Friday, March 22, 2013

Don't Blink

“Don’t blink.” We’ve all heard the older folks say it. They tell us that youth is wasted on the young. They tell us that we should enjoy every minute of being young. They tell us that we are really going to miss the things we take for granted now. They tell us, “These are the best years of your life.” When I was young I wondered at these things and thought “time doesn’t pass any quicker for younger folks than it does for the elderly. What are they talking about? Isn’t life just as enjoyable at an older age?” 

The older I get, the more I understand just what those older folks are talking about. I am becoming one of them. Now I say all those things. I often tell young mothers, “You’re gonna miss this one day.” I saw a toddler throwing a terrible fit in the grocery store yesterday and felt sorry for the mother who was trying to deal with her tired little boy. I watched and smiled, and thought: “When he’s ten or fifteen, she’s going to so wish she could still pick him up and hold him.” Of course, not everyone is like me. Perhaps, not everyone will miss the tantrums, the dirty diapers, the drool, and the noise. But I do and I will. 

I have older kids and I have younger kids, seven in total. Yes, they all have the same father. (I have actually had people ask me that.) I gave birth seven times and have seven children. One of those babies didn’t make it (See: Loving Chaney) and we adopted another (Sydney). The baby I lost is missed every day and there are not too many days that go by that I do not think about her. The pain isn’t as intense as it once was but it is still there. Five of my children were/are typically developing and two have special needs. I may have a different perspective than a mother who has never lost a child. I definitely have a different perspective than a mother who does not have any special needs children. I also am sure I have a different perspective than a mother who had one or two children. I’ve seen a lot and done a lot and experience has helped me to realize that all the things I used to “know” were not necessarily true. I had so many false ideas and expectations when I was first starting out. The understanding I have now about how fast eighteen years goes by, helps me to enjoy and to parent my younger children differently than I did my older children. I am much more patient and I am trying to savor every minute.

I am thankful that I have been able to be a stay-at-home mom. I don’t think I am a “better” mom than those who have to work. I have many good friends and relatives who are mothers and they have full-time jobs. They are a wonder to me because they get it all done! 

I am able to spend time with my kids, lots of time. I may not enjoy every single minute but I try to value every single minute. Something I have learned over the years is that almost every moment throughout the day is a teaching moment when you are with children. They absorb things from their environment from the time they are new until they “know it all” around age 13. Haha Kids are always watching and learning. They are developing in so many ways. Who better to shape their character than their own mother? A mother who isn’t complaining about their tantrums and their crying and their constant needs? Isn’t that what you signed up for the day you conceived them?

Once when I was young and newly married, I was sitting in my parents’ kitchen and I was complaining about some chore that needed done at home. I didn’t want to go home and do it but I knew I had to. I don’t remember if it was moping the floor or cooking a meal or what. My dad said, “You knew when you got married that you’d have to do those things. If you didn’t want to do them, you shouldn’t have gotten married.” I remember it hurt my feelings a little but it was just what I needed to hear. I have often thought about that over the years. When I am complaining about a task I often remember what dad said and I try to count my blessings instead of complaining. I love being a wife. I love being a mother. I love summer vacations. I love snow days. I love spending time with my kids. All those things come with chores that are not always fun. But those things are all worth it. 

Sometimes when I hear another mother complaining about the amount of sleep she is not getting, or missing work to stay home with a sick child, or doing all their laundry…. I want to say to them what my dad said to me all those years ago:  “Why did you have a baby if you didn’t want to be a mother?” It’s not all fun and games. Didn’t you know that? There are so many people who would trade places with you in a heartbeat. Stop complaining and count your blessings. Did you know it takes ten positive things to undo the damage of one negative comment you make to a child? It takes ten smiles to undo a frown that you showed them. I’m re-reading a book right now called “The Power of a Positive Mom.” I tend to be a pessimist and I often need reminded to find the silver linings when the skies are gray. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not smiling a hundred percent of the time. Sometimes kids need to see the look of disapproval on your face. You can’t let a toddler play in the street and you can’t let a child be disrespectful….  I’m talking about the heavy sigh you give when a preschooler asks you “why?” for the tenth time in an hour. I’m talking about the lack of enthusiasm you show when a kid asks you to “watch me” as they jump off the bottom two steps of the staircase. I’m talking about the frown when a kid asks you to read him the same book that you read him yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Do your kids know how tired you are of them? 

Count your blessings and value the day that the Lord has made. Be thankful that your son doesn’t have autism. If he does have autism, be thankful that he isn’t as severely disabled as some of the other kids in the autism community. Be thankful that your child can walk, see, hear, talk and/or learn. I have met a lot of parents these last few years who would give everything they owned for their child to be able to say “no” to them or to ask “why” over and over. As Kid President would say, “Make the world more awesome for a kid.” That doesn’t mean spoil them with material things. Turn off the television and read them a book or two or three. Listen to them when they talk. Stop and LOOK at them while they talk. You really are going to miss all that chatter. I know I do. Every time I hear the song “Boot Scoot Boogie,” I flash back to a four-year-old boy (my first) singing at the top of his lungs, in the sweetest little voice, from the backseat of the van. It was his favorite song. I miss him so much but I also love who he has become. He is 26 now. When I have to straighten a sock for my ten-year-old because she still cannot get them on quite right some days, I flash back to a little boy that I had to help with his socks for fifteen minutes some times because he had sensory issues. His socks and shoes had to be on "just right" every time. He was my third and he’s 6’4” now with a beard. I love the little boy he was and I love the man he has become. When my 19-year-old daughter hollers up the stairs for her sister, I remember the same little girl doing that as a toddler. Back then there was a gate up so she couldn’t climb those stairs and fall. She had to holler to be heard around here. I miss it. I miss it all. There's a song out right now, a song that I really love called "Dirty Dishes." Scotty McCreery sings it:

Mama hollers "Supper time,
And don't make me tell you twice
Wash your hands and wipe your face.
The table's no place for your toys,
And try to use your inside voice,
Don't dig in 'til we say Grace."
So we put down our forks and bowed our heads
And then she prayed the strangest prayer ever said:

"I wanna thank You Lord,
For noisy children and slamming doors,
And clothes scattered all over the floor,
A husband workin' all the time,
Draggin' in dead tired at night,
My never ending messy kitchen
And dirty dishes."

We all got real still and quiet,
And daddy asked "Honey, you alright?"
She said, "There ain't nothing wrong,
Noisy kids are happy kids,
And slamming doors just means we live,
In a warm and loving home,
Your long hours and those dishes in the sink,
Means a job and enough to eat.

So I'm gonna thank You Lord,
For noisy children and slamming doors,
And clothes scattered all over the floor,
A husband workin' all the time,
Draggin' in dead tired at night,
My never ending messy kitchen

For my little busy bees
Beggin' mama, mama can you please?
Always wantin' me and callin' me
Loads of laundry pilin' up
Crayons crushed into the rug
In those little sticky kisses
And dirty dishes, And dirty dishes..." 

I’m not a perfect mom. I still complain and I lose my temper too often. I forget their homework once in a while and I let them stay up too late on a school night on occasion. I’m not a perfect mom but I’m a much wiser mom than I was twenty-six years ago when I was just starting out. I’m not a perfect mom but I’m trying to enjoy every minute because I know it is going to be gone soon. I’m trying not to blink.  

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