February 24, 2017
When my first daughter was born eleven years ago, she was very slightly jaundiced. The doctors asked us to bring her back in to the hospital just a few days after birth, to do blood tests and make sure all her levels were acceptable. I still remember laying my little bundle down on the table for the sweet nurse to prick her tiny heel and gather the blood necessary for the lab work. She held my little one’s struggling foot in her hand…then asked me to help hold the baby….and once she finally managed to get the sample, she looked at me with wide eyes. “She is strong,” the nurse informed me.
Little did we know….
At four months, I was so exhausted from simply surviving her presence that I chose to take her to the Mom’s Day Out where I was taking my two-year-old son once a week. Looking back, I’m slightly horrified–she was four months old! But I remember my desperation for any kind of break from the crying. There was the colic; you could set your watch by her: at 5PM, everything fell apart and it didn’t stop until around 9:30. But there was also, simply, the crying. The “I’m never happy….what will you do to keep me happy….that worked for ten minutes but now I want something new” crying. Her first day at Mom’s Day Out, she came home with a note from her caregiver: “She certainly knows her mind!” That’s an understatement.
The tantrums of her toddlerhood. The violent frustration that might show up unexpectedly, at any moment. Scrolling through “Your memories on Facebook” recently, it revealed that at age four we had a conversation: “Are you going to go upstairs now, get dressed, and get out the door at a reasonable time? Or are you going to have a screaming fit, spend all your time crying hysterically, and finally give up and get dressed?” Her response? “Yeah, let’s do that.” Sigh.
I don’t need to go on, do I? Because if you have a strong-willed child, you know. You have your own stories, probably even bigger and larger-than-life, that you’re dealing with daily. The draining, depleting kinds of stories.
Can I tell you something? A strong-willed child looks quite different at eleven.
It looks like a kid who sings in six choir performances during the Christmas season….with undiagnosed bronchitis.
It looks like a kid who is teaching herself to play the piano. Each time she turns the page to a new song, she struggles a bit, and growls a bit, and each time she sets her jaw and works until she’s got it.
It looks like a kid who plugs along, doing the things that need to be done, until she finally admits that her ear hurts a bit….and is informed by the doctor that she has a double ear-infection and a blister on one eardrum.
It looks like a kid who, in fifth grade, is wrestling with questions I only took on in high school and college. What do people mean when they say God spoke to them? What does it mean to follow Jesus with all my heart? What does “giving all my life to God” look like? (A small sampling of our conversation over my coffee this morning….)
It looks like a kid who will find a way to make things happen, instead of rolling over and playing dead when she’s told they can’t.
I remember joking, when she was tiny, that someday this stubbornness might be a good thing. I think, maybe, we may have reached that point.
So to all the parents of strong-willed little ones who are pulling their hair out with frustration and exhaustion: it gets better.
These kids of ours may very well end up doing something magnificent.
February 17, 2017
I love our house. God blessed us with a home that has met needs we didn’t even know we were going to have when we moved in. It has been flexible enough to allow my husband to work from home, and still had space enough to welcome our third child. Somehow its four walls managed to expand and allow two foster children to move in, and now it’s relaxed back down to contain a more comfortable three-kids-and-two-dogs family. But I admit to stalking houses not even a mile south of us.
Mere blocks away there are houses that back up onto a forested creek. I’ve said, repeatedly, “I love our house….if I could only pick it up and set it down in the middle of the woods!” (Which is, frankly, ridiculous. Part of the appeal of this house when we bought it was the yard full of mature trees.)
But if you drive home “the back way” there are rows of homes surrounded by trees, with no real backyard neighbors but the creek. A range of homes, too: yes, there are a few cul-de-sacs of high-end pricey ones we could never afford, but there are also some really reasonable ones that we could. If, by chance, we ever decided to move again. And yes, I was frequently stalking those houses, thinking about moving. (Because now that things have settled down, let’s stir things up, right?)
It turned out that our Sunday School class’s annual Super Bowl party was in one of those houses. This couple was newer to our class, and when the address was sent out I almost burst out laughing: we’re practically neighbors! (Truly: my husband and son walked home that night.) I was going to get a little taste of what it might be like to live in one of Those Houses. I wondered if I’d end up envious. Or maybe if I’d end up with a lead on a potential home for sale?
Instead, I ended up with a near panic-attack. A truly beautiful home, with a small, scenic backyard…that dropped off sharply into the creek. My evening was mostly spent keeping tabs on the three-year-old: Where’s the baby?* Is she back outside? I need to go check. Wait. No. She’s here. Where is she now? I think she’s downstairs. Maybe I need to check? There she is. Etc.
For three hours.
I joked with my husband later how glad I was that we had that experience. I could just see us, led on by my glorious rustic imaginings of barefoot big kids playing in the woods and wading in the creek, moving into one of those homes, and then immediately being hit by the reality of a three-year-old who doesn’t swim. Oh, my word….what have we done?
I hereby choose to shift my focus onto gratefulness: for a home that I love, for a (relatively) large yard the kids and dogs enjoy, and for the fact that when my youngest wanders out back unattended I don’t think twice.
*Yes, we still refer to her as “the baby.” I think it has to do with the age difference in the kids: we have “the bigs” and we have “the baby.” Please bear with me…surely at some point we’ll decide on a new nickname.