Time to “mom up”
While pregnant with my third, a multitude of unfamiliar women crossed my path with
the same message; "I wish I would've had one more child." Like any other over loaded,
short sighted, unorganized 'live for the moment' woman, I ignored the universe trying to
curb me from future regret.
Sure, kids are loveable (mostly), cute and entertaining, and I did want to be a mother
of four. Yet clearly these prophet moms were not aware that I was SO not qualified for
parenthood. My general state of reality nine years ago was; "What are you supposed to do
with these people-things? I know…stick them in front of the TV!"
After my first born spent her first three years fixated on innocent cartoon fodder, I
came across studies that found…guess what…children under three should watch zero
hours of TV. Those they say are the most critical years of brain development. Oops.
New motherhood seemed so overwhelming that I would get asthmatic toward the
end of the day just watching my two nieces and four month old daughter. What were
they doing to stress me out? Climbing on furniture, playing with toys, coloring pictures,
eating, taking naps, watching TV. Hey, don't judge me! Crafting babies into toddlers is
intense business. Well, it is if you are, like I was, the Homer Simpson of moms.
As instructed in Home Ec. during high school, I carried around the sack of flour baby
wrapped in a blanket for a couple weeks. They never said anything about making eye
contact or talking to that precious ground wheat. That's how babies learn to speak, right?
They definitely never taught that babies are sponges who absorb your facial expressions,
tone, and words. So, always use positive words that build, NOT condescending words
with angry faces. That will create a lack of self worth carrying through to the teenage
years causing one to believe they are un-loveable and will never be successful. Now
THAT would have been valuable information. Oh my, the power of words.
Every aggravated mom, at sometime, admonishes; "I hope you have a child just like
you when you grow up." My response to that was always; "Me too! Cause she'll be
awesome!" Where my first daughter, Veronica, was an innocent dove, the Lord saw fit
that not only should I have a child like me, but my second daughter, Olivia, should be me
magnified by ten.
As a kid when I wanted my way, I would quietly hide in my thoughts and craft out how to
accomplish my goals undetected. As Olivia was growing into her personality of energetic
persistence, I was finding out the age old method of "SCREAMING" wasn't creating any
self control in my preschooler or toddler. I stocked up on parenting books, read about
setting boundaries, taking away privileges, toys, and with-holding rewards as motivation
to behave. What do ya know, the whole control your emotions, not control "Through"
your emotions deal worked. Great! Just in time…baby number three was on the way.
Shortly after the arrival of Hannah, my husband left his corporate job to start his own
business. Overwhelmed by the thought of three kids and a smaller income, I decided
we were done having babies. At this time my parents sold their business, thus ending
my cake job of watching my own children while doing bookwork. Before job hunting
came daycare hunting. Turns out putting three children in daycare is like paying a second
mortgage, an expensive option. My husband suggested I start watching other people's
kids so I could be home, and still have an income. Sounded simple enough. Oh, wait.
Remember that part of living for today and possessing absolutely no organizational
skills? I went for it anyway.
My days became filled with morning walks, girls still in fairy costumes bubbling from
our early morning sugar infused tea parties or teaching the girls to shop for best deals.
That's a skill right? "Ok, nap time, you go sleep so I can read my books and magazines,"
then finalized with making fabulous dinners, except when they were gross. Ahhh…me,
me, me. It was all about me. Did I have to actually work? You mean be a responsible
parent on purpose?
Before offering to watch others children, I had to research as if studying for college
finals. I printed off some daycare schedules and activities while old memories washed
over me. My mother was a hippie version of Mary Poppins. (kind of still is) She would
take us on walks and teach us about animal and plant life. We'd play in the rain, bake
bread and cookies, read stories, have artsy crafts time, beaches all summer then sledding
and snowmen all winter. Those aspects of childhood were ideal, and somewhat missing
from my own kid's experience.
Having lost sleep at the thoughts of all the responsibility, I had to squash my
apprehensions of inadequacy and "Mom-up." The two children I started with were typical
boys. I had typical girls; typical nieces and no boy experience what so ever. Keeping the
kids on a busy schedule of learning, crafts, exercise, singing, story time and play time and
referee of toys, passers by would comment: "You've got your hands full." My response
was always; "You got that right." At the end of the day I'd literally pass out on the couch.
Sometimes in tears.
With girls everything was Barbie's, cookies, glitter, ballet and unicorns. Boys were a
culture shock. It was super heroes, cars, trains and kung fu. Each day was an amusement
park of emotions. After several months of daily time outs, melt downs, (them and me)
I was so grumpy and exhausted I fantasized about quitting. Add to that trying to prep
Veronica for kindergarten, and she did not want to prep, and I imagined myself sunning on a
private sandy beach, sheltered by palm trees as I watched my apron wash out to sea.
My husband was constantly chiming the words of our Pastor: "If you don't quit, you
win." Sigh…Don't quit…don't quit.
It dawned on me one morning that the things I did enjoy about life streamed all the
way back to early childhood. Could it be the same is true for their childhood experience?
Am I shaping their lives simply with the attitude in which I approach each task?
Struggling up the hill pulling a wagon load of kids, a Grinches heart warming scene
unfolded. I prayed; "Lord, if this is what you really want me to do…I will do it and be
happy." I decided to force myself to focus on the pleasant parts of the day in the midst of
the unpleasant moments.
A miracle happened. A neighbor asked me to watch her infant. Her friend wanted me
to take her little girl as well. Every cloud became an ice cream rainbow! Right away I
ended caring for the busy boys, convinced this new task would be SO much easier. The
limits of my ability had been stretched. It occurred to me these children-critters were with
me nine hours a day, and with their parents about five waking hours. I considered myself
as much a parental influence as their own. Approaching their flaws with the attitude of
how to help them grow up, was leaps beyond the previous thinking of "when will this day
end." That was indeed, a miracle.
My girls partially liked having playmates, and partly resented sharing me. All the
while, my heart toward children started to grow into a compassion for all children. I
found myself cooing at unfamiliar babies when in public. As the first two families moved
on to corporate daycares, I found more parents seeking care for their kids. Regardless
of what my girls didn't like, they had no idea I'd become a more hands on mom than I
would have been with only them.
Neighbors asked me to watch their children. Or, the neighborhood kids would just see
a safe place to play and mix in for a couple hours. At times, I could be entertaining eight
Today there can be six or seven kids swarming around me on bikes. Others chalk
up the driveway while I'm pushing an eager learner on a bike while shouting; "Don't
give up, you can do it!" When neighbors say; "You've got your hands full" my smiling
response is; "This is nothing." And now I know, even if I would've had that fourth child I
wanted, this would still be "Easy peasy make my cake cheesey!"