I found this picture under my dresser the other day and just stared at it. I remembered very well that house, that room, that time of life. Me holding my younger brother. I loved helping take care of my little brothers. I played house with them (as you can see the one boy is dressed as a girl probably with a pony tail that you can’t see), sang them to sleep, took baths with them and slept in the same rom with them. That little girl in the picture was so carefree with her knee-high socks falling down, so loving and eager to please. That me was playful, more apt to not overly worry or be anxious but agreeable to the way things were.. There was also a deep question in her eyes but we don’t need to go there right now.
Sometimes I wish I could raise Gavin the way I was a big sister to my little brothers.
My one friend, a mother of 4 girls, is like that – the not worrying part. She never seems to stress. I love watching her parent. She laughs with them. She has a great relationships with all 4 girls; very caring of their needs but not over emphasizing small things. She takes what she assesses is enough for that moment and if something unexpected comes up, she might just sigh and say not right now dear or something soft and rational like that to which the girls might be grumpy about but still listen. She’s happy. She is in control. Not like a control freak – she’s just chill but you know she’s the parent.
I look at my child and feel this overwhelming sense of responsibility. Like don’t let him eat another cookie. Give him a banana instead. Make sure he get’s enough water in one day and learns to eat carrots. He must listen when I say come, like yesterday already! If I forget to brush his teeth one more night they’ll all fall out by the time he’s 2 and a half! I have got to take better care of his sensitive skin. And thus the list of musts and do – do – dos runs laps in my mind. It’s a real 5k. The kind that can leave you panting and so ready for nap time.
At some point though I have loosened up with my parenting. It’s called life I think and out of nowhere it all falls into place like dominos all set up and suddenly without warming one falls and then the next and the next and the next. And it keeps going and you can’t go back but keep going forward to the next day and the next. We sorta know what to expect as we move day by day with each other and we learn how to deal with melt downs and adamant “No’s” We learn to interpret the babble and the pointing. Yes, eventually you just do. And it’s another day. Another domino falls.
But, I have to say that the one thing I like about my younger self taking care of little brothers is that in the end, it wasn’t all my responsibility. In the end mom would come and have the final say. In the end it was mom who got the child to eat his peas, to put on his underwear, stopped the fussing and crying and who stayed up late with a sick toddler while I slept and probably didn’t even know what was going on in the next room, tucked sound asleep in my bed happy as a kitten.
Now, it’s all on me. I’m the mom. And, that leaves me little peace and sometimes very little energy. Because, what if I can’t. You know? What if I just can’t?
But then sometimes you can.
It all starts when you couldn’t seem to find any other way out or maybe because mom’s not available to bail you out. Each night you or your husband find yourself in your child’s room standing there until he falls asleep at night. And this goes on night after night and he doesn’t seem to out grow out of it like he did other things. That is until a night out with some friends who struggle with the same thing and you talk and talk about what nights are like for both of you, leaving you feeling reluctant, and then on the drive home you and your husband hash this out the whole way and that very evening a new plan is implemented and it actually works. You are so giddy with excitement and freedom from the cage of the baby’s room you text your friend and rejoice to high heaven that the child is asleep without your presence hovering over his crib for 38 minutes. At some point you are awakened to change and the awareness that you CAN. That’s what other mothers do for each other – help us to see that we can.
The occasional victory keeps you going for a while but then something new starts up. Another struggle comes into focus that you can’t seem to shake. And on and on the parenting cycle of worry over the next thing continues. I know somewhere in there I need to trust God with my worries. That’s what a good Christian would do, right? I need to hand over my list of what I need to work on with my son. Hand it over and rest. Maybe first tear the list to shreds, burn it and offer the ashes to God as a burnt offering. He’d be mightily pleased of the letting go of lists on my part and then invite me to relax and live in his sweet world of rest that slowly moves on trust. The door to that sanctuary was probably open all along but I didn’t see it. I’ve been missing it because my head was down making worrisome lists the whole time and burning out on cookie fuel instead of trust fuel.
I’ll never be the Jolynn of the past. I can’t go back. Those dominos already fell. I am the mother now. Let me own this suit and wear it on the good days and the bad days. Maybe someday it will feel more natural or like me when I look in the mirror. Because honestly some days I could almost pinch myself that I have this adorable little tyke who runs to give me hugs or comes and sits beside me on the couch just to lay his head on my shoulder and be next to me. Or who crawls up on my lap when I’m eating a snack and asks for “some?”. Who looks at me sheepishly as he takes another sip of soda and giggles that irresistible laugh and I burst into hysterics because how can I not even though he’s drinking Dr Pepper and his teeth are gonna rot.
He has the biggest brown eyes that twinkle when he laughs and his chubby little arms wrap perfectly around my neck and when he lays his head on my shoulder I could squeeze him forever and ever. He has ambition and energy like the start of a crisp spring day. No doubt or fear of anything; the world is his like a kite and string. He’s smart and intelligent when he wants to be and loves to sing with any stick, dinosaur’s tail or spoon as his microphone. And the way he twaddles and bounces as he runs when I chase him makes me happier than an eagle soaring high in a clear blue sky.