I remember leaving the hospital with my first-born, Owen. I felt like I should tell the nurses I had no idea what I was doing. I could not believe they were trusting me with this tiny piece of creation, totally dependent on me for his survival. Oh I had read books. Babywise was covered from front to back and I was already trying to schedule my newborn’s eating and sleeping habits. He had been free of my womb for 72 hours, it felt even longer since I had slept. As I held my newborn the before while he slept (already breaking on of the first rules of the books), his soft breath on my skin, I worried, how could I get this right?
I was determined to be the perfect mother, according to what the world told me perfect was. My scheduling lasted about 7 days, and then colic hit our house in full force. Owen slept for about 90 minutes at a time around the clock; this went on for weeks. When he was awake, he spent a good amount of time screaming, unless he was being bounced. I wanted to be a perfect mother, but none of the books told me I would spend countless hours sitting on my exercise ball till my back felt like it might break, bouncing that wee stressed out babe in my arms. This felt like my first failure, in my exhaustion I could not see clearly. I blamed myself for those tears. Surely if I was doing everything right, he would not be so sad?
I spent a good portion of Owens early years worrying about him. I measured his development as a comparison of how I was doing as a parent (perfectionist). I compared him to the other kids. My best friends daughter was 5 weeks older than Owen, she was extremely bright. At five months old she could sort shapes and push them through the correct holes. She even knew where her ears were. So I went out and bought a shape sorter. After an hour of trying to convince Owen that they were not chew toys, and had a purpose, he just stared at me and stuck the square back in his mouth, drool running down his chin. Clearly, I was doing something wrong. Maybe if I spent more time with flash cards, read him more books. He would get it, I would be a better mother.
Fast forward to the first day of kindergarten, I am panicking because I suddenly realize they are going to allow Owen to play on his own in the playground. Who was going to follow him around to make sure he did not fall to his death? I could not fathom it. Every park trip I would run under the playground equipment like a lunatic prepared to catch him if the equipment suddenly gave way. Some of the other kids that day were clinging to their parents crying because they did not want them to leave. My Owen looked at me and said:
“Mom, you can go now.”
“Really Owen, we are allowed to stay longer, (weakly) can I stay?”
“No, I’m good, you can go. Bye! I love you!”
I walked away from his classroom willing the ugly cry away to stay in my throat, trying to let go.
I had spent so much time trying to stuff Owen into a box he was not shaped for. I tried to make him a square when he was clearly meant to be star. Left on his own, he began to shine. I had been so determined to do everything perfect according to what the books told me perfect was. Meeting expectation had not been enough, I wanted him to exceeds expectations on the milestone chart. I had that book beside my bed till Owen outgrew the chapters. The pressure I put on that poor child, thank goodness for new days full of grace.
After six years of infertility we welcomed our second son, Oliver. Somewhere between Owen and Oliver, I grew up a little. I matured a little. I found peace a little. Maybe my infertility helped me understand we cannot control everything. I put away the books (I am not calling all books bad, but the way I used them to measure my success and worth as a parent was not healthy), I stepped back, and realized that my kids were individuals. Owen was a difficult baby (I partly blame my high-strung parenting for that, okay, more than partly) Oliver was a dream baby. Owen was an AMAZING two-year old, Oliver is a CHALLENGING two-year old.
Recently at Oliver’s preschool open house, I handed Oliver him a square, he looked at if and stuffed it in the right hole. Owen was five months old when I had him try it, Oliver is 28 months. Realistic expectations.
God made my kids exactly the way he wanted them. Maybe Ollie is
really a little wild because God was worried I was starting to acting old. Nothing like running full sprint down the road to catch your escaped toddler to give your heart a jump-start. I have put away the measuring sticks. I’ve stopped caring if Oliver wants to wear his Mickey Mouse p.j’s on outings. I look proudly at Owen’s reports card filled with A’s and B’s (I would be proud with C’s, but I just want to point out the ability to fit a square into the right hole at five months old does not measure intelligence). I chuckle at comments on his report card like “if Owen stopped socializing and talking so much, he would get his work done and not have so much homework.” He is just like his mother.
This Mother’s Day when my boys come piling into my room too early, with school made gifts and warm hugs, this is my moment.
The pedicure from my husband really says “your feet look nasty, that polish has been on there for four months, this is an intervention“.
The “I love you mama” scribbled in a card speaks a thousand words. It says:
Thank you for the:
900 butt wipes
1095 meals (500 were edible, 100 were great)
The ten times you cleaned up barf
The sleepless nights when we were sick and you held us all night
The hospital visits for mystery viruses, concussions and stitches (did I mention I have boys)
One million loads of laundry (not an exaggeration)
The 364 times you picked my clothes up off the floor (there was that one miraculous day)
For putting band-aids on fake ouchees
For allowing me to burp at the table when we don’t have company, and forgiving me when burp when we do have company
For the best “Friday night Movie Nights” ever!
And for always knowing when I needed that hug.
This is the moment to celebrate how awesome I am, despite not being perfect.
Thread together in the hands of my Creator; my kids are a mysterious wonderland to me, filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. I want them to know they will always be enough for me. Just the way they are and I am enough for them, just the way I am.