He did the same for you. I can fix anything. Anything. So can you. I can keep moving forward, even if a snail would look quick next to me. Sometimes I can run and sometimes I can only manage to crawl, but I can correct my course and give a perfect effort. Every day. I can do that. So can you.
I just need you to know that you're not the only one that silently sheds tears. You're not alone in making mistakes, however great or small. You're not alone in your exhaustion or your chaos. I'm there. So is the woman next door and the lady down the street. Everyone is there regardless of how they look to you. Remember that.
Remember that all of this has been paid for. It's all been fixed. You just have to give your best effort. You just have to correct and to try every day. I can do that and you can do that.
Forget the illusion that parenthood is running through fields of flowers and butterflies. You may find yourself in said field a time or two, but the reality is you're probably going to trip and your child is going to step in dog poop. That's just the reality. Just remember that the same thing happened to me.
"Remember when you used to feed Avery with those?" Haylee blurted out while pointing at my chest.
"Ummm, yes. Be quiet, please."
"And remember how she used to bite them!?" Giggle, giggle, snort.
Apparently this is the sort of discussion five year old girls have at places like, oh I don't know, Cub Scout Pack meeting. I'm glad it was our first one. I mean, we wouldn't want people to think our children were polite or appropriate. Luckily we were surrounded by friends who didn't turn around or bat an eye, so either we have really nice friends or ones who were completely engrossed in the impromptu skits. Okay, or friends who are completely used to the insanity that is Haylee.
Whatever the reason, her declaration still sent me into a panic. You know the kind. The ones where you do anything you can to distract them for fear they'll launch into another embarrassing anecdote.
She turned five yesterday. This has sparked some sort of insane obsession with humor. She suddenly thinks she's old enough to tell jokes as opposed to just being funny because she's, well, five.
"Hey Mom, can I have a sip of that?" she asks while inhaling a Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen (she was referring to my lemonade chiller).
"Uh, no. Eat your ice cream."
"But I'm SO thirsty!"
"But you don't want your Birthday girl to die, DO YOU!?" Giggle, giggle, snort.
Well, no, so if you pass out I'll go get you a glass of water. I didn't say the words out loud. She'd probably tell people. So instead I just stared at her. Okay, and I laughed. But I wouldn't want anyone thinking I was so obsessed with my lemonade that I let my Birthday girl pass out from excessive thirst. Would you? She ended up drinking like a third of my lemonade.
Why do I suddenly feel like I'm being manipulated?
Although it's not really a secret, I don't think it's necessarily "out there" that my husband and I have been debating homeschooling our kids. We go back and forth on the issue and still haven't really decided. There are a lot of factors to consider and honestly, it's a big decision.
Of all the issues that I've considered, not once have I ever thought that having my kids home with me all day would be a challenge. I mean, sure, they can be a challenge, but it's nothing I haven't dealt with before and nothing that really drives me to madness or anything.
Well, I've changed my mind. After this week, that is suddenly an issue. And before you label me as the type of mother who would knowingly dump her children and their "issues" off on innocent teachers in the public school system, let me assure you that my children only act like this at home. "Angelic" and "ideal" and "wonderful" are the typical words used to describe their presence in a classroom setting. I'm not sure whether to be happy that they show their best selves in public places or mad that they don't extend me the same courtesy.
So, while the jury deliberates my mental health, I'm just going to tell you about my week. Writing clears my mind, confession is therapeutic, and truthfully, I'm hoping someone will tell me they had it much worse because I'm totally the type of person who would feel better about that sort of thing (Don't be shy. Helping my sanity is practically as important as promoting world peace.).
It's been a crazy week . . . well, month . . . but I like to narrow my focus. Things started out fine. I mean, we had enough sickness in this house to fill an entire wing in a major hospital, but it seemed in control at least. My last kid was starting to recover from the virus that plagued each of us for an average of 10 days. Yeah, I said ten. It was horrible. Tanner was put on an antibiotic for what the doctor was sure was a staph infection (in the form of a rash looking very much like the last stage of chicken pox). He was sent back to school and blah, blah, blah.
Well, imagine my surprise when Tanner came home from school on Tuesday with twice the amount of spots. What the heck!? And I'll be honest, these spots in their beginning stage looked exactly like scabies. It was my first thought. And no, I'm not a doctor, but I had those dang bugs burrowing under my skin in the fourth grade and I know what they look like.
Panic set in. But my panic made no logical sense. His spots didn't even itch. And if my six year old had had scabies for the past TWO WEEKS then surely, the rest of us would have it. Those things breed like rabbits. Or head lice, but no need to be particular in a moment like this.
I called the doctor immediately. The results of his swab were back. He was negative for staph or any other bacteria. Oh crap. "Well, the antibiotic he's been on for a week isn't working and his spots have doubled, so that makes sense," I lamented to the nurse. She said they'd see him first thing in the morning.
I arranged a babysitter for my two dramatic monsters princesses and we were set. Everyone is showered, dressed, presentable, bundled up (it was 15 degrees out) and out the door we go . . . only to see antifreeze pouring out of the bottom of my Durango. I just stared at it, only semi-aware that if I didn't blink it was likely my eyeballs would freeze. I herded the mob back into the house and turned off my car. Then I called the babysitter and the doctor.
Oh, sure! We can totally switch your appointment to tomorrow morning! I wouldn't send him to school though. Well, no kidding. Not like I could if I wanted to. The bus has long since come to pick up Hunter and my car is nonoperational until Kyle can fix it tonight.
Something about staying home from school when he felt perfectly fine morphed Tanner into a raging beast. Seriously. If I told him 'no' about anything, he went from my totally sweet boy to a Gremlin (not the fuzzy cute kind, but the ones that came in contact with water) in two seconds flat. Screaming, kicking, pounding his head, slamming things, hysterical crying . . . you name it, he did it.
In between one of these episodes, he decided to use all of my stamps as name tags for him and his sisters. He wrote their names across the front with a Sharpie (which he obtained by scaling the refrigerator . . . I know this because I asked. He scales walls too if you were wondering) and then stuck them to their shirts . . . and their walls . . . and their doors. I'll tell you what, there wasn't one stamp left on that sheet. My son is thorough if nothing else. Of course, my explanation that stamps are not stickers for playing with, but actually representations of money and are used for mailing things was the equivalent of splashing water on my furry friend. Oh. My. Gosh. I suddenly had an image in my mind of me trying to help him with his reading and my Gremlin-fearing knees got weak.
He went to bed at 6:45. Not that it helped.
Oh, yay! It's Thursday! I mixed up my weeks and thought that my husband was off, so I told my friend that I didn't need her to watch the girls. I almost cried when I realized my error, but oh well, too late. I'm sure I can threaten good behavior. Or bribe it. The bribe is what ultimately worked if you were wondering.
So there we are, sitting in the doctor's office again, explaining to the doctor the weirdness of Tanner's situation. He was baffled. So was I. In the end he decided we were going to treat him for scabies. The fact that he didn't itch and that none of us had gotten it, made him think that we might be in the clear, but better safe than sorry he said. I started to itch instantly, of course. Hearing that your child might have scabies is no different than seeing a photo of 800 baby spiders on the internet. Trust me.
Then the doctor dropped the bomb. Well, we won't know if it's actually scabies for 3 or 4 days until we see if the treatment worked, so call me Monday and we'll go from there. Wait, best case scenario is that Tanner can't go to school until Tuesday? I remained passive.
We got in the car where Tanner proceeded to whip Haylee with her scarf until she was screaming bloody murder. When I made him stop he took Avery's book and threw it into the back so he could listen to her scream too. When I said that his behavior just lost him his chance to play his race car game on my phone, the beast came out. And I was still in the parking lot.
The words repeated in my mind, Tanner can't go to school until Tuesday at least. Should I feel this panicked!?
I got home to start the mound of laundry and sheets that would have to be washed AGAIN in hot water. I told Tanner and Haylee to take the load out of the dryer that I'd put there last night. It was one of those important loads. You know, it had things like Haylee's Christmas dress, my boys' white shirts, every white t-shirt the kids own, mounds of kiddie socks. I started laundry and came out to the couch to fold that white load.
Maybe my current mental instability was making me see spots. I blinked. Nope. Mental clarity is stellar. Those are orange spots all over every single item of clothing in that load. Orange what!? It looked like marker. I went to the laundry room to search and there it was. An orange crayon wrapper, perfectly in tact, yet completely empty of any residue of crayon that should have been there. Oh dear wrapper, if only that wax possessed your fortitude.
So I start scouring the internet and find what I'm hoping will be my miracle cure. Well, I'm on round two of that miracle cure and so far it's not working. There's still orange. Everywhere. I guess it's a good thing that we are confined to this house Sunday because that way I won't have to buy new white shirts for my boys' suits until next week. What a thrill.
And hey, her dress might be horrifically ruined, but Haylee loves polka dot socks. I might be able to squeeze mom of the year out of this week after all. I also think I'm going to start watching horror movies until I find something to replace my fear of Gremlins. That way if we decide not to homeschool it won't be because I'm terrified of my own children.
I'm not a stingy person and I've never been obsessed with stuff. I don't think my life is over when my kids pee on the couch or cut their sheets with scissors. Stuff is replaceable. Relationships are not. That's my motto. I will admit that I almost cried when I dropped a thousand dollar lens out of my camera bag onto a tile floor and broke it, but that's the only time I can think of where I came even remotely close to crying over spilled milk.
For this reason, I've never felt the need to put my things up and out of reach. I've even let Hunter try his hand at using my expensive camera. With me right there, of course . . . the thing weighs like 856 pounds.
Anyway, I've changed my mind. The camera will be in a secret vault when it's not in my hand.
I'm sure you can understand why. Moral of the story: take better care of your stuff.
She's gorgeous, right? My little angel. Look at those cute, chubby cheeks and darling eyelashes. Looking at this photo, it's difficult to imagine her any other way.
But then again there was the episode this afternoon. The one where she slapped me as hard as she could across the face. In line. At the grocery store. In front of like twenty people.
I had a few thoughts in that moment. My initial thought was to slap her back. My grandma would've done it and her tactic was effective. My mom only bit her once. No, no, there are people everywhere. A reaction like that would get me thrown in jail.
Next came my death stare. I gave her the look, a necessary step on the path towards invoking terror in my children. Why does she have that sparkle in her eye? This is far from funny. I dare her to laugh! I will not be mocked by a one year old!
"Tag! You're it!" she shrieked with delight.
My jaw actually dropped a little. Bystanders were starting to chuckle.
I wondered if I could get away with slapping her if I just yelled out, "Tag!" afterwards. It worked for her.
Of course, then Haylee yelled out, "Tanner's sniffing my butt!" and my toddler's violent episode was totally forgotten.
My four year old, Haylee, stood there, lip quivering, on the verge of a total breakdown. All I did was go in to her room to make sure she was putting on her pajamas so I was a little surprised by what I found.
“Haylee, what’s the matter, sweetie!?”
“Yeah, right. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t wanna have a baby in my tummy!” (insert uncontrollable sobbing here)
I just stood there. I’m certain I looked like a mortified, albeit confused, idiot. Fortunately for me, in the midst of her breakdown, there is no way she noticed my incompetence at this particular moment.
“Uh, honey, I’m not sure what you mean. You’re only four. You will NOT be having a baby in your tummy for a long time.”
Now she was mad. “I don’t EVER want to do it!” she snapped.
I was getting more perplexed (and alarmed) by the second. “Ever!? I thought you wanted to be a mama and have babies.”
Hysteria. “I DON’T WANT THEM TO GIVE ME A SHOT!”
This situation went from totally insane to hysterical in two seconds flat.
“Well, honey, you don’t necessarily get a shot when you’re pregnant. Only some people do. And besides, you won’t have a baby in your tummy until you’re older and married anyway.” I didn’t tell her about the blood draws that all pregnant women get because sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
She did not look convinced, but went about her bedtime routine. I went into her brothers’ room and then came back to tuck her in. To my surprise, she was face down in her pillow trying to muffle her sobbing. I was baffled. This is the girl who got multiple vaccinations at her four year check-up without even flinching. As a matter of fact, she chose to get them then instead of waiting until she was five because she “might as well get them over with.” Why on Earth is she sobbing over the possibility of an injection twenty years in the future!? Just when I think I know what I’m doing I realize that I don’t. At all.
“Hales, honey, are you still upset about that?”
“NO!” She practically screamed it at me.
“What’s the problem then, sweetheart?”
“I don’t wanna get married!” (insert uncontrollable sobbing here . . . again)
Oh no, what have her Dad and I done to damage this poor child? It’s all I could come up with.
“Why not? Getting married is great. You get to marry somebody nice and have a family. That’s how I got you.”
Long pause. “I don’t like the kissing!”
If I hadn’t been completely stuffed up from my head cold, I would’ve snorted. Illness saved me. That doesn’t happen every day.
“Well . . . I don’t blame you. You’re four. But some day you won’t mind so much.”
“Yes, I will!” She was losing it. I had to think of something and fast.
“Well, it’s nothing you have to worry about right now. There’s no point in even thinking about it. You have to be as old as Aunt Emily before it will even be much of a concern.”
She calmed down. Success. Thanks, Em.
I tucked her in and walked out of the room. I stood there slightly baffled, wondering about the dramatics of the little girl that was sleeping under my roof. Of course, then I went and told her dad and snickered about it.
But after my laugh, I still sat there wondering about my little Haylee. I wondered how her thought process got her to the point of our discussion. I wondered why it upset her so much. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, this girl broadsides me with a two-by-four. She does it all the time. How am I supposed to be a successful parent with her acting like this!?
A few minutes later I laid Avery down to change her diaper and put her pajamas on. “I’m stinky butt!” she hollered at me with a big, gappy grin. Okay, that’s more like it. That I can deal with. Why doesn’t my four year old stick with more basic conversations like that?
At this time of year, people’s expressions of gratitude seem to increase a hundredfold. I’ve always wondered why they don’t feel gratitude to that extent in months besides November, but I’ve also been happy to see that so many people are still aware of the richness of their blessings.
I feel like I have an abundance of things to be grateful for. I typically do a good job of expressing that gratitude, whether through words or actions. I can’t think of a moment when I haven’t been grateful for my motherhood, in particular. And as everyone knows, I’m pretty vocal about it.
However, something happened this last week which has made me grateful for it in a completely different way. I learned something profound about gratitude. And it’s not that the concept is entirely new to me, but I’d never seen it in this light.
I woke up just after midnight Sunday morning throwing up. Moments later I discovered that my oldest had also thrown up in his sleep. He was sleeping soundly in one of the most disgusting messes I’ve seen (knock on wood). It only took me moments to realize that he’d thrown up so much that it had gone down the wall and somehow deflected onto his little brother. So Tanner’s head, pillows and sheets were also covered in vomit. He was sleeping through the whole episode too, which I find disturbing and perplexing on so many levels, but who am I to judge the sleeping prowess of another?
Side note: I know everyone touts the space-saving ability of bunk beds as a tremendous virtue, but the chance of getting thrown up on by someone on the upper level is a rivaling negative that should be more publicly discussed. There needs to be a warning label at least. This piece of furniture is hazardous and the Surgeon General should get on that. Just saying.
Anyway, I’ll spare you the rest of the nauseating details, but let it suffice to say that I stood there for several moments. I stood there staring at what I knew I had to take care of, feeling sicker than I had in a long time and wondering how I was going to accomplish it.
I quickly found myself getting annoyed. My nausea helped my negativity right along its not-so-merry way. After getting two boys showered, starting laundry and opening a window until I could do the rest, I was basically irate.
After getting my head out of the toilet, I found myself lying on the couch. I stared at the ceiling, fuming about the mess I just had to clean up and thinking about the one that was still awaiting me. I was murmuring all sorts of things to myself about how moms aren’t supposed to get sick and about how I shouldn’t have had to do that. I even realized that I was mad at my son for throwing up in his sleep. How could he expect me to clean up that mess!?
I glanced over at my two sleeping boys who had taken up residence on the living room floor after their room was declared uninhabitable and was overcome by a feeling that I’d never had before.
“Be grateful for all of it, even the awful parts,” the feeling said, “You wouldn’t want your obligation to these children to be gone, nor would you want that responsibility to fall to someone else.” My thought process stopped dead.
No, I wouldn’t. You’re right. I almost uttered the thought aloud.
I instantly felt the warmth that so often accompanies gratitude. I stared at my boys again. I couldn’t imagine having them gone, rendering my service no longer necessary. I couldn’t imagine voluntarily handing my responsibility to serve and love these children over to someone else. I couldn’t imagine their absence or an obligation disappearing that has always been mine.
I suddenly felt grateful for every speck of vomit that I’d ever had to clean up. I felt grateful for the fact that I haven’t slept through the night in two years because neither has my baby. I felt overwhelming gratitude for everything required of me that seemed ridiculously impossible when it presented itself. I felt grateful for dirty laundry and puddles on bathroom floors so severe that I was sure my kids must not have noticed the gigantic toilet bowl right in front of them. I felt gratitude for the adversity that characterizes my motherhood.
Truthfully, I’ve been grateful for adversity before. I’ve learned a lot from my challenges. But never before had I felt grateful that my children needed my service. I’ve felt gratitude for them, but never for the challenges that their presence automatically brings.
I hope that as we proclaim our gratitude this holiday season that we remember to extend that gratitude to every challenge that those particular blessings bring. Be grateful that you’re needed, thankful that you’re necessary and happy that no one has had to step in because you gave up.