I posted a while back about three lessons I learned from my son when he was a baby. It was right around Holy Week and as we approach that time of year again, I have a few more lessons to share…
- There are some situations you can’t change and you can either be happy in spite of your circumstance or you can whine and add misery to your disappointment: So, I’m learning this in two ways. One is through watching my son get told he can’t do something and then making his circumstances SO MUCH WORSE by whining or throwing a tantrum and losing privileges or having to have a re-set on top of not being able to do the thing he wanted. And that is totally me sometimes. It’s embarrassing how much that toddler mentality still lurks inside. The tendency to just have want to say forget it all if the details aren’t going my way. The fights I pick with my husband if I’m mad at myself or my circumstance when he’s the one who is actually trying to help me are so similar to the fights my son picks with me if he’s having trouble getting his shirt on and wants to do it himself. The frustration is real and valid. The lashing out is the exact opposite of what needs to happen to help the situation.
I’m also learning this through my experience with sleeplessness. I can honestly say I have never been this tired. I am completely exhausted in a way that I wasn’t the first time around and I promise it’s not that I just blocked that tiredness out. We have our daughter on a three hour feeding schedule which means waking up about every two hours and when she naps my toddler is awake so there’s just no such thing as “catching up” on the sleep this time. I heard a great piece of advice recently though- you’re going to be tired either way. It’s going to be painful and hard either way. You can either accept that, or you can be mad on top of the difficulty and exhaustion which is only going to make things more difficult and make you feel more exhausted and more angry and so the cycle will continue.
I’m working on just being tired, not tired and mad about it. I don’t have a great track record at it but I’m getting better. I’m changing my perspective and trying to treasure that 1AM solitude of staring at my daughter while I nurse. It’s similar to how my toddler has realized if he has to be in the car for a long trip he can either spend it crying and everyone is a lot more unhappy by the end, or he can ask nicely to play the Moana soundtrack and everyone is a lot happier at the end. He still has to sit there the same amount of time instead of running around, but the experience seems so different.
- You aren’t getting away with anything: I have a confession to make- one of the hardest parts of parenting is trying REALLY hard not to laugh when your kid is doing something hilarious or cute but that is NOT going to be a good behavior to encourage for the future. Recently this has included my son thinking he got away with something that is adorably obvious to his dad and me. One example particularly close to my heart because it is totally something I did as a kid… he tries to sneak books into his bed when he’s supposed to be napping or sleeping for the night. It’s adorable.
He hides them in his covers or under his pillow and when I catch him and ask him to put them away, he will take one of the three and put it away and act like that’s all of them when the rest were literally right next to the other two. He thinks he’s being SO SNEAKY but it’s super obvious. I’ve learned that happens in adulthood too. People, myself included, will think they’ve gotten away with things they know are wrong, or even just not quite right, and the thing is- people notice. I noticed when my students would be on Facebook or think they were super sneakily checking their phones in class- I wouldn’t always call them out on it depending on what was going on in my lesson, but I always noticed. I’m also positive that the homeless person with the sign on the street notices when I pull up next to their corner at a stoplight and suddenly I have to turn and talk to my kids in the back seat, or check something in the dashboard, or look at my phone and fiddle with the radio… I think I’m making the situation easier on both of us if I don’t have money to give them, but looking away isn’t doing anything for my dignity and humanity or for theirs, and I’m not “getting away with it.” (This is why we try to keep a “blessing bag” in the car now with water bottles and a non perishable snack or two… but I’m not always good at restocking and sometimes fear or exhaustion still gets the best of me..) and even when PEOPLE don’t “catch” me having uncharitable thoughts or taking the easy way out… God does. Luckily he’s even more loving, patient and merciful than earthly parents, but sometimes I wonder if he’s not smirking just a little bit at how pathetic my little plans to make myself feel better or get what I want look to him.
- Wonder is all around you: I want to remind myself that if I am feeling sad, looking at a kid
with bubbles or a balloon goes a long way to cure that sadness. There is just so much JOY there it is contagious. But it’s not just these classical childhood things that make me realize the wonder and beauty I’m missing. Recently I’ve been trying to take walks with the kids during the morning before it gets too hot here and it is amazing the delight my son gets from pointing to a bird flying or chirping. He notices when there’s a new car on the block. He’s tickled by colorful displays in front yards or a cactus we pass or the way the sun is in a different spot depending on what time of day we take a walk. And he’s in total awe of our plants in the garden. He was the first to notice flowers sprouting this week and pointed out the green to me, something I probably wouldn’t have noticed until the next day when there were five or six more little signs of life in our flower box. I try each day, in spite of the exhaustion and internal nagging over whats not getting done, and the uncertainty of this balancing routine to learn from my son about this joy and wonder and attention to what’s around me, and I think excitedly about how my daughter gets to experience this same kind of wonder soon even though right now she’s mostly experiencing the surprise of the sound a rattle makes or the way the whole world changes when you roll over.My wish for you today is that you find some of that wonder too. And maybe share a bit about what you are learning.