15 Things I Know About Being a Parent

Parenting is, of course, the most consuming, challenging and exhausting task that I have ever involved myself in. Some days I ask: “what were we thinking???” And on the other days, I just don’t ask. And speaking of “we”, I readily admit that marriage is a very close second in this listing of difficult things known to humankind.

It was fifteen years ago today that I first became a mother. And how well I remember that incredible day—the moments of fear when I faced the unknowns, the moments of elation when I realized what I had gained. Holding that tiny 6 lb. 7 1/2 ounce baby boy swaddled in a receiving blanket, I knew a love I had never known before. I knew a fierce need to shelter and protect that I had heretofore never experienced. I knew so much in that instant I saw his precious baby face.

I knew so little.

Sons are interesting characters. They cling close to their mamas until they reach toddler stage, and then they can’t seem to get enough of their dads. Dads hold the world in the palms of their hands, or so it seems to bright-eyed little boys. I have watched my son and his dad grow closer over the years, and I am so thankful that they have each other. Particularly in light of the fact that they are also outnumbered in our family of six (complete with four girls). This relationship they share is a gift, one not to be taken lightly. I know neither does; never would they.

In honor of my son’s 15th birthday and due to the fact that it is also the anniversary of my 15th year being a mama, here are 15 things I know now that I didn’t know back then…

1.) Every moment is a gift, and of course meant to be cherished; but some moments are meant to just be ‘lived’, and then we move on. We don’t have to make everything special. Everything extraordinary. Sometimes life is just meant to be experienced mundanely, in the everyday ordinary routine of life. This too is precious.

2.) Kids don’t always need entertainment; the more entertainment/amusement, the less imagination/creativity (at least in the world I grew up in—which means it still holds true for my Fearless Four. Because I say so.).

3.) Sincere apologies are best taught through humble parental modeling.

4.) Some things like burps and flatulence and mysterious smells from the bathroom and spilled popcorn on the bed and Vaseline on the couch and chocolate chips all over the floor and canned goods on top of the baby…and the like: these things (while startling) are not worth blowing a gasket/major artery over. Live and learn.

5.) Seeing your child show kindness to others will make your heart swell in ways that temporary academic or sporting accomplishments never could.

6.) Patience is a virtue, but when in short supply, time-outs for mama in the bathroom/quick exits from the scene of disaster also work.

7.) Four kids is a lot of kids. But then again, so was one.

8.) The question “will I love the second (third, fourth) as much” is entirely not worth entertaining for even one little second; the answer is always yes, Yes, YES! : “to the moon and back again.” Every single time.

9.) Sometimes Mamas make mistakes. Moving on…

10.) Screaming is not the most effective form of communication.

11.) Mamas are not meant to be their childrens’ best friends (that is, until said offspring start to pay for their own bills and have an income. When this miracle occurs, the boundaries are redefined).

12.) The crucial life lessons your mama taught you about responsibility, safety, security and common sense (lessons and rules that you loathed back when you were ages 5-19): they will fall from your own tongue like pearls of wisdom to your precious babies AS IF IN YOUR OWN FORMER CHILDISH OPINION THEY WERE ALWAYS GOLDEN.

13.) There is next to nothing you will not do for your child, including acting like an idiot in public on occasion (think: jumping up and down at photo shoots), going to the ends of the earth for them and resorting to begging/bartering on their behalf. Incidentally, these rules do not always apply after fifteen years parenting as you have prioritized your ability to please and thus included yourself in this lottery.

14.) Parenting in year one is very different than parenting in year fifteen. For one thing, where you once were completely trusting and naïve, now you are a bit of a sly old shrew. Also, you are more sarcastic.

15.) You realize that although there are still some days you threaten to jump ship and escape to the nearest available carnival troupe, there is nothing on this beautiful planet you would rather be doing than mothering four of the brightest, most beautiful children God’s Hands ever fashioned. And that is the plain and simple truth.

Parenting has been said to be “one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love” (Nicholas Sparks). I am thankful for the ways in which my heart has learned to expand and grow in four different directions these past 15 years.

To my Son: I will love you and your three sisters forever and always. I love you all- to the moon and back again.

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On being forgiven (or subtitled: ‘Second chances’)…

I am ashamed to say it.  I became “that” mother today.  That mother that yells at her children, that puts the house ahead of her child, that cares more about shoes than her crying preschooler- and that finally strips her child down to her birthday suit on the front door step and carries her screaming to the waiting shower (that looming cavern of fear for most preschoolers I have encountered).  That mom who then slams shower doors and later on leaves the house in her husband’s care, all while muttering under her breath that “she is going to lose her mind” as she runs toward the doorstep.  Yup.   That was sadly me today.  I became that mother I despise- the one that is a basket-case and has one precious nerve left.   Of which, it just so happens that last nerve just got stepped on.  And so now she has none.

That woman, dear reader, is me.  I am sadly “that” mother.

I am standing beside the downstairs bathroom sink, watching a cleaning bucket fill up with sudsy soap bubbles.   The bucket has been prepared for the express purpose of keeping my floors free of the muddy river clay stuck to the bottom of my son and husband’s feet, by which they will wash off their feet in the warm water and then dry off with a towel.  The boys are just getting in from a boat ride up river, and have now towed the vehicle out of the water and into our driveway for safekeeping overnight.  Boating adventures are over for another day.  The pending rain has so far been kept at bay, but the sky looks ominous.  We had planned to go for an evening boat ride to cool off, but perhaps the rain will take the humidity away for us instead.  Here’s hoping…

As I watch the water rising in my red utility bucket, my youngest daughter slips into the house and calls me from the doorway. “I have to use the washroom,” she states matter-of-factly.  I hear no urgency in her voice, so I allow myself the second or two that it takes me to turn around and walk from the bathroom to the entryway where she stands.  As I walk out of the washroom and toward her, I see between us the six or seven bags of groceries I still have not put away, along with the four pairs of soccer cleats, the various shin pads, jerseys and soccer shorts lying helter skelter everywhere, and I silently remind myself that this room is next on the list for a complete end-of-the-day overhaul.

In that ten second interlude in which I walk from the bathroom to my daughter, she has decided she cannot hold it for one second longer, and when I reach her, she is peeing on the shoes.

All.over.everything.

All over her soccer cleats, my son’s Adidas sneakers that he bought with his own money in North Carolina (won’t he be impressed), and over top the various sandals and shoes that happen to be strewn everywhere.  I feel like things are moving in slow motion, and I yell at her to ‘stooopppp’ all while making a gigantic lunge toward her small frame.  She is in no condition to stop the process that is already underway, so instead I scoop her up, all while insisting that she stop in the name of time this poor decision to pee anywhere other than the toilet (or in dire situations, outside under the tree…which is what she should have done, come to think of it), and then we two proceed out the front door.

She is crying at this point, but I am in no mood to simmer down. I keep up the tirade.  I am merciless.  I strip her down to her birthday suit, carry her back into the house, over top the puddle that has formed on my entryway floor and on into the bathroom, where I shove her into the shower and turn on the water, full blast.

I move away from the scene to collect myself.  I am still fuming.  Not only has this little inconvenience added another job to my ever-growing list, but there is the small matter of my daughter to deal with.  And she is currently screaming at me from the shower.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy?” she yells out.   I assure her I am right here in the room next to her, but she is not appeased by the sound of my voice.  I start to sift through the various grocery bags with melting ice cream and other perishables within, and as I am trotting downstairs to the freezer, I hear my daughter calling me again.  She is no longer in the shower but running naked and dripping wet through the entryway looking for me.

I think I am about to lose my mind.

I am “that” mother, at this point.  It is not pretty, nor am I proud of my decision.  In fact, I will wear my shame like a trophy all evening and into the night, when I confess my sins to my husband and later still, to God.  And the next morning, I will try to make up for my grievances by cooking a big breakfast for everyone, complete with bacon and eggs,  which I will bravely endure even though I hate the smell of bacon in my hair for the rest of the day.   And as I calmly sip my coffee and survey the peaceful faces of my family, this is what my precious daughter will say:  “That’s funny!  Last night was the worst night ever and this morning is the best day ever,” as she happily eats her scrambled eggs on toast.  She will beam at me, and I will be unable to help but say thank-you to God for inventing forgiveness.  For Father, I have sinned and been forgiven all in one short stroke of life’s paint brush.  And for that I am grateful, oh so grateful.

And my daughter, the clearest example I have of how sweet forgiveness really can be, is the one I have to thank for that.