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.

The Willful Child

IMG_6655Last week, my eighth graders had the word “willful” on their vocabulary list. When we first go through the list as a class, students create circle maps to help them define each word. In those maps they put synonyms and examples that help them each remember what the vocabulary word means using a personal connection. If I had been making my own map for the word “willful”, I would have written Charlie’s name in it.

Charlie could not be more different than Eddie was at this age. I feel like I say that all the time, but it surprises me every single day.  Eddie has his issues, but by and large he is a rule-follower, a people-pleaser. He is honest to a fault–the boy will even tell me he was thinking of something bad. And he stinks at lying. His disobedience is either being mad about having to do something he doesn’t want to do or getting to wrapped up in what others are doing that he doesn’t realize he is being “naughty”.

My Charlie is different. He knows the rules, but feels that they only apply when he wants them to. For instance, we require pants to be worn at the dinner table. I don’t really feel like this is a major request, yet Charlie and I had a full blown stand off about wearing pants last week.

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I was getting the boys’ dinner ready one Thursday night while Cortney was bowling. Charlie was using the bathroom, and came out in nothing but his underwear.

Me: Charlie, where are your clothes?

Charlie: In da baf-room.

Me: Why?

Charlie: I peed.

Me: Ok, Costanza. Go get your pants and put them on. Your dinner is about ready.

Charlie: NO. I not wear my pants!

Me: If you are going to eat dinner, you are going to wear pants.

Charlie: NO! NEVER! (actually it sounds more like “nevah!”)

Me: Fine. Then you can stand there until you put pants on.

Charlie: (turns his head away and puts his nose in the air and makes a little hmm! noise)

I put the food on the table and Eddie and I eat while Alice gums a cracker.

Charlie: (in a tiny, sweet, innocent voice) Mom mom? I am so hungry. So very hungry, mom mom.

Me: I bet you are.

Charlie: (nods with big eyes)

Me: Put on your pants and you can eat.

Charlie: NO! NEVAH! EVAH! NEVAH!!!!!!!!

He stands there with his arms crossed while we eat. Out of the corner of my eye I see him slide his pants toward him. Then he slowly pulls them on. After standing there with pants for a minute, he slowly slides into his spot at the table, eats his food, and we seem to forget the stand off while we all eat and chat.

about 15 minutes later…

Charlie: Can I be done, mom mom? I am full!

Me: Yup. Go wash your face and hands.

That stinker came running out with NO PANTS ON.

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When it’s not funny, it’s downright maddening.

I have very few bouts of rage due to anxiety anymore, but when I do it’s usually triggered by Charlie. He is the most stubborn, strong-willed, headstrong person I know. He will do nothing on anyone else’s terms but his own.

In my 12 years of being with Cortney and 20+ years knowing him, I have never seen him yell or get super mad…until we had Charlie. Charlie doesn’t just say, “no” (although he DOES do that a LOT), he stares you in the eye and defies you.

He will tell you he is not doing something AS he does it. In front of your SEEING EYES.

And he is NOT afraid to throw down in front of all of the public in the land. Won’t let him ride in the cart because it is full of groceries? Not good enough, mom. Now the entire store shall know my displeasure in the form of screaming fits and thrown objects.

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But.

This boy is the biggest love bug you will ever meet. He is just as stubborn about his love and his cuddles as he is about not wearing pants. Eddie can want nothing to do with him, and he will adamantly insist on hugs. I will be in the middle of feeding Alice and he will bulldoze his way into my arms.

When he is mid-fit, the only way to calm him is to sit down next to him and just be close. No words. Just be at his level with him.

He refuses to trust anyone with his little sister when Cortney and I aren’t around without diligent supervision and constant check-ins. His daycare mom–who I was pretty sure he loved more than he loved me for a chunk of his life–is not immune to this. He stops whatever he is doing randomly throughout the day to make sure Alice is “ok”.

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His bullheadedness drives me MAD. Literally. I go a bit nuts when he can’t do one simple task without a full on, epic fit. I get angry when, even though we do the exact same damn routine every day, he acts surprised by it and refuses to move forward until HE is ready.

I have always been against using spanking or hitting or other corporal punishment with my children, but he is the one who makes me question my stance.

And yet…he is so sweet, so wiling to give up the spotlight for his brother or sister or really anyone who will take it off of him because he hates it. He shares so easily. He loves so hard.

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This horrible willfulness we are going through at age three-and-a-half will serve him so very well when he is an adult. I hope he never loses the will to stick to his guns.  Even if it’s going to drive me to crazy and back parenting him.

Once again, all photos by TMV Photography

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