Monday, April 26, 2010

The Waiting Room

Five-thirty a.m. this morning found me lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, a dreadful pit forming in my gut. Not the way I usually like to start my day, but on my agenda was a trip to the gynecologist for my yearly exam (t.m.i--too much info? Sorry), and no matter how hard I try not to, I always end up working myself into a sweaty, nervous wreck by the time I get there.

Hoping to get the appointment over with as quickly as possible, I climbed the three flights of stairs with optimism, only to feel my heart sink when I squeezed into a chair in the packed waiting room. It was obvious my visit was not going to be speedy. The worst part was that I had forgotten my book so I had no choice but to people-watch. Perusing the waiting visitors in hopes of finding someone or something interesting, I settled into light despair--almost everyone was absorbed in either a book or their cell phones. Drats!

That's when a young mother with two toddlers in tote and a baby car seat trudged in. We could actually hear them before we could see them. The mom lugged the car seat on one arm while she balanced her diaper bag and backpack on the other and herded her small children to the only available seats--right next to me. As the crew made their way past the rest of the visitors, the mother announced rather loudly, "We'll try to be as quiet as we can." I couldn't help but grin as I wondered if she realized she had already broken the peaceful mood.

Oh, goodie, I thought, this little family will at least provide some entertainment while I wait. No sooner had my thoughts formed than this darling woman announced to the entire waiting room that she was there to get birth control (definitely a little t.m.i, don't you think?). She then pointed to her children and said, "Can you tell why?"

That's when I noticed her children were all very young. After talking with the oldest, a little girl, I found out she was only three and was trying to get rid of her binky and get potty trained. Her little brother was nearly two, and the baby was three months old. Wow! As a mother who has been through the stage of three small children (not that close together, however) I have humble adoration for mothers who are managing such an ambitious load. I've decided that no matter who you are, if you have three children under the age of four (or something close to that), you are in over your head! Some mothers may not be willing to admit it, but it's nonetheless true. That doesn't mean they aren't perfectly capable of loving and handling their little ones, but it does mean they are doing the hardest job ever, and they are more than likely exhausted in every way by the end of the day.

I couldn't help but notice that this dear mother's children, like many children those ages, were quite a handful. The poor lady never sat still for longer than 20 seconds. After about ten minutes, I thought of her promise to be as quiet as possible, and giggled to myself. They were anything but quiet as they pushed chairs up to the fish tank, ran around the waiting room, begged for snacks, and asked when they could go home. It was all so familiar to me, I sat there with a knowing smile. Before long, the mother was ripping covers off the waiting room magazines to make paper airplanes. That worked for about . . . two minutes, and then she was taking them for their third drink to the drinking fountain, and pulling out cars from her bag, and so on.

I noticed some of the other visitors had set their books down by now so they could enjoy the entertainment as well. One lady volunteered to help keep the two-year-old from escaping, and it was at this point I decided I would put my visit off longer to let her go ahead of me. I couldn't help but wonder if there was anyone in the waiting room who had come to the doctor with the intention of hoping to get pregnant soon who was having second thoughts.:) But I watched this young mother patiently deal with each new scenario, and a new kind of lump formed in my throat. I saw how resilient she was as she ingeniously thought up new ways to keep her kids entertained (I have to say, the looks on people's faces when she started tearing pages out of magazines for paper airplanes was a little priceless!), and I was filled with awe once again at the miracle of motherhood.

It was a scenario I've seen or experienced myself many times over as I've struggled with children at a doctor's office, or a grocery store, or anywhere else I've dared drag them along, and to me, it's the greatest sign of selflessness and love there is. I looked around the waiting room once more at each woman there and wondered what their stories were. I'm sure most, if not all, were mothers or hoping to be mothers. I watched one very young girl and found myself wondering if she was just beginning this journey, and I couldn't help but think she had no idea what kind of roller coaster ride she was hopping on, but it was sure to be filled with excitement! I watched another expecting mother waddle painfully to the back when they called her name, and although I have no idea what her struggles are, my eyes filled with tears for her willingness to endure discomfort to carry a child and bring it into the world.

That's what motherhood is about. That's what it's always been about. Love, sacrifice, unending service, pain, embarrassment, laughter, selflessness, and my personal favorite--pure joy. I endured my appointment and rushed home to my own children with a renewed gratitude for the gift of being a mother. It is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the most rewarding. I wanted to tell that young mother to hang in there because one day she would look back on this time of her life and realize it was one of the greatest, but I didn't want her to lose optimism for the future!:)

Instead, I silently thanked her for reminding me of what I've always known, but sometimes forget: I am profoundly grateful to be a mother!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Throwing Away the Textbook

I had looked forward to this past week for at least a month, anxious for a change in routine and a reprieve from the pressures of every day life; however, our Spring Break ended up being anything but spring or a break. Between the icy cold temperatures and snow of Wyoming storms and dealing with the flu bug half the week, by mid-week my expectations were not being met in any sense of the word. On top of that, my children decided to veto bedtime, and I found myself spending over an hour getting my children to bed on more than one evening, resulting in frustration and impatience on my part.

When we finally returned home, I was ready for our regular routine. The last couple of days in Wyoming proved a little sunny and relaxing, but I looked forward to normal bedtimes and a schedule that keeps my children busy and happy. I guess I'm a bit of an optimist because we've now been home for three days and I'm still waiting for the no-hassle bedtimes, the productive busyness and the happiness.

Last night was the final straw. My two youngest had been in bed and asleep for two hours, but my oldest child was determined to stay up as long as possible. Knowing school awaited the next morning, I was adamant that she retire early enough to get plenty of rest. Unfortunately, she did not see things the same way. She kept insisting she wasn't tired as she followed me around the house. Finally, I realized I had to take some serious action.

"If I have to tell you to go to bed one more time, you're going to lose your privileges," I warned.

"What privileges?"

Okay. She's smarter than I thought. She's going to weigh her options. I'd better come up with something good. "Television. No TV this week," I said, naively waiting for her to hop right up and head to bed.

After thinking it over for a few seconds, she said, "Okay. No TV this week."

This was not going well. I knew I had to come up with a privilege that meant more to her, so I said, "Friends. No friends, either." I immediately knew that was a rather ridiculous punishment since she rarely plays with friends anyway.

"Okay," she said.

Now I was floundering. "Your Ipod. I'm taking away your Ipod."

"I don't have an Ipod." Darn it! This is not looking good. She's outsmarting me at every turn.

"Okay, well, whatever it is you have, I'm taking it away." Knowing I was sounding completely desperate, my frenzied mind struggled to come up with a punishment that would mean something to her. Finally I had it.

"Food. You're grounded from food," I said. It was the only thing I thought she would really miss.

At this, we both looked at each other and burst into the giggles. We laughed so hard we were rolling on the floor. What kind of mother threatens to starve her child if she doesn't go to bed on time? Certainly not a sane one.

At least the tension had been broken, and somehow the absurd threat worked because my clever daughter finally picked herself up off the floor and mozied into bed. We were both still giggling as I kissed her goodnight.

This morning as the kids were getting ready for school, I heard her tell her brother that I had grounded her from food. Her "I think Mom's pretty much crazy" tone was not lost on me, but I decided I'd rather have my children think me a little loony than think me hard-nosed and unapproachable. So, although my parenting skills are far from textbook (As soon as I said it I knew I had broken Rule #436 in Parenting 101--Never threaten to take away something you can't follow through with), I just have to say, sometimes as a mom you just have to throw the textbook out the window and go with your gut instinct. And if your gut instinct is telling you to discipline your child in a somewhat ridiculous manner, go for it. You never know when your sense of humor will pay off. And if you're having a hard time knowing how to discipline a particular child who doesn't seem to be fanatical about anything you can use as leverage, may I suggest taking away . . .


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some Days Just Stink!

Remember a couple posts ago when I said I was reaching the point of maturity where I could take a deep breath in the middle of motherhood disasters and simply deal with the problem at hand with a degree of composure since I reached the realization that motherhood isn't meant to be easy?

Well . . .

I must have been asking for it, because since then I've found myself having to take a lot of deep breaths, and my degree of composure is diminishing in a hurry. I've repeated the phrase, "It's not meant to be easy. It's not meant to be easy" over and over, but it hasn't seemed to help. I'm to the point where I don't care if it's meant to be easy--I'm ready for a few easy days. Here's why.

Thursday night my three-year-old woke up in the middle of the night hollering my name. I ran in his bedroom and spent the next couple of minutes trying to figure out what he was saying. "I need a ?" he kept repeating. Trying to guess, I kept plugging in answers: a drink? to go potty? a blanket?

"No," he finally screamed, obviously a little frustrated at my lack of understanding. "I need a . . . "
And that's when I finally understood exactly what he needed--a bowl--because he threw up all over me.

Okay. Not what I hoped for at 2:00 a.m., but whew! (my deep breath). I can handle it.

I cleaned the vomit out of my hair, off my clothes, stripped my son, washed him up, scrubbed the carpet, and tucked him back in--with a bowl this time.

Things went great until about 24 hours later when the process repeated itself. Thankfully, I was johny-on-the-spot this time, and the kid already had a bowl in bed with him, so there was no big mess to clean up. But what I didn't know is that it was just the beginning of four long days with the flu.

He threw up again at breakfast and again at lunch. That's when I had to load up all my kids to make the two hour and 15 minute drive to Wyoming so my older son could speak at my niece's baptism. One hour into the trip I stopped to get my little guy a drink since he acted dehydrated. I scooped him into my arms and rushed into McDonald's, setting him down on the bathroom sink. That's when I realized he now had bodily fluids coming out the other end. I don't think the poor child even knew he had soiled himself, but believe me, I did. The stench was unforgettable, and it was now all over my dress. Praying no one would need to use the women's restroom for a few minutes, I stripped the poor kid down while he draped himself over one of the disgusting toilets so he could throw up again. I kept trying to pick him up so his chin wasn't resting on the front of the public restroom toilet, but he was too weak to even care.

Whew! (deep breath again). I was sure I was about to join him in throwing up myself. Between the smell of my now-soiled clothing and the sight of my sweet little boy wiping himself all over the filthy toilet, I was about to lose it. Fortunately, I kept myself together, and we continued on our trip. Five minutes out of town, he threw up again.

Whew! (yet another deep breath). I was beginning to feel a bit stressed. Not only did our van smell like a dozen dirty diapers, but if we had to make many more stops, we were going to miss the baptism entirely. And at this point, I had to squeeze in a change of clothes before attending.

The good news is we did make it in time. My oldest daughter stayed at Grandma's with my sick little boy, and all was well. By bedtime he seemed better. Yes! The flu bug had finally run its course and would be over soon.

Or so I thought.

Two more days, two more sleepless nights, one more time of being completely puked on, and I will admit, the deep breaths were not doing it for me anymore. I know mothers deal with sick kids all the time. I even know it was probably my turn. But after four days and four long nights of it, I didn't care. I was tired of trying to handle it with composure, sick of trying to be mature about it. I just wanted it to be over.

I finally got my wish yesterday when my child slept through the night and woke up as if nothing ever happened. As the day wore on, he acted naughtier and naughtier, and that's when I knew he had made a full recovery.

Whew! I did it. I survived the four day stomach flu. It wasn't easy, but I did it. And I never totally lost control. I'm amazing. I'm resilient. I'm a rock star.

Okay. Back to reality. I'm no rock star. I'm just a regular, old take-everything-as-it-comes mother. And to be perfectly honest, I'm scared spitless. Why? Because, as you all know, an illness that tough is sure to affect more than one of us. I'm just waiting for another of my children to tell me they're not feeling well, and then we'll start the process all over again.

So, in summary, although I know motherhood isn't meant to be easy, although I know it's what I signed up for, I just have to say. . .

Some days just stink!