Whoever said parenting was easy should be imprisoned. For life.
Just kidding. I'm pretty sure no one has ever - ever - said that parenting was a walk in the park.
It's tough, selfless work.
There are no medals. No awards. No way of knowing if you're doing it "right."
Every mom - from the moment she conceives new life inside of her - is entrusted with a gift. A miracle. A huge responsibility. And that responsibility takes a huge toll on her body, her emotions, and therefore, everyone around her. I meant that to be sort of funny; but as a pregnant woman with raging hormones, I feel pretty safe in saying that my husband may be in really big trouble if he were to admit that my emotions affected everyone around me! HA! As that new life continues to grow, you realize just how little control you now have over your body. It's as if the Lord uses that time to prepare you for that little one's life outside of the womb.
When they're born, you're a slave to their schedule. Eating, sleeping, and showering are now considered luxuries. A good day is one where you remember to brush your teeth. The books you read now are about how to get your baby to sleep through the night, making your own baby food and which diapering method will work best for your family. Your mind is consumed with questions of doubt. Am I doing this right? What am I doing wrong? And many times, the more experienced mothers around you are all too quick in giving unsolicited advice. It. Is. Tough.
The challenges change as the kids grow. And perhaps the second and third children have it a bit easier as the parents have learned to relax and have a better gage of which things they can let go. But the challenges don't go away - they simple change. I've only been parenting for about five years now and I am pretty confident in saying that there's a whole lot more that I don't know than I do.
But the past few days have been especially draining. Exhausting. Literally sucking the life right out of us.
Caring for a sick little one is no joke. Ben is so helpless these days. He cannot sit up, walk, or stand. He needs our assistance to change his body position on the couch. To reach his cup of milk. To scratch the itch on his back. He leans to the side in order to pee in a urinal and thankfully, will struggle through being carried and held on the toilet long enough for him to try and pass a bowel movement. Add these frustrations to his overwhelming sense of anxiety which won't let us out of his sight - not even into the other room for longer than fifteen seconds - and you have a recipe for frustration. Many of you that have cared for older patients in Hospice might understand how difficult it is trying to assist someone who is irritable. And let me tell you. That boy is plain irritable.
You're talking too loud. He can hear his brother playing too loud in the other room. You were gone for 'too many minutes.' You didn't understand what he said. Jack kicked his pillow. Megan touched his couch. You brought him pasta when he asked for pizza. And for the record, he did ask for pasta; he just confused the words - which he often does - and was annoyed with your inability to read his mind correctly.
I'm sure Ben is annoyed that he cannot do any of these things himself. He doesn't complain directly. I'm sure that he's uncomfortable. But rather than being able to voice those feelings - especially when his speech takes so much effort - he just lashes out. He cries easily. Yells when you can't understand what he's trying to say.
Andy and I try and tag-team during the day, mostly to give the other person an emotional break.
We remind ourselves that this is not Ben talking. It's the steroids. This is not our Ben. It's the cancer.
Even then, it's tough. The weather has been beautiful and so we try and give Jack and Megan as many opportunities as we can to play outside. Ben gets anxious about them not being in the house where he can't see them, much less the parent that is out there enjoying it with them. It is obvious that Ben is most comfortable when all five of us are in the house, awake and in the living room alongside him. We try and get Jack out of the house while Ben is napping, but have to adjust quickly when he wakes up. It's just not worth the frustration.
Perhaps it's the fact that he is so out of control. There are very few things that a little boy can do who is merely being transferred from his bed, to the couch, to the toilet and back everyday. But he wants to be able to manipulate the four other people closest to him. To keep them close. And not let them too far away from his sight. I suppose I would be the same way. I would want my family around me, too.
I don't mean to complain. I'm just really really tired.
I feel like I'm back to those days of mothering a newborn. Or two. Feeling so exhausted and yet knowing that no one else can tangibly do what you're required to do. Knowing that you're probably doing something wrong, but you're so consumed with caring for your child moment-by-moment that you don't have enough energy to think about what it is you're doing wrong. Receiving a plethora of advice from well-meaning people who just make you feel even more miserable for not jumping on their bandwagon and trying their new magic and under-researched formula for healing.
It. Is. Tough.
I am reminded of the fact that God has gone before us on this journey. That He will go after us into the future. And He has - and will continue to - walk alongside us all along the way.
My mind wanders to those first few days we spent in the ICU at Children's Hospital at the beginning of February. We had received a beautiful crocheted blanket upon being admitted. It was a camo-colored blanket, large enough to cover Ben's whole body. It was a beautiful gift. A comforting gift. We knew the many hours that had gone into making it. And from a woman that would probably never meet the beautiful little boy that received it.
Two months before, the women in my Bible study made blankets to donate to two area hospitals for distribution to needy families. One of the fleece blankets I made was a light blue and had rubber duckies; the other was a pink one with flowers.. I never would have thought that I might be on the receiving end of one of these gifts. Never. After receiving this one for my four-year-old, I wondered which families might have received the blankets I had made. As I laid over my sick child, I prayed for the kids that would receive the blankets I had made. For the devastating news they might have received, the journey that they may have been called to walk. And I prayed that they would have also been comforted by this gift from a stranger they would never meet.
After Ben had his first MRI, we were transferred to the ninth floor so he could begin his healing process while he waited for surgery. Next to Ben's room was a little boy who was usually alone. He was about eighteen months old and I'm assuming his family was out of town or worked full-time and were unable to physically be there everyday. I passed by that boy's room one day and stopped. I jerked Andy's arm back and made him look into the room, too. In his crib was a pale blue fleece blanket with rubber duckies. It looked exactly like the one I had made at Bible study two months before.
That was the blanket I had made. God not only had it delivered to that particular hospital, but also to the room next to where my son was admitted. That was not by chance, friends. That was by God's divine appointment.
I felt like God had allowed me to see that so I would know: God had gone ahead of me. He knew that we would be there. This did not come as a surprised to Him. And this thoughtful God would not abandon us in our time of need.
I thought about that story tonight as I could feel the end of my rope dangling at the bottoms of my feet. God has gone ahead of us. And He will go after us. None of this is a surprise to God.
We weren't asked to take on the whole journey at once. We were asked to take one step at a time, asking for enough grace just to get us through each day. That's it.
Whether we're parenting a newborn, managing a fussy child or assisting our elderly parents as they navigate through their final days on earth... we only need enough grace to get us through one day at a time.
One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute at a time.
Thank God. His grace is sufficient.