Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sticks and Stones

I have this aunt. She's great. She visits often and loves on the boys as much as she can while she's here. Every time she leaves she hugs me and says, "You are doing a great job with those boys. I'm so proud of you." Now, I know it's silly, but I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to hear those words every time she comes to town. I'm like a puppy waiting for the atta-boy pat on the head, and once I get it, I feel satisfied.

Parenting is hard. I don't think I was prepared for how hard it was going to be. Mentally, physically, emotionally--it's exhausting. I have to admit that I was nearing a low point in my parenting life recently. I am frustrated with my youngest and don't ever seem to have enough time for my older two. I am grumpy all the time and stress over little details. How many more months until I can restart my Prozac??? The point is, I was feeling really down about my abilities to handle three kids and a job and whatever scraps of a social life I'm managing to hold together. That is, until I got my praise fix. She has no idea how important it is to me. I casually shrug and thank her each time she offers the compliment, but inside I beam. She thinks I'm doing a good job! I haven't totally screwed my kids up for life (yet)! Yay for me. I take a bow.

A few months ago I was in a minor accident. I was turned around to check out the commotion in the backseat and didn't stop in time at a red light. I bumped the car in front of me. Thankfully, there was no damage to either car, and everyone was okay. The driver of the other car did not seem to see the blessing in that. He was irate and let me know what an irresponsible fool he thought I was and made sure that all the passing cars knew it too. Although I admitted that the accident was my fault and apologized, he felt the need to continue his tirade until I finally cowered into my car to wait for the police to arrive. He didn't lay a hand on me or even threaten to. He's probably forgotten the event occurred. (Actually, I know that he has because my husband later called him up to let him know how unhappy he was that he was mean to his wife, and the man said that he had no idea what Mike was talking about). I just couldn't shake his meanness for days. I really internalized what he said and felt very nervous about driving for the longest time.

So, the point is that you never know what effect your words will have on someone else. You might innocently say something that stings and have no idea that your words will echo in that person's head for days. You might casually drop a compliment that makes it possible for that person to pick herself up and do one more day. Robert Fulghum said, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts."

So, this being my personal therapy, I will now offer myself a compliment. I make really good chicken pot pie. There. I am a success. Try it. It feels good. Better yet, compliment someone else and let it come back to you. I have to go. I have to go tell my kids how great they are.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh, Baby!

Let me start by saying this: I LOVE my child. Now that I've gotten that out of the way...

Aaron is driving me nuts. I mean it. I am slowly losing my mind. I have forgotten my bank account pin number, and I've lost my library card. My house is a mess. I don't cook dinner. This is not like me. Okay, I've never really been much of a cook, but the rest of that stuff is not like me. The problem is that I can't think. He screams and screams and screams and I just can't think. Here's my typical day. I wake up about 5:30 to the sound of whimpering. I jump up and run to his room because if I am a second too late he will break into an all-out wail, and that will wake up my other two children (which would be dreadful at 5:30). I wrestle him into a clean diaper and then put him in my bed with me to feed him. He usually falls asleep, so I doze a little too but can't really go back to sleep because if I move out of this awkward position he will wake up and I start all over again. Sometime around 6:45 my older kids wake up and crawl into bed with me too and immediately begin to demand things (cartoons, breakfast, the toy that Brother has, whatever). At 7:00 my husband's alarm clock goes off, and he completely ignores it. I finally shove them all out of bed (minus the baby) and cuddle up with him for a few more minutes of sleep. He rejects the idea of sleep but agrees to a snack, so I feed him again. Then we're up and the day has begun. For the next 12 hours I will feed this baby for at least 20 minutes every 2 hours. He will doze off while I'm feeding him and I will sit as still as possible hoping that he gets more than 20 minutes of rest. Then the big boys come tearing into the room screaming about how "he's looking at me funny" and Aaron wakes up screaming. Sometimes I get the wild idea that it would be fun to leave the house before the walls officially close in on me. I put Aaron in his car seat at which point he begins the whimper. This grows into an all-out tantrum about 5 minutes into the car ride. The big boys try to talk to me across the screaming, and I get frustrated. I can't yell at the baby (he's just a baby, after all), so I cleverly yell at my older kids. Now I feel guilty. I buy them a milk shake. The baby is still crying. I give up and go home where I go back to feeding him while trying to play with the big kids. Mike comes home at 5:30, and he has all kinds of ideas about things we could do with our evening. Most of these activities do not involve breastfeeding a screaming child, so he goes on with the plans while I sit here and nurse the baby a little more. I try over and over to explain to him how important it is to me that he keep me company since I have been without adult conversation all day, but he doesn't get it and thinks that as long as he's home, that counts. So, he's outside mowing the yard or staining the deck or cleaning out the garage and congratulating himself on being a great husband. He is, really. He just has no concept of how lonely it is to be a stay-at-home mom. Anyway, then we begin the bedtime routine. This should actually begin shortly after breakfast because that's about how long it takes. By now the baby is exhausted from not napping all day long, so he is screaming and cannot be consoled. He cries harder if Mike holds him, so I sit on the bed and nurse him while reading bedtime stories to my children. Then they're off to bed. It's almost 9:00. I survey the day's damage to my house. There are dishes in the sink, about an inch of dog hair on the carpet, toys all over the floor, and a pile of unfinished work on my desk. I decide to skip all of it because I'm starving and exhausted. It will still be there tomorrow, after all. And MAYBE tomorrow will be one of those days when Aaron smiles and waits patiently in his high chair while I fix the boys' lunch. I do have those days...just not very often. I live for those days. I'm off to bed but still on call because the baby will wake up at least once tonight hungry. And so it begins again.

If you have never had a fussy baby, this is not making any sense to you. I signed up for this, and I knew what I was getting into when I decided to have children, yes? No no no. There is no sound worse than your child crying. I mean that. I would rather listen to fingernails on the chalkboard, grinding teeth, jet engines in my living room than hear one of my children cry. I don't mean this in the sweet "I just want them to be happy all the time" kind of way. I mean that they start crying and some kind of crazy switch goes off in my head and I become a lunatic. I can keep my cool for a few minutes. Children will cry. I get that. But this baby has some kind of stamina I can't describe. He can cry for an hour easily. Oh, and we moms cleverly hold our babies up on our shoulders where we can pat them and cuddle them...right next to our ears. Sometimes he cries and I have no idea what he wants and so I just cry right along with him. The worst days are when I take out my frustration on my big kids. Those poor guys make a mess or speak too loudly and I jump all over them. There just aren't enough milkshakes in the world to make up for those days. I hate this about myself.

I've tried to solicit support from my family. I guess it's hard for them because they have either never experienced all this or are just so far removed from it that it's a distant memory. Their support always ends up sounding like I'm to blame. "Quit breastfeeding and switch to formula." "He just doesn't like to feed on that side." "He's never grouchy for me." "He was fine until you got here." I know they don't mean it to be hurtful, but it sure is. I won't go into all the details, but it's been difficult and painful to breastfeed him. Formula feeding would be SO much easier. I could eat a hot meal because someone else could give him a bottle. I could sleep through the night because Mike could get up with him when he cries. I could drink coffee and wine. I wouldn't worry about leaking every time I hear a baby cry in the grocery store. I could stop pumping every night before I go to bed. I could wear dresses to church. I could leave him for more than a couple of hours at a time. I could take Prozac. Oh, how I miss Prozac. BUT this is good for him. Grouchy though he may be, he's healthy. This is the right thing to do. I know that and absolutely believe it. I just wish that those around me believed it too so they would be a little more supportive.

So, I've written all of this while the baby nursed and fell asleep on my lap. He's still there now. There are these few moments every day when he's asleep or finally happy, and I can look at him without panic setting in, and then I can see how beautiful he is. His bilirubin finally evened out, and now he has this wonderful creamy-pink skin. He is getting really fat, and his sweet little legs poke out of his shorts in rolls. His breathing is soft and sweet, and every now and then he smiles a little as though he's dreaming of something pleasant. I rub his little arm, and he's as soft as silk. I just want to breathe all of this in. He will wake soon, and in my frantic attempts to soothe him, I will quickly forget how amazing it is to be blessed with this little miracle. I'm sure that 25 years from now I will remember moments like these and forget all the really tough times in between. I will smugly offer unsolicited advice to my children about how to calm their babies and just be sure that my own kids never cried like that. I hope that's true. It's pretty hard to imagine today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I'm driving home tonight when I see a man standing on the side of the road next to his car waving jumper cables. I have just a second to make a decision: stop and help or avoid eye contact and keep driving. Now, it's not that I minded helping this guy. I could just hear my mom in the background telling me to keep driving. "He could be planning to abduct you when you get out of the car." Okay, we're on the side of a fairly busy road near a lot of houses in broad daylight. No harm, huh? So, I pull over. Then my skin starts to crawl. I didn't give this enough thought. The man has long stringy hair, really awful teeth, old sweaty clothes, and a crippled hand. I kid you not, the man had a crippled hand. His car was very old and rusty. What have I done? Okay, it's too late to turn back now. I'll just stay in the car. I'll roll down the window a bit and tell him that he's welcome to use my car to jump his, and I'll just stay seated with the doors locked. He tells me that his hood won't stay open, that he has to hold it open. I see that he's not lying, but how do I know he didn't rip the hood-holder-opener (does it have a technical name?) off just for this very set-up? I get out and stay really close to the road, making eye contact with every driver that passes. I hold his hood open while he goes to work attaching the jumper cables. He starts his car, his engine purrs, he removes the cables, and we close our hoods. He thanks me and offers to pay me for my help. I decline and tell him good luck with his car. I get back into my car and drive home safely wondering if I did the right thing. Mike didn't think so when I told him. He said it scared him. Honestly, I was scared too, although it would have been really hard for him to grab me without several people noticing.

I can't shake this off. First of all, I'm completely ashamed that I was so judgemental. I noticed the man's unkempt appearance and shabby car and assumed that he was dangerous. I guess we never completely outgrow the ugly bad guy/handsome hero fairy tales. At least I didn't. Secondly, I watched a whole string of cars drive past this guy without stopping. What if this was my dad or my husband stranded at the side of the road? I mean, he can't help it that he drives a death-mobile, and maybe he was just on his way home from jogging and that's why he was so unpresentable. I just don't know. Maybe this is Jesus Christ Himself standing on the side of the road and growing more and more distraught that no one is willing to help a stranger. But maybe he's dangerous. You just don't know. I still can't decide if I would stop again. If I'm giving advice to a young girl, I say keep driving. Maybe call someone to go help him. But would anyone, really, leave his house to go drive across town and help a stranger that may or may not still need help by the time he go there? I doubt it.

So, don't judge a book by it's cover. Or proceed with caution. I don't know which applies here. Just hope that if you ever have car trouble you're in a BMW and are clean-shaven. It's going to make the decision to help you a lot easier on those of us who still have childish ideas about good and bad guys.


Ok, so I'm just getting into the swing of blogging, and what happens? Blogger flags my blog as possible SPAM. I don't know what foul thing I did to deserve this, but they unpublished my blog and denied me access to it until it was cleared up. For days every time I tried to log in it just said that my blog was being reviewed for possible terms of service violations pertaining to spam blogs. Then this morning, voila, I'm back on. No apology or anything from Blogger. So, now I'm feeling emotionally damaged. Seriously, what in the world is a spam blog? I say, SPAM on, SPAMMERS! If you want to make a blog with all kinds of links and advertisements, carry on. I won't visit it, but it's really not causing me any problems, so what's the big deal? Meanwhile, I am just trying to carry on a meaningful conversation with myself here and am prevented from doing so because I unknowingly typed a word that set off the Blogger robots' SPAM radar. Grr.

Anyway, here's what I really needed to talk about today... I am tired of bullies. Last night I attended a 3 hour meeting with a bunch of bullies. They didn't even seem to realize how ugly they were being. And, this is the worst part, after is was pointed out to them THEY DIDN'T CARE. My friend got up and left the meeting in tears and not once did anyone think to ask about her, suggest that we check on her, or attempt to apologize to her. Once the leader of the pack said that he realized that this was hurtful but he thought it was best. Wait, I haven't given away the best part yet. This was at church. Come on, people. Have we forgotten what a church is??? The church is the body of Christ working together to glorify God. It is not ever in the church's best interest to hurt another member of the body. Ever. There will be disagreements, sure. As with any family, the family of faith will encounter problems that cannot be resolved. But we approach these problems with love and respect for each other. Period.

Sometimes I watch my older 2 sons try to bully each other. They are about the same size, so neither of them has a real advantage, but that doesn't stop them from saying things like, "You better give it to me or else!" Or else what? I have no idea. The point is, at 2 and 3 they are already trying to push each other around and get their way at the expense of the other's feelings. I won't stand for it. I sit them down and calmly explain that we are a family and that we love each other and always respect each other. Oh, I'm a good mother. But wait, what's this? Twenty minutes later they're dragging all the pillows off my sofa to use as trampolines, and I yell, "You better stop that this instant or else!" Or else what? I have no idea. The point is, now I'm the bully.

So, I guess I do it too. I don't have a lot of wiggle room to judge others. I wish I had the answer, but I don't. I do hate bullies, even when it's me doing the bullying. I have to go now. The big plank in my eye is killing me.