I apologize if you were at our local Walmart between 3/4pm this afternoon. The screaming out-of-control baby you heard? Yeah. That was mine.
Normally, I would have never consented to going out with my kids that close to bedtime. Especially on a day when my daughter refused a nap. And on a frigid day in Buffalo that's about five degrees. Never. Except... Benjamin wanted to go out. Anywhere. His official request was somewhere to buy bubbles. And since I'd do just about anything that boy asks of me these days, my immediate answer was, "Yes! Let's get in the van right now!"
Jack and Ben were angels. (Though, admittedly, there was a lot of whining from Jack.) We immediately found the bubbles he was looking for and I didn't fight too much when they each asked for a Nerf dart gun and a set of walkie talkies. Their requests are so simple, so... little boy. I just love it.
I tried to get the remaining items on my list - you know, totally pushing my luck - when my twenty-two month old starts unraveling. First, that included demanding that she be held. Yeah, that wasn't gonna happen. Then she decided to kick off her boots. I quickly scooped them back up and threw them under the cart. Then it escalated to all-out out-of-control screaming. All through the store. She wanted to hold the bubbles. But they were too heavy. She wanted her boots back on her feet. But I know she'd just kick them off in defiance anyway. I finally decided to cave on her request for boots when I realized that one of them must have fallen out of the cart again. Oh boy. So I backtracked. And returned via the same path again. No boots. At this point, it is full-on hysteria.
And yet, like the crazy mom I am, I insisted on gathering my last few items before hitting the check-out. At one point, Megan was being held like a rag doll in my left arm - kicking and screaming - as I dragged the cart that held my groceries and my two four-year-olds with my right.
I really wonder what thoughts people had about me today. On second thought, I really don't want to know.
It took me a while to calm down from my Worse Trip to the Store on Record. I was counting down the minutes until bedtime.
But you know what? I'm kinda grateful for meltdowns in Walmart. For the toddler that refuses to nap and won't let me out of her sight. I'm even kinda grateful for the excessive whining we've been hearing from Jack, my oldest (and Ben's twin.) I'm even grateful for those afternoons where it feels like bedtime will never come. You know why?
'Cause that's kinda normal.
Our "new" normal looks a little different than our "old" normal. A lot actually. That's why I feel like I'm beginning to appreciate those traces of normal, even the ones that make me want to pull out my hair and hide in the bathroom. Because over the past few weeks, it's just been too stressful or tiring or exhausting to even deal with the regular stuff.
Today was the first day I didn't join Andy and Ben at Roswell. I was a nervous wreck. But I knew that Ben was more than comfortable with his new routine with Daddy by his side. I went the first three days to help ease him into his new surroundings. Now it was time for me to help bring some consistency at home. With our other two kids.
Megan has been screaming at bedtime. And at naptime. When I bring her in to sing, she goes nuts, screaming, shaking and yelling for us to "go downstairs!" There have been a lot of changes lately for my less-than-two-year-old. Except she doesn't have the words to explain them to me. This is how she's been handling the stress. And now I feel like we're back to Square One in sleep training again. She needs to have her mommy put her down at naptime, sing songs at bedtime and be there when she wakes up - just like it's always been.
This morning, I took Jack and Megan to my Mothers of Preschoolers meeting at church. What a joy to be with my friends. Loved on, prayed over, listened to. It really was a beautiful morning. I haven't been ready to receive much love from the outside world and so today was a great start. Plus, it was what we usually do on a Thursday morning. Normal. Routine.
I really enjoyed being able to give Ben a few pieces of good news tonight before bed. Tomorrow, when he returns from Roswell, the port will be disconnected. He will be able to take baths all weekend (something he can't do during the week when his bandage is supposed to stay dry) until they'll need to reconnect it on Monday. But he gets two days off! Also, tomorrow is Friday: Movie Night. That boy smiled so wide and immediately jumped up to give me a hug, as if I had been solely responsible for providing him with these little perks.
Amazing how much joy a little perspective can bring.
Perspective. That's what it is.
Perspective is what allows a meltdown in the middle of Walmart to be a blessing. For whining to be music to a mother's ears. And for a bath with his siblings to be some of the most exciting news ever.
Perspective is also the thing that allows me to realize Ben's circumstances for what it truly is. It is not a death sentence, a punishment for sinful living or something that God gave us just because He enjoys fooling with the faithful. It is an opportunity. To see our lives as fleeting, to appreciate all of God's blessings and soak in His goodness. Because He really has been so good to us.
If I ever forgot that, I only need to look into the sweet, goofy face that keeps on smiling, even though he has very little control of his current surroundings. That is grace. And that, my friends, can only come from God.
Although, honestly, I really could do without the meltdowns in Walmart. Just sayin'.