Sunday, February 12, 2012

To the Mother With Only One Child

My sister once told me, "there will always be one question that will simply bug the heck outta ya your entire life," ... I'm not sure what our topic of conversation was at the time ... but my buggin' question I think has revealed itself to be the one that comes in response to the fact that I am the mom to 3 boys.

Hmmmm, Three Boys.

I'm not sure if it's the fact that there are 3 or that they are all boys ... or that I'm the one that is blessed to be their mom and they are surprised by that ... I'm just not sure. Maybe they're at a loss of what to say and it just fills the pause? All-in-all, I have to say that our boys are MOST of the time well-behaved, so I can't say it's because they are hanging from the rafters or anything. Regardless, people I know, people I meet in a store or on the street that I totally have no clue who they are and really they have no reason to stop me and comment, whatever, will chime in, "Oh! 3 boys ... I bet you never get to sit down." Or "I sure bet you're busy." Or my personal favorite, "Are you going for the girl?" And those are pretty harmless comments all-in-all. But then there are some like, "enjoy them now because when they marry you'll lose them forever." Someone always wants to rain on someone else's parade.

More than once I have paused and considered our family. My desires, God's gifts, our responsibilities and our blessings.

And there seems to be a common thread that I often hear from friends, one parent would like more children, the other ... mmm ... not so much. Reasons for the latter vary ... and it's an interesting and dangerous conversation all wrapped up into one.

Strangely after the birth of our 3rd son Nolan I found myself doing the "mom count" thing while keeping track of them in a public place. Funny thing was, I always found myself searching on 4 ... I'd laugh to myself, thinking okay, I'm TRULY sleep deprived, I only need to be counting to 3. Part of it I'm sure was being a bit overwhelmed with new motherhood, another part was due to the fact my oldest was at an age (5.5) that he was starting to be responsibly independent ... ie: I could trust that he wouldn't wander off without asking first. So even though I counted "one" ... it didn't quite register as being checked off my mental list. I figured this snafu would fade away ... but it hasn't, I still often count to four. It does make me laugh quietly. Are my math skills really THAT lacking? ...
Maybe it has to do with my first and longest babysitting job was for a family of 4 children ...
Not sure.
Anyway, here's a leap in attempt to segway into something I recently came across. This article just spoke to my heart so much ... on so many levels of motherhood, especially the level of how different motherhood has transitioned me from taking care of one to two to three children. Believe me, I am not a Superhero for having more than one child but also its not for the faint of heart. It is hard at times sharing myself when maybe I'd rather not, the endless fights about who did what and who is "right", trying to be "fair" in everyone's eyes all the while teaching that "life is not fair." I succeed on many levels some days ... and unfortunately fall short on so many more. (But this has to do more with my simply humanness more than the number of children I care for.) I laugh at how many times a new mom will ask me if it was harder to go from 1 to 2 children or from 2 to 3 children ... oh my ... it seriously was hardest to go from zero to 1!

I can identify with nearly EVERY part of Simcha's essay ... especially the part when she talks about a new mom's experience and how "hard" it is to become a mother. I didn't know other mothers experienced things so close to my own account. It was so wonderful at the time to suddenly be thrust into motherhood ... but it hurt ... to loose something of who I was ... and love at the same time what I was becoming ... and also realizing that eventually I would lose this too as they grow away from me.
AND I just love the ending of the essay. It is so true. They are so light and float by you and nudge you like balloons. And when in the last 8 years have I had a trip to the bathroom alone during daylight hours? HA! So I just HAVE to share this article. (Here's the link, but I'm going to tack it on here as well.) Let me prepare you in advance ... the author, Simcha Fisher, has NINE kids.

To the Mother With Only One Child

Dear Mother of Only One Child,
Don’t say it.  Before the words can even pass your lips, let me beg you:  don’t say, “Wow, you have nine kids?  I thought it was hard with just my one!”
My dear, it is hard.  You’re not being a wuss or a whiner when you feel like your life is hard.  I know, because I remember having “only one child.”  You may not even believe how many times I stop and reflect on how much easier my life is, now that I have nine children.
All right, so there is a lot more laundry.  Keeping up with each child’s needs, and making sure they all get enough attention, is a constant worry.  And a stomach bug is pretty much the end of the world, when nine digestive tracts are afflicted.
But I remember having only one child, and it was hard—so very hard.  Some of the difficulties were just practical:  I didn’t know what I was doing, had to learn everything.  People pushed me around because I was young and inexperienced.  But even worse were the emotional struggles of learning to be a mother.
When I had only one child, I truly suffered during those long, long, long days in our little apartment, no one but the two of us, baby and me, dealing with each other all day long.  I invented errands and dawdled and took the long way home, but still had hours and hours to fill before I would hear my husband’s key in the door.
I cared so much what other people thought about her—they had to notice how beautiful she was, they had to be impressed at my natural mothering skills.  I obsessed over childhood development charts, tense with fear that my mothering was lacking—that I hadn’t stimulated her enough,  or maybe had just passed on the wrong kind of genes.  I cringe when I remember how I pushed her—a little baby!—to achieve milestones she wasn’t ready for.
I lived in terror for her physical safety (I once brought her to Urgent Care, where the doctor somewhat irritably diagnosed a case of moderate sniffles) fearing every imaginable disease and injury.  In my sleep-deprived state, I would have sudden insane hallucinations that her head had fallen off, her knees had suddenly broken themselves in the night, and so on.
My husband didn’t know how to help me.  I didn’t know how to ask for help.  My husband had become a father, and I adored him for it.  My husband got to leave the house every day, and sleep every night.  He got to go to the bathroom alone.  I hated him for it.
When I had only one child, I told myself over and over that motherhood was fulfilling and sanctifying and was filling my heart to the brim with peace and satisfaction.  And so I felt horribly guilty for being so bored, so resentful, so exhausted.  This is a joyful time, dammit!  I should enjoy being suddenly transformed into the Doyenne of Anything that Smells Bad.
I loved my baby, I loved pushing her on the swing, watching squirrels at the park together, introducing her to apple sauce, and watching her lips move in joyful dreams of milk.  But it was hard, hard, hard.  All this work:  is this who I am now?  I remember!
So now?  Yes, the practical parts are a thousand times easier:  I’m a virtuoso.  I worry, but then I move along.  Nobody pushes me around, and I have helpers galore.  Someone fetches clean diapers and gets rid of the dirty ones.  When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night for the ten thousandth time, I sigh and roll my eyes, maybe even cry a little bit for sheer tiredness—but I know it will pass, it will pass. 
It’s becoming easier, and it will be easier still.  They are passing me by.
I’m broken in.  There’s no collision of worlds.  We’re so darn busy that it’s a sheer delight to take some time to wash some small child’s small limbs in a quiet bath, or to read The Story of Ferdinand one more time.  Taking care of them is easy.  It’s tiring, it’s frustrating, but when I stop and take a breath, I see that it’s almost like a charade of work.  All these things, the dishes, the diapers, the spills—they must be taken care of, but they don’t matter. They aren’t who I am.
To become a mother, I had to learn how to care about someone more than I did about myself, and that was terrible.  But who I am now is something more terrible:  the protector who can’t always protect; the one with arms that are designed to hold, always having to let go.
Dear mother of only one child, don’t blame yourself for thinking that your life is hard.  You’re suffering now because you’re turning into a new woman, a woman who is never allowed to be alone.  For what?  Only so that you can become strong enough to be a woman who will be left.
When I had only one child, she was so heavy.  Now I can see that children are as light as air.  They float past you, nudging against you like balloons as they ascend.
Dear mother, don’t worry about enjoying your life.  Your life is hard; your life will be hard.  That doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong—it means you’re doing it right.

Isn't that the truth.
Such a joy.

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The family

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