I find little appeal in letting small water creatures nibble away at my calloused feet. Can we just agree that that’s gross and call it a day?
Here’s the funny thing, though – sometimes motherhood feels like you’re living inside that tank being nibbled to death by tiny fish.
We’re on day one of spring break, and I’m already exhausted. We chose to stay close to home this year both to save money, but also so that we could host two players from the FC Liverpool team who are visiting the States for a tournament. Sounds fun, right?
Except I basically tortured my children today by forcing them to clean on their spring break. It seems I’ve obliterated my chances for that Mom of the Year title…maybe forever.
They scrubbed toilets, pulled weeds, cleaned gutters, and made a half-hearted attempt to help me get some of the fallen leaves out of the flower bed.
And they were NONE TO HAPPY TO OBLIGE!
In between these torture sessions chores, I forced them to turn off electronics and move their bodies. You know…interact with the real world. Enjoy the perfect Florida day. Anything that didn’t involve a screen.
By noon we were all basically sick of one another. I was annoyed with their attitudes, and they were devastated at what can only be chalked up to a loss of all their freedoms.
This was when I gave my mom speech. That super motivational tome about all their many privileges, and how disappointing it was to be met with such ungratefulness. A real pep talk. I laid it on thick, then let the words sort of hang in their air for a few minutes until one of them skulked over with a weak “Sorry, Mom.”
The other two followed suit somewhat reluctantly. And Annika went on screaming because it was past her nap time, and she doesn’t give a flying flip about my disappointment.
The rest of the afternoon found the children much sweeter, but it seemed my mom speech backfired somewhat as now all the children wanted to be with me. Like, physically on my person. They wanted to be held and snuggled and played with and SWEET MERCY I HAD THINGS TO DO!
Little by little, though, their “I love you’s,” and “will you play with me’s” wore me down. Like the fish in those tanks, they nibbled away at my frustration until they’d all but smoothed it out. (Well a couple of them, anyway. One of those kids of mine is more like a leech, latching on and sucking the very life out of me most days.)
So all that to say, spring break is off to a great start. This staycation thing was a super idea. Saving money is just so much fun.
My fingers might be dropping a little sarcasm right now.
The rest of the week should prove to be more enjoyable. We have plans – real plans. Actual plans that involve leaving the house!
And so I shall continue to swim in this tank of my life, being slowly nibbled at by all these small people living with me. It’ll either smooth me out completely, leaving me refreshed and renewed…or it’ll kill me.
(Who else is on spring break right now? Are you having fun, or are you choosing to torture your kids like me?)
When I first became I mother, I knew everything there was to know about mothering. As I lay nestled in my hospital bed with Sloan all bundled tight and hot against my chest, I felt a confident calm. Because I had read all the books, so I knew how this was all going to shake down.
I was going to nail motherhood.
Twelve and a half years later, I’m four kids in, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. On any given day, I’m pretty sure I’m winging it.
None of my babies, not even the littlest, like to be wrapped tight and lay against my chest for any period of time anymore. They’re busy, and they take their snuggles on the go.
And also, I now understand just how little I know about this act of mothering.
Oddly enough, I haven’t figured it all out. I started out so confidently, and then that swaddled bundle of mine grew into a little boy – a strong-willed little boy with opinions. And then two more joined the fray, and they had opinions.
And then the fourth one came along, and I’ve decided not to allow her to formulate opinions. I’m sure that’s going to work out well for me.
So now I live in a house full of small people, all of them clamoring to make their opinions known, each one pushing back in their own unique way and, quite frankly, there are some days when I think I might lose my mind.
And there are other days when I’m pretty sure it’s already been gone for some time.
So what’s a mom to do when she’s lost her mind, and the children are crying, and the house is a mess, and her husband is out of town, and the insanity of it all just. won’t. stop?
She can start by taking a few deep breaths. In the middle of typing that last sentence, one of my children spilled an entire bowl of cereal. The milk dumped out onto the baby who was standing underneath the table, and I wanted to cry because all I want is to finish a sentence.
Just a sentence.
But you know that thing about crying over spilled milk? Yeah, there’s something to that. Because it was just an accident. He didn’t spill his cereal as an attack on me. He wasn’t trying to interrupt my train of thought.
He was just trying to give his sister a bite of his cereal and his elbow got in the way.
So *deep breath* we cleaned it all up and moved on. Because I know now that damaging their little hearts over an accidental spill isn’t worth it. Growing angry over my children’s childish behavior isn’t productive for them or for me.
As I raise these children of mine, I’m growing up, too. Some days I do great. I take deep breaths, and I smile as I mop up spilled milk.
Other days, I have to leave the room for a few minutes to pull it together.
And sometimes I have to apologize.
[Tweet “Motherhood is as much an act of my own personal growth as it is my children’s growth.”]
My friends, Wendy and Amber, have written a wonderful resource for moms to help us as we grow into motherhood. It’s a process, this business of being mom. It’s not innate – not really. Every day is different, every child is different, every life stage is unique, and we have to keep up.
I’m thankful for resources that come along and support my growth as a mom. Using sound biblical guidance, Wendy and Amber have given us tools for dealing with each TRIGGER that might threaten to undo us. We don’t have to do this motherhood gig alone.
If you feel like you’re drowning and you can’t get a handle on the emotions that accompany parenting, I highly recommend this book.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to mop up a sticky floor. And also, the toddler has gotten really quiet. That’s never, ever a good thing.
We sat close to the back of the plane, on a (mercifully) half full flight. Taking turns, Lee and I passed Annika back and forth across the aisle, her indignant wails reverberating off the airplane walls in a cacophony of torture.
We avoided contact with the other passengers as much as possible, but when a furtive glance was accidentally exchanged, we were mostly met with pitying stares. Thank you, kind people of Southwest flight 2150. Your patience was noted and deeply appreciated.
As the plane made it’s descent, she finally collapsed on Lee’s shoulder, gasping and snorting from ALL THE CRYING. With five minutes left in our flight, she fell fast asleep, completely exhausted by toddlerhood. And in the few minutes of silence that followed, I reflected on just how far I’ve come.
I thought back to the time when Lee and I flew with Sloan to California and he, too, had an epic melt down on the plane. I was so stressed, near tears myself, entirely frustrated with my uncontrollable toddler. I was certain his behavior was a reflection of my poor mothering, and I’m pretty sure I vowed on that flight that I would never, ever, in a million years have another child because MOTHERING IS TOO HARD!
Yesterday, however, as Annika screamed bloody murder, Lee and I simply laughed. We found her screeching wails quite humorous, mostly because the look on her face was so accusatory. I’m pretty sure she cussed us out more than once as we forced her to sit in our laps.
More than anything, though, I realized that what would have sent me into a fit of frustrated tears and angst a decade ago now only left me mildly amused. I don’t have time to worry about mid-flight temper tantrums anymore. And I also have the experience to know it won’t last forever.
This was one small moment in a very long timeline of events.
I was twenty-five when I had my first baby. I didn’t yet have wrinkles on my forehead, and the weight from that first pregnancy melted away like magic within six months.
I was quite idealistic back then, and even though I tried not to show it, I pretty much thought I had the whole motherhood thing figured out. At least I thought so until that tiny baby grew into a little human with ideas and opinions. Very strong opinions. Very, very strong opinions.
By the time baby number four arrived at thirty-six, I had changed in more ways than one. There are now these pesky lines across my forehead that mock me every time I look in the mirror, and the baby weight hasn’t so much melted away this time around as it’s sort of just shifted around and informed me it doesn’t intend to go without a fight.
I’m no longer idealistic, and I’ve found that motherhood isn’t something you figure out. You only live it, one step and one cup of coffee at a time.
While I would like to have the smooth forehead and wicked fast metabolism of my youth back, I’m not really sure I’d want to relive those days. I’m better now – more comfortable in my skin, more confident with my dreams, and far more open to the kinks that my children like to throw in my otherwise well-planned days.
So bring it on, kids! I’m Mom-ing like a boss these days, so you can come at me with your temper tantrums and your eye-rolling. I may not always handle it perfectly, but I can guarantee I’m more likely to laugh than cry, because I know something now that I didn’t know then:
This is one small moment in a very long timeline of events.
Yesterday has passed.
Today is a new day.
And the baby is now three hours into a nap.
Life is so good.
Has anyone else experienced the hell of a screaming toddler on a plane? Do share. We can commiserate with one another.
I was twenty-five years old, a brand new mom, and I rolled slowly to a stop in front of her house. I picked up my weeks old baby boy and walked to the front door, loaded down with an overstuffed diaper bag, several blankets, and a deep need for someone to tell me I would survive.
When Laura opened the door, she whisked the baby from my arms and bounced up and down with him while I set up the pack and play in a nearby bedroom. Once he was settled and sleeping peacefully, little bum up in the air, she and I sat on the couch, and we just talked.
Her kids were all off at school, and for the first time since she’d become a mom herself, she had extended periods of time alone. Her youngest had just begun first grade, and now all three were in school full days. She and I were both in transition.
Laura was looking at her free time and evaluating how she would fill it. Would she go back to work? Would she get another degree? Would she stay home? She had a lot of options, and just as I was adjusting to life with a newborn, she was adjusting to life with quiet spaces.
For the next eight years, Laura and her husband, Tom, would pour faithfully into Lee and I. They, and another couple at our church who also had children one step ahead of ours, were instrumental in our understanding of what it looks like to raise children in a Christ-centered home.
In fact, outside of our own parents, the greatest impact on our lives since we’ve been married has come from the Hughes and Krosley families.
Last night, Lee and I and the kids sat in front of the TV and watched, sometimes with tears in our eyes, as Tom and Laura’s youngest son, the little boy who had just started first grade on that day so long ago, stood up on a stage and received the Wendy’s Heisman award.
We were as proud as we possibly could have been.
Not just of Zach, though of course we’re proud of him. He’s grown from a squirrelly little boy into a young man who looks out for the needs of others, and who is one of the hardest working kids we’ve ever known.
But we were also so proud of Tom and Laura. They’ve raised three amazing kids – kids who aren’t just talented, though every single one of them are just that – but they’re also kind, loving, giving, humble, smart, and hard working.
I can boast the same things of Kevin and Pam Krosley, the other couple to mentor us through the early stages of parenting. Their (five!) kids are growing into amazing, talented, godly young people who look out for the needs of others. They’re raising world changers, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the impact these families had in our lives at such an early stage.
Even after we moved away, the Krosleys and the Hughes have continued to invest in us through phone calls, visits, and encouragement. They are still two of the couples we look to for advice, and though we’re watching from farther away, we continue to observe how they raise their kids.
Our children are now the same ages that the Hughes and Krosley kids were when we first met them. We’re in the trenches, and some days I’m certain that I’m failing miserably. Other days I take, perhaps, a little too much pride in my children’s outward talents, forgetting that the character of the heart matters above all else.
But we constantly come back to the lessons we learned from the Hughes and the Krosleys. We learned from them the value of focusing on who God has created each one of these children to be, beyond their gifts and abilities. We’ve learned to focus on the fruits that we see developing in our kids: the compassion, and mercy, love for others, and hearts for service.
Were it not for these two families who invested in Lee and I as parents, I’m not sure where we would be. I think back to the days when those dear friends were in the same trench that we now find ourselves, and I remember that it wasn’t always easy or pretty.
They fought for their kids, they prayed over them, and they dug their heels into the process, all the while letting us see what it takes to raise our own world changers. Transparency goes a long way in mentorship, and we hope to pass that torch along to others who may be a step behind us in child rearing.
And so this is my public thank you to the couples who have shaped and molded us, who have loved our kids and let us be a part of their journey. We’re proud to be called your friends.
My freshman year at Baylor University, I got locked inside The Sub, the student designated common area that housed a small cafe, a few couches and computers, and the mail room. It was the Sunday before finals week, and I crept out of the dorm just as the sun peeked up over the horizon, because cramming is an art form, and I’d mastered it.
I wanted some place that I knew I could be alone for several hours to study, so I walked to The Sub and tugged on the back door, and it opened! There were a couple of lights on, but otherwise the room was dark and completely silent. I sat down at one of the tables and pulled out my books and notebooks, then set to work.
Thirty minutes in, a man walked around the corner whistling and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw me sitting at the table. If we hadn’t been so terrified, I think we both would have laughed.
“You know The Sub is closed until 1:00 on Sundays, right?” he asked. He was the custodian making his final rounds before heading to the next building on campus. I nodded my head in response, but really I had no clue the building was closed on Sunday mornings.
These were the small details of life that eluded eighteen-year-old me.
“I’m just studying for finals,” I replied.
“Well, alright then,” he said, giving me a little wink. “You can stay. Just promise you’ll leave by 11:00 so you don’t scare the woman who unlocks the doors as much as you scared me just now.”
I smiled and nodded, and he moved on. I heard him leave the building, and I dug back into conjugating Russian verbs. Around 10:00, I could feel my eyelids growing heavy. I’d put in nearly four hours of work, and I’d had nothing to eat. It was time for breakfast and a nap. I gathered my things and headed for the door…only to find it locked tight.
I checked every door in The Sub, all of them locked. I was stuck, and at a loss for what to do next. This was 1996, which means I didn’t have a cell phone or Facebook, or really any other means for getting in touch with someone. All I had was the campus phone in the corner.
A phone with a cord attached to it. Good grief I’m old.
It took several attempts, but I finally managed to wake up a friend in the dorm and ask her to come see if she could break me out. Long story short, it took about an hour for her to find someone with a set of keys who could set me free.
That was the day I determined that studying early in the morning could legitimately be hazardous.
Image courtesy of Tammy Labuda Photography
Sometimes motherhood feels like that morning in The Sub. I start out so many days with such noble purposes, and I enter into the day assuming that it’s all going to go according to plan. Then suddenly it’s all bumbled, and I’m locked down in the decisions and the bickering and the never ending to-do list, and I can’t find my way back out.
That’s when I’m grateful for friends who pick up the phone and hear the panic in my voice, rushing to rescue me from the corner into which I’ve backed myself.
[Tweet “They say it takes a village to raise a child, but really I think it takes a village to raise a mom.”]
My friend, Wendy, said this once, and I do believe it’s true. Because going it alone in these emotionally exhausting years of raising kids starts to feel claustrophobic. If we’re not careful, we just might blame our kids for locking us in, and where would that leave us?
No, friends who pick up their phones when we call (or text…thank you modern technology) help us keep the doors open. They walk us out into the light, and nourish our starving bodies with laughter, conversation, and encouragement. And so it is that motherhood was never meant to be lived alone, but together, with the doors of life open and unlocked.
So this is my cry of thanks to the village of friends who continually rally around me, making sure I don’t get stuck inside these mothering years. They’re the ones that push wide open the door, keeping fresh air flowing through my days and making me, in turn, a better mother.
I’m glad I don’t have to go it alone.
I’m also glad that technology has given us phones without cords.
Have you thanked a friend today? Bought her coffee? Sent her a card? Or a text?