Grace, Grace

When Ben was born I was twenty years old...and absolutely clueless about what it meant to be a mother and raise up a child.  I was 800 miles away from my family, missing a semester of college while the world went on without me, and I was "stuck at home" with a colicky baby. 

Man, that boy could cry.

My days consisted of him eating and crying, eating and crying, eating and crying.  I would blare Outkast's "Hey Ya" at top volumes to try to drown out the incessant crying, especially later in the afternoon when I'd been subjected to the inconsolable wailing all alone for the entire day.  And at which time "at my wits end" seemed like a major understatement.

I tried him in the swing, in the stroller, in my arms, in the car, outside in the rocking chair.  I tried the football hold, bouncing him up and down, on his belly, on his back.  It didn't matter.  He cried.

I cried too.

At least we were in it together.

I loved that little chunk.  Don't get me wrong.  When he was happy, he was oh-so-happy - giggles and smiles abounding.  But when he was mad - there was simply nothing to be done about it. He had this one redeeming quality too - during the day he might have been Mr. Hyde, but at night, that boy slept and he slept well.  He got that colic thing backwards, and I was quite alright with that.  Whenever we went somewhere in public, though, I was a nervous wreck, all the while thinking, "What if he starts crying?"  And inevitably, he did.

When Abby was born, I was a ripened, "old" twenty-three year old who had graduated from college 10 months prior and was that far invested into my first real job as a civil engineer.  I took about seven weeks off from work, returned just after Thanksgiving break, and quickly found out that having two children was way more than twice as hard as having one.  Things that seemed simple with one child seemed impossible with two.  No matter how quickly I got home after work, there was never enough time for the kids, and certainly never enough time for the house.  Poor Sam fell to the bottom of the "so-called" totem pole of family priorities pretty rapidly.  I was constantly stressed out and never able to enjoy myself.  Luckily, Abby seemed to be a happier baby, albeit a way worse sleeper.  I'm sure my sleep deprivation didn't help the chronic stress.

When Sarah was born, I was still a "working mom", but something had changed.  Maybe it takes two kids to thoroughly break a mom in.  Or maybe I was finally mature enough to recognize the incredible blessing that is a precious newborn.  But I enjoyed that baby.  I mean really enjoyed her.

With Leah, this go round, I have laughed more and cried less. 

And it has made me wonder...

If I hadn't been so stressed out and clueless, would Ben still have been colicky?  If I hadn't been so short-tempered and on-edge, would Abby have slept better at night?  Do our children know when we're stressed out?  I think they do.

Of course, Sarah cried too.  And Leah - that girl's got some good lungs.  Babies do that.  But, instead of tensing up and shutting down when it happens, I just hug her, shush her, find the nearest ceiling fan for her to look at.  I pull out my bag of tricks.  They don't always work, but there's a peace now.  It's okay if she cries for a few seconds in public (as long as I don't let it go on and on without addressing it).  And if the people around me can't give me 20 seconds to try to rectify the problem without giving me a dirty look, that's their problem.  Not mine.  It took me nearly 9 years to learn that.  I'm ashamed to admit it.

It wasn't really the glares from strangers in restaurants that bothered me.  It was the reality that I was absolutely clueless...and I still am, but I'm not scared of that fact anymore.  My kids know they're my kids.  They're not in charge of this zoo - their mother and father are.  And even when I have no clue what to do next, I pretend like I do, just so these kids don't assume the role of authority.  They'll sneak right in if you give them the opportunity.

In letting go of fear, I've received joy.  Four times over...and then some.

But to my original point (yes, I think there was one of those somewhere), being a parent has taught me more about grace than anything else in this life.  Not because I've given it enmasse to my kids, but because they've demonstrated it to me.  And because I've needed it.  Desperately.  For all of my shortcomings, these four beautiful kids love me anyway.  And I love them too.  Then there's Sam.  He deserves his own post for the amount of grace he's given me. 

Grace is good.  God is greater.  Let us thank Him for this all.

I am oh-so-blessed.  And I'll be darned if I let meaningless stress rob me of my joy anymore.  (Sam, that means you get the job of keeping me accountable.  Are you up for the challenge?)
I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am. ~John Newton


Angela Winford said...

Such word of wisdom from a 'seasoned' mom :) Love you girl! Thanks for sharing your heart. It blesses me.....and you bless me.

Dayle @ A Collection of This and That said...

They're all quite adorable, too. God only saw fit to bless me with one, but I do admire those who have multiple children, and lived to tell the tale.

Chrystal's Corner said...

I too have found God's grace in motherhood...what a gift! Thanks for this beautiful post Jennie. What adorable little faces you are blessed to look at each day:)

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