Monday, September 15, 2014

The Night Before Preschool

Life is Good: and exactly the way it is supposed to be

How did this happen? How did three years whiz and zoom and zip by? You know how they show time lapses in old movies by the pages of a calendar blowing by? That feels like our life in so many ways. Life certainly sped up when we had our first child. ( Remember my favorite quote from Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.”?) And then time just rocketed into overdrive with the birth of our second. I would dare to say instantaneously.

I’m very solid in my faith. I am grateful to have what I call the "gift of belief". I accept that which I cannot always prove scientifically. And I try very much not to question God’s plan. He is the Great Creator. He is far more creative and inventive and wise than I. However, I often wonder why He made the precious, amazing, wonderful experience of childhood so short and adulthood so long? (And then I think about the sleep deprivation of having a baby and…okay, maybe I get it!)

The past three years have been wonderful. Won.der.ful. Truly. They have been full of ups and downs, like any family. But I can safely say that there were far more good times than anything. There was a lot of growing going on and I don’t just mean the children. These kids are teaching us everyday. They are making us better people. They are opening our eyes and our minds and our hearts.

Of course, I have regrets. I wouldn’t be Susie if I didn’t. Oh, when God was handing out guilt, I made sure to get seconds and thirds. And then, got back in line to make sure I filled all of my pockets, a backpack, and a purse, too. Feeling guilty and regretful when I’ve made a mistake is my kryptonite. I’m constantly working on it. Some days, I am harder on myself than others. But that’s another story. I’d dare to say that I am not alone in some of my guilt, though. I think a lot of mamas especially have “second kid guilt”. You see, I felt pretty confident as a mother with our big kid. I felt like I had found a good balance. I gave him my all and everything. I was grateful to be able to have a choice about working outside of the home and felt like, when I did take a project, that I was never taking away from our child or our family. We had a manageable schedule, a secure home life, a healthy social life. We got enough sleep.

However, baby #2 came along and it was as if the minute we walked into the house, I felt I wasn’t meeting anyone’s needs entirely. No one was crying or complaining, but it wasn’t like it had been. There were still just 24 hours in the day, but now they were divided by one more person and therefore, I knew that I wasn’t performing at the same level. Again, no one was crying or complaining, I brought the guilt all on myself. And it took a good year--or close to it-- for me to find our new groove and rest assured that I was doing my best. Not the best, but my best. And if I am doing my best, that is all I can ask for. Say that with me ten times. It is seriously one of my self-talk mama mantras. These kids are teaching me a lot about life. And so much about myself.

I always knew I wanted more than one child (okay, let's be honest...I really wanted several children) and Grant did, too. I was both ecstatic and relieved when we found out we were having our second child. Relieved? Because I really wanted our big kid to have a sibling. I wanted him to have that experience and that bond. I wanted him to have a cohort to experience life with. I wanted him to have someone to play a game with, catch a ball with, and ride a carnival ride with. Someone to conspire against us when holding a garden hose. Someone to commiserate with when we were being “so weird” or “so unfair”. And I wanted him to have somebody to cling on to and share this life with after Grant and I are gone. Yes, I was already trying to parent a 50-year old! My nuttiness is not lost on me. I promise.

As thrilled as I was to be having another child. I was also worried. Not non-stop, but rather, a healthier “concern” that appeared off and on. And mostly at night when I was experiencing prenatal insomnia (so unfair!). Oh, yes. I had the usual concerns about the health of the baby, getting to the hospital on time, and having someone to care for the big kid if my water broke in the middle of the night. But I had other concerns. Primarily, I worried about how this second child would fit in to our family. Or would he fit in? We had a pretty great little operation going on for three years. Life was good. Life was balanced. We had a schedule and a groove and a flow. Had we just made a decision that would totally ruin all of that? Just as soon as these thoughts flipped into my head, I would plop them out. We wanted this little baby so very, very much. Of course this was only going to make our family better. I believed this. Truly.

But, truthfully, the concern about this little baby fitting in continued to hover in my thoughts. And as an intentional parent, I think it was a fair concern. Our big kid was an extrovert. He loved attention. He was willing to engage in all kinds of talk and performance to get it. He was very verbal. He knew who he was and what he wanted. (Those of you who know me well are probably smirking right now. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) How would a second child manage with an older sibling like that? I feared that this second child would be a shadow. He would yield to the older sibling. What if he never had his own opinions? What if he were shy, withdrawn, felt unheard?  What if he never fully reached who he was meant to be because of this attention-seeking, chatty older brother? Each time that this worry popped into my head, I would turn to prayer. I would ask God that this child would fit perfectly into our family and that these two children would be exactly what each other needed. And I would trust. I would trust that God was in control of things. And that He knew best.

And He did.

Oh, how He did.

Fast forward (literally) three years and we have a second child who: is an extrovert, loves attention, is wiling to engage in all kinds of talk and performance to get attention, is very verbal, knows who he is and what he wants. Times ten. Yes, this little apple didn’t fall far from the tree either. Grant laughs that for such a small person, my DNA is mighty!

I accept that God always hears our prayers, but that He often answers them differently than what we ask for. It’s not an easy acceptance. We humans want what we want, but history shows me that God has always known what is best for me and that even when I make a wrong turn or one of those guilt-ridden, regretful mistakes, He is there to crank the steering wheel back on the right path as soon as I am willing to let him take back control of the helm. (Yes, I just mixed a whole lot of transportation metaphors together. Apologies!) And indeed, my prayers were answered about our little kid. For sure, he fits perfectly into our family. He is exactly what we needed. And with each new day, he surprises us with his big words and silly, roundabout stories. He and his brother often seem like two peas in a pod and literally, often look like it as they smoosh together in deep, long, giggle-laden hugs. But he is definitely his own person, too. He knows what he wants and even before he could talk, made sure we were aware of it. He’s a constant reminder that everyone deserves an explanation, no matter how little they are, because he demands one! Not a day goes by that he doesn’t expect justice and respect. (Good for him!) And just when we think we have giggled all that we can giggle, he bursts into one of his original songs or a funny phrase that is dotted with an “A-da!” exclamation point (“Ta-da” to the rest of you.). And while I still wonder if everyone’s needs are being met, I do it less often, I ruminate on it for less time, and I have convinced myself that the addition of another family member might mean smaller portions of “me” for everyone from time to time but more of “us” all of the time, which I think, no, I know, that we are all better for.

So here I sit, on the eve before our three-year old little kid goes to preschool. It’s not full-time so we’ll still have plenty of time spent together, and thus, there’s really no mourning to feel. Instead, I am thrilled for him and all of the fun and growth and wonder that he’s about to experience. Socially, he’s so ready and has been for a long time. He’s going to have a blast. But I do sit and wonder where the time went. And as I do, I see flashes of pictures flip through my head like those old-time movie calendars blowing by. The photos are varied in subject and background, but the mainstay is smiles…and love that just bursts out of the frame like sunshine. And that is worth all of the sleepless nights, schedule juggling, occasional refereeing, and yes, worrying about “fitting in” and overshadowing and sigh, mama guilt. Our little kid is a constant reminder to me that God knows best. And that prayers always get answered in the way that is best for us. So we should trust in God’s plan and settle our feet firmly in our faith. Our little kid is also an on-going reminder that this family is less about “me” and all about us. I’m so grateful to have these little boys as my teachers. I only hope one day that they will say the same about Grant and me. And the next time that irksome mama guilt creeps in, I’ll try to remember to unload that "me suitcase" I’m carrying around because we’re managing. And we're getting through this life, with God's help and guidance, together


When in doubt, choose...

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