A special kind of stress

I always knew mothers worry naturally; it’s part of what mothers do. But now that I am a mother, I am amazed by the things I can convince myself might happen to my child.

Everything from the entirely plausible (falling off the back deck) to the completely improbable (being accidentally shut inside the dish washer).

I actually see things happening to her all the time. The other day, the Mister and his parents and I were taking Roo for a walk on a trail near a creek, and in my mind I saw the stroller tip down the embankment and land upside down in the shallow water with the baby screaming inside. Then I blinked, and there we all were, walking along happily with the stroller perfectly where it should be.

We know of a family – friends of friends – who recently lost their 19-month-old baby boy because he wandered away from a backyard birthday party and drowned in a decorative water fountain in their front yard. IN THEIR FRONT YARD!!!

So now I’ve become obsessed with a small pond of water created by a drainage culvert at the edge of our yard, and Roo may never go outside unsupervised in her entire life. She may never play around water in her entire life. I might just put her into a bubble and roll her around like a hamster. (At the very least, the bubble would float.)

Also, there is way too much mom guilt in this world, and too many people causing it with their judginess. (WordPress is telling me that’s not a real world, but trust me, it is.)

If you stay home with your children, people make you feel bad for not having a “real career.” If you work, people make you feel bad for leaving your children with someone else. As if you don’t already feel terrible enough about that anyway.

If you exclusively breastfeed, people try to talk you into giving formula in a bottle and convince you that it will make your life easier. Then, if you do bottle feed, people try to make you feel bad about not giving all breastmilk all the time.

And then, heaven forbid you should ever want to be without your child. Even just for a short period of time. Sometimes, when I drop Roo off with her childcare person in the mornings, I breath a small sigh of relief that I now have one less thing to actively try to accomplish. And then I feel HORRIBLE about myself for ever enjoying the moments I am away from her.

I can’t take a personal day from work and enjoy it because if I am with her I am worrying about all the things she needs, and if I’m not with her I’m feeling horrible that I chose to take a day off and not be with her. There is no way to win!

Anyway, long rant cut short is that moms have a LOT of internal struggles with themselves about every. single. decision. they make all day long. Don’t second-guess them. Support them, give advice only when asked for, and offer to clean the house and fold laundry. But don’t make hints that something they are doing might not be absolutely the best thing unless a child’s life is actually, physically in danger.

Just don’t.

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FOMO

I think every family with children, especially babies, has their “thing” that is always a problem. For us, it’s sleep. Specifically, getting Roo to sleep anywhere where we are not.

She sleeps just fine at childcare during the day without much adult intervention, but she refuses to sleep in her crib or to fall asleep on her own while at home.

Yes, yes, yes, we’ve heard it all from those who mean well.

“Just put her down and walk away. It worked for my kids.”

“Just let her cry. She’ll get tired.”

and the list goes on.

Now I’m not saying we have an impossible case here. I have yet to meet a 25-year-old whose mother has to rock him/her to sleep, so obviously this is something we grow out of over time. But, we have tried the things mentioned above (yes, more than once. yes, for longer than five minutes), and they simply are not working for our child and for our family at this time. Regardless of what worked well for your children, it is not working well for mine.

Roo has a terrible case of FOMO – “fear of missing out.” She will drift off to sleep on her own, without help, while sitting in her carseat at a noisy restaurant, in church, in the car or in some other place where action is happening. She will fall asleep in someone’s arms while that person is watching TV with the lights on and someone else is vacuuming four feet away. Noise and action and lights do not bother her.

But if you take her into her room with the lights down low and start to rock and soothe her quietly, she goes nuts. She will not fall asleep on her own or sleep in her crib, period, even if she was in a dead sleep when I put her in there. As soon as her back hits the mattress it’s go-time again.

(And for those who keep telling me to just walk away and she will eventually drift off… no. We’ve left her in there for an hour and a half before and she chatters and rolls and eventually cries herself into a hiccuping frenzy and gets hungry again, and by that point it’s been almost two hours and there’s just no more point to it.)

But take her back into the living room and sit on the couch – she’ll be out in five minutes. Stay on the couch and hold her, she’ll nap for three hours. Take her into her room and she’s instantly awake and wired. And actually, if we need her to go ahead and wake up for some reason, we just go put her in her bed. There’s no more sure-fire way to get her moving.

It may not be the book’s best parenting advice, but for whatever unknown reason, it’s working for us.

**Important note: Roo does not and has not ever slept with us. I am not an advocate of co-sleeping. She sleeps in a small rocker next to our bed, which she accepts quite well as long as she is already asleep when you put her in there. It’s specifically the crib that she hates so much.

Stages of Sleep Deprivation

Stage one: denial

“This is fine. It’s late, I’m tired, but I can do this. No big deal. I was a night owl in college. I can handle it.”

Stage two: uncertainty

“I’m really, really, tired. I can push through! When was the last time I slept all night? I think I can! This will pass! I hope…”

Stage three: autopilot

*baby cries*

*swings feet out of bed*

*stumbles into doorframe. weaves across the hall.*

*picks baby up. carries baby to rocking chair and starts to feed. jerks head awake*

*baby cries*

*swings feet out of own bed again a few hours later. Doesn’t remember how she got there*

Stage four: imaginary management

“I think I’m getting used to this. Three hours at a time is great! I’ve adjusted. I am Superwoman!” *falls asleep at work*

Stage five: illusions of grandeur

“I got seven hours of sleep last night! I feel wonderful! I can’t believe this is what sleep feels like!” *has horrible migraine headache because body isn’t used to so much sleep*

Stage six: crazy dreams

Night one: running into ex-boyfriend’s new wife and helping deliver their baby

Night two: husband accused of murder, cannot find enough evidence to prove his innocence

Night three: life as a character on the show ‘Frazier’

Night four: dreamed I was lying awake staring at the baby all night. Might actually have been lying awake staring at the baby all night

 

Ghost Music

I can hear it in my head. Constantly. Looping over and over and over like a bad record. I don’t know if it comes from the musical teddy bear or the plastic aquarium that plays lullabies or the singing cow… but it haunts me.

This tune, this plinking melody that plays when my child hits the buttons on one of her musical toys… it’s everywhere.

I can sit in a quiet room, and I still hear it. I know nothing is turned on and the baby is asleep and there is no music playing… but I still hear it. The notes float in the empty air and swirl around my head until I’m singing the whole thing line by line, even though I have no idea what it is.

It’s the same with the screaming. Any time the Mister takes over baby-duty and lets me go take a nap, I can still hear the screaming. Even when there is no screaming and there hasn’t been any screaming that day and the baby is actually asleep on his chest… I’ll be lying in our room with the door closed, and I can hear her screaming.

It’s all a bit frightening, really. Like a soundtrack I can’t turn off.

It gets especially good when she manages to turn on more than one singing toy at a time and two or three melodies are mixing together all at once in their strangely high-pitched baby-toy voices… that’s a really good way for a person to lose their mind.

We’re gonna miss this

Roo is three and a half months old now, and I am amazed every day by how fast the time has already flown. She’s halfway to trying pureed foods, one fourth of the way to her first birthday, and I’ve already started to picture the day I take her to her kindergarten classroom.

We’ve had some really bad nights of zero sleep and lots of tears shed by everyone, but even in those moments, when I’m trying to doze off in the rocking chair because she refuses to be put in her own bed, I hear that song “You’re gonna miss this” playing in my head.

It goes like this:

She was staring out the window of that SUV
Complaining, saying “I can’t wait to turn eighteen”
She said “I’ll make my own money, and I’ll make my own rules”
Momma put the car in park out there in front of the school
She kissed her head and said “I was just like you”
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this
Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
In her one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her “It’s a nice place”
She says “It’ll do for now”
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says “Baby, just slow down”
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this
Five years later there’s a plumber workin’ on the water heater
Dog’s barkin’, phone’s ringin’
One kid’s cryin’, one kid’s screamin’
She keeps apologizin’
He says “They don’t bother me
I’ve got two babies of my own
One’s thirty six, one’s twenty three
Huh, it’s hard to believe, but
You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this
(Song by Trace Adkins)
I’ll be sitting there, in that rocking chair I originally, foolishly thought we wouldn’t need, approaching three hours of rocking a baby who refuses to sleep, and I tell myself how much I’m going to miss that warm weight on my shoulder as she snuggles in and clutches my shirt, my hair, my glasses and anything else she can reach. I may be exhausted, but she won’t always be this small.
When I start to think she’s too heavy and my back hurts so badly, I try to tell myself that someday too soon she’ll walk on her own and learn that big girls don’t get carried around by their mommies. I may be in pain, but she won’t always fit in my arms.
This week we got some major snow (for the south, anyway), and my office was closed for four unexpected days while the roads were cleared. I got five days (including the Martin Luther King holiday) with my baby girl that she would have otherwise spent in childcare, and I loved every minute of it. Even those minutes when I was too tired to walk in a straight line, and there were some of those too.
There were things I needed to do that I should have done and things that I wanted to do that I could have done, but I didn’t. Because that warm weight was asleep in my arms, clutching my shirt, and how do you put that down?
Even now, she’s too big to lay comfortably across my lap like she did as a newborn and her head doesn’t fit below my chin the way it used to. I don’t notice the day-to-day growth, but it dawns on me in leaps and bounds sometimes.
I decided the laundry will always need washing and the house will always be dirty, but she won’t always want to sleep on my chest, so we did that instead.
When we first came home from the hospital, I burst into tears because I didn’t feel that instant, overwhelming, all-consuming love at first sight that everyone tells you you should have when your baby is born. I thought that meant I might never love her properly. But you know what? That passes. And boy, does it pass.
(I promise all my posts from now on won’t be this sappy, and this is actually not the original path I intended to take, but it sort of had a mind of its own.)
Well, the cat’s out of the bag

Well, the cat’s out of the bag

First of all, I want somebody to tell me why the cat was in the bag. Or, maybe more importantly, how did you get the cat into the bag? Is there a special cat-bagging technique that my husband and his vet tech friends should know about? Because there seem to be a lot of cats in a lot of bags lately, and nobody really knows how they got there.

BUT ANYWAY!

Obviously, there’s been something wrong with my brain cells lately. I’m wondering¬†about proverbial cats in proverbial bags and don’t know how to ring doorbells, but there’s a good reason for that.

Remember when I said the Mister and I have a few major projects going on that were distracting me from my regular posts?

Well, we do.

We’re having a baby.

baby announcement

ūüėÄ Yes, yes, we are quite proud of ourselves.

I alternate between “Aww, we’re going to have a baby. I just want to hold all the babies, and I can’t wait for my baby to get here” and something that sounds a bit like

“AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH WHAT HAVE WE DONE WHAT WERE WE THINKING WHY DID WE DO THIS WE’LL NEVER HAVE ANY MONEY LIFE AS WE KNOW IT IS OVER AND HOW COULD WE EVER HAVE THOUGHT THIS WOULD EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER BE A GOOD IDEAAAAAAAAAAAA…”

Yeah. There are up and down days.

But mostly good. Six months to go and I can sort of see the walls in what will be the baby’s room behind all the boxes and piles of homeless stuff that has nowhere else to live.¬†It’ll get there.

Someday.

Probably on or around October 20…..

[October??!!! Good grief what am I doing sitting here at work. There is WAAYYYYY too much to be doing to be going to work. We¬†need to read the books, we need to buy the furniture, we need to clean the house, we need to buy a fence, we need to have a yard sale, we need to….]

Pray for us. We’re going to need it.

-The Mommy ūüôā

[Good gracious, somebody’s going to expect me to be their mommy??!! Shouldn’t you have to pass a test for that or something??]

 

Sticks and Stones

Yesterday morning in bible class (fifth and sixth-grade girls), I was finishing up a lesson on people and things we should pray for, and the last point was to “pray for our enemies and people who may not like us or agree with us.” (Very applicable in today’s world, I might add, but that’s a topic for another time.)

One of my students, a young girl who is rather eccentric sometimes, popped her head up and asked, “Why would I pray for the people who don’t like me? People are so mean to me. Everybody thinks I’m weird.” She¬†explained how she no longer rides the school bus because certain kids were so mean to her that she couldn’t stand to go to school. She talked about how she only has two friends in the school, but they don’t have any of the same classes, and nobody else ever wants to talk to her and sit with her at lunch.

I didn’t know what to say. I came out with something about how people can be mean and life gets better as you get older. I said something about how everyone has a soul and we must try to love and pray for their souls, even if we don’t really like that person. I went on about how we are God’s examples in the world, and we might be the only Christians those mean people see every day.

That’s what I said, but what I was thinking was completely different.

___________________________________

I remember the day it started.

I had a friend from my fifth-grade class, Nikki,* who lived down the street . We played in each other’s backyards a lot, and I remember a specific day when we spent several hours playing computer games in her basement. We invited the new girl across the street, Kate,* who was also in our class, to come over.

The next day I went back to Nikki’s house and knocked on the door. She answered, but obviously didn’t really want me to come inside. I heard Kate down in the basement, but I left anyway. I thought surely it didn’t matter.

Over the next month or so, I began to notice my classmates, those I had considered my friends, stopping their conversations when I walked up and making an effort to shut me out of activities. For a long time I thought I was exaggerating this in my head.

I still remember one specific afternoon when I rode my bike down to Nikki’s house and knocked. Her mother told me she was across the street at Kate’s house swimming in the pool. So I walked over and knocked on the privacy fence gate; I could hear my “friends” laughing in the water. Instantly, the splashing stopped and there was a lot of whispering. I let them know I could hear them and asked if I could come in. The reply came back: “Well, uh, we were really just about to get out and, uh…”

“Oh, well can I come and hang out with you after?”

“Oh, uh, well… we’ve got some stuff to do. We’re gonna be really busy. Maybe later.”

I heard my name and loud laughter as I walked back to my bike. That’s when I knew for sure that I wasn’t imagining it.

The last few months of fifth grade and the following summer were pretty¬†miserable for me. I didn’t get invited to slumber parties or play dates, nobody wanted to come over to my house and former friends would duck into stores if we happened to pass each other in the mall.¬†Those seem like such small things, but they add up after a while.

I never found out exactly what Kate had told people to make them act this way, but I know it was all tied to her. Life got better when I entered a middle school with multiple feeders – not everyone there had heard whatever was being said about me – but years later, at the end of my freshman year of high school. I found an unusual entry in the back of my yearbook:

I’m sorry. -Kate

It had been four years. I had made friends. I had moved on, and I didn’t really need an apology anymore. So it wasn’t the words that got to me, it was the fact that I hadn’t made it all up. I hadn’t been pretending to be ignored for the sympathy points. It was real, and the girl responsible knew it was real all those years later.

____________________________________

I say all that to say this:

Looking back on that year – which I am grateful was only a year, many kids go through entire lifetimes of emotional isolation – I’m not glad that it happened, but it did teach me something:¬†Other people can only change you if you let them.¬†

You can’t reason with a bully. Adults tell children that they can, but the simple fact is that the things people say and the way people treat you isn’t about who you are; it’s about who they are, and only you get to decide if you’re going to be the same way.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

That is my absolute favorite quote, and I have used it to remind myself of my own capabilities many times over the years.

Nobody gets to decide who you are on the inside. Nobody gets to decide if your creativity is “weird” or if your imagination is “stupid.” Only you get to decide that, and only you can decide if their hurtful words mean something to you or not. And that’s so much easier said than done.

Unfortunately, most kids just have to survive it and try to come out the other side with some of themselves intact. In a perfect world, there would be no bullies. But in an imperfect world, the best we can do as parents is try to teach our children to be kind and to love who they are to the point that other people’s words don’t make (much of) a difference.

Raise the child who sits with the kid who’s alone, and be the adult who pulls that kid aside and tells them that who they are is important. You have no idea how much good you can do.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.