Monday, November 24, 2008

A little peace and quiet

It's so funny how life changes you. Last night the music awards were on and that used to be one of my favorite things. Seeing the performances, what people are wearing, the whole thing. But last night I really could've cared less. One, I am getting old and I don't even know who a lot of the people are anymore. And two, I was so distracted by my excitement that I'm getting a new stove today!! Please, someone tell me, when did stoves become exciting?
Anyway, on the same note, I just realized that Kate and Eli are both napping, Sarah is at a friend's house, my kitchen is clean (like the counters have been bleached down clean), and I've already done a load of laundry. And thrilled by all of this. Again, I'm not sure when a clean kitchen and sleeping children became the goal of my life but I'm enjoying it!

I am so excited right now because I feel like I am coming out of a funk. Do you ever get in those? I don't think I realized how long it would take me to transition from working full time to being at home full time. It is really a big change, but I now feel ready to embrace it full on! I decided that a lot of my funk was trying desperately to live up to standards set too high. Believe me, that is my specialty, setting standards too high. Don't get me wrong, I still believe in high standards, I've just learned that when you have 3 kids under the age of 6 sometimes you gotta let some things go!

Here are some things I've decided for me:

It is more important to me that my kids are compassionate, caring, thoughtful people than that they are overacheiving, robots. So that means that it's okay to make mistakes as long as we grow from them and people are more important than activities or chores. It's important to keep things clean and to be involved in certain activities, but sometimes these things need to take a backseat to rocking the baby time or reading with the big kids time.

I'm the boss. I'm the one in charge of running my house and that means that I have to have a plan and goals just like I did with my job. This isn't a time to be lazy or lose my brain, but rather a time when I need the organizational skills of a CEO and the creativity of Picasso!

I'm the teacher. That is scary! But God has given me the job of teaching my kids everything from how to tie their shoes to why the grass is green to the Ten Commandments. But I know that my biggest lessons are the ones that are observed like bacteria under a microscope. Those are the lessons I teach in how I react under pressure, how I show love to strangers (and the people I know who are sometimes the hardest to love!), how I treat their daddy, and how I spend my time. That's the scary part to me because I know I've set some bad examples. Those are the times I pray a lot for opportunities to teach little ones about grace and forgiveness!

The most important thing I have decided is that I have to be the wife and mom that God made Emily to be, and that is not always the one I want to be!! But while I may admire and learn from other moms, I have to use my strengths and skills instead of living in a pity party about all of my weaknesses and lack of skills. I've also learned that being a home is probably more for me than my kids. There are other people who could teach my kids many of life's lessons. But I don't think any other experience could teach me the lessons of patience, humility, and prayer that I'm still learning.

Finally, I am learning the tools needed for this job. As a social worker I was equipped with pens, paperwork, referrals, phone numbers, and bug spray. (Don't ask). Now, as a mom I pack an arsenal of baby wipes, sippy cups, cheerios, and crayons. In addition to those tangible tools I am working on adding patience, grace, a sense of humor, and prayer, prayer, and more prayer!!! Most importantly I am learning the priceless value of a little peace and quiet!
Currently reading : Becoming a Chief Home Officer By Allie Pleiter

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Parenting is Not for Wimps

I feel that I can confidently say, "Parenting is not for wimps" from great personal experience. I am the parent of a "strong-willed" child. The fact that Josh and I could give life to a strong-willed child came as a shock to all who knew us, including us! You see, Josh and I are about the most passive, go with the flow people you will ever meet. We both have the kind of personality that you can look at us mean or tell us you are disappointed and we will burst into tears and feel like we have received the greatest punishment ever. I always assumed our children would be the same. Boy was I wrong!

On July 15, 2002 God brought Sarah Elizabeth Fidler into our lives. I was 21 years old and totally clueless. Yes, I had read books and watched all of the labor and delivery shows. I was totally prepared to give birth and it was a fairly easy labor. It was the part after labor that I had really never considered. How the heck do you raise a kid? And not just any kid, a strong-willed kid? You see, it started in the hospital. The nurse taught me how to swaddle Sarah and I had it perfected. I would wrap her up in that blanket so tight I thought Houdini couldn't haven't gotten out. Two seconds later she would have it kicked off. I didn't understand it at the time, but she was already showing us her personality, the part that says I'm probably going to do things just because it's exactly what you don't want me to do.

I can honestly say that the first year after Sarah was born was the most miserable of my life. I feel so terrible saying that. I wanted desperately to be one of the mom's who was always glowing, dressed to the nines, holding a homemade pie in one hand and a happy, content baby in the other and telling everyone how being a mom was the best thing that ever happend to me. It just wasn't meant to be for me. I had postpartum bleeding that they finally caught two months after the delivery. It left me completely exhausted and prone to every kind of cold and infection there was. I was also clinically depressed and had gallbladder disease that took 8 months after Sarah was born to be diagnosed. I also lost my papaw that year. Sarah had a blocked tear duct, colic, and kidney reflux that made her prone to kidney infections. And Josh...he had to live with us. The fact that we survived that first year is a testament to the amazing goodness and grace of God.

I was very blessed to have a couple of older mom's who I consider mom mentors. They were old enough to have gained some experience and wisdom, but not so old that they had totally forgotten what it was like to have little ones. Nothing drives me crazier than old women who say things like, "My child never cried, threw a fit, whined, pouted, or even had a dirty diaper." The only hope they give me is that as you get older God completely erases all bad memories of motherhood and fills your head with complete visions of grandeur. :) But back to my mom mentors, one was a lady I worked in the nursery with at our church. She too had a strong-willed child. She felt my pain. She knew what it was like to not be able to go out to eat because even a 6 month old would refuse to sit in the high chair. She understood that getting ready to go somewhere required an extra hour of preparation because a strong-willed child's wardrobe is a great area of emotional breakdown. I'll never forget a day that I decided to put Sarah in the stroller and walk to church. (We lived that close to the church even before we were the preacher's family!) All was well until it was time to go home. Sarah would not go back into the stroller. We had a knock-down dragout and my mentor mom stood patiently holding the diaper bag for me while my child kicked and screamed and probably had everybody else convinced that I was killing her. But my mentor mom understood.

I had never been kicked out of a place until Sarah was born. I had lived a pretty calm, clean life. :) But sure enough we had gone to check on my friend Kim at the hospital and Sarah started crying and we got kicked out. Just a few weeks later (Sarah was about 11 months) we attended the wedding of one of Josh's good friends. Now, let me stop here and say that I do not recommend taking an 11 month old to a wedding at all! But Josh was in the wedding and it was in South Carolina and there was no one we knew to baby-sit. If I could do it all over, I would have stayed at the house with Sarah and heard about it later. But, I was still clueless. Anyway, we sat up in the balcony which I thought would be safe. However, the beautiful sanctuary had old wooden pews and floors which Sarah instantly decided would be great fun to beat her legs on and make as much noise as possible. I decided we would make our escape during the prayer so no one would see us getting up to leave. Of course with my luck, they had a section for deaf people in the balcony and they didn't bow their heads during the prayer because they were watching someone sign the prayer. I had to walk right in front of the translator with my kicking, screaming baby. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

I wish I could say that it gets easier once you are past the toddler years. In some ways, it has. The battles are less frequent, but when they occur they are so much more intense. I used to think 'There is no such thing as a strong-willed child, their parent's just don't know how to discipline them!' Can I just testify to the fact that there is such a thing as a strong-willed child!!! I've since had two more children. They both have their moments of meltdowns and disobedience, but it just doesn't even register on the same scale. They would sit for hours in the car seat or stroller. They would sleep. I feel that I have an appreciation for them that a lot of moms with "good" babies just don't understand.

I don't write this to talk bad about my firstborn. She is truly a special, caring, giving, thoughtful, and bright little girl. While she has provided some of the most challenging, embarrassing, and down-right painful times of my life, she has also provided life-changing, tender, special, and amazing moments of my life. You see, that strong-willed tempermant that makes me feel like I am going to lose my mind sometimes, also causes me to stand in awe. I am absolutely astounded by her ability to stand up to people in a way that I have never had the courage. I am overwhelmed at her persistence and know that she has what it takes to accomplish whatever it is that she is passionate about. I love that little strong-willed girl and I know that God has amazing plans for her. It takes strong-willed people to stay faithful when the going gets tough. It takes strong-willed people to stand up for what they know is right when all of us passive people take a backseat. And I have to say this, having a strong-willed child has taught me that I'm a little more strong-willed than I knew!

So many families have a wild child, black sheep, troublemaker, or whatever they choose to call them. I believe that each of my 3 kids are specially created by God with a unique personality and purpose. It is exhausting raising a strong-willed child. Sometimes it would be so easy to give into all the fits and tantrums. But I know that God has entrusted each of my children to me and that I have the equal responsibilty to discipline, teach, and love my children until they become people He can use in His kingdom. Parenting is definitely not for wimps!!!