Just A Little Slump

Yesterday afternoon I sat in my kitchen, brooding in a comfortable sort of way. The window was open and the day was cool and drowsy. If I’d spent it cuddled by a fire with a good book and no cares, it would have been lovely. As it was, the day felt like a lovely kind of somber. I was preoccupied with my vaguely depressed mood, my feeling of being in a state of “meh.”

I was perched on a pillow because of a ridiculous hip joint that’s been bothering me for a few days. (And by “bothering” I mean making me hobble around like the overweight old lady I feel like I am. And making me wonder whether I’m too old and out-of-shape to be popping out an adventurous man-baby every couple of years.)

But my five-month-old was napping in his swing while his two big brothers took their daily movie-watching-on-the-sofa “resting time.” (I choose my battles and I choose not to engage in that awful, horrible, no-good battle called “naptime.”) All three were quiet and still, so SCORE. Hip be damned.

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I had dishes in the sink, but not too many. I had a pile of papers sitting behind me, but not too tall. My kitchen floor was relatively free of clutter, but the dining room was covered with it. I had (ahem, have) loads of lovely emails and blog comments to answer (I love you people even when I take forever to get back to you!) and I’d meant to take care of them then, but instead I decided to finally, finally put school and choir dates in my planner.

I was feeling perpetually overdue, disorganized, and distracted. I was feeling like I don’t spend enough time doing fun things or educational things or creative things with my children. I was wondering whether I’ll ever get my act together. (Please don’t tell me I won’t.)

But I was also recognizing that I have healthy, polite, happy little boys. That they give and receive an abundance of cuddles. That I make dinner most every night and my boys eat reasonably well-rounded meals. That they have clothes that fit and we always seem to have clean laundry to wear, even if it has to be pulled, crumpled, from a pile at the foot of my bed.

In short, I may not feel all that successful at managing my home or my family (or my blog), but I’m keeping it together. Everything is at least functioning, if not flourishing. Meh.

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A short while later, wouldn’t you know, my boys reached down into my slump and started to pull me out of it – with some delightfully poor behavior. While I was trying to prepare their dinner, the four-year-old lay screaming at my feet, in full meltdown mode because I’d turned off his movie. I stepped over his flailing limbs, determined to ignore his temper tantrum.

Then I saw it: a wicked robot was advancing, in the form of my slowly-stomping two-year-old. He wore a menacing look on his face and he stretched out his wiry little arms and fingers into claws. He knew that his prey was vulnerable. And… he pounced.

Honestly, I thought it was a brilliant way to deal with a brother who had lost it. And I kind of enjoyed the ensuing ruckus: two boys rolling around on the floor, one sobbing and hollering and the other striking with his robot claws. (We don’t call that kid “fierce” for nothing.)

Soon the baby started screaming too, so I picked him up and sat in the rocker with him while we watched his brothers.

Today my slump has returned, and sunk a bit deeper. Today’s brooding doesn’t feel as lovely as yesterday’s. I’m feeling more discouraged about my hip and a little more grumpy, all around. Those “carefree” summer days seem long over; we’ve now re-entered the season of schedules and commitments and comparisons and knowing that time passes too quickly. I’m feeling sort of unequal to it.

But it’s just a little slump.

I have these wonderful little trouble-makers, you see, who are liable to make me jump out of it at any moment. I’m sort of looking forward to whatever-it-is they come up with next.

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For now, they’re pretending to be alligators.

 

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And the little one has brought back something interesting to their alligator nest — a trophy from his latest conquest, perhaps?

Reminding Myself Of The Joy That Is Him: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 7

Yesterday was rough. It wasn’t exceptionally crazy; it didn’t contain a series of awful events. All the same, it was the kind of day that left me questioning, seriously, what I think I’m doing having children. The reason? I was in bad form that morning. I seriously lost my temper with the biggest little Mister. I won’t tell you what I did, because you’ll either think “Oh, that?! That’s nothing!” or “Tsk, tsk, tsk… for shame, Julie.” And I’m honestly not sure which response would be harder for me to receive.

But the what doesn’t even matter that much. What matters is what the what made me think about. Minutes after my little temper tantrum, I got the boys in the van to head out to do our first errands in almost a week. Namely, we had to go to the pediatrician’s office so my younger boy’s ear infection could be diagnosed (check) and we had to go to my ob’s so I could put an end to the month-long saga of trying to get my Rhogam shot (CHECK).

Anyway, we loaded up, made our way down our snowy, steep driveway, and got going. The littlest guy fell asleep almost right away, leaving nothing but uncomfortable silence between me and his older brother. Sniff, sniff, sniff… I kept glancing back to see my three-year-old staring off into space, looking sad. (And tired. The reasonable part of me has to remind myself that the morning’s drama stemmed, in part, from a big case of Tired Little Boy.)

I felt awful.

I asked my boy if he was okay. I told him I loved him. I apologized for my overreaction. He whispered a few “yeah’s” and “okay’s” before drifting off to sleep.

As we moved down the highway, I thought about how deeply I’d always desired to be a mother. I thought about how I’d always delighted in having lots of children around and how I always thought I was naturally cut out to be a mother of many. And it finally hit me: I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s not that I don’t still want the children – the two (and one in-process) that I already have and the however-many-more God sees fit to give us in the future – I just no longer feel like I’m naturally cut out for it.

I’m easily overwhelmed. I’m impatient. I’m stubborn. I’m a perfectionist. I’m a world-class procrastinator. I have a hot temper. I don’t have much tolerance for noise or activity or little people climbing all over me. I need a fair amount of alone time to keep from blowing my top. How in the world did I think I was a good fit for being a stay-at-home mother to lots of little ones?

But, here I am.

And here they are: these lively little guys who, after all, are only two and three years old. At the end of the day, even though I’ve told them a million-and-one times not to do x (say, stabbing at their brother with a fork or – yesterday’s trigger – roaring and charging at Mommy while she’s on the phone dealing with the Rhogam saga), they are just two and three years old.

That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. I think that children – even small children – are much more capable than our society gives them credit for. I think that if you want your children to be able to do things like sit still and follow rules and be considerate of others, both you and your children are best served by beginning to teach them how to do so when they’re very young. (Wouldn’t it be shocking to be five years old, entering Kindergarten, and find – for the first time in your life – that you’re expected to sit still for most of the day?) Still, I can attach myself too strongly to that concept, losing sight of the fact that they are just two and three years old. Yes, I should have high expectations for my children. But my expectations should also be realistic. This teaching children thing was never going to be easy.

And this boy is not easy. He is rather too like his mother. For I know that’s part of the problem between us: we have very similar personalities. We don’t do give-and-take with one another too well. We do the butting heads thing very well.

As I continued to drive down the highway, he slept while I thought. I thought about the disservices I’ve done to him. I thought about how amazing he is, and how he doesn’t deserve to be burdened with my short-tempered, overwhelmed outbursts. I thought about how much I love him.

When I saw Leila’s Facebook reminder about {pretty, happy, funny, real} yesterday evening, I brushed it aside at first. What kind of contentment could I dig up at the moment? But then I thought of my boy again, about how good he was in the afternoon, seemingly meeting my sadness with his sweetness. And I knew that at that moment, I needed to focus on the {pretty, happy, funny, real} that is him – the joy that is him.

{pretty}

And boy, is this boy {pretty}. I don’t care about anybody’s verbiage hang-ups: Someday he’ll be handsome; right now he’s pretty, he’s beautiful. He has these gorgeous, long eyelashes that any woman would envy. He has big, blue eyes. He has soft, round cheeks and thick, wavy hair. He has the sweetest smile.

This picture is obviously not from this week. But still -- pretty!

This picture is obviously not from this week. But still — pretty!

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{happy}

My boy loves being outdoors. When he was a baby, the instant we walked outside, he would quiet down and look around him in wonder. It was a great cure for meltdowns: step outside and they’d stop, like a switch had been flipped. On pleasant-weather days, I’d set him out on the deck in his stroller so I could eat lunch in peace.

Today, regardless of the temperature or the elements, he’d rather be outside than almost anywhere else. So when we, like much of the East Coast, had our biggest snow of the season this week, you know this boy wanted to go out to play. He was so {happy} to be chilly and rosy-cheeked and covered in snow.

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I don’t know what he was doing. Apparently “smile” now translates into “Cock your head and scrunch up your eyes.”

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Or, as in this case, it translates into “Show me your chin and the roof of your mouth.”

{funny}

After all the angst of the morning, he was so good yesterday afternoon. We went to two doctor’s offices, a sandwich shop, and the grocery store/pharmacy. At the store, I sat him in the back of the cart and he handled all the items being piled onto him with such good humor. It was so {funny}. Towards the end of the trip he voiced a little, “Umm… Mommy? I can’t weawy move anymore.” But still, a few minutes later as we were finishing up at the check-out and I was piling things back onto him, telling him “They’ll keep you warm!” he responded with a cheerful little, “Oh! Gweat!”

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{real}

And then of course there are all the little, everyday, {real} things that too often go unnoticed: the play, the helping, the creating, the reading and snuggling.

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Aren’t those toolboxes amazing? My very talented brother made them for the boys for Christmas.

That may look like a mustard bottle, but I’m told it’s glue.

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Before we moved his baby brother into his room with him, I used to visit my son’s room every night. I’d stand by his crib and watch him sleep. I’d soak him up. I’d pray for him. But then the baby went into the room and I was nervous about waking one of them up, so I stopped. I got out of the habit of walking into that room once they were asleep. It was painful at first, but after a while, I didn’t miss those moments so much.

But last night, I felt like I was overdue. I crept into the boys’ room and watched over them for a few minutes while they slept. I lingered especially over my older son’s crib, soaking him up, praying for him. I thought over the day and how I’d hurt my boy’s feelings and disappointed myself. I asked for help.

I don’t know how to wrap up this post, except to say that today I’m trying harder – to be understanding, to be kind, to not let my interactions with my boys devolve into the kind of mess we had yesterday. I still feel yesterday’s sadness echoing around here, but I’m trying.

Thanks, as always, to Leila and the other Lawler women for hosting {pretty, happy, funny , real.} Head on over there for glimpses at others’ contentment this week.

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