Tag Archives: challenges of parenthood

Beneath the dust and love

by Tessa Meyer Santiago

Often in the past twenty years, I have been surprised by a feeling: as if I’ve woken to find myself in a place not altogether unknown, but surprising all the same: walking down the hallways of the high school, I expect to see Karen and Patrick hanging out by the book room, as they did in 1983. I know, intellectually, I’m 43 and on my way to pick up a child for the orthodontist, but pushing through those glass doors into the high school smell, I feel the sixteen-year-old thrill of walking down the hallway, hoping against schedule and tardy make-up, that he will be there today. And there he is, walking towards me, his basketball calves stretching Allen Iverson-thin into his khaki Dickies. My heart skips a beat, as I watch him saunter toward me. That he calls me “Mom” stuns me into present. To my surprise, the lanky man-child walking toward me with that half-hitch in his step, braces glinting, is not Derek, but my son, Christian.

A post-midnight with sleeping bodies in beds, lights off everywhere, except maybe over the sink, a cup of rooibos tea in hand, curled up on the leather couch, book on the arm, listening to the noises of the night house. I’ve spent so many nights in this position at this same time, that, if I am very still, and all I hear is my breath and the same heart beating inside me since before memory, it is hard to tell whether the breathing coming from the other room is my father or my husband; am I seven or forty-three?

Can I be all three? Because, sitting on the couch in my forty-three-year old body, I can still feel the hot flush of shame that fills a seven-year-old body when she realizes she is wholly out of step with the majority, that what she thought was normal was, in fact, quite startling. I can still remember taking my mother’s hand to cross Main Road in Claremont, spacing my fingers to fit between hers, feeling the warmth of her palm cup against mine. My son Adam holds my hand as we run through the parking lot after the game (not as often as before but sometimes still) and when his little fingers fill the curves at the base of mine, for a moment I cannot quite tell whose hand is whose. I am simultaneously small Tessa, knobbly-kneed in green school uniform, and someone’s mother. The years run through me like it was yesterday, today and tomorrow at the same time. Continue reading

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Katrina Kenison is the author of Mitten Strings for God and The Gift of an Ordinary Day. She blogs at Ordinary Day Journal. (Thanks to Gabi for passing along this great clip.)

Scrambled Heart, Part 1

I have spent countless days in hospitals: Someone checks you in, you fill out papers, they take copies, you wait. Someone else rolls your son in a wheelchair down the wide corridor, past the grand piano where elderly volunteers play “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” or “Five Foot Two” or “Amazing Grace,” up the elevator to a private room on the sixth floor where you’ve been before. You follow behind, making small talk and smiling, packing the necessary equipment – cell phone, laptop and an unread book – you will need to stay occupied while you wait. And wait. You wait for blood tests and x-rays and doctor visits while you play with your cell phone downloading worthless ring tones and pictures of purple mountains you will never look at again. You watch the black shadows move down the concrete walls on the buildings outside the window. You rub your son’s palm with your index finger, the way you did when he was a baby. You try to read, but your eyes blur. You fill up the room with balloons from the gift shop, because no one even knows that your son is in the hospital, again, and no one sends balloons or stops by or calls. So you fill in the space. Continue reading

7 things I’ve learned from motherhood

1. After you leave the hospital, in the middle of the night, when the baby won’t sleep…it’s all you. (And your husband, of course, if you’ve got a good one.) But the point is, from now on, when that little face looks around for food, comfort, nurturing…you are the one. And it’s a humbling, beautifully terrifying prospect.

We’ve loved our daughter since the day she was born, but because she came to us in a different way, I’ll never forget this experience:

When she was almost three months old I went to a luncheon. Many of the women there wanted to see and hold her, and she was getting passed around quite a bit. I don’t know if something happened or if she was just getting tired of all the passing, but she began to cry and look around. Finally she found me and her eyes locked on mine; she smiled through her tears as if to say: “Mommy, I found you! Save me!” All I could think of at that moment, was “Oh my gosh, she’s looking for me!” It was an emotional experience for me for obvious reasons. She knew I was her mother. And when she saw me, she knew she would be okay.

(First lesson: you are The One.) Continue reading

Forgetting and remembering

I had my first baby. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. Labor was a piece of cake compared to trying to nurse and trying to have the baby gain weight and trying to take a shower and trying to sleep and trying to be a wife and trying to eat and trying to be happy that this little gift was here forever and I was in charge. My mom never told me this part!

But we survived. I would look at her darling face and forget the pain. And I had another. Oh how grand boys are! The perfectly pristine life of my first darling baby forever changed. She was introduced to PBS. I could nurse the baby and rest. I could take a shower and clean the new baby. I could fix dinner while the baby was sleeping. I could go to the bathroom alone.

We were happy and I would look at my two perfect babies and forget the chaos. And I had another. She was darling and quiet and perfect. Baby number two was introduced to PBS and I survived. But, my voice rose and life for number one and two changed. Their quietness became louder. They were introduced to time out. They had to learn it was not okay to bite the baby. We do not hit in our house. It was never okay to leave the house alone. We do not run down the street and around the block, ignoring mom yelling to come back now!

We played and took walks and loved life and I would look at my three precious babies and forgive the naughtiness. And I had another. Baby number four took us all by surprise. He ate and slept and ate and grew and grew and ran and ran and hasn’t stopped. Babies one, two and three have taken to taking care of baby four. He needs 5 people watching out for him. He needs to not be naked before he goes outside. He needs a snack now before he dies. He needs his hand held before he falls and cuts his eye wide open requiring 6 stitches. He needs to laugh and swing and take walks. He needs to be loved by all.

His world will never change.

I’ve remembered it all now. I won’t forget and have another.

…but I wish I could…

Jayne Thomas lives in Charleston, SC with 4 babies that keep getting bigger and bigger. She tries to remember what time swim practice is and why she walked upstairs. She can be reached at jaynecas@yahoo.com.

Embracing normal

I was chatting with my darling neighbor who has 3 tiny kiddos, is pregnant with her 4th, and in the middle of tearing up and remodeling her home. She’s feeling a wee bit stressed.

Soon tears were flowing and she said, “But I shouldn’t complain. You’ve got twice as much going on as me and you are always so pulled together.”

Ha! Me? Pulled together?

I told her: “I sincerely and honestly apologize if I’ve ever given you that impression. I would never want anyone to think that about me.”

As the mother of five wild boys and one crazy little princess, I am not trying to create any illusion of perfection. 10 days out of 10 I have moments where I simply CAN’T HANDLE life. And I also have really great happy moments 10 days out of 10. I choose to believe that’s a normal part of motherhood.

My friend Missy told me a story of hiking with her dad when she was 8 years old. The hike was easy and fun for the first few miles, but as the elevation increased and Missy’s energy wore down she struggled for breath and fought to keep up with her father. Convinced that something was truly wrong with her body she called to her dad, “I can’t do it. You go on. I’ll wait here.”

Her father stopped, sat her down and gently explained, “You’re OK. We’re higher on the mountain now and the air is thinner. You have to take deep breaths and I need to slow down and walk slowly with you. You’re going to make it. You’re going to be fine. This is normal.”

For Missy, those words made all the difference—there wasn’t anything wrong with her; it’s normal to struggle when you are not getting enough oxygen.

And I guess that’s my message to all my fellow mothers. None of us are getting enough oxygen. Every mother I know, whether she has 10 kids or 1, is pouring every bit of her energy into the bottomless pit of motherhood. It’s meant to be hard. This is normal.

I don’t ever anticipate being the pulled-together super-mom. I don’t want to be. Forgetting a birthday party or serving cereal for dinner is fine with me. If I ever get too organized I may not have time to sit and hold my Gabriel while he tells me about last night’s dream or I may not be willing to leave the beds unmade and go on a walk with a friend. Inadequate, imperfect, scatterbrained, messy—it all makes me a better mother.

I should stop here but I won’t. My cute neighbor said she tried to explain her stress to her mother but her mother’s reply was, “You have no idea how lucky you are. There are so many people in the world with bigger problems than yours.”

I beg to differ. My friend is a nurse in a child abuse unit; she served an 18-month service mission in Guatemala. She is acutely aware of the problems in the world and often expresses her profound gratitude for her husband, home, and children. Just talking about her blessings throws her into guilty worries that she isn’t grateful enough.

But taking care of 3 small people, growing a new one in your belly and picking out tile for the kitchen are exhausting, oxygen-depleting tasks. Not life threatening, but exhausting. It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be overwhelmed. This is normal.

Michelle Lehnardt never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her 5 fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

To the Mom Who’s Not Perfect

Because I’m someone who holds myself to a high standard, I understand how you feel. Because I’ve failed again and again at important Mom-things, I get you. Because I’ve made being a Great Mom my highest priority and fallen short more days than not, I feel for you. And so I’m writing us both this letter.

A turning point in the Unbearable Guilt Battle happened when I’d been a mom for about two years. My oldest (poor, poor guinea pig that she is) had dumped a bottle of shampoo into the tub, and I’d screamed at her. Again. I was feeling sick with guilt and failure and self-hatred. And I wished SO MUCH that these perfect kids, who I loved more than anything, could have a better mom than the one they’d ended up with. As I prayed for forgiveness and direction about it, an Answer came.

The Answer was: “I didn’t plan for Emma and Gabe (and the rest of them waiting up here) to have a Perfect Mom. I didn’t expect it or want it that way. I wanted them to learn against your imperfection. They will not be wrecked because you make these mistakes.”

Oh my gosh. The relief that washed over me, as the truth of that statement sank into my heart, is indescribable. All of sudden I could see that God knew that I couldn’t do this perfectly MY FIRST TIME and He’d planned for it. He’d planned that my children would learn and grow BECAUSE of my failings and flaws, as well as because of my successes and strengths.

There have been many other incidents of failure and the guilt that accompanies it. I’ve continue to gain more offerings of comfort and wisdom during those times. I’ve learned from the scriptures that just as the man who was blind since birth wasn’t at fault, neither was I at fault because I couldn’t see how to parent perfectly. His failings were given him, so “that the works of God should be made manifest” (John 9:3); might my failings have a similar purpose? I’ve also had wise counsel instructing me that as my children watch me pick myself up, and try again, with hope and determination, they would learn more from those actions, than if I hadn’t had faults at all.

Oh please let it be true.

I know my kids will have their moments (years?) when they are frustrated with their mom. I know they will have habits that they hate, because of what they’ve learned from me. But I know that I can look them in the eye and with great love tell them: “There wasn’t a day that went by, as I raised you, that I didn’t plead to God to be better than I was. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t pray for help in being the mother you deserve.” I will be able to bear my witness that He answered that prayer.

I am the mother that God wanted them to have.

jessica.jpg Jessica Romney lives in Spokane, Washington with her 4 kids and perfect husband. She loves to exercise, cook, blog, read, and be with friends. You can find her at Everyday Romneys.