October 13, 2011

In the Tunnel

Have you ever read something that put a lump in your throat immediately, that spoke to just what you were needing to hear? I just had one of those moments. Someone on Facebook posted a link that has changed my day.

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 a blogger who isn't throwing herself a pity party this mom encourage you today.

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.*


Misty said...

Yes, I had quite a few moments like that while at bible study last night. Beth Moore will sock it to you without question. You will handle this with grace and love, easily, Anne. Just keep doing what you are doing and look UP a lot, because He will walk or carry you right through it. You are so right that you have the breastfeeding advice down pat, you were a Godsend to me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you - I really needed this message today. I'm a working mom with a 16 month old, and to complicate things my husband works nights. It's like being a single mom most of the time except I still have to clean for 2 adults! LOL

Kristen said...

I'm so sorry things have been challenging recently. I guess there is really a reason they're called the "Terrible Twos," and I am terrified of them. Just remember that God chose you to be Mac's mom because you're the BEST one for the job. You're the only one **deserving** of the challenges he provides each day. I'm proud of you and I'm always here if you need to talk, scream, cry, vent, or -- best of all -- brag about that beautiful boy!!

MatersandMelons said...

Hang in there, girl! We have all been there, and the thing is, once you pass this stage you will just move on to a new set of challenges! (Oh, yay!) Having children can definitely be a lesson in humility and learning to lean on God, but it is also such a blessing. Funny how something can both bring you to your knees AND lift you up, huh?

Praying for you!

User Not Found said...

Thanks for sharing your heart, Anne. My BFF and I were walking this morning talking about this very thing. As mothers, we sacrifice ourselves for our husbands and children, all day, every day. It's rewarding and there's nothing in the WORLD for which we'd trade our responsibilities, but it's more exhausting than we ever could have imagined. You are not alone and it will pass, but it is perfectly okay to walk around all day with 4 crumpled Kleenex in your hand! You have to do what you have to do to survive!

Melissa and Chad said...

Oh Anne, I so needed to read this today. We are in the midst of the terrible twos as well...which just happened all of the sudden. The tantrums, the unwillingness to cooperate, the stubbornness...it has all kicked in. To make ours a little worse, we made the mistake (I say a mistake, but at times I have loved it) of putting Chad in our bed when he had a virus a few months ago. Well, those few nights have now turned into a few months and he doesn't know how to sleep by himself any longer. So this weekend, we are moving him into a big boy bed in his room (crib is being dismantled as we speak). So on top of all of the current two-troubles, I have to say I am not looking forward to the turmoil the new bed is going to bring either. I think we all have our burdens with our children...whether it be lack/unwillingness to sleep, not giving up a pacifier/bottle, etc. But like you, I look at him, stubbornness and all, I remember what a sweet blessing God has given me. And one day, I will long to go back to a day full of those two year old tantrums (just for a little while). :)

Stacy said...

I feel like I spend all day yelling at Paul, my 2 year old, as well! He just doesn't listen to anything I say! HAHAHA! j/k...I do feel the same way you do though...Emmie is always in trouble...it's always so nice to hear other people say they feel the same way about their 2 year old...it's so good to know we're not alone...hang in there!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

You and I are having the same week. We should do a Mommy dinner (and drinks for me!) soon. This stage is so tough. I just keep holding on to the hope that it will chill out one day.

Amy @ Forever 29 said...

Yes, I am so in the tunnel with a now mobile infant and a 2.5 year old. Thanks for sharing that link! Though I am sooo done at 2! ha!

Kathy said...

Just like the newborn stage (that I miss so much it brings me to tears!), this too shall pass! Time-outs are a God-send. You're allowed to feel frustrated and five minutes later, utterly in love. Part of the reason I think having two is easier than one is because there is even MORE love! You know the kind - the glimpse of Jesus' love that we have for our kids - that one. THERE IS MORE! Can you believe it? Just wait!
You're doing a wonderful job - give yourself a pat on the back :).


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