Friday, September 5, 2014

So This Is What Parenting Is All About

I used to see parents with their children out in public.  And when the children would be wildly out of control, I would look at the parent with a small smile.  But in my head, I was thinking,"Get a hold of your children dude." I was so glad that I had my four-year college degree in elementary education with lots of child psychology and early childhood courses that helped to fill my head with useful knowledge.  I was so glad that I was going to be a good parent and that embarrassing situation would never happen to me.

Fast forward a few years... and now with two kids-- ages three and one.

Parenting is hard.  Mothering is hard.  It's the farthest thing from simple.  And it dawns on you at some point, that children come with personalities.  No joke.  And then they get some bad parts of you and you have to be reminded of those parts 'every.single.day.'  And let me reassure you that my children have been those above mentioned children way more than I would have liked.  And I just want to tell that small-smile girl, "Honey, you have no freakin' idea."

There is so much I didn't understand about parenting before I became a parent.

I think it can be be summed up like this.  Before children, I lived this life where I saw the rainbow in ROYGBIV.  A little sun, a light sprinkle.  It was neat.  I liked it.  After having children, that rainbow turned brilliant.  I saw hundreds of colors like aubergine, periwinkle and mint.  But it meant for much more extreme weather... unbelievably sunny days and downright nasty storms.  And you love that rainbow more than you ever thought possible.  You couldn't go a day without it. Even when it means enduring the storms.
This summer has been kind of a whirlwind for me.  It started as an over-scheduled, spreading-myself-too-thin Spring that led to a stuck feeling that has lingered way too long.  I felt as though I was still in June and the rest of the world was heading right into September. (WTH? September?)  I was feeling not completely present, a sort of anxiousness and my day-dreaming and thought-rambling was non-stop.  I was tired but couldn't sleep; full of ideas, but couldn't write. Stuck on need-to-do's, should-do's and over dues.  I was searching for the present but I was either thinking about the future or mulling over the past.

And then there's this parenting thing.  It doesn't stop when you need a break. In fact, it can make you even more rundown--truth!!  Yes, it can be overwhelming... often.  The idea that I just couldn't figure it out remained a little unsettling.  I think perhaps my heart felt tender after an emotional Spring... so I tried to navigate with my head.  Well, that never works.  And the reality is that we all just try to do the best we can-- there really is no figuring it out.  And if you think you have it all figured out-- I dare you to say it out loud because we both know that the second that happens... your perfect bubble gets popped too.

Last night I heard Lilah in the monitor.  I looked at the clock.  It said 2:49AM.  I turned the video on and the sound off.  I am sure I mumbled a good riddance under my breath or at least a quick "please sleep prayer." I gave her a chance to work it out- this usually works.  No such luck.  I thought about the week before when I let her cry for 30 minutes on and off and when I finally went to check on her, she needed a diaper change and her poor bottom was blistered.  I felt awful.  Remembering this, I got up, went to her room and scooped her into my arms.  I began to tell her that it was ok in my sweetest mama-voice and asked her if she needed a diaper change. She said, "Yeah," through her whimpers.  I started to change her diaper but there was nothing in it.  But she was still lightly crying.  I didn't know what was wrong.  I gave her milk.  She said she wanted to eat so I gave her a snack which she didn't eat. The clock now said 3:32AM.

It was hard for me not to start thinking about how tired I would be in the morning.  About how I just wanted to go back to bed.  About how I didn't know what she wanted.  About how I should have let her work it out.  I could feel the frustration begin to creep in.

I went to my last resort and laid with her on the couch.  I snuggled her in my blanket and she became calm.  And we just laid there together looking into the darkness of the room.

Maybe, just maybe... she just needed her mama.

I felt her littleness in my arms, the way her body tucked right next to mine.  I could feel her smooth cheek against mine and hear her soft breaths.  I could feel her reaching her tiny hand toward me as if she needed one more reassurance that I was really there.

And then I heard this in my head, "So this is what parenting is all about."

And I suppose that sentence can be interpreted a hundred ways depending on how it was said/read.  Let me tell you what it meant to me...

It's about love.  A love that is so deep, you can actually feel the huge space it takes up in your chest. A love that is so overwhelming, it stops you in your tracks when you try to wrap your head around it.  A love that you could have never imagined before you became a parent.  A love that can take you where you are and snap you back into the present in an instant.

I had visions of ten/twenty years from now where I would give anything to have my love, my babygirl snuggled close to me, needing me and nothing else. It pained me to think about how someday life will be without these little snuggles, without the "I love yous" all day, without the "mama, mama, mama!" and without the tiny little kisses.  It will all just be a memory.  And wow... I started thinking about how short this season in my life would actually be.  Waking up tired in the morning no longer mattered because this moment with her was everything.  And when it comes down to it-- all we have is a collection of moments. I was keeping this one and I immediately filed it under "Moments I want to replay in my head 100 times at least."

I love that this moment was simple.  And I love that it started off as a "please for the love of it-- go to sleep girlfriend" moment because my expectations were pretty low.  I felt like I just gave in to everything around me... everything beyond my control... everything that in my head was screaming, "NOOOO! It's 3:00AM!" I was fully present even though I was half-asleep.  I let the moment consume me.  I let myself feel it completely.  A simple moment in the middle of the night to help navigate me when and where I got lost.

A mind-shift and a conscious decision to plunge in September with the rest of the world.  And a few thoughts to help me land softly: 1. Forget the to-do list-- for now 2. Give yourself grace 3. Focus on the small/simple pleasures right under your nose happening currently 4. Forgive yourself for not being everything to everyone 5. Take a deep breath.

I pressed my face into her neck and I filled my nose with her sweet baby scent knowing it is just temporary.  "I am here baby.  I am here."

A pain in my chest where that fierce love resides. Or maybe, just maybe... I just needed her.

So this is what parenting is all about.

Some simple moments that I captured on my camera: