The Village that Loves Us

The toughness of parenting comes in waves, doesn’t it?

When they are tiny, the difficulty lies in anticipating and knowing their needs. They can’t tell us; they can only cry. As parents we try to distinguish the hungry cry from the tired cry from the pain cry.  We fumble and misunderstand. We cry with them when they are colicky and can’t be soothed. We worry even when the doctor assures us they’ll grow out of it and be fine. We lose sleep over the smallest decisions, wondering “did we choose right? Or will this create trauma or damage?”

In this age of technology we ask Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We ask Google and read blogs and articles–most conflicting each other. We put it out there and read, “ME TOO!” and feel better.

We are not alone with our worries.

And the children grow, and we get comfortable for awhile. For a split second we have a routine.

Then another wave hits.

We are worrying about whether they are eating enough, eating the right things, getting enough sleep, getting too much sleep. Are the tantrums they throw normal or symptomatic of something else? Is their refusal to eat normal or something else? Is their new biting habit normal or something else? How long do we “wait and see” before we should be getting professional help? Seeking tests or evaluations?

We turn online again. We ask those who have been through it.

Sometimes, though, there are things we don’t turn online to investigate because we don’t want to put our worry–our child’s potential struggle–out there for everyone to know about.

We get notes home, phone calls, and complaints about behavior, bad choices, and disrespectful behavior. We cry and wonder where we failed our child. Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices. We didn’t give quick enough consequences. We didn’t talk about respect enough. Something.

Maybe we even vaguebook about how difficult parenting is.

There are a bazillion parenting books out there. Shoot, I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble right now and before I settled in, I browsed. There is an entire section devoted to parenting. There are definitely universal truths in parenting, but none of those books was written specifically with my child in mind. None are uniquely for how to raise Eddie or Charlie or Alice.

Parenting sites and books and even psychologists can give general advice about how to parents certain behaviors and attitudes, but they can’t tell you what to do when you child acts uniquely like themselves.

So when my Charlie is struggling to find his way as a full-time school kid, I struggle with how to be his best mom. I cry a lot. I feel like I am failing him. And I worry about the labels that can stick to a kid because they adhere quickly and are damn near impossible to peel off.

I know this because of my own job.

My Charlie is a puzzle. He is so unlike me. I love him so furiously, but I don’t understand him more than I do, and I know it hurts both of us.

We had a hard start to this week. I did a load of crying.

But then this text came over my phone: “It’s not your job to solve the puzzle, mama. Just be there and love that darling little puzzle. Give yourself some grace.”

I crumbled. It was the first of many supportive notes of love that our village began to surround us with without even knowing the circumstances.

Family, friends, church family, the teachers at Charlie and Eddie’s school…the love and support began to pour in. And that is when I realized, we are going to be Ok. Charlie is going to be Ok.

Because it is impossible to fail when you have a village that savage loving you and supporting you.

I know my kids don’t have much of an idea yet of how lucky they are to be loved by so many. I hope that we can help them to grow and understand the fortune and wealth of love and support they were born into is a great privilege.

I know I was brought to my knees, humbled by the time people took to let me know my family–my little boy–is loved and to remind me that no one is labeling him as anything but “Charlie Bird”.

There are struggles we can expect as parents: battles over meal time, bed time, and bath time. The inevitable push-and-pull of the teenage years. The sex and drugs and rock n roll talks.

But there are other, more personalized struggles we can’t foresee. Thank God for the people he has placed in our lives to hold us through those times.

Thank God for our village.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl…wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Hey Katie,
    These lines hit a nerve with me: Because it has to be something we did or didn’t do, right? Kids aren’t born making bad choices.

    Keagan was my feisty one, and I often worried that her defiant decisions were my fault. As soon as she could walk, she made it her purpose in life to antagonize her brother. At 3, she would get angry if anyone said she was pretty and would say “No I not! I’n dorgeous!” At 4, she insisted that preschool be referred to as “pretty school”…or else. At 5, she informed people that she was the Queen Boss of the World and expected to be treated as such. In kindergarten, she would talk in class and get sent to the principal’s office nearly every day. I didn’t find out about that until 1st grade because the principal and teacher thought she was just “so cute”.
    She has always constantly pushed boundaries, openly pointing out the issues she had with anyone’s rules and refusing to follow any rules she deemed silly.

    We had some epic battles. One resulted in an entire week without toys. She said cleaning up was stupid [a word we didn’t allow in our home at the time] and if I didn’t like it, I should clean it. “That’s your job, not mine!”

    She’s 17 now, and we argue once in a while, but her head-strong ways are serving her well. She can stand up for her values against nearly anyone and refuses to give up when she has set a goal for herself.

    She has also learned that there are people that are just as stubborn and are not worth arguing with. It was a difficult lesson that started in first grade–the year I felt like a broken record “You are choosing this consequence. If you choose to [insert broken rule], you’re asking for [insert consequence]. If you don’t like this consequence, you need to make a better choice.” Her response was almost always: “NO! YOU need to make better choices!” It was exhausting, but I knew it sank in when I heard her repeat my words to a friend. Of course, she added her own twist, “…and that’s how I get my way without getting in trouble. I dist find the rules what I need.” Oi.

    It’s not going to be easy, but you’ll find that these trying moments will help him navigate the world on his terms.

  2. I’ve been in this exact spot (wave after wave after wave) and can tell you from the other side, as hard as this parenting gig is (and damn is the gig hard) it will be okay. IT WILL BE OKAY.

    (You are loved. Always.)