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Monday, January 16, 2012

Confessions of a shame-filled mother

I know that sometimes, it sounds like I'm complaining about some of this motherhood stuff. I am. And I have some nerve. And almost every single day when I am knee deep in diapers and tantrums and fights and juice requests and hair that I have pulled out of my head and "mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy....", I am reminded that I should be ashamed of myself.

The other day, I was picking up Leo from pre-k when his teacher told me that her (only) son is so jealous of Leo when he hears all of his stories about his brothers and sisters. He wants a brother or sister soooooo bad. "So what are you waiting for?" I foolishly asked. "I've been trying for four years." Needless to say, as I drove away, I learned that I can drive with one foot in my mouth.

Just the other day, I posted a rant on Facebook about not wanting to teach my almost one year old the word "mommy", at least for another year or two. This was an actual thought that I have had. I can't help wondering if my mental well being will remain in tact (or at least remain hanging on by a thread) when child number four begins to abuse the word like the others do. And just now, I referred to their precious little voices uttering my name as abuse. Shameful. I can't help wondering how some poor infertile woman hasn't responded to one of these mommy rants with a well deserved "shut up and count your blessings you ungrateful witch!"

I have an amazing friend who has a son with down syndrome. I have NEVER felt sorry for her, because I didn't even know about his diagnosis for nearly the first year of his life. All I knew was that she was a glowingly happy and proud mama with a sweet, happy, adorable child. They are a match made in heaven. So when I learned how truly special they really are, I couldn't help wondering if I could be as amazing, given the same opportunity.

I have another amazing friend who lost a child whom she had carried full term, very unexpectedly, and only hours after meeting her. It still takes my breath away just thinking about the pain she must have endured. I had no idea, in that moment, how she would pull through that sorrow. And now I admire her as I watch her thrive as a beautiful, happy, healing, positive and thankful mother of three. No bitterness, just a newfound strength.

And just recently, I followed, in awe, a story of a woman who had died just days after her daughter was born, as a community pulled together to honor her dying wish to have her baby thrive on breast milk for the first year of her life. When her doctors told her that her body was shutting down, she told them it was healing. She was going to die, and leave behind her four children, and was at such peace with the process, that she found it therapeutic.

I thank God for my "four beautiful blessings" every night when I say my prayers. And then I apologize for all of my shortcomings as a mother that day, and ask him for more patience to be a better mother tomorrow. I won't lie, it's challenging. One healthy child is challenging for a new mother. Four healthy children can be down right maddening, even for an old pro like myself. But when I am offered up any bit of perspective from any of these amazing ladies, I have to wonder how I got so lucky. What did I do to warrant four beautiful, healthy, happy babies without even trying when there are women out there who struggle to conceive even one?

With each of my pregnancies, I was offered the option of a test to conclude if my unborn child had down-syndrome. Each time, I declined. I would like to think that if left in God's hands, I would rise to any circumstance that he may choose to bestow upon me, with the same grace as my amazing friend. She goes through great lengths to ensure that her baby boy thrives, and here I am hoping my sweet, healthy little baby will have a slight delay in her speech development because I don't know if I can handle another 2 million "mommy" requests a day.

And while I know my other amazing friend who lost her baby has similar moments of feeling completely overwhelmed and yearns for the patience and strength to be a mother of three, I know that she would give anything to have her baby back, and be an overwhelmed mother of four.

My struggles as a mother of four stem from the good fortune I been truly blessed with. My children are healthy and strong-willed and capable. When they need something (and they ALWAYS need something) they can ask me, or they may try it themselves (and perhaps make a huge mess in doing so...BREATH...It's ok), or they can try it themselves and succeed. They are growing strong so they are ALWAYS hungry or thirsty and depend solely on me to feed them and quench their thirst which means I live in the kitchen, which thankfully connects to the laundry room where I also work full time because they are also active and fun and messy. They are smart so they are ALWAYS asking questions. They are capable so they want to learn how to ride a bike, tie shoes, roller skate, swim, play sports, read, etc. , which can be utterly exhausting and magnificently rewarding. They can speak and express themselves which can sometimes be REALLY INFURIATING and other times can melt my heart. And best of all, they are HERE, and I am HERE with them.

As parents, we worry about the millions of things that could happen to our children. I have been terrified by the very idea of facing any of the challenges these other mother's have faced. I am humbled by the incredibly admirable strength and grace with which they have faced these challenges. I am ashamed of all of my whining about having to answer to yet another "mommy" from yet another of my beautiful, healthy babies.

I am sorry.

I am blessed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas in hind sight.

It all began around 6:30 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving with a black friday crazed elf (35 It year old grown man) singing Christmas carols while yanking me out of bed to begin our Christmas shopping. I'm as eager as anyone to jump into the Christmas season, but at this particular hour, as he ripped the warm covers off of me and dragged me out of bed and held me up and made me dance to his holiday cheer, all while I was still asleep, I put him at the top of my naughty list.

A cup of coffee and a few rounds of "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" later, my holiday spirit kicked in.

I have always loved the Christmas season. And now, having four little ones to share the magic and excitement with, it's almost more joy than I can bare. I am overwhelmed with the honor of carrying on the tradition of my late mother, even if that means I have to spend days rolling millions of little peanut butter balls that many of the people I plan to share them with can barely stand the sight of them (myself included).

I do my best to explain the true meaning of Christmas to my children. I put out my mother's nativity scene and tell them the story of baby Jesus. I take them to Church and I pray that they pay attention. And while they seem to want to understand, I can tell they are distracted by yet another thing they just thought of for their Christmas list. Maybe next year.

And as some of my loved ones and our traditions have slipped away from me, I am devoted to creating new ones for my children to cherish and carry on. And in spite of my better judgment, I want one of those traditions to be utter amazement when they wake up on Christmas morning; I want to spoil them. Little Leo woke up to a present so awesome that he stood speechless for a moment and then stuttered in a little whisper, "it...it's just...what I wanted. It's...my favorite...thing. I can't believe it".

And for my retribution, I spend the next few weeks opening absurd packaging, some of which actually require a screwdriver just to open it, spend days trapped in an abyss of "some assembly required",spend several infuriating hours trying to transform Leo's Transformer that has 21 steps and I'm certain states somewhere in the ultra fine print "hahahaha good luck sucker", and spend the next year staring at toys that my children only played with once or twice before I start clearing them out for next Christmas. And it's still worth it.

I used to feel so bad for my mom and dad because Santa seemed to forget all about them. And now I am as shocked as anyone to learn that it actually is better to give than to receive.

Santa is awesome. But that naughty and nice list can be tricky. How does one threaten their child with the naughty list, knowing full well that Santa doesn't have the heart to disappoint a child on Christmas morning, even if, in all reality, said child should have made the "little asshole" list?

And how is a once sweet an innocent little 4 year old supposed to contain his excitement(hyperactivity) and joy (anxiety) at the thought of a jolly ol' man and his flying reindeer bringing him a sleigh full of anything he can possibly think of to put on his ever growing Christmas list? And when he cannot handle the pressure of the nice list or the angst of the naughty list and thus loses complete control of his behavior all together, how is mom supposed to look him in the eye and tell him Santa is watching, knowing that Santa is going to blow his mind no matter how demonic he acts, without losing all credibility as a parent?

So, needless to say, everyone made the nice list this year. And after Santa came with his haul, and mom and dad stood back to take it all in, we experienced our usual pangs of guilt at the sight of our overindulgence. But, in our defense, THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT. There is nothing like creating a moment for your children that is so thrilling that it literally takes this ones breath away, and leaves that one speechless.

My amazing children have offered up some humbling perspective. As Madeline sat in awe at the pile of presents just waiting for her and her brothers and sisters, she said "I feel like we live in an orphanage with 50 orphans." Yes, our Christmas for our four children would have made 50 orphans very happy. Ouch.

And just yesterday, little Leo, who's behavior has been much improved since the pressures of Santa and naughty lists and little spying elves on shelves have eased, told me that he's still trying to stay on Santa's nice list, even though he does not want anymore presents, because he already got enough, "more than enough".

And of course, there are the babies, who were all together, unimpressed, and were their usual happy little selves, not because of the gifts, but regardless of them.

This was my greatest gift this year, my children and their grateful perspectives. They taught me a Christmas lesson. And in doing so, I have made it my New years resolution, or better yet, my mission as a parent and a fellow human being, to give back more, and to teach my children to do the same. We are blessed. I want them, and myself, to not only be thankful for our blessings, but to pay them forward.