Friday, November 22, 2013

It's All About the Climb

I feel like motherhood has been getting the best of me lately. It's like I'm climbing a mountain where breathtaking views await at the top, but despite my rigorous efforts to get there, I'm not getting any closer. I'm just climbing and climbing but not moving upward. It's a pretty terrible feeling truthfully, and so I've been pondering a lot lately just why I'm not moving up that mountain.

I am a person who thrives on personal growth and change. I find it so refreshing! I am a goal-setter, someone who loves to make to-do lists and then work hard to cross everything off the list. I love to see progress! I think that's one reason I enjoy teaching preschool so much--young children learn so quickly and grow so much throughout the school year, and I love seeing that growth. Most importantly though, I feel a need to see our family growing in all the right directions and to feel myself growing as a mother. And I think that is what has concerned me lately. Because of different challenges with certain children, parenting has been very difficult--even grueling--and it has made the climb seem unbearably hard at times and progress seem haltingly slow, and all of it has made me wonder if I am completely failing.

It's then I have to take a step back and remind myself that it's not always about getting to the top of that mountain. Yes, the view up there is great, but there is so much to be said about the intensity, the sweat, and the effort of the climb. My days right now are full of struggle. I am constantly putting out fires and working just to keep my head above water, between one child's emotional and physical struggles and one little two-year-old's consistent trouble. Add a husband who is working six days a week, a busy teenage daughter, an almost 12-year-old son who is constantly testing boundaries, and one other child who needs my time and attention--not to mention preschool, church callings and personal illnesses I've been dealing with--and I can't help but feel completely overwhelmed on a regular basis. Now, I realize all of this is just normal life and a lot of people have it much worse than I do BUT it's still a lot, and I have been struggling.

Most nights I fall into bed just thankful to have survived another day. I curl the covers up under my chin, giddy at the prospect of sleep because I am so exhausted. But then sleep doesn't come. I begin to think about the issues going on in our lives, and especially the important, deep issues concerning our children and our future, and my mind and heart will not rest. I remind myself that tomorrow I will be tirelessly following Berkley around, pulling her out of moments of trouble, or better yet, running around trying to prevent the moments of trouble; that I will more than likely be dealing with more resistance from Boston to do what he is asked, more melt downs, more moments of complete frustration that he cannot/does not/will not (I'm not sure which is most accurate at this point) do his simple morning responsibilities and be the contributing member of our family that I feel strongly a capable seven-year-old boy should be by now; that Nate is going to make a big deal of little things and do all he can to cause an outburst from Regyn; and that Regyn, no matter how often we have worked on it, cannot and will not be able to just ignore Nate, and so the outburst will occur. And I know that sleep would definitely help me deal more patiently and capably with these inevitable issues, but yearning for rest only seems to make it more evasive.

Berkley started peeing her pants out of the blue just over a week ago. She went from hardly ever having an accident to having five in one day. Then even more the next day, and it has continued since then. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make it through a day without her having accidents. I have no idea why. I finally took a urine sample to the doctor to see if she had a bladder infection or something. Nope. Apparently, she just needs more attention. Or something. On top of that, she has poured a bottle of lotion into her carpet, which she tried cleaning up herself with a whole carton of wet wipes, shattered a number of Christmas tree ornaments on our already sparsely decorated Christmas tree, scribbled on my preschool tables with crayon, painted her toenails on my bedroom carpet (which now has a blue stain), torn pages out of books, gotten into and eaten candy or ruined many of the older children's belongings in their closet--the list goes on and on.

This is my children decorating the tree (it's a very small tree this year since we are still in the basement). Notice Berkley sneaking off with an ornament. The fact that she is a blur actually means she was speeding off with the ornament.

Here she is as Regyn is trying to patiently teach her how to place an ornament on the tree. Not an hour later, she broke that very ornament.

Here is the tree today--after my sweet mother-in-law replaced some of the broken ornaments.
You may wonder where I was when all of this was going on. Let me tell you. RIGHT HERE. This child is like no other child I have ever known, and certainly like no other child I have ever raised. She has to be accounted for at all times. And I mean all times! I seriously cannot turn my back or go to the bathroom or take a shower some days without this darling little child getting into trouble. It's completely exhausting. She is just naturally curious and very capable and an amazing climber, and by golly, this girl is determined if nothing else! I left her with my mother-in law for an hour the other day while I went to physical therapy for my neck. I warned my mother-in-law that she needed careful watching or she would pee her pants or break ornaments off the tree (even though I had warned and taught and trained and worked to teach her not to touch that tree) or who knows what. My mother-in-law nodded and smiled, and I came home an hour later to Berkley sitting on my couch in wet pants and shattered ornaments in her hands. "Where's Grandma?" I asked. She was in the other room for a few moments on the computer. Well, that is a perfectly acceptable thing to do when watching a child normally, but not this child.

When we put Berkley to bed at 7:00 every night (that's when she doesn't nap--if she naps, we are in serious trouble because we can't get that girl to bed until very late), the whole family breaths a sigh of relief, because even though we love her more than words can say, she is more work than a new puppy. It is taking the whole family's effort (mostly mine, of course) to get through every day. After an especially rough morning the other day, one of my children said in frustration, "Oh, I just can't wait until Berkley is eight years old!" I felt sad at the comment, but even more sad that I felt similar feelings at times. I mean, she takes constant parenting, diligent parenting, and it is so hard. I am on my knees, eye to eye with her many times throughout each day, patiently trying to teach her what is appropriate behavior and what is not. She is not easy. And in a terrible moment of complete frustration the other day, my mind hollered internally, Is this worth it? And then I gasped audibly, so disappointed in myself that those words had even formed and that thought had ever crossed my mind. I strode across the room in an instant and picked up my baby girl and held her so tight. And then I thought over and over, You are worth it. You are so worth it. Because she is.

This little girl that causes me so much stress, that makes me work so hard, is teaching me so very much. Yes, she is making the climb difficult and slow and grueling, but because she demands so much more of me--so much patience, so much self control, so much time, so much attention, so much love--I can only hope I am becoming more. This stretching is painful and exhausting, but it's also what I need. And honestly, there's nothing else I would rather be expending all of my time and energy on than these children of mine--but if they didn't demand it, maybe I would get distracted and give the best of myself to something or someone less important. I know at times I find myself exhorting to what I call "lazy parenting," which is basically sitting back and letting things go in to auto-drive for a while. It never works for long before everything falls apart. Good parenting is hard work. All the time. But the fruit of the labor is so worth it.

I mean, these five children I have, they make every day a challenge, but they also make every day worth living. And this mountain I'm climbing, I just don't think the views at the top would be as glorious or mean as much if the climb to get there wasn't so difficult. So, even though progress is slow at times and sometimes it feels like I'm at a complete standstill, I am grateful to be on the mountain. And sometimes I just have to remember, it's really all about the climb. There will be times the slopes will be steep and scary and other times when we'll reach a little plateau and I can catch my breath a little; what matters in the end is that I keep climbing and never give up. I'll probably have a lot of cuts and scrapes and bruises along the way, but that will only mean we didn't take the easy route, and that's ok because the most important things always take the greatest effort.

(*Disclaimer: When I started writing this blog post, I had no intentions of it turning into a metaphor about a climb up a mountain, but then it just happened to go that direction and I realized motherhood does seem like a difficult climb. I just want to make it clear, however, that although I happen to love the "Life's a Climb" song by Miley Cyrus, I really struggle to support anything to do with her right now as she has made some pretty poor life choices for a while. Just had to throw that in since it seems I stole her phrase. Love the song and the idea--don't love her image. )