I’m certain I’m not alone in thinking that this has been a loooong winter. After the first of the year, Terry hit the road for his new job and traveled extensively throughout January and February. And of all places…to sunny California! In the midst of his travel, my beloved grandfather passed away (which deserves its own post) and since then, we have battled multiple colds, a bout with a stomach virus (which forced Terry to come back early one week), a household full of strep throat, and one very bad case of diaper rash which required a special trip to the doctor’s office and a prescription for some homemade concoction from the clinic called “poop goop”. Seriously, those were the words that were printed on the label. The weather needs no explanation. With three small kids in tow, there have been many days where I decided it wasn’t worth the risk or the effort to bundle everyone up and go some place. There was one week in January where all three kids had colds, Jude was up every hour of the night for multiple nights, school was cancelled due to weather so we didn’t leave the house for the entire week and by Thursday afternoon, I managed to fall down the stairs with Scarlett in my arms. Thankfully, Scarlett was not injured, but I was fairly banged up. Scarlett was so upset by my own tears after falling and so stir crazy from being cooped up all week that she literally sat on my bed and screamed at Britta and me for 45 minutes. She capped it all off by heading upstairs and biting (yes, biting) our coffee table out of pure frustration. At that point, Britta turned to me with a blank look on her face and said, “Maybe Daddy is coming home today.” To which I replied, “Nope! Not today.” All I can say is uff da. The week ended with Terry missing a flight connection, not getting in until Saturday afternoon and flying out again on Monday. By the time Terry got home all I could say to him was, “I’m thankful that we will never have to live through January 2014 again and that our kids will never be this young again.” Yes, it has been one long winter. I promise I am sharing all this for more than my own need to vent and get sympathy.
It’s been a trying winter and in no small part due to Terry being gone a lot. We are very thankful for his new opportunity, but I have been out-of-it as far single-parenting while Terry travels. Truthfully, it’s an entirely different group of kids for me. He hasn’t traveled like this since prior to Reece’s hospitalization. Needless to say, I am out of practice. Not only am I out of practice, but without Reece here as my helper while Dad is on the road, I’m way off. It certainly makes me miss him even more. Sure, Britta is nearly the same age as Reece was when Terry was gone before, but it’s just not the same. The whole scenario has revealed many shortcomings I have as a parent. And these shortcomings have reminded me over and over again about a post I wrote on Like Olive Shoots entitled 51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again. That particular post has easily generated the most traffic on the blog other than the posts around the time Reece passed away. It was written early on in Reece’s transplant as he really started becoming ill from the cord blood. I remember sitting in the hospital wishing I had the same issues and challenges as I did on any ordinary day of my life. I remember feeling trapped in such an obscure life place with no way to fix any of it. Life felt completely out of control. I promised when we eventually were out of the situation, I’d be a better mother…more loving, more compassionate, more creative, more tolerant…more whatever. I promised I would remember how hard it was in the hospital and that, no matter what, our challenges at home would not compare. While they don’t compare, the demands at home are still great. The day-to-day can still be tough. And you know what I’ve learned in the last 20 months? I’m really not any better at parenting than I used to be. I’m different at some things and I’ve changed quite a bit personally, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten any better at being a mom. I have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else. But I had convinced myself during our time at the U of MN that I would somehow be better at “mom” after going through all of that. Well, my perspective is now different and I’m still good at some things, but I need a lot of improvement on others. The “needs work” category has never been more apparent than in these last cold months.
Actually, if anything, I may have gotten worse at the things I need improvement on. I’ve realized that I’ve been pressed in many ways throughout these last few months and nothing surfaces more in pressure situations than the ugly things. Or is that just me? Maybe it’s just me. When I’m pressed, I’m no sweetheart. But I’m trying–wow–am I ever trying to work on these things. In particular, I am trying to work on not having a short fuse with my children. Most days are just fine but there are a few moments baked into the most random places where I really have to work hard to not lose my temper, with Britta in particular. One such moment happened about a month ago. We were having a great day and leaving the gym on yet another very, very cold morning. Britta was dawdling as we got into the van (getting the kids in and out of the van is no small process with the three kids in car seats). In my desperation to get her to pay attention and get out of the extreme cold (I could tell she was deliberately trying to disobey me by not getting into the van) I did not handle the situation well. But even as I was strapping her into her car seat I apologized for losing my temper and told her as hard as I try, I’m not perfect. I will always tell my children their only perfect parent is Jesus. Period. But it just felt yucky. I felt like I should be past this–I should be beyond this. I know what if feels like to wish you handled every situation well. I have certain memories with Reece, in our every day life, that I wish I had handled better. Those memories, at times, torment me. I know every parent has these moments; I’m not unique in this way. I’m also not unique in avoiding them–they didn’t magically disappear after Reece passed away. But I know the feeling of regret over them. I know the feeling of grief over them. Nevertheless, I have accepted that my other kids will experience my own faults just like Reece did.
As I got in the driver’s seat of the van I was deeply sorrowful over the way I handled myself with her. Then the words came to mind, “…and love covers over a multitude of sin.” Thank-you, God, for that. And it’s so true. It doesn’t make sinning any less wrong; I’m still working on many, many things that I need to keep in check. However, I needed to remember that my loving actions greatly outnumber the not-so-loving ones. Most importantly, I take those words to mean that Jesus’ love for me and my kids fills in the holes of my parenting gaps. If nothing else, they will be taught that in my shortcomings, Jesus will never fail them. I’m not trying to replace God. That’s a big revelation for me, because it basically lets me off the hook of beating myself up over my failures. I still grieve my failures with my children, but knowing I can’t be perfect helps.
Here’s the deal–there is blessing in seeing your child live their entire life. I can speak to a much bigger picture than the average parent (one of the ways I am a different person and different parent than I used to be). I know in a deeply personal way that Reece was not thinking of my parenting shortcomings before he coded or passed. His last months with us demonstrated love and commitment and perseverance–both parent and child. There was no heartache about time-outs or me losing my temper or the things that Terry or I did wrong in our parenting. Our final exchange of words was tender and loving and that is a gift. It’s also extended to me as grace in parenting my other kids to know that this Bible verse is true and that I’ve seen it in action. It’s not worth beating myself up over a single moment in January 2014. The picture is so much bigger than that; life isn’t lived in a single moment. That is encouraging to me. It releases some of the angst I feel over moments I had with Reece and also from the temptation to beat myself over similar moments with my younger three kids.
By the way, I’m so glad that I titled that post “51 Things I Hope I Never Do Again”, versus “51 Things I Promise to Never Do Again”. Because I’m pretty sure I’ve done nearly all of them since I wrote it and that would just mean I broke 51 promises. Lord, help me.
Birthday Season is upon us in our household. Reece’s birthday is in two weeks. I’m sure I’ll be posting about it soon. If you think of us, we covet your prayers.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8