Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dear Momma I saw at the Doctor Today With the Nine Month Old Triplet Boys,

Dear Momma I saw at the Doctor Today with the Nine Month Old Triplet Boys,

I really want to say, first off, that I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Because when I realized that in addition to your toddler daughter, there were three identical infant boys, and I had an instant spliced image in my brain of one half a pregnant-with-triplets you (you look fantastic, by the way) and the other half three babies all screaming at once at 3am, all I could manage to sputter to you was, "God bless you." And that's so not okay, because "God bless you" was one of those things people used to say to me, when I had four children under four. And I never knew how to take it. I didn't know if they had just insulted me or uttered a sincere prayer for me. I saw that same confused look on your face. I'm so sorry.

It's just that I realize now that for us mommas who are on the other side of the baby days, sometimes seeing little ones brings back a sort of PTSD of our very worst newborn night, when he wouldn't quit screaming for some unknown reason and then we turned too quickly and whacked his little head into the bedroom doorway and cried with him because we had previously suspected but now were convinced that we were the absolute worst mother in the history of ever.  So when we see you with the circles under your eyes we start to sweat and shake a little and maybe aren't totally responsible for what we might say.

But I want you to know that what I really, really meant was, God bless you. God bless you with these babies. God bless you and your exhausted self. God bless you.

And what I really wish I had said to you, there in the hallway, is, "You are so blessed." Because I know that you realize that. When they are all asleep. You stare at them in their cribs, in their little footy pajamas and their little butts in the air and you bend down and smell their sweet little heads and you are hit with such a wave of love and gratitude that it knocks you to your knees.

But I know that there are other times, when one has whined for twelve straight hours and one has diarrhea and one has just broken that sentimental thing that was your grandma's that survived a century of countless children but was demolished within seconds of your child sighting it, after you were up all night with the other one who is teething and your husband is out of town because of course he is, I know it's easy to forget how blessed you are. So easy. It's so easy to get wrapped up in how sticky your floors are and how your laundry is never caught up and how skinny you used to be and how painful literally painful not sleeping feels. 

I wish after I told you were were blessed that I said, "Listen. These are the hardest days of your life." Well, maybe for you, the hardest will hit in about a year when they are all walking and pulling books off bookshelves and discovering gravity and toilets, but you're close. Because these are the hardest days. They are so hard. It's exhausting, to be obsessed with every biological system and aspect of another human, not to mention several humans. Digestive, excretory, respiratory, neurological, endocrine, gross motor, fine motor, psychological, emotional.  You're fully aware of all of them at all times of every day, and ha! that's just when they're healthy. Throw in a rash or stomach bug and it can push you right to the teetering edge of sanity. Sometimes your brain wants to explode. Sometimes your heart wants to explode. Frequently both at once. But then one of them breaks out in hives over, what? what? and you slam another Diet Coke and just soldier on. It's hard. It's so, so hard.

And then I wish I had looked you in the eyes and said, "But it gets easier." Because it gets easier. So much easier. For instance, I have five kids, and every one of them wipes their own behind. All five. The amount of my life dealing with poop has decreased by about 97%. Well, 96%. Not only that, but they all sleep all night. But wait there's more - they can make their own cereal, brush their own teeth, and - wait for it - they even put their own laundry away. One even makes delicious gluten free brownies with absolutely no help from me. Regularly. Yes I'm serious.

Every stage of parenting has its own challenges, I've learned. None of it is easy. But the manual labor stage of it, the pure physical exhaustion, will never, ever be at the level it is for you right now.

If you hadn't been freaked out by a perfect stranger looking you in the eyes and speaking to you intensely and passionately I may have gone on to tell you that my baby boy? The one who used to smell so sweet, and slept with his little butt in the air and would destruct everything that came within twelve feet of him? Well, he'll be 11 next month. And he stinks. I mean, true, manly B.O. I know, it's so crazy. And his voice just got really deep all of a sudden. And the hormones flow like lava, hot, burning, freakish, explosive lava around here. And I'm only one inch taller than he is and we wear the same size shoe but I still totally outweigh him, dammit . And tonight when he was in the pool my neighbor nudged me and said, "Oh my gosh, does Shep have abs?" He has abs, Momma. MY BABY HAS B.O. AND ABS.

AND ONE DAY YOUR BABIES WILL HAVE B.O. AND ABS TOO.

And you'll look at them and go, how did this happen? When did this happen? Where did my babies go? What smells like B.O.?

And you'll see another momma at the doctor's office with one or two or four babies and you'll hopefully be more encouraging that I was to you. But you will still think, God bless her. Because you will have learned that as hard as these days are, that God's grace is harder. Stronger. Unexhaustive. Always available to mommas who are at the teetering edge of sanity. And that grace will guide you through the baby years, the toddler years, the elementary years, the puberty years, and beyond. You'll need it in every stage, and it will be yours at every stage, just for the asking. Because that's what parents do, they obsess/love/go without sleep for their children. And while we're loving/obsessing over the babies in our home, our heavenly father is equally loving/obsessing over us.

Don't ever quit reaching for that grace.
It tends to feel the most powerful at about 3am when you're covered in bodily fluids.
At least that's been my experience.

God bless you, Momma.

I really do mean it.  

God bless you. 









Friday, May 16, 2014

It's a three year old thing





 
Bethie is doing great. She started speech therapy and is learning to say "Yesssssssssss." She's energetic, smart, and hilarious.

But something pretty horrible happened last October.


She turned three.

Which means that now, every day at 11am, I pick her up at school. She is cute and charming to the teachers, to the teachers' aids, to the other parents, to the other kids waiting on the little steps. She says, "BUH byyyyye!" in her signature way and waves or hugs each of them as they all remark how adorable she is, her teacher gives me some anecdote about how nurturing she was to another child when he was crying, the boymoms say how they love her wardrobe and hairbows, and she prances to the her coach/Ford Expedition that awaits.

Then she hops in the car, all by herself, and I hold my breath.

If it is a good day, she looks at me and says, "Mama! 'Peech?" or "'Ome?" or "Go?"or maybe "Eat?" and launches into a modified version of Wheels on the Bus.

But some days it is one of Those Days.

And on Those Days, after her customary charm and prance, she alights her coach and just stands there. When I ask her to get in her carseat, she looks at me, squints her adorable little almond eyes, and says, "NO." So when I lift her up to physically put her in her carseat, she arches her back and slides down so that it is almost impossible for me to do the buckle, chanting, "No, no, NO Mommy! NO! NOOOOOO!" Then she holds up both of her little cute little hands and arranges her cute little middle fingers and shoots me a double bird.

Okay, not really. Her fine motor skills are not quite that advanced. They didn't have a lot of playdoh in the orphanage, you know. Had she had access to small muscle building toys I'm sure she would have perfected the double bird by now and maybe added a, what do you call it, when you put one hand into the crook of your other elbow? As if to say SHOVE IT, MAMA ?

Those Days, I don't like. Those Days I take a deep breath and wonder how long till I can get her into bed for a nap and hope that I have a Yo Gabba Gabba waiting on the DVR. Those Days I handle really well. Sometimes. Sometimes on Those Days I don't handle it well, because as much as I was hoping I would magically evolve into the perfect mother the moment we adopted her, dang it, it hasn't happened yet.

Yesterday, she took one of Those Days to a whole new level. Yesterday shall go down as Bethie's First Epic Tantrum.

It was about five o'clock and I was helping Eva rearrange her room. Bethie had had one fruit popsicle and came to me, face smeared in red, holding another wrapped in plastic, asking, "Ope? I wan more. Ope?" I told her no, one was enough. She screamed YESSSSSSSSSS. I said no.

She screamed NO! MOMMY! WANT! MORE!

And she threw the popsicle down on the floor.

I told her to pick it up.

She screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

And slammed the door in my face.

Okay, this, this is the difference between boys and girls. I've had two toddler boys. One of them was very strong willed. Very challenging. But he never slammed a door in my face. Slamming doors in faces in a female thing. Slamming doors is a, I'D FLIP MY FINGERS AND MY TOES OFF AT YOU RIGHT NOW IF ONLY I HAD THE FINE MOTOR SKILLS TO DO SO.


Females slamming doors in faces has built an entire network, y'all.

Evangeline, sweet, mostly obedient, so conscientious almost ten year old Evangeline, who loves her little sister more than almost anything in the world, watched all this, wide eyed. Then she turned to me incredulously and said, "Who does she think she is?!"

Smirking at the irony, I opened the slammed door and said, it's bedtime now, little girl. NOOOOOOOOOOO! NO NIGHTNIGHT! NOOOOOOOOO! It's been a while since I undressed a child whose bones have suddenly turned into noodles, but the skills came back. Got the clothes off. Then laying her down on the bed, I crossed one of my legs over her thrashing legs while inserting two kicking feet into a pullup and pajama pants on still thrashing legs. Then pulling a top over a screaming, gyrating head.

I won. The pyjamas were on.

I didn't earn that Tantrum Management mommy merit badge for nothing, y'all. 

Then I kissed her, told her I loved her, and put her to bed. She tried to run out of the room several times and we had to fetch her and lay her back down. She screamed. About 20 minutes. Then fell asleep. Deep, deep asleep. For fourteen hours.

Afterwards, Eva was going on and on about how unbelievable that was. She was amazed. She couldn't believe that her precious little sister had done that. Over a popsicle!

I said, "Eva. You know when I told you you were hard? That was you. THAT WAS YOU."

"Every day??" she asked.

I nodded. "Just about. Every. Day."

Her eyes were as big as saucers. "Wow."

Wow indeed.

Evangeline Rose was the. hardest. toddler. ever. She woke up in the morning, fought with me for approximately seven hours, took a nap, then fought me three more hours till bedtime.

For Halloween of 2006, when people asked what she was going to dress up as, I always said, "A witch," then muttered, "appropriately."


She was all of 25 months old.

And she was a terrorist.

I have a clear memory of me, very pregnant with Ike, at the very end of my frayed hormonal rope, looking at a beautiful, charming-to-everyone-ELSE three year old girl, who glared at me with squinted eyes as I said in a very pathetic Sally Struthers voice, Do you even love me? Do you? Because the way that you treat me, I don't even think you love me!

I blogged about that girl. I wrote this when she was exactly - exactly - Bethie's age. Later, I confessed to you here:

I recently told Walker, at the end of an especially hard day, "If Eva Rose and I were dating, we would have broken it off by now. We would both have said, "It's not you, it's me. You're great, really. I just don't think it's working out."

But we're not dating. She's my daughter. She's the result of my prayers and wishes. And, as always, God knew to answer the prayers that I never prayed, but needed. For I can no longer claim to be unaware of my own sin. I can never claim to be ignorant of my own need for the cross. I can never, ever deny my desperation for daily, sometimes hourly, redemption.

I think there was also another reason. I think that while God was refining me by the fire of one crazy strong willed toddler, he was also preparing me for the crazy strong willed sister who would follow her later. Those hard hard years were a grace in disguise. Because that first little girl? I birthed her myself. She had no traumatic background. She wasn't taken from all she knew before she became ours. There was no tragedy in her past. She had no issues, attachment or otherwise. Yet she almost caused me to lose my ever loving mind. Just about. Every. Day. 

And now, she's helping me to raise her protege.


I have thought many times over the past year that I am really, really glad Bethie was not my first child, but my fifth. My fifth two year old. My fifth three year old.  Because if my first child were adopted, I know I would be freaking out right now, thinking that tantrum, and all Those Days leading up to it was an adoption thing, an attachment thing, a parenting thing.

It's not.

It's a three year old thing.

Three year olds are narcissistic, irrational, demon-possessed little sociopaths.
Until five minutes later when they are adorable, cuddly, funny little puppies. 

They are all like this.

All of them. 

Whether you adopt them or not.

So, sweet little Bethie, with your adorable/evil ways, I'm on to you, girl. I know that October, when you turn four, will be the month of my deliverance. It will get better. I know this is not the Forever You, nor the Forever Me. I know that This Too Shall Pass.

I know that you are exploring, testing, seeing just how far you can push me. Seeing just how far my love for you will stretch.

Bring it on, pumpkin. Momma can take it. My love for you will stretch and stretch and stretch and it will never, ever break.

And I might even love you just a little bit more, the minute you turn four.






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