Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Complete Strangers and Bi-Polar-ish Parenting

Mama!  Look! Anya's craft project:
paint, q-tips, and a paper place
I am beginning to accept that parenting makes you feel bi-polar.  You would think I came to grips with this months and months ago, but.....

See, here is the thing.  I'm an introvert, and really really need my quiet alone time.  Even when I get some alone time, it's never enough to balance out the crazies of life and help me feel truly refreshed.  It's like putting a tablespoon of water in a desert.  Nice, but not really effective.

I also tend to be task-oriented.  It is exhausting to complete a task, just to have it immediately undone for no apparent reason.  Here's a silly example: last evening, my son asked me to put the clothes on a baby doll.  Sure, I can do that.  Less than a minute later, my daughter comes through and tears all the clothes off the baby (that Jayce was no longer interested in) and proceeded to ask me again to dress the baby.  No.  No no no.  I managed a kind, "No, honey, why don't you try it?" while inside I was banging my head against the wall.  I just did that!  Why did you undo it?  Why are you asking me to re-do something I did less than a minute ago?  Why couldn't you just be happy with the way things were?? Agh!!!!  Again, a silly example, but so goes parenting.  Molehills become mountains.

My happy baby girl at the zoo
Mama-hood.  You (read: I/me/my) never feel like you can stay on top of things.  Despite your best efforts, everything goes to pot. You spin your wheels and tread water and flail are barely able to breathe.  Sometimes.

"Mama! look at the
pretty tree!" I love how
they are beginning to notice
the beautiful things God
created around us!
Other times, you feel like the world is nothing but sunshine and butterflies.  You see your kiddos being kind and patient, and you glow inside.  You watch them take responsibility and respond to authority and shine at it, and your heart shines with them.  You watch them make mistakes and respond in an appropriate fashion, and the mess they make is totally worth watching them mature a little more.

Just yesterday, Jayce was goofing off at the table and knocked his mug of water on the floor.  The mug broke, and water went everywhere.  I raised an eyebrow at him and asked, "Hmm.  So, how did that happen?" "I was not being careful, mama," he told me, as he proceeded to pick up the pieces of mug, throw them away, and clean up the water with a towel.  He's 3.

Oh, Little Man, you make my heart melt when you show that kind of awareness and conscientiousness.  Break a mug any day, as long as you continue to grow up just like that!

Other days, the kiddos seem to need you for every microscopic task and every fleeting moment.  Your attention is required for the most obvious of things, and it is never enough that one child calls your attention to an obscure detail ("Look, mama!  I am standing on the rug!").  No, it is not enough.  BOTH kiddos need to point out the exact same thing to you.  Or, if Philip says "yes please" to a cup of coffee, both kiddos have to tell me that Daddy wants coffee....  even though I heard my husband the first time.

"Mama!  Look at my tower!
Take my picture, please?"
My kiddos favorite word is "Mama!"  While that sounds endearing and sweet on paper (or on your screen), it is not endearing or sweet the 80 billionth time in a day.  Mama, my cup is empty.  Mama, my hair is in a pony tail.  Mama, I see a car.  Mama, those cars are not moving.  Mama, there is a big tree.  Mama, I made a tower.  Mama, my tower went crash.  Mama, a block fell over there.  Mama, I got water.  Mama, I made a mess.  Mama, I need a towel.  Mama, my tummy is empty.  Mama, look, a bug!  Mama, that bug is small.  Mama, I like blue.  Mama, I like pink.  Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama!!!!!!!!

It's nice to be needed.  Its exhausting to be needed.  It's nice to interact, but it's overwhelming to interact. It's enjoyable to talk and discover the world together, yet it's draining to use more than your daily allotment of words about things like, "yes, sweetie, I know there is dirt on my floor."  The quantity of words directed at me through the course of a day sometimes feel like hitting a physical wall.  So, we result in bi-polar parenting.

And then.  Then, your kiddo chooses Bible books to look at during their book time.  They remind you to pray before their martial art class, asking Jesus to help them be good and obey the teachers.  They talk about their Sunday school lesson in the car.  They give unsolicited hugs and kisses.  They go for days without fighting.  When reminded of a rule, they say, "Oh.  Ok, Mama." They have gentle hands with animals.  They offer to help.  They take your plate to the kitchen after a meal without being asked.  You get a nice snuggle in the morning, full of whispers and quiet giggles.  Despite all the craziness, you realize you're not failing as a parent, by the grace of God.

As a white mama with black kiddos, I'm used to being stared at.  Today, in the Costco checkout, there were no less than 4 people openly staring at my kiddos, and while standing in line for a hotdog in the Costco food court there were a group of older folks riveted on my small folk.

My precious gift
Internally, I prepared myself for the avalanche of "cute, adorable, charming, delightful, beautiful, handsome, etc" that usually accompanies such staring situations when my kiddos are behaving like the (sometimes) angels that they are.  Suddenly, I realized these people weren't talking to me at all.  They were actually talking to my kiddos like they were unique individuals with something to say.  Then, one lady got down on eye level with my daughter, and told her, "You are precious.  Always remember that.  You are a precious gift." 

Oh.  Wow.  Thank you, random stranger.  Thank you for seeing beyond the buttons and bows and pink frills and dimpled smile.  Thank you for ascribing value to my kiddos as people, not just as charming novelties.

Even more, thank you for reminding me of the gift I have been given.  Often I forget that mama-hood is relational rather than an assignment or a project. Sometimes I have to remind myself to simply make eye contact with my kiddos, because I get too focused on the end result that I forget there are people involved.  It's often easier to just make things happen and shuffle pieces around, but then I overlook that my kiddos' hearts are waiting for those special mama moments where they feel treasured and loved.

Most days I feel like the universe is exploding and my hands aren't big enough to hang on to all the pieces.  Occasionally I feel like something good is happening in the midst of the explosion.  But all days, my kiddos are precious.  They are precious people, created by God, and they will eventually learn that Mama heard them the first time, and they can get their own water from the sink.  Oh, and that the baby doll was fine just like she was before.

"Mama! Look! Anya is sitting on my lap!"