October 22, 2012

Growing Pains

I want you to know that I am writing this Sunday night, literally in my bed, while I stuff my face full of kit kats.

Hubby's been out of town all weekend again and let's just say, bedtime routine tonight would not be considered one of my more shining parenting moments.

Hence the kit kats.

Okay... who am I kidding. I would be stuffing my face with them regardless.

Still, you know when your kids start accusing you of being rude because your language and tone become more forceful after the 2,835,476,238,754,634th time asking them to do something, it would be considered less than one of your more stellar moments.

Anyway, it has been a bit of a rough day so bear with me as I try to assemble my thoughts and say what is on my mind.

*warning* This has turned into a rather long post.

I don't know if it's the change of the seasons or if women are just eating too much pre-Halloween candy, (Why are you looking at me like that? Oh dang, I think a piece of chocolate fell down in my keyboard...) but I seem to keep running into post after post written by young moms who are drowning in their frustrations over not being able to "keep it all together", to "do it all", or feel unable to "handle it".

You know, as parents we have the unique privilege of experiencing many of our children's hardest "firsts". Their first steps, their first bike crash, their first heartbreak, etc.

All of these firsts are what I've come to think of as "growing pains".

The thing about growing pains is, the first time you are about to experience something, you don't know what it's going to be like until you've done it. Like after that first awful and somewhat traumatic experience of falling off your bike, you know that next time you fall, it's going to hurt, so you brace yourself for impact and pain. But after a while, the more you do it you get the hang of it and so you fall less and less.

When I first got married it was a hard adjustment. I had expectations I didn't know I had, ideas I didn't realize I clung to. It's taken years of both of us falling painfully off and getting back on to be able to figure out how to maneuver this marriage thing. Now I fall less frequently, and I can enjoy the experience more.

When I had kids, I thought I should and ought to be able to do it all, perfectly, happily, all the time. Because hey, I'm the one who chose to have kids so I ought to be able to handle it, right?

Even when people told me it was okay to have bad days, or lazy days, or emotional days, deep down I felt like it wasn't okay, that I should be able to be in control, to be responsible for my emotions and choices.

And I certainly didn't want to ask for help because that felt like a sign of weakness, as though people were going to judge me and think low of me for having all these kids then not being able to handle it.

Ironically, I never thought that of anyone who ever came to me for help.

It's like when your toddler goes through that... *deep intake of calming breath* independent phase where they always want to do everything "all by myself". *cringe* We want, can, and are willing to help them, they just won't let us.

But seriously, we do the exact same thing. We just don't realize it.

I remember when I was a kid, up the street from our house was this cult-a-sac that had a HUGE down-hill road. It was our favorite place to ride bikes because we could go so fast!

One day when we were out riding, I watched as one of my older siblings threw their hands in the air and then take their feet off the pedals and balanced just on the seat. I thought that surely if they could do it, so could I. I steadied myself and about halfway down this hill, I threw my hands into the air and lifted up my feet.

My victory was ever so brief before I became unbalanced and crash landed in a heap of flailing arms and legs. When I finished rolling to the bottom of the paved hill, I didn't have much time to really take in what happened before the sound of barking reached my ears. Terrified, I leaped up and started running back up the hill with my bike.

I was more terrified of this dog which was known to bite then I was with how serious I was hurt. The adrenaline rush was epic. In that moment I was sure I was going to get eaten alive by this scary dog who was nipping at me heels as I was running with all my might.

I didn't really feel too much pain until I got home and was able to calm down. That's when the pain from the skinned knees, legs, arms, elbows, and face hit me.

Sometimes I think that's what happens with us moms. We jump on this exciting motherhood ride and we go hard and fast and we see other moms throwing their arms in the air and doing all these things so well that we think we should be able to do it too.

And that's when we fall. But at first we don't have time to think about it because there is always something chasing us. Dirty laundry, dirty dishes, dinner, homework, diapers, sleepless nights, etc.

Then we stop and catch out breath, and that's when we realize that our house isn't clean, that the dishes aren't done, the laundry is overflowing, and we've been yelling at and frustrated with our sweet children.

Then the guilt sets in.

I didn't notice this for a long time, but most (definitely not all) but most of the time when someone is beating themselves to a pulp over not being a good mom, a lousy wife, or a terrible cook or homemaker, they are younger moms just starting out in the early years.

It occurred to me that it is because motherhood is filled with intense growing pains and the beginning is so new and different than anything we'd ever done before, that we are stunned when reality doesn't meet our expectations.

Just as I could give you buckets and buckets full of amazing and fun filled memories, I have buckets and buckets full of examples I could give you of me sobbing in the shower or late at night from such intense guilt over being a terrible mother that I felt my heart would burst.

You know when women talk about how we forget what it's like to be pregnant or how painful child birth can be? Well, sometimes I would ask my mom, (who had eight kids super close together) how in tarnation she did it and how she managed to maintain (most) of her sanity. (Just kidding mom. You know I love you)

She would often comment on how she doesn't really remember those "drowning in frustration" times though she knows she had them, she really only remembers the good stuff.

At some point you have to make a decision to be okay with not being perfect.

Now I'm going to confess something.

I have been asked on occasion why I don't offer more parenting tips and advise. Well, I'm going to tell you.

First of all, my oldest is only eight years old so, pish, what do I know! Ask the moms with teenagers or who have married children, they're the experts.

But also and mostly because, I have tried to follow or use or incorporate someones ideas or methods and every time, I fail. I can't quite seem to make it work for me so I feel like a failure because hey, if they can take their hands and feet off the pedals, then I ought to be able to too, right?

Now I'm not saying people who do or have offered advise or plans or lists shouldn't do it, they should! Keep at it people! Others need your wisdom! And yes, I do read the lists and collect ideas and try them out. I guess it's just that for me personally I worry about someone feeling frustrated with themselves because they think they should be able to incorporate my ideas or follow my tips and do what I do, but can't.

So keep reading those lists and trying to apply them. But at the end of the day the change has to go deeper than a chart or a list.

You need to change your thought process.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

You have to stop thinking of yourself as a failure every time the house falls apart and understand that you are human with limitations.

Instead of focusing solely on the fact that you lost your temper at your children, focus on the fact that you apologized and told them you loved them.

You have to change your belief in yourself.

I'm going to get a bit spiritual here for a minute so, hang in there with me.

I use to pray for patience... a lot.


All the time.

And while the days that I started with sincere prayer often turned out better than others, I still felt like nothing was really improving, that I was merely, "enduring" my days.

Then one day it hit me. I realized I was praying for the wrong thing. Instead of praying to simply, "be patient" with my children, I prayed that my heart would be changed towards them.

I already loved them immensely, but what I needed was charity. So I prayed for charity towards my husband and for my children. Instead of asking God for a bandaid, I asked him to go in and help me fix the problem.

The changes have been coming on so slowly and subtly that I may have missed it altogether.

But the other day, I got really upset and I yelled at one of my sweet kids and it felt so foreign to me that I actually pulled up short in surprise.

It wasn't until that moment that I realized I'd been yelling less and less and that I had been feeling more patient. Not because anything about my situation has changed, but because I'm changing.

I still have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. But I am learning to accept that I am not perfect, and so that drowning in guilt feeling isn't nearly as intense as it once was.

Plus I've been doing this for eight years now, so the growing pains aren't quite as intense as they were at the beginning.

Like any good thing worth accomplishing, parenting will have a steep learning curve and it will take a lot of hard work.

So ladies, cut yourself some slack. If you're trying, then give yourself some credit for that.

You know what though? I could tell you that until I am blue in the face. But unless you find some belief in yourself and change the way you think about your imperfections, nothing I say will make much difference.

So hang in there warrior princess, you can do this.

Not my most flattering picture to be sure, but the kids were so dang cute I swallowed my pride and posted it anyway.

27 super cool people speak:

Smileyhappychan said...

So true! And just what I needed to hear (read?). Sometimes it's good to be reminded of something you already know. Or used to know.

Anonymous said...

I always read but never comment. I just read in my google reader, but this one made me click to your actual site in order to comment. What a great post. Very timely and inspiring. And I do not at all want to minimize the post because it truly is amazing, but that alone didn't make me comment. The picture at the bottom did. I hate that you think it wasn't a good one of you -- that is one of the most amazing pictures I have ever seen. It is the picture of such love - makes me tear up and I don't even know y'all. It is the picture of unconditional love. It is amazing. Beautiful kids, beautiful mommy. Love from every angle. Thank you for sharing. -- Paula

The Bagley Family said...

I needed this post this morning!! My son had a meltdown and then I did, what did we accomplish? Well the floor is covered in sticky Rice Krispies, I am soaked in guilt and he went to school sad. Mothering FAIL...
Motherhood is HARD! Not the lack of sleep, the backache of carrying our children, it is from the impossibly hard standards we set for ourselves and our children, it is the image we want and can never have...it is hard because these little people have never made you care soooo much about small moments.
We are going to be okay, all of us overtired, underpaid mothers:)

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Wow. I feel a bit speechless. Thank you so much for your comment Paula! Truly, truly.

Carla - Amen sista!

jaacs said...

Loved this! It is very timely that you posted this as I am homeschooling two and have a toddler running around getting into everything and feel like pulling out my hair sometimes. I love my children and I love that we homeschool...but it has it's good days and days when I am pretty sure I'm insane. Trying to do chores is often a joke...but, we manage. I have sort of accepted that my bedroom is my "Monica closet" (Friend's reference) at this season in my life.

I second Paula...that picture is fabulous(how did you get all 5 to look at the camera?) and you look beautiful. You seem like a pretty neat Mom and those kiddos look like they adore you.

Garvin Smith said...

And another thing. By blogging you are keeping the commandment to participate in genealogical work by keeping a journal and writing your family history!

Michelle {Fun On A Dime} said...

Love this!

Shaylee Ann said...

This is exactly what I needed, Serene - thank you! I've been struggling with the "everyone but me is married" blues, and reading this brought me back to the realistic reality.

Keep on being so amazing - you really are, and I so admire you. :)

Garrett family said...

Thank you! Thank you so much for being real! I am so sick of feeling like i am the only one struggling at motherhood!

Mama Smith said...

Oh...if every Mother could feel free to speak the truth...about her feelings...we would find...that most of us...often shared VERY CLOSE RELATED...moments...of..."Really, Father...you KNOW ME...and yet...you sent me these precious children to someone like me?" I am NOT PERFECT...I am making MISTAKES...I am not doing it RIGHT...and yet...you sent them to ME...ME...of all people..."

Yes...Father...KNOWS US...and TRUSTS US...and knows we will have UP and DOWN DAYS...Some days...you will smile at the end of the day...and others...you find yourself...beating yourself up...because...you KNOW...you slipped...and didn't handle the day well...

Well...darling mothers...one day you will end up like me...with JOY in your heart over the adults your children chose to become...yet...mingled with "regrets"...wishing you could do it over again...with what “I KNOW NOW”...and believing you would do it RIGHT...this time...hoping to ERASE those moments you wish you could take back...

Once...I was given this counsel...by a man who trained "spies" for the U.S. (and was a "spy" for our country during WWII) I was shocked by his words...wondering how a man like him...could have such wisdom...He said to me...while I was pregnant with #4 or #5..."Just LOVE THEM..." that is all you need to do..."Just LOVE THEM"...

And one other bit of counsel from a mother of “10”... It became my philosophy for life..."Can you make it to the end of the day..." I said..."Yes...I believe I can..." (this said to me after giving birth to my "7th" child while our oldest was "8" years old...) Well, darling mothers...take "ONE DAY AT A TIME"...(sometimes...take "ONE MINUTE AT A TIME)... and you will make it...

Life is for LEARNING...and through out MISTAKES...we will BECOME a better individual...and your children will SURVIVE...your mistakes...because...YOU SIMPLY..."Loved THEM"...

I, also, learned the HARD WAY...YOU CAN'T do it ALONE...DEEP SINCERE PRAYER to our FATHER who knows EACH OF US BEST...for HIS GUIDANCE and STRENGTH...HE will help you in ways...ONE COULD NEVER DO ALONE! It is the ONLY WAY...! You will succeed...ultimately...I PROMISE! (smile) FOLLOW THE COUNSEL of our CHURCH LEADERS...and MIRACLES will begin to happen! I know...

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

jaacs - They're just vain enough to want to be in the picture. lol!

Shaylee Ann - Believe it or not, I thought a lot about my single friends AND those who haven't been able to have children yet. You all are awesome.

Garrett family - Oh, believe you me. You are FAR FAR FAR from being the only one!

Mom, one of these days I'm going to teach about this little thing called a "comma". LOL

Kelly said...

First - jealous about the kit kats. Second - it is an incredibly flattering picture because there are buckets if live and cuteness pouring out all around you. Third - we are getting close to having baby 3 and I often think it will be really hard to have our 3 kiddos 4 and under, all at home. But what could be better?? I'm trying to let go of cleaning things an laundry and thinking these things are more important than people. It will all get done and the people in my home come first.

wendy said...

What a lovely lovely post. (I found you on facebook, posted by GiGi...who I facebook and blog with)
Anywaaay. You are a WISE young mother.
I too had 5 children.
They are all married now with kids of their own.
I have 10 grandchildren.

Many people have often asked me, (like they did your mom) how did you do it. AND, like your mom said, you kinda forget the moments you thought you should run away, or offer the children up for adoption.
You DO, remember mostly the GOOD times. The times they brought tears to your eyes, just because of their sweetness, and innocence and the sheer joy of laughing and crying with them in the teenage years
You analogy of the bike was perfect. I am going to file that into my brain, when young moms say to me "I'm just not good enough"

It was fun being here on your blog today. And your last photo was stinking ADORABLE
(can I have a Kit Kat?)

Heather S said...

love, love, love, love this post!

Anonymous said...

I'll have you know my bed would have been covered with kit kats, not just one lousy wrapper ;). For reals sometimes I feel like we were separated at birth. Your thoughts are so touching and true. Love it! You are so wise, thanks for this post!
P.S- your reply to your mom, hahaha! I love mom teasing.......

Emily said...

gosh dang it will you stop being so amazing :) seriously - i needed this post. and just so you know, you say that you don't give advice, but i'm pretty sure you just gave me the biggest piece of advice that i've been searching for. that whole charity thing. i'm that mom that is still (even today) begging and pleading with heavenly father for patience. i think i've slowly been coming to the realization that i need to somehow change my wording. that "patience" is the wrong thing to ask for. but i didn't know what to replace it with. but you did. starting tonight i will no longer pray for patience. i'll be sincerely praying for charity. so thank you. i'm pretty sure you've been an answer to my prayers. i've been that mom that has constantly felt like i'm drowning. i've been working on feeling better about myself lately, and trying harder to just do my best and be okay with that. it's been working. it's been a slow change, but that's normal. i can now look back and see how far i've come. i'm still working on it. i'm still not as amazing as you ;) but i'm getting there. so thank you thank you once again for an thoughtful and incredible post. i like you more every time you blog :) so keep it up. i know you're not perfect. no one is. but i love your honesty. you are genuine. you are a fantastic mother. and i know all this without even knowing you in person. anyway - thanks again. now - time to go start praying for some charity :)

Larsen said...

You're so insightful and wise. I can't wait to grow to be just like you!

Larsen said...

I'm not kidding or mocking, either. You're doing great. I can't wait to be like you.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Wendy, that you so very much for leaving a comment! And yes, GiGi is a sweetheart! I think we have several bloggy buddies in common actually. :) But I always appreciate the wisdom passed on by those who have "been there and done that"
And yes! You can have a kit kat! Well, I need to go get another bag first. I may have sort of... eaten all of those. ;)

Hahahaha! Thanks Joy!!

Emily - thank you for your honest thoughts! I'm glad something I said was of use to someone. And hey, you're a great mom too! I can tell just by the mere fact that you are trying to be. :)

LOL! Gina, I luv ya girl.

balloongal said...

Wonderful post. Thank you so much.

Mommy Melissa said...

Can I just say, some of the biggest lessons we have to learn, come from our failures. They hurt. They hurt bad. Kids are pretty tough though, if our mistakes are followed by extra doses of love. Serene, I love your wisdom. The biggest lesson I learned from you was humility. Being able to call someone in a moment when you aren't handling it, and reach for their help is probably the hardest thing any mother ever is faced with. I'm so glad you entrusted your angels to me that day. It wasn't a sacrifice for me (in fact, you probalby kept me from spending money at the store I didn't need to spend), but I know it was for you. Thanks for helping me realize it's ok to be weak sometimes. Now I'll go back to my crazy disaster of a house.... And I could really use some advice on how you do the absentee husband scene.

Kellan and Rikki said...

Oh. My. Heck. Can we be best friends? I'm Melissa Jensen's cousin-in-law and I just have to say you pretty much hit the nail on the head. I also am 29 with 5 kids 15 months to just barely 8 years old. My hubs is doing grad school and the kids regularly go 2-3 days without seeing him. Ditto. Just ditto. Especially the whole "I had these kids and if I can't handle it then I shouldn't have chose to have them" mentality. Why do I buy into that crap so often? One of the best things this has taught me is that self-reliance has as much to do with asking for and accepting help as giving. It is not more blessed to give than to receive. Receiving increases our capacity to serve so giving and receiving are equally crucial. Also I loved the bit about charity. Having charity for our children is what turns cleaning the bathroom from drudgery into sanctifying service. I could just go on and on. Thank you for putting it all down so well! Its so hard to describe what I've learned and continue to learn every day.

Will and Marcie Davis said...

Oh my heck I freakin LOVE you!!! Seriously!!! SO needed to hear that right now.....and just for the record instead of trying to down Myself in Kit Kats.....I had Almond Joys.........8 of them to be exact.....EIGHT!!!! Yeah....I'm awesome like that! :) Thanks for this post! It rocked! I love how "real" you are. I appreciate it!

Sue said...

Hear, hear!

And I LOVE the photo.


Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Melissa, If there is anyone here who has seen me at my worst, it would definitely be you. I was so embarrassed to call you for help that day but I needed it! And you were so gracious to help. Thank you.

Kellen and Rikki - LOL! Amen sista!

Marcie - Almond joys are good! And ONLY eight? Pish, girl, you don't want to see me on a bad day! LOL

Thanks Sue!

Emily said...

Thanks for this. I feel like so often, in an effort to avoid complaining (which is admirable) everyone around me makes it all look so easy! I'm three weeks into baby #2 and thinking how the heck has everyone else managed two kids or more!? And, it seems like no one is willing to validate that yep, it's just hard (especially those first few post-partum weeks). So I try to soldier on without asking for the help I so desperately could use. Who knew I was so prideful? I really don't need a whine session, just some compassion and a yep, I've been there, it's hard. So thanks for giving me that with this post.

Seth said...

Ah, wisdom. We men should thank you too for putting this out there. We adore our wives (one per, that is) then wonder how they can think they're not good enough. Guess we have to be better at telling them...

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