Saturday, November 4, 2017

This Too Shall Pass, in retrospect

When I had only one child, I was sure that I had this parenting thing down. Not because she was an easy baby, she wasn't, but because I could either meet her needs or sympathize with her unhappiness if it wasn't something that I could fix. She cried and nursed a lot. We co-slept and cloth-diapered and carried her in a sling or wrap everywhere we went. She didn't like loud noises or bright lights or people in her face, but we just loved the heck out of her and made the best of things. When I had a second baby, things got a little dicier.

I clearly remember one day at Whole Foods when the lights and sounds and smells were too much for Camille, my eldest, and she was melting down. Her little sister, Sylvia, was in the first couple of months of life in a baby carrier on my chest. In Cam's distress, she was flailing while I was trying to get her out of the seat in the cart. She was three. She kicked Sylvia's back through the carrier and woke her up with a loud wail, and I very nearly wanted to bite Camille in my desperation to get her to calm down. (Clearly, it wouldn't have helped the situation anyway but human instincts being what they are...) I didn't want to drop Cam from the height of the cart. I didn't want her to hurt Sylvia again, and I just wanted to load up our groceries and get home. Then a stranger walked up to me and said in a lilting voice, "It's OK. This too shall pass, Mama." Instead of being the helpful, calming statement that this woman thought it would be, I now wanted to bite the stranger too. (Again, not helpful or rational, just instinct...). I may have even snarled a little and eventually we struggled our way to the car.

Parenting can be really overwhelming. Meeting young children's needs while still trying to manage our own can be a nearly impossible juggling act. Perfection is a myth, but that doesn't stop us from trying our best and feeling bad when we fall short.

That three-year-old is now 14, the baby is 10, and their younger sister is 7. I was recently working at the library and chatting with one of the volunteers who comes in weekly. I was half complaining/half joking that something needed my attention from the moment I woke up 'til darn near the moment I went to bed at night and that's why I was tired. This friendly Mennonite woman, looked at me so kindly and said, "I know the feeling. This too shall pass." I felt both completely understood and comforted by her words, but I also thought about that other moment when someone had offered up the same words to me.

We're not always receptive to the advice or the words of wisdom from others. Sometimes, we just can't be and we have other priorities that have to come first. I try not to offer up endless advice to my children for the same reason. (I have an instinct to do so, I have looooots of good ideas about everything, I'm sure.) To them, it may just seem like an added frustration in an already frustrating moment, and who knows, maybe they have a better solution anyway. They know they can come to me for advice or help any time and I will always do my best to problem-solve with them. Sometimes just being a compassionate listener IS the kindest thing that we can do for our children. To let them know that we understand their feelings even when they are intense or uncomfortable. We don't always need to try to change or fix or advise them.

Also, if you see a parent struggling at the grocery store, maybe just offer to help carry her groceries, or simply smile sympathetically and carry on...

unrelated cell phone pics from yesterday's trip into the city

 exploring the state capitol building

patiently waiting for the show to start
(Luminescence: A Spectacle of Fire and Light) 

Despite my mild complaint to my library volunteer friend, my children don't need my attention all the time these days. They do grow up. I'm honored that they come to me still to chat about the things that they're interested in and to ask for my opinion on various topics and disagreements and projects. Also, none of them have attempted to kick each other in years and years!

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