Thursday, January 25, 2007

People often ask me how I survive Landing. When it hasn't been a really hard day, I am able to say that Landing is the most fun person to ever enter my life, other than his daddy. That Landing's little twinkly sunshiney eyes make my heart sing. That seeing Landing and Caed together, interacting so sweetly (usually b/c my equally sweet Caed doesn't let any of Landing's antics bother him. Thank you, Dear Lord, for my patient Caed) soothes my soul. In truth, Landing has made me and keeps me humble. It was very easy to think I had this whole parenting thing figured out when I just had Caed. Caed has been text book and couldn't be a much more compliant, sensitive, thoughtful child. And he was probably the easiest baby I will ever have. Naturally, knowing nothing else, it was easy to be a little smug. What is the big deal about parenting anyway?

...Then there was Landing. I did all the same things with Landing that I did with Caed...with a MUCH different outcome. I assumed that if I did the bedtime routine thing with Landing, the result would be the same as it was with Caed: a baby that slept through the night at 6 weeks. Hah!!! Oh, it did work I guess. Landing did sleep through the 10 months!!!
Yes, my sweet little Landing has taught me many things in his short 15 months on earth. He has taught me that I reallly don't know what I am doing. I am just doing the best I can with what I have been given...thank goodness God is in control! I have learned that a child's personality plays a large role in the way your life plays out and the struggles that you deal with on a daily basis. I have learned that one of my biggest challenges as a parent is learning what my children's strengths and weaknesses are (yes, you can start to see them even when they are this little!!) and learning the best way to channel the weaknesses and highlight the strengths. Oh, the things I am learning!! But most of all, I am learning, on a daily basis, that I am not in control of this situation. I can't control who my children are, who they will be, often, I can't even control the way I feel!!! But thankfully, I have a sovereign God that is in control of it all. A God that knows my children, even down to the hairs of their heads. He knows exactly who they are, who they will be, and loves them even more than I do. What a comforting thought!!
I recently reread an article that I can really relate other mothers out there will appreciate it too, I am sure.

by Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the black button eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.

Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.

What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an
endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing.

Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind ? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame." The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you
get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs.

There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the
getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because o f what I' d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were...

1 comment:

  1. Your Mama1:19 PM

    My thoughts exactly after raising five children! I don't have many theories left except, "Thus Saith the Lord...."