It Goes By Fast

It Goes By Fast

 Let’s set the scene: I am in Kroger with my offspring, both of whom are behaving very well, but who have apparently recently started eating Pixie sticks by the pound because they are both SUPER EXCITED and firing off questions like firecrackers on America’s birthday: 

“Is that a bug?”

“How long do butterflies live?”

“Have you seen my magic wand?”

“Can we get a butterfly to live in our house?”

“Is THAT a bug?”

“DID YOU KNOW MY MAGIC WAND IS JUST A PENCIL?”

There was no bug. And I did know about the pencil, but I pretended not to because lying to little kids is totally acceptable. 

I passed another mom and her teenage daughter as I was answering these questions as fast as I could while also trying to read through a grocery list. The other mom and I made eye contact and we both smiled. 

“It goes by fast, doesn’t it?” she said, giving my kids a wave as she walked away. 

We made it through the list of insect questions and were now deep into a series of queries over which animal would eat you the fastest, a dinosaur or a lion. Our answers were inconclusive, by the way. If you see either, just accept your fate. As Joshua began listing out the reasons a dinosaur would have a hard time eating a person (the word “omnivore” was thrown out, which is 100% Daniel’s doing), I passed a store manager. He smiled at my kids, too, and offered his thoughts on our wildlife dilemma. He was #TeamLion.

As he said goodbye, he winked at us and said, “Enjoy it – it goes by fast, Mom!”

Both this man and the mom from before were kind, sweet people (based on the thirty seconds I spent with each; they didn’t seem like serial killers or anything). They were not scolding me, or judging me – they were just living a life 10 or 20 years ahead, and wanted to pass on the wisdom they had learned. They, like so many parents, knew that the time with their kids was fleeting, and while these young ages could be exhausting, all things come to an end eventually, so I should savor the moments that I could. 

I say all that to let you know that I am not mad at either of these people. I totally get where they are coming from. But when you have a kid with delays, those comments can really catch you off-guard. And, sometimes, they can hurt. 

We are in somewhat of a unique position in our family: My son is chronologically and cognitively five years old. Socially and emotionally, I would put at him at a little younger, maybe three-and-a-half or four in some areas. Physically, his skills average out to be those of a child who isn’t quite two years old. None of this is bad news; what matters most to us is that he continues to progress, which has always been the case. 

But as I came home from the store and walked inside, those comments stuck with me. They stuck with me as I pureed food for my five-year-old, who needs to be fed like a baby several times a day to maintain his weight. They stuck with me as I filled out a form for financial assistance with swim lessons through our local special needs adaptive swimming group. They stuck with me as I remembered that I needed to buy diapers on our next trip, because potty training has been a difficult skill for my son to learn. 

For some of us, it doesn’t go by fast. Have the years seemed to fly by? Do I double-check the calendar daily in disbelief that another school year is ending when I’m sure it just started? Yes and yes. The days and the months and years do go by fast. But these early days, the days of diapers and baby food and dressing and parenting a toddler – they have remained with me, and with my son, and with our family. 

I’ve said before that I feel like we’re stuck in space-toddler continuum – Joshua does AMAZING work, and he is learning a ton. But because he takes longer to learn new skills, and because his little body is not always ready to take on these challenges at the typical age, it’s like he’s moving in a different time zone, one where days are months and months are years. A place where he grows so fast in some areas and doesn’t change at all in others.

It’s hard to put into words that match the picture in my head. I guess you could imagine a clock, where “typical time” is on the minute hand and “Josh time” is on the hour hand. He moves, certainly; things change and develop and grow. But by the time he has made it from one number to the next, the rest of the world has made a full circle, and he is left to start again.

Do I wish things were different? No – Joshua is who he is on purpose, and to wish he didn’t have these struggles would be to wish him away entirely. He is a wonderful, smart, enthusiastic kid who is already everything I want him to be. But that doesn’t mean small, well-meaning comments don’t hit me in a spot that can cause a lot of pain. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t go by fast. Not for everyone. And please know that this isn’t a call to action or a plea for you to stop telling people that time passes quickly. Many people have said that to me before, and many people will say it in the future. It’s almost always meant in love and as a friendly reminder from a mom who just wants to share what her decades of parenting have taught her. I can’t ask you to stop saying it, and I wouldn’t want to.  No one can live in a bubble where they never hear difficult things.

I suppose if there is anything I want you to take from this, it is to remember that those age-old bits of wisdom aren’t always true. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t go by fast. 

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An Open Letter to My Children

An Open Letter to My Children

Kids…I love you. I think you know that. And I think you also know that I often seem to express my love in odd ways – like fussing at you for moving too slowly in the mornings or getting on to you for spilling your juice. I want to do better. I want to show my love in better ways. I always start out with the best intentions.

Every morning, I pray for you. I pray for your safety, for the little things I know you struggle with, for you to have a great day. I pray to have patience and to let the little things go. I pray for reminders that you are only this little for a short while, and that I should cherish these moments. I pray that today is the day I manage my frustration with no – okay, maybe just a few – mistakes.

And every night, I pray for forgiveness of my failure to achieve all of these things. Or, just as often, my failure to achieve any of these things.

If you want the truth, I’ll go ahead and give it to you: Parenting you is hard. Not because you’re bad kids and not because I don’t love you.

If I could let you take a brief tour of my mind, you might understand. It’s like a bag of cats in there – neglected household chores competing for attention with overdue bills are swirling around, usually surrounded by a revolving schedule of school activities, work commitments, therapy goals, and doctor’s appointments. Sprinkled around you’ll find anxiety over my own stuff – money and work and marriage; worry that I am forgetting something important; fear that today is the day I say something to you that ruins your life forever. Look left and right while you’re in there and you’ll see two of me arguing with each other – one convinced that tough love was the right call; the other certain that a gentler approach would have yielded more understanding.

And that’s just the first layer.

Keep digging, and you’ll see doubt. So much doubt. It claims its own special section of my mind, plaguing me with the fear that I have messed up one too many times. I yelled too much, I didn’t forgive quickly enough, I didn’t give you the attention you so desperately needed. And then, of course, there’s the doubt that I was too soft and now you won’t understand consequences, that I forgave you instantly and you didn’t learn from it, and that so much attention has caused you to totally rely on me for validation.

There are about 12 more layers to go after that.

I don’t present this to you as an excuse, as the saying goes, but an explanation. An explanation of why you throwing one more ball at me when I am already juggling 17 is just enough to send me over the edge. An explanation of why I love to hear you sing, but at this moment, hearing one more sound is the absolute last thing I need. An explanation of how I can love you so much and want to be alone for just a few minutes.

But if I am asking you to understand my mind, then it’s only fair that I work to understand yours. Your anxieties and fears and joys and excitement might be a little less defined, but are no less valid. I know that your need to sit right next to me, thigh to thigh, at all times is not borne from a desire to annoy, but a desire for closeness. Your continued requests for another snack are likely not a cleverly designed plot to keep me from working, but a need that you cannot meet for yourself and therefore have found the one person who can help you in that moment. And when I do not respond, you can only assume I am not paying attention, or can’t hear you. And so you ask again. And again. You know I will get frustrated, but you can’t help yourself.

Should you learn to be patient? Yes. Should I learn to be patient? Yes.

So, kids, we have to decide – whose needs are greater? Who wins?

The answer is neither of us. Neither of us wins, because neither of us is perfect. You know better than to push your sibling. I know better than to expect two preschool-aged children to get along like adults. We both know better, but we don’t do better.

And, so, today, like many other days, I have prayed for patience. And, today, like many other days, God has given me multiple opportunities to practice. But I think tomorrow I will pray for something else. I will pray for the ability to get out of the way and let God work through me, to erase my imperfections and give you the mom you need. I will pray for each of you to practice the kindness and love that we have so often talked about – and I will pray you find an example of those things through me.

In short, dear kiddos, I will try my hardest. I am a fallen person in a fallen world, and my best will be full of mistakes. I will ask you to try your hardest, which will also be full of mistakes. I will yell at you again. You will make eye contact with me as you deliberately crumble a fistful of Goldfish crackers into the couch. We are human, you and I, and that means perfection is not in our future.

No, not perfection. But if we both agree to focus less on ourselves and more on what God has called each of us to do, I think we can achieve grace for each other’s flaws, forgiveness of each other’s wrongs, and enough love to cover every inevitable mistake.

I will offer to read this to you, and you will say okay. I will get frustrated at your inability to sit still. You will get bored of listening to your mother read her own blog to you. We will argue.

And then we will make up.

Love you always,

Mommy

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Dear Preemie Mom: It’s Me Again

Dear Preemie Mom: It’s Me Again

Dear Preemie Mom:

You may remember me; I wrote to you a while ago.  I talked to you about all the different challenges you might have faced and the different emotions you might have experienced. I wanted you to know that you’re not alone. And I have some other things I want you to know, too.

I want you to know that it’s okay to be afraid, even long after your baby has come home from the NICU, happy and healthy.  You might be afraid that at every doctor’s appointment you will receive bad news. You might be afraid that even though the doctors said your baby could come home, something will go terribly wrong. You have dealt with a big change, one you could not have predicted or planned for. It’s okay to be unsure about the next steps you should take. It’s okay to wonder why this happened to you.

I want you to know that you should have no regrets about anything you said or did during your time in the NICU. Not because you should do everything perfectly the first time around or not be sorry for a mistake, but because you have to forgive yourself. You snapped at the nurse that day, and she has forgiven you. You walked out in the middle of a meeting regarding your child’s future, and those people understand. I want you to know that it’s okay to forgive yourself after you have made it right. It’s okay that you said no more visitors that day because you just couldn’t talk to another person. It’s okay that you said the wrong thing to another NICU parent. I want you to know that you did your best. That’s all any of us can do. You did your best, and there might have been some mistakes and some good calls, and now it’s okay to stop being sorry.

I want you to know that the feeling you have of being overwhelmed is normal. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, discharge papers, pulmonologists, follow-ups – it’s too much for one person to deal with by herself. It’s okay that you feel like you can’t handle it. It’s okay to ask someone to help you handle it. It doesn’t make you weak, or unwilling to get the job done, or incompetent. You are strong. You are doing everything you can. It’s okay that it seems like everything you have to do will never get done.

I want you to know that it’s okay to feel like you are not up to the challenge of raising a kid with atypical needs. It’s all right that you feel like this was a mistake, that you are unqualified to be a mother to a little baby who needs so many things. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, or that you won’t be a great mother. You will be. You are. But it’s hard to have a kid who is different. It’s hard to adjust when plans change suddenly and with no chance to prepare. It’s really hard. But you can do it. I know you might not believe me today, but you can do it.

Mostly, I want you to know that everything will be okay. It may have been three months since you brought your baby home, or three days, or three hours. Or three years. And still you are surrounded with the chaos that became your life in an instant, when you went from knowing the future to having no idea where to even turn for help. You still check on your baby in the middle of the night to make sure he is breathing. You go out of your way to avoid the hospital where your baby was born and spent the first months of his life. You feel frustrated and sad and then guilty that you feel that way, even though your baby has been home for a long time. Even though he is no longer a baby, but a toddler, or a big boy. Your child might not look like a preemie anymore – no one would know if you didn’t tell them. Or maybe your child struggles in some areas that make it obvious that he needs extra help.

No matter what, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. You think the memories of your days in the NICU, of watching your baby fight for life, of listening to a doctor prepare for the worst will haunt you forever. But they won’t. You think you will never overcome the fear that the NICU instilled in you when it comes to your baby. But you will. You think you’re never going to be able to move past that this, that this is your life forever now. But it isn’t. It will take time. It will take healing. But it will get better.

Everything will be okay.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Preemie Mom

The 10 Commandments of Parenting

The 10 Commandments of Parenting

I. Thou shalt not dress thyself for any occasion more than three minutes beforeth the departure time. For I say unto you, woe, WOE to the mother who thinketh she shall escape the reacheth of vomit.

II. Thou shalt abandon thy principles and alloweth thine offspring to watcheth the television, eateth the ice cream, and weareth the mismatched clothing.

Blessed is the mother whose offspring does not cryeth for absolutely no logical reasoneth. 

III. Thou shalt vow to be reassuringeth to other parents in regard to their offspring, and sayeth things like, “Surely I say unto you, Billy shalt be fineth in spiteth of his scrape;” while simultaneouslyeth vow to freaketh out over thine own offspring, and beggeth your husband to taketh them to the emergency room upon accidentally cutting a finger whilst clippingeth their nails.

IV. Thou shalt not puncheth strangers in the supermarket for givingeth dumb suggestions to thee in regards to thine offspring. Nay, verily – thou shalt worketh on thy fake smile in thy free time, and pasteth it upon thy face, and continue thy shopping in a hasty manner.

V. Thou shalt remember the Disney Channel schedule and keep it holy.

VI. Thou shalt not eateth thy Thin Mints in fronteth of thine offspring, for surely thine cookies shall perish.

VII. Thou shalt sweareth to thine offspring that if they getteth a tattoo whilst living in thine house, thou shalt also go and get an identicaleth tattoo and taketh photographs and posteth them on the Facebook for all to see.

VIII. Thou shalt not watch television programs that are not appropriateth for thine offspring, except for season finaleths, and shows you have been waitingeth to see forever, and shows that amuseth you with their humorous ways, and just forgetteth this one and watcheth what you want.

VIIII. Thou shalt make exaggerated threats to thine offspring in thy church, mall, or any other localeth place, and sweareth to them that they shall be held in captivity for twentieth years if they do not getteth in the freaking car. Thy husband shall stand beside you, pleading for you to just forgetteth about it before the cops show up, and assureth you that the offspring shalt not groweth up to be serial killers because you did not disciplneth them.

X. Thou shalt honor thine own mother and father, for they are the babysitters and savers of thy sanity.

Blessed are the grandparents, for they keepeth us from too much prison time. 

On your second birthday

On your second birthday

Dear Joshua:

Wow…today you are two years old! That just seems so incredible to me. How can you be two when you are still my little tiny baby buddy?

But as much as I don’t want to acknowledge how old you are, I have also had so much fun getting to know you over the last two years. This last year in particular has been amazing, because your little personality started to shine through. I have began to understand you better and better, and it has just been so exciting and interesting. Last year I told you about all the things you have taught me, but this year I want to tell you about all the things I have learned about you. Read more