Sometimes parenting is standing in a bathroom, shower running, steam billowing, while your coughing six-month old sleeps on your chest.
Sometimes parenting is losing your temper at your three year old because she keeps poking her brother in the face when she should be brushing her teeth.
Sometimes parenting is a humbling realization that your five year old is years ahead of her age in how she perceives and feels the world.
Sometimes parenting is mourning the loss of what could have been and choosing gratitude for what is. This week is Easter Break and the sisters have VBS each morning. Hunter was looking forward to a week of “Mommy & Hunter” time with big dreams of quiet, focused, one-on-one connections.
Three days ago, Jackson started coughing.
It’s a deep, chesty cough that keeps him from napping, changes his happy-go-lucky disposition to whiny and needy, and requires most of my attention.
Sometimes parenting is apologizing, hugging, crying, and making new plans.
Strike that – it’s been real for awhile. Now that we are in the birth month, and perhaps the birth week we are in a whole new level of r e a l.
It’s been a mind-over-body battle the past few days. We’ve had some big commitments coming to a close and I really wanted to be present to see them through. Thankfully baby has stayed put so far and things turned out great. Now let’s see how much longer we can wait…there are a few more things in the coming week that I’d love to be able to participate in while still in my prenatal form. But, as we all know, kids are not the most convenient of creatures (especially when it comes to newborns) so it’s a wait and see game from here on out.
The girls asked to wear “Ergos” on our morning walk today. We used scarves that my husband brought back from Cambodia to make slings to carry their babies (doll and rabbit, respectively). The slings held up through the entire 45 minute walk and they wanted to keep wearing them once they got home. Big sister practice is well underway!
Madison’s face…it makes me giggle. Also, most likely the girls will not be babywearing their new sibling anytime soon. Safety first, after all. It is sweet to see them embrace something they’ve seen us do as parents and make it their own.
Our little ones have been fighting a cough and cold this week. Yesterday Madison woke up super early crying about ear pain. She didn’t relent for about three hours, yelling, “It HURTS!” while adamantly refusing anything I tried to do to help her. Finally, after essential oils, heat compresses, hydrogen peroxide, and Tylenol, she settled down and dozed for about 10 minutes on the couch. Miraculously, she woke up happy and pain-free. Hallelujah! Even more miraculously, she actually fell asleep during our afternoon quiet time (which hasn’t happened in close to two years) and slept for almost an hour and a half, snuggled next to me.
It’s hard for me to see my kids sick. Not only because they are in pain or miserable, but because I’ve come to believe the lie that their physical wellness is directly connected to how well I care for them. If they are sick then I did something wrong. We take a slightly alternative approach to wellness and health care in our family (not a lot of doctor visits or prescriptions…using a lot of oils and other natural approaches) and I harbor a hidden fear of being ‘found out’ that blazes to the surface whenever my kids don’t feel well. That someone will point a finger and accuse me and I’ll be helpless and defenseless. As if I can control how their body responds to every germ or virus that may pass their way? I know where the root of that fear comes from(I haven’t written much about my family’s story lately, but there were strong themes of accusation and helplessness woven all throughout) and as I stood in the shower yesterday I decided to confront it head on.
My kids are not sick because I didn’t something wrong.
They are being cared for because I love them.
I’m not in control of their physical wellness, but I can choose how I respond to them when they are feeling icky. My response to their pain reveals the depth of my love for them.
I hear them hacking and coughing as they wake up this morning. It’ll be another day of teas, oils, and restful play. I set my intention to care for them.
We looked at our summer calendar at the beginning of 2016 and cringed. Packed to the brim, it seemed like those months would fly by in a blur. What did we decide to do in the midst of those crazy, busy, three months? Take a trip to Washington to see family and friends, of course! And not just any trip, but a three-week road trip that started and finished with 25-hour drives to our destination. Did we already mention ‘crazy’? Yup.
Seemingly endless days with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins stretched out into the late sunset, pushing bedtime further and further back each night. The county fair. S’mores. Bounce houses and water slides. Baseball games. BBQs. Swimming. Blackberry picking. Sleepovers. Food, food, and more food. We soaked in these quintessential, americana-laden moments under the soft summer sun.
It was the best three weeks we’ve spent in Washington in a long time. It was also the most physically painful three weeks I’ve had in recent memory. Starting with a wicked sore throat that hit me around midnight on our inaugural night of driving, to the massive cold sores that erupted around my mouth, not to mention the strange prickly, red rash I was recovering from that attached my neck the week before, it all culminated in waking up one morning with a stabbing, stiff pain in the left side of my neck and shoulder. No stranger to knots in my back, I went about my normal routine of massage and stretching, spending good portions of that day working out the kinks (literally). After a pre-bed session with a tennis ball and a wall (it works -try it!), I climbed into bed hoping for a great night’s sleep and a sore-but-loose back the next morning. What I got instead was an immediate lock-up of the muscles on that side of my neck and shoulder, and throbbing pain radiating from my neck, down the side of my scapula and out towards my elbow. Sleep? What sleep? More like measured breathing and deep sighs reminiscent of childbirth.
I tried icing it. I tried stretching it. I tried heat, rest, laying down, standing up. I tried it all. After about two days I couldn’t take it any more and searched out a massage therapist…and then a chiropractor…and then another visit to the chiropractor. The pain would not go away.
Sleep was nearly impossible. I woke up more than I slept. One night I lay in bed, trying to move as little as possible, breathing deeply and trying to manage the pain. I turned my thoughts heavenward and asked, “Okay God. I give up. What can you teach me through this?” Almost immediately, an image flashed in my mind. It looked something like this:
I turned my thoughts back into a prayer and asked, “What does that mean?” As soon as the sentence finished forming in my mind, a story began to unfold.
I am in a big room. Tall ceilings, lots of space. A bank of light switches in one corner. There are lights everywhere but only a few are turned on. This room represents God’s character. The absolute fullness of who He is. Every aspect of His being. The lights that are turned on symbolize my knowledge of who God is. God is loving. God is merciful. God is forgiving. Those familiar characteristics that I easily identify and understand. But what about the lights that were turned off? And the bank of light switches? Here is where the pin dropped for me.
Pain and suffering can illuminate an aspect of God’s character that I might have never noticed before.
Does my situation change who God is? Of course not. It does provide an opportunity for me to flip a switch, thus pouring light where shadows had previously existed. His character is made known to me in new ways. He becomes my healer, my redeemer, my strong tower, my warrior, my jealous lover. He has always been and always will be, but I never needed to know until now.
In my mind’s eye I watched as the light switches were turned on one by one and the room began to glow brighter than ever before. The questions poured through my mind. How many switches do I ignore, content to know God in the measurable, limited ways I’ve always known Him? How often do I run from challenges because I value my comfort more than the expansive illumination of an infinite God? Will the pain ever be so great that I slam the lights off and leave the room?
Eventually, my shoulder and neck healed. It took weeks of cautious movements, slowly building strength, for everything to begin to feel normal again. While I am so thankful to move without pain, I often think back on those three weeks. Deep gratitude. Deep revelation. The lights are on.