Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Parenting Is An Endurance Sport

Hello there! My name is Emily and I use to blog here. :)

I wish I could give you a really awesome, exciting reason that I've not been blogging. That I've been off traveling the world, or writing a book or somethin' like that. But the truth is that in place of what use to be my "blogging time" you will now find me sprawled on the couch trying to keep my eyes open and wondering if I should fix a pot of coffee at 8:30 pm because, life. Because I want to read one more chapter in my book or have a coherent conversation with my husband or actually do the night before routine the night before. 

But that would require energy so I just drag myself to bed instead. These last few months have been a struggle for me. I don't do winter well. And y'all, we've had a real winter. Like, I've actually had a reason to wear my scarves and not just for fashion purposes. Over the last couple of months I've had some hard conversations, made some hard decisions, watched people I love deal with hard things, had my wallet stolen, and right now my new vehicle is waiting to have it's first parts replaced. On top of it all the Fidler 5 has done a marvelous job of sharing. Sharing germs, that is. It honestly feels like someone has been sick at my house every week since November. All of these are little things and I constantly remind myself how blessed I am and how good things really are, but sometimes the little things add up and seem bigger. It's those times when you feel like you can't catch a breath before something else happens. 

The other night I was watching the Olympics and there was some event where guys were skiing cross country, but occasionally they would stop and shoot at a target. So weird. I'm still convinced 13 year old boys came up  with all of the winter sports. Except ice dancing. Anyway, it is almost painful to me to watch these cross country skiers. I've never been skiing, but I've walked uphill in the sand at the beach carrying coolers and chairs and children and it.is.torture. to me. And I imagine that is what cross country skiing must feel like. I always feel relieved for them when they can pick up their arms and just glide downhill for a minute. Makes me feel better. :)  But soon they are going uphill again and I think, 'Isn't it enough that they are skiing for 94 miles?'  But nope, they gotta go uphill. And they have to shoot a target. And does it ever end? And then it does and these people, these Olympians who spend every day of their life training for this, fall out on the ground. And I'm so happy for them that it is over that I want to lay in the snow with them and make snow angels.

Because that sport, is an endurance sport. It's not like the "Flying Squirrel" event where these guys go flying off of a slope and land a minute later. This goes on. and on. and on. 

Endurance is hard for me. I'm good with now. Impulse. Crisis. Hostage situation. Whatever. As long as it is quick. As long as I know the pain/fatigue/embarrassment/fear/heartache/whatever will be over soon. But it's when those things last. When there is no end in sight. When you know there will not come a time to neatly put a sticker on a chart or mark a check in a box that it is completed. The hard stuff. The never ending stuff. 

That's why I've decided parenting is an endurance sport. I think it is best if we just call it what it is. Because I think we become disheartened and disillusioned when we prepare for a 40 yard dash and then we realize it is a cross country event. We tell ourselves "as soon as they sleep through the night", "as soon as they're potty trained", "as soon as they can get themselves ready". We totally envision ourselves leisurely lounging, sipping on coffee, finishing complete thoughts. Just recently we've been looking at new couches and I seriously started considering a light colored fabric like I don't have 3 children + 50 more who hang out at our house and 2 dogs. I had drifted into the dream world where my kids are all completely self-sufficient, never spill a drink (good luck with that since their adult parents are the worst offenders with that) and never drop a permanent marker on the furniture. 

Now, before I go any further, please do not feel that I am saying my children are a huge chore that I'm just trying to survive. I know that is how it sounds. I love my children dearly and raising them is the greatest blessing and responsibility I've ever been given. But what I'm saying is that some roles and responsibilities are for a season, but parenthood is for a lifetime. 

For those in the potty training, spaghetti throwing, never sleeping phase-I want to give you hope. That season does come to a close. Your house and your mental state will hold up better than you think. :)  But, then you move into a new season. We are currently in the season of teaching children to do things for themselves and to be happy for their friends when they win contests you really wanted to win and trying to avoid the hospital as bikes and scooters and skates seem to be extremely dangerous for the Fidkids. For me this season has meant balancing work and motherhood and church responsibilities. And some days it honestly does feel so much easier than those early days of diapers and babies being in.to.everything. And then I have a day like I had this last Saturday and I am reminded that I have not reached my destination. I am still on the course and sometimes it feels like going uphill in the snow.

On Valetine's day my MIL kindly asked if the kids could spend the night with her. So, we got a date. I think it is the first time we went out on Valentine's Day as a married couple ever. For real. But Saturday morning I got a text that Kate was throwing up. I loaded up in the church van (because remember my vehicle is waiting on a car part. :)  and headed to pick up the kids. Kate got sick again before we left and PRAISE GOD for my MIL who had the forethought to give me several plastic bags to take with me. My mom had goodies for the kids she wanted to give them and she was willing to brave the germs so went by her house. After sharing germs  visiting with her and my brother and his fiance and my niece,  Kate got sick again. I got her changed and cleaned up and we took that as our cue to leave. My poor brother, who used to have his own bout with motion sickness, was standing at the van holding the bag for Kate while I loaded myself and all of our stuff up.

 I went as fast as I could go in a 1990's 15 passenger van and we made it to Mexico Beach where traffic came to standstill. A gumbo festival was happening and apparently that meant no one could drive above 1.5 mph through there. I think you know what happened. We're stuck in traffic. Kate starts puking. Sarah and Eli are throwing plastic bags at her like they are bombs set to explode at any moment. Kate finished puking and kindly placed the used bag on Sarah's arm rest. Sarah proceeded to flip out. I began laughing. Hysterically. Like the hyena laugh people do when the men in the white jackets are coming to get them. There was literally nothing else to do at that point. I had a flashback to a time when my brother had gotten sick on a trip and my Dad, who had the weakest stomach ever (and who I inherited it from) also freaked out and pulled into an Applebee's parking lot and threw the bag in a bush and drove off. I couldn't even get to a bush, y'all! 

I felt so guilty because my baby was so sick and I could NOT stop laughing. I knew that it was just another version of sobbing, but my poor child will grow up talking about the time she was puking her guts up and her mother was laughing hysterically. 

But the point is- I did not jump out of the van and run away. I did not say ugly words. I did not join in the puking. And that might not count for much to others, but for me it was progress.  I remembered my Dad with the weak stomach and was reminded that I also have a somewhat weak stomach, and yet here I was, accepting a bag of puke as my daughter flung it at me. And I thought of a time when my marriage was new and we had just adopted our first child, our cocker spaniel Abby. And Abby ate Fruit Loops and proceeded to throw up little mounds of rainbows all over our 25 square foot apartment. And I called my husband at work and told him he would have to come home to deal with this situation because me and my weak stomach certainly could not. And in that moment I realized that just like those cross country skiers I have been training for over a decade now, often going uphill and having to stop occasionally to shoot at targets. I have come a long way. But that's the point. It didn't happen overnight. It's an endurance sport. Things that felt absolutely impossible with my firstborn I could do now on 2 hours of sleep walking backwards in heels. (Or something like that.) 

This job is not for the faint of heart. Or weak of stomach. I've found that there are two camps of people you talk to. The ones who idealize parenthood and only remember tea parties and bed time stories. And those who warn you of the impending doom of parenthood. I prefer to see parenthood as a lifetime in training with occasional falls and losses and frequent, though sometimes small, victories. It's not necessarily a race to be won, just one you are trying to finish. You are trying to get these little people who've been entrusted into your care from Point A to Point B and the plan is that you will all be stronger, more capable when it is over. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all you don't know, all you mess up, all you don't have. Sometimes we just have to breathe and pray and trust God to equip us in the moment. As He equips us in each moment we become a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more capable. And as our kids begin their own journeys through life maybe what they need to see is not that we are perfect, but that we can endure. That even in the not so wonderful moments of life, we will still be there to comfort their heart and hold their hands or bags of puke, or whatever. :)

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