March 27, 2013

and the best parenting award goes to… nobody

I hate it when I snap at my husband for talking to our son as if he has no idea what we’re saying, and that he’s not a dog that only pays attention to cadence and pitch. He’s old enough that he probably does know exactly what we’re saying and will someday regurgitate choice words for us in all their glory.

I kind of hate it when it seems like I’m more effective at calming our son down. Or getting him to eat. Or whatever. Because it’s just not true. I could be smug at such moments, but I’m not because I hate the idea that somehow my husband might be internalizing some of these moments and assuming his heyday of fathering will come when our son is of a more interacting, active age (you know, walking and talking and itching to build model airplanes).

At every turn, I am reminded just by looking at him that our son needs both of his parents, and different isn’t necessarily wrong when it comes to parenting styles. I see it when he lifts the boy in the air and makes him giggle wildly, or gently tosses him around the bed as if they’re wrestling, or shows the boy his latest art project, or they watch The Simpsons together (the boy’s favorite show, part of his severely limited TV exposure), or even when he convinces him to try eating something that had never occurred to me to feed him.

Who knows, but those moments when I'm cuddling and petting our son  I could be setting my own stage for smothering or over-protecting him as he gets older. I can see that happening since I hear so much about abused children and victims of all kinds of evil. Some days I'm terrified that I'll lose him to some disaster, but I try not to think that way.

There are days when it dawns on me that I might be subconsciously competing for some kind of Best Parenting award. And that’s when I get hen-peckish and I hate it. Lord, help me to see the stick in my eye.

March 12, 2013

11 things I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood

I could go on and on about the minutiae, the tiny details of everyday living, but some things are more important (and worth repeating) than others. In short, I am stunned by my own previous naivety, understandable as it may be. I am humbled by the work of what I do every day and am even more humbled by the work that parents of bigger families do every day (especially stay at home moms and dads). So here are 11 things I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood:

  1. My capacity for love has grown exponentially and expanded in directions I never thought possible. Of course that’s love for my son, but also for my husband as I have watched him become a father.
  2. Parenting is hard. Even on the good days – and there are plenty of good days when I force myself to take in the day as a whole instead of nitpicking the hard moments like crying that I can’t resolve and exploding diapers that change my idea of cleanliness. I suspect that it doesn't get easier, but instead the dynamics constantly change. So I get used to doing things one way and he grows out of the need for it. Never a dull day!
  3. I am forced, continually, to live in the moment. I’m surrounded by a never-ending list of wish-I-could-do’s, chores, meal planning, bill paying, and other comparatively meaningless stuff. But when my son is hungry and it’s time to feed him, or he’s tired and it’s time for the bedtime ritual, or he’s playing with his foam letters in the bathtub, or he’s getting into something I’d rather he didn’t (which, right now, is about every 45 seconds), I can’t think about all that stuff. I have to be right there with him, giving him what he needs and what he doesn't know he needs such as my lavish love and affection, gentle guiding discipline, and words he can memorize to help him communicate.
  4. I am strong. Stronger than I thought I’d ever be on the inside, stronger than I was a year ago, and stronger on the outside since my son weighs about 26 pounds and I’m picking him up about 345 times a day. 
  5. I am tired. Oh, I get up on time and do my best to keep the world spinning as much as it depends on me. But right now, my son’s an active crawler and I’m usually managing him in one way or another so that, by his bedtime, I’m exhausted and all I want is to cuddle up with my husband, my wine, and my couch. Thank God for early bedtimes that allow me to live with margins.
  6. Patience isn't just a virtue. It is a life-saving discipline for maintaining sanity and cool-headedness.
  7. Schedules are wonderful. Schedules are terrible. At the end of the day, though, the schedule is made for us – not the other way around. So I've come to think of a schedule as a set of parameters that is subject to change depending on the moment.
  8. Most of what I've known as “me” has been put in a box and tucked into the back of a closet. Eventually, piece by piece, I will unpack this again. But by the time I have unpacked these pieces, I will find that some of them are no longer needed and others emerged from outside the box.
  9. Parenthood can be incredibly lonely. Not only am I ridiculously busy with the day-to-day, but because I’m so tired by evening I usually don’t plan to do things with other people or our schedules don’t match up very well – so it’s hard to keep up relationships. It takes real work to stay in touch and find ways to connect, but connect I must. Isolation makes it depressing on top of exhausting, and that’s a bad space to be in. I constantly fail at this, but I keep trying.
  10. The world is beautiful and full of wonder, especially when viewed through the eyes of a child who has never seen it before with pure, clear innocence. Everything is amazing.
  11. Nothing is guaranteed and life is constantly changing, so perspective is everything, and as long as I focus on God and allow Him to direct my steps, I can do this. 

March 10, 2013

sex trafficking... imby?

There was this one day a few years ago. This one random day. My husband and I went to a restaurant (loosely defined), late in the afternoon, that's been around for decades which was a place we went on our first date. We'd been married for 10 years or so. We sat in a booth with torn pleather and the requisite linoleum-that-looks-like-dark-wood table. A few booths away we noticed a... group. Not a family. It was too obvious.

There was a woman and man who looked like they were together, maybe married but maybe not. There was a young girl with them - 13? 14 at the most? and a friend of hers, neither of whom looked anything like the adults. We both got the sense that something was terribly wrong, especially given the slightly racy attire of the girls and comparatively slovenly dress of the adults who were more interested in their food than the children.

The girls went to the restroom, and suddenly I felt desperate. I wanted to rescue them. Was I right? Was the Holy Spirit trying to prompt me? I did nothing. I sat in my booth and drank my water. I think we had food, but I can't tell you what it was.

I got up to use the restroom and it was occupied. I waited. The door opened and the two girls emerged, looking slightly more polished than before and ready for adventure. My heart leaped out of my chest - should I have said something? I did nothing. I stood there with my mouth open and eyes fixed as they passed me, oblivious.

I never forgot that moment, those girls, or that place. I have prayed since then, and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as I petitioned for their lives. It's not so unlike many prayers in which I may never know how or when God honors them.

And yet, a black sticky film forms in my stomach when I hear about the fact that sex trafficking is still going on in America. And yes, here - in Denver. It's disgusting and highly profitable and must. Be. Stopped. Our mothers and sisters and daughters deserve redemption and the knowledge that the life they are in is not what God promises for them, nor is it all that is possible for them.

A recent article in the Denver Post on Sex trafficking in Denver highlights its prevalence, and I'm glad to know someone is paying attention to this.

I may never know the fate of those two girls or why I felt compelled to pray for them. But then, it's really not about me.