Mea Culpa

I think the Devil cringes a little bit every time a woman becomes a mother.  He knows it’s going to be harder to get between her and God when she has a daily reminder of unconditional love in her arms (and on the kitchen table, under the sink, in the laundry bin, swinging from his sister’s ridiculous shoe chandelier…).  Instead of the normal bits of life that keep us from loving fully, giving freely, and feeling grateful to be known and loved by the creator of the world, we need something really, really sneaky to keep us from God.

This most powerful tool over me is destructive and pernicious.  It pursues and justifies, and begins to rot my joy from within.  It is sometimes louder than my four year old.  Guilt.  Good, old fashioned mommy-guilt.  The kind that keeps me from enjoying the walk to get the mail because I didn’t first hook a baby monitor to my belt.  The kind that makes me put down the quiet Hoss to pick up the whining two year old.  The kind that makes me pick Hoss back up while holding the whining two year old wondering if this is what the movie Sophie’s Choice feels like to watch (I refuse).

The true evil of the mommy guilt is that it makes me believe it is true guilt, Jiminy Cricket telling me to knock it off and get back in line.  On bad days, it’s my master.  Those are the days when the laundry got half done, the kids are whining, I don’t have any idea what’s for dinner, and my husband comes home to a defcon 4 maelstrom of naked toddler, tattling kindergartener, swashbuckling preschooler, crying baby, and ticked off wife.

The killer is that the guilt won, and I have thrown in the towel.  If I can’t do it perfectly, I should just give up.  Odds are good I spent at least an hour of the day on Facebook, searching for the sense of peace clicking through birth boards and supporting troubled friends and strangers brings.  Appreciation is the skin-deep band-aid for my anxiety over my mommy failings.

Sometimes my guilt doesn’t stop until I come in and find out that while I was doing just one more round of laundry, the whining Hoss drifted off to sleep on his own, or Cal is actually proud she figured out how to sound out rhinocerous without me.  Sometimes I go the whole day without actually having a conversation with my son that doesn’t involve a time out.

What am I doing wrong?  I know it must be something, because this guilt is eating all my sense of accomplishment for getting dinner on the table, using sippy cups instead of juice boxes, and walking back into the house when I really wanted to leave because I just knew JR would have an accident at the park.  Or maybe, this guilt is not useful, constructive, or true at all.  Maybe the guilt is just a way to steal my joy, my peace, and my pride in getting humanly through another day of caring for four small human beings’ every need.

Maybe my mea culpas should be chances to call out the evil that’s lurking in my Godly existence of motherly servitude.  Caring for these four children every day is what I’ve done better than anything else in my life.  I will not stand for guilt’s slow drip of poison to steal that truth.

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Musical Beds

We’re pretty laissez-faire with sleep in our house.  None of our four have been tough to parent at night, but I don’t think it’s entirely to do with our attachment parenting, bed-sharing style.  If God wanted me to have fussy babies at night, he wouldn’t have given me a 4 year-old who was still wearing diapers 8 weeks ago.  (Say it with me now, growing closer to motherly sainthood: “You’ll let me know when you’re ready.”)

However, our low-maintenance sleeper babies are total stinkers to put to bed between 18 months and 28 months.  We go all super-nanny when we can, and read a novel outside the door, or baby-gate the upstairs.  Eventually the toddler passes out, then wakes up and comes into our bed at 3 AM.  We let the kid snuggle and we all go back to sleep.  Sometime around two and a half years, though, they just start going down nicely and sleeping through the night.

But, now that we have three kids in beds without rails, we’ve entered a new phase: musical beds.  Growing up, my 4 sisters and I swapped beds like they were Garbage Pail Kids.  Apparently most kids sleep in the same bed every night.  Who knew?  I always want my kids to turn out as well as my sisters and I have, so when I see some unusual behavior manifest itself in my kids, I feel just a step closer to parenting success.  Imagine my delight when I went to check on the kids Thursday night and saw this:

Lumpy sleeping in Cal's bed

JR in Lumpy's bed

Cal in JR's bed

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I called Andy in to see, snapped some pics, and went to bed with Hoss,

sleeping in our bed.

Thank God

Thank you to all of my friends and readers for your prayers and love this past week. Our dear little boy is fine, and as of now, shows no indications of needing a surgical correction for his “sticky sutures” as the neurosurgeon called it. Thank God! The power of prayer is not to be discounted in all of this. We thank God in the good times; we thank God in the bad times.

This is definitely a good time.

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When I was a middle-schooler, my sisters went to Disney World with the high school band. The staging area for the main street parade was “backstage” Disney, which I was sure held no end of wonders and excitement, only enhancing our deep-seated love of the happiest place on Earth. No such luck. My one sister came back deflated, realizing the wonders of Disney came from the not knowing.  Apparently seeing Donald and Daisy Ducks’ disembodied heads lined up on bar stools in a dressing trailer destroys a little of the magic.

So, you’d think seeing a little of God’s plan in the anxiety of the past two weeks would make it somehow less acceptable, more patronizing, all “God is teaching you a lesson you petulant child.”  But, in reality, it’s been kind of amazing.

My dad and I butted heads all of the time when he was still alive.  He spent most of my childhood on call, in solo private practice as a neurosurgeon.  I lamented to my family that it seemed so wrong that we should face the “normal” line of waiting for answers for Hoss when just a few years ago, I could have sent the films to my dad and had an answer in seconds (my mom would have downloaded the images for him–seriously, you didn’t know a brain surgeon could struggle with the concept of the double click).  Auntie Jay, very confident that the baby was totally fine, said it took eight years, but I finally need my dad.  This may be making you a little misty eyed, but it isn’t typing out right.  I started laughing and (after a few choice words) just said “I know!”

Trying to keep a serious possibility in perspective, while also coming up with some plans of attack, led to a slew of emails and phone calls back and forth between my sisters, aunt and mom.  It reminded me of that old childhood mantra in our family: “Friends come and go, but your sisters are forever.”  When we prove it true, it makes my parents right, but I’m ok with that.

The swarms of phone calls, emails, and visits from friends make a compelling argument for Munchausen by proxy.  I’m so thankful that I executed it so poorly.  Oh, now I’m being crass.  Ok, let’s wrap this up.

Sometimes we’re not meant to see the backstage, even when we whine for it, because it ruins the magic.  But sometimes, God lets us see what He’s doing, and lets us watch over His shoulder while He creates this path for our lives.  I am grateful that, at present, this challenge was about healing me, and not about healing Hoss.  Thank God.