The truth is, I'm in a tunnel. The last three weeks have been some of the hardest I've had as a parent.
Newborn exhaustion I understand. I seek to encourage friends with small babies - bring meals, send notes, write long emails answering questions about nursing and schedules and taking care of yourself amidst the very steep learning curve of those early weeks.
A month ago, I would have told you we'd hit a great stride as parents. We knew Mac well, we understood his needs, we had a successful routine and when we hit a roadblock, we figured out a way around it. Gold stars all around!
I suppose pride always comes before a fall, and the last three weeks have been a disastrous tumble. Mac, my sweet sleeper, has screamed through naptime eight of his last ten tries. He's not a child who can do without sleep, much like his mama, and has taken to screeching, "Mama where are you RIGHT NOW?" while I wonder exactly how miserable he'll be the rest of the day without his much-needed rest.
And "rest" is not what he's getting. He won't read, settle or even sit down for the duration. It's torture. We NEED that sleep - but more than anything I need not to hear and see my child so unhappy.
There's a lot being neglected in the meantime: work, the house, the Y, carefree chit-chat with friends, non-essential activities, a long to do list and, worst of all, my mental health.
Mix in Mac's birthday double ear infection, recovering from hand/foot/mouth, currently cutting four incisors and two school "holidays" and you'll find a schedule that's unrecognizable and a household that could use a serious do-over for the whole month so far.
Mac, ever the overachiever, has taken a flying leap into two-year-old behavior; our days must be two-thirds discipline and one-thirds waiting for discipline. I feel for him, as this must be difficult for him to understand, and I unabashedly feel for myself as we navigate new, pretty darn murky waters. Where did our obedient little guy go?
As many challenges have come these last few weeks, there have been just as many sweet moments. Fleeting moments, sure, but they give me a flash of the Mac I'm used to and it's a comfort. I remind myself that this is just a phase - because it is. (Right? Please!)
It's my job to be consistent, calm and loving to Mac in every season of his life. I can't expect him to work through unexpected emotions and make good decisions no matter his impulses unless I do the same. But this is tougher than I anticipated.
Hand me a breastfeeding problem, a baby with reflux, a nighttime routine in need of reshaping or a "when to start cereal?" question and I'm prepared(-ish). These new issues, though, have thrown me into a tailspin - and have me making the ultimate rookie mistake: feeling like there's no end in sight.
Just as I felt as a new mom, when I presumed "this" must just be what parenthood is, I can't see the bigger picture right now. I'm too entrenched in the "getting through" part to realize how quickly this stage, like every other, will pass.
This morning someone gave a name to my season: the Tunnel. The power of naming something can't be overstated; it's the very idea that someone else has been where you are, that it's real, that you aren't alone, that you're not crazy.
In addition to naming it, this post reminded me how different parenthood looks from just a few years away. I can already feel how swiftly the calendar is flipping past; we're nearly done with 2011 and I can barely believe we're past Easter. But that kind of perspective and reassurance from a mom who's been there, several times over in fact, is invaluable.
If you're a mom who's in the Tunnel of the first five years, when physical and emotional needs change constantly and you're wondering if the Lord has entrusted your sweet munchkins with a mother capable enough to cope, let me point you in this direction.
If you have a newborn and you want your hand held and your eyelids propped open, please call me. I'd love to encourage you.
If you've been squarely in the toddler tunnel, bouncing between gratitude for a healthy boy and a growing baby on the way and sheer panic about this is all going to work out, feel free to impart your wisdom on me. Or just excuse the circles under my eyes and four crumbled up Kleenexes in my hand at all times.
Wherever you are, "they" say every stage just gets better. I believe that, I do. I see the developments and I hear the new phrases every hour. I wouldn't go backwards for the world, but I'd sure love a little sunshine in our rainy week.
If you need some too, let
The good news: the Tunnel doesn't last forever. The bittersweet part: we'll miss being needed this much when it's all over. But that's another issue for another day.
Honorable mention: This post, for the "weary mother," has stuck with me all week. No matter what I'm facing, I'm reminded it's an act of worship to let the little children, including my own handsome, sleep-deprived, teething toddler, come to me.
Happy Thursday, friends. Thanks for being there!
*Disclaimer: Despite what might seem like a whine-fest, let me be quite clear that I'm tremendously thankful and in love with our little family. I wouldn't trade my Mac for the world, and I'm grateful for the sweet, silly big brother our baby girl will be getting. I would, however, love to get a brain transplant with a wise, more experienced, totally laidback and fully confident mom. And also I'd like a long nap. But I said I'd stop whining, so let's go back to the lovefest. Wouldn't trade my challenging, wild and utterly adorable little man, currently saying "So-ee, Mama" for a headbutt/nose kiss combo, for all the tea in Charleston. The end.*