I didn't see it coming, and I missed it.
So caught up in the business and busyness of the days, that there was no warning, so heads up, no way that I could have known it would be over when it seemed like it had just begun.
In the midst of child rearing and being a wife, I realize now that I took it for granted and even though I uttered the words, "it's just a phase, and it won't be forever"; I wasn't ready for it.
It was a normal evening and a normal day.
Christmas had come and gone and with it the events, dinners, gifts, and on top of it all, the flu had blown through my house the first week of holidays like a tornado.
I was tired. I was spent. I had gotten up more times in a night than I have since I had newborns waking me with their hungry cries.
I even laid in bed one night while my twelve year old had her head buried in the toilet at 3 am, because I just could not get out of bed again. I listened to my husband coaching her from the hall (because he's a joiner) saying, "You're doing great Em. Are you ok? What do you need?".
Maybe I should have gotten out of bed. He sounded more like a personal trainer than a Dad with a sick child in the bathroom; but he was doing the best he could. But I missed that moment as well.
The point of all this? It was a week; a busy week. And I was tired. Bedtime rituals came and went every night more like a flurry of panic for my crying, over tired, fighting young children.
And when my youngest asked me on Wednesday evening to lay down with her for 5 minutes like I do every night, I looked at her and said, "Mommy is really tired. So I'll lay down, but you need to close your eyes and go to sleep."
She knew what that meant. No braiding my hair, while she lay there holding her bear. No poking my eye lids to see if I was really sleeping. No games of me opening one eye as I turn to face her so she would giggle. No playing with our bears, pretending we were putting them to bed.
I wanted her to sleep, and fall asleep quickly. And she did. I was out of her room within fours minutes. I dragged myself downstairs to fold a load of laundry on the couch while watching TV.
Thursday came, and I had more time. I was trying to get all my children to bed on time, because after the busy Christmas week end, and a New Years week end coming up, I thought it important that they have a few nights of good sleep in between.
As I read them a book, sang their night time prayers, and walked the stairs that night, I was not prepared for what was coming. I tucked in my seven year old son, and did the regular hugging game, where I nuzzle my nose into his shoulder and tickle him. He doesn't want a hug or a kiss usually, and so I take what I can. And after the "I love you to the moon and back" and "good nights", I made my way over to my four year olds room.
"Do you have my bear ready for me?"
"Ummm, yes Mom, but I am big now. I don't need you to lay down with me ok?"
What? When did she decide over the course of the last 24 hours that she didn't need me to lay down?
Had my fatigue and warning last night discourge her? Why would she say this?
"I can lay down with you Honey. Is it because last night you had to go straight to sleep?"
"No Mommy. I just am big now. It's ok right?"
"Yes sweetie, of course"
So I leaned in and kissed her and hugged her, tucked her in "snug as a bug in a rug", put "my" bear beside her and told her to keep him company for me.
She just smiled, and said, "Good night. I love you."
And as I turned to walk out of her room, I realized; that was that.
I missed it.
I missed enjoying the last night I got to lay down with her. I missed that moment. And a piece of my purpose seemed to fall away.
It easily happens. We're Moms, and so it's much easier to deal with life in a quick, orderly, and efficient manner than to actually stop and look at what's happening. It's hard to stop and take a breath and wonder if we're dealing with the moment the best way we can. And we're human, broken, sinful, and imperfect. We get tired, sick, discouraged, and even overwhelmed.
But in that moment, I had to stop and go over the previous night in my head, and I decided that I could have done things better.
And so, I have come up with a little check list of how I am to go about my days now.
Some of these tips I have heard from others, some I have thought of myself, and some although I'm not sure where, I am certain I have seen written somewhere. It's not a New Years Resolution so much as it is a way of living a little differently.
1. BE KIND. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Even our children. There are bad days, good days, discouragements, frustrations, peer pressure, disappointments, joys, and everything in between. Being kind to them even in their lowest moments will teach them that every moment matters, and hopefully they will see how simply being kind can change a moment for the better.
2. WILL THIS MATTER? Ask yourself in any moment where you feel you may be losing grasp on a situation,
"Will this matter in the future?" Will my 4 year old want me laying down with her when she's 18? Probably not. So what does it really matter? Or that 3 year old that just will NOT use the toilet. Will it matter next year? Will they still be using a diaper at age 5? And if the answer is, "Well maybe" or a definitive "Yes", then this brings me to number 3.
3. A DIFFERENT APPROACH. So often I find myself stuck in my OWN ways that I fail to see what way will possibly work for my child. You would think that after 6 children and having an Autistic son that I would be better able to roll with the punches. But sometimes I find myself frustrated because what I am doing is not working. I could possibly alleviate my frustrations (and theirs) if I look at the situation through their lense, and determine what would work for them. And here's a crazy thought, let's ask them what they think of the situation and what would help!?
4. SPEAK to our children (and others) how we wish to be spoken to. My oldest and I often get into great discussions which on occasion will end up as an argument. It often becomes about who is right as opposed to viewing two different ways and coming to a compromise.
I realize now, that I did this to her.
When she tried to discuss things with me in her early years, I was often quick to settle the conversation because I had lots of little ones to tend to. And I thought that I, being the parent and thinking my way was the only way, realize now that I have probably instilled in her a "fight" till your right mentality, and so..
5. LISTEN is key. This is a hard one for me. I tend to hear what someone is saying and already in that instant am formulating what I want to respond, missing the last piece of whatever it is they are telling me. I do this with my children. I must learn to truly listen to them.
It is so easy to hear, "Can a friend come over", and I already am thinking about driving them around, that I have so much to do, that I now have to worry about what to cook for dinner because perhaps the friend does not like chicken, or potatoes, that I miss, "...her parents can drop her off at 7 and pick her up on their way home at 11...", and I say, "No."
Which leads to "Why nots?", anger, and frustration on both sides.
6. Lastly, just STOP.
This one dear Moms is the hardest one by far. Stop what we are doing and take a moment. Watch them, hear them, speak to them, understand them. So often as mothers we are multi tasking and although we mostly multi task well, I fear we are missing something.
So if I had stopped to actually think about all these things, then I most likely would have realized that laying down with my youngest had nothing to do with her trying to get her way, or me being tired and annoyed, and everything to do with just 5 minutes of time that she had with me.
Time that was not shared between siblings, cooking, cleaning, and the other one thousand things that I do when I'm with her.
So if I had been kind, tried a different approach, spoken to her correctly, listened and stopped, then maybe I would have seen laying down with her as a time she had me to herself to just laugh, enjoy and relax.
That was her battle I'm sure, being the youngest. And it wouldn't have really mattered how tired I was because I would have realized that one day it would be over. A piece of my purpose seemed to slip through my fingers.
And yet, I am human. I make mistakes, and the blessing from that one mistake is that I have learned and grown from it.
If it would be as simple as 6 steps, then I'm sure I would go documented in history as the perfect parent, but it's not that simple.
And if I'm perfectly honest, I am sure that in the future there will be more missed moments.
But this is a start for me. One step to slow down, and re-evaluate parenting. Because what good is growing if we believe we have learned all we can?
And so Happy New Year. Bring on 2017;
My purpose and calling on this earth is being a Mom, and sometimes I feel I am failing;
but by grace, and at times crying out on my knees, I realize that this purpose is never lost with the moments.
So, I will try to cling to knowing that through this life that I am changing, and growing, and I will try to catch as many of the moments as I can...before they're gone.