Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On Raising Children, or, "I Have Absolutely No Idea What I'm Doing."

Two kids and we're still clueless.
  Will and I have learned a very important lesson in the past three years. Never make any major decisions (specifically, don't make any decisions involving family planning) on either a really great or really terrible day. Just the other week, the kids and I were having one of our best days to date. Everyone woke up in a good mood, we had a healthy breakfast, Tony was showering Alessandra with love and affection and she was giggling in response, the kids played quietly together in Tony's room while I got some housework done, they behaved perfectly at the grocery store (and I received a few compliments on my happy little crew), everyone took a good nap, and I had a tasty, healthy meal waiting for Will when he came home from work. At the end of the day, I was going on and on about Tony and Alessandra's exceptional behavior, how rested I felt, how clean the house was, and so forth. On days like that, I'm tempted to say, "More children, stat! Let's out-do the Duggars! I've GOT this! And why stop with 'just' more children? I'll grow all of our fruits and vegetables, and we'll get some chickens, and we can buy meat from a local farmer, so we'll never have to go to a grocery store again!" Then, predictably, I feel the icy cold smack back into reality.

  That evening, no one slept well. The kids woke up crabby and demanding in the morning, I was out of sorts from not sleeping more than four hours, Tony threw a fit when I told him he couldn't have a "shake 'n milk" (chocolate milkshake, for those of you not fluent in preschooler) for breakfast, Alessandra had diarrhea, the house became a disaster in what must have been some kind of world record, the dog kept trying to steal food, I couldn't stop yelling no matter how many pep talks I gave myself...you get the idea. By the time Will came home that night, I was a frazzled, overwhelmed, near-tears mess. "Why in the world did I ever think I we could have more children? Clearly, I can't even handle the two we already have! And chickens? Seriously, Marisa? Alessandra just dumped her plate of scrambled eggs on the floor and Murphy ate it. Why do you want to have MORE eggs in this house? And when the hell are you going to find time to garden? And why am I talking to myself?"

  Now that Will's schedule is crazier and he's gone for days or weeks at a time, I've had to do some reflecting on the kind of mother I want to be. I have to be able to hold it together by myself for long periods of time. I have to have patience with my kids (I'll be honest and admit this is one of the hardest things for me to do; I have a temper, and I've found myself yelling at Tony far too often), I have to keep the house from resembling the city dump, I have to make healthy meals for my family, and I have to keep our faith the center of our household. I also have to be realistic, and understand that no, not every day will be perfect, but by the same token, not every day will be stressful and miserable, either. If I take a few minutes to myself every morning, beginning my day with prayer and and my oils, I notice a dramatic difference in my temperament. I'm more willing to tell Tony for the thousandth time that no, he doesn't get to watch more than one TV show (without making threats about what will happen if he asks me again), I don't mind carrying Alessandra all over the house while I do chores (if luck is on my side, she'll agree to go into the mei tai or sling), and the bottom line...if I'm calm and patient, my kids generally remain calm and happy, if not patient. Those are the days on which Will and I try to make monumental decisions. Not days when everything is perfect, because that's not reality, but not days when I'm ready to collapse in a sobbing heap on the floor, either.

  Yes, I have been dreaming of starting a garden of my own for quite some time now, especially considering how much money I spend at the grocery store every month on fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Unfortunately, our living situation right now isn't exactly ideal for growing and maintaining a garden. It's something I fully intend on starting once we move to Colorado, though. The chickens...not so much. While I love the idea of buying fresh eggs and meats from a farmer's market, I'm going to permanently temporarily scrap the idea of owning chickens. Yes, we would like to have more children one day. However, being that Will is going to be gone for a long stretch of time, and we have a cross-country move coming up in the next 9-ish months, and I have some unresolved health issues (specifically, spinal stenosis) that I need to take care of before I start growing another human, I'd have to say that now is not the best time to add to our family. That's the beauty of NFP; Will and I are able to prayerfully discern every month if it would be a good time to try to conceive (TTC. Since I'm an Army wife, I'm a huge fan of acronyms). If we don't faint at the idea of having a newborn in nine month's time, fabulous! If not, that's okay too. It's all about moderation. It's okay to be excited about babies, new projects, and new adventures, as long as you don't make rash decisions based on something you saw on Pinterest. *cough cough*

  As for now? My little brother, who is not so little anymore, flew in to Georgia this past weekend to give me a hand with the little ones while Will is in the field. My in-laws are coming here on Friday to spend the long weekend with us. My mom is planning on coming for two-ish weeks in September, when Will's schedule gets particularly brutal. I feel so blessed that our families are able to help us out, and the extra pair(s) of hands goes a long way towards maintaining my sanity. One of the most important things I've realized since becoming a mother is that I simply can't do it all on my own. I don't want to think about how much of a mess I would have been if I didn't have the help of my mom, my mother in-law, and my sister in-law after the birth of Alessandra. I'm pretty sure I would have completely and utterly lost my mind (or fallen asleep behind the wheel) if my mom, mother in-law, brother, and aunt weren't able to help me out when Alessandra was three months old, not sleeping more than two hours/night, and Will was at Fort Lewis for a month. It's okay to ask for help when you need it. There's no shame in admitting you need a hand every now and then, and you're not less of a mother if you just need a break from the chaos once in a while.

Chaos? What chaos? 
  Bottom line? It's great to be ambitious, but it's also great to give yourself a break now and then. There is no such thing as the perfect parent, or the perfect house, or the perfect way of life. Figure out what works for you and your family, and don't underestimate the healing power of an iced coffee in the afternoon and a glass of wine after the kids are in bed. 

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for your honesty. It makes me feel much better about my own limitations and doubts as a mother. It is amazing to me how we can go from "perfect angel baby" to "omg devil baby" with the flip of a switch... glad we're not the only ones.:-)

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    1. *hugs* I would be stunned if every parent in the world didn't have those angel/devil moments! I've also had to learn the difference between admiring mommy and lifestyle blogs, vs. feeling inadequate when looking at them. It's far too easy to get sucked into the "I'm a lame mother because I didn't hire a circus for my child's birthday" guilt. lol.

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  2. breaks are completely necessary and I only have 1!

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    1. Trust me, Shaunacey, I remember how crazy overwhelmed I felt with just Tony (and he was SO EASY compared to Alessandra!). Children are the most wonderful gifts in the world, but holy cow they're a lot of work! :D

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