Why does it always seem that as soon as you start to feel ahead, something changes and you find yourself once again treading water? It’s demoralizing and often leaves me desperate with thoughts of throwing-in-the-towel because “what’s the point?”Such is life: A constant work-in-progress. Until last week, I felt like I was starting to have a handle on things. My day was still chaotic, but I had surrendered to it and found peace within its confines. Then, all three of my children took one step back and I found myself floundering, struggling again to regain a sense of control.
After a week of night weaning, Emma finally slept through the night without nursing once from 7P-6A. The following night, she cried for an hour-and-a-half. Rocking, diaper changes, singing, swinging- nothing worked until I finally nursed her and have been every night ever since. Backwards.
After six months of self potty-training with maybe two accidents total, Harper is suddenly insisting on diapers again. She’s also insisting on eating at 9 PM or else unleashing her holy terror, a tantrum so loud and frightening, I am left wondering if she is, in fact, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Backwards.
After going to bed every night at 7 PM without fuss, our dutiful oldest daughter is now claiming she is scared of the shadows in her room, pulling on the heart strings of my husband who spent his entire childhood afraid of the dark. Aurora is now staying up sometimes until 10 PM, crying loudly when we insist she stays in her room, knowing very well that we are terrified of her waking the baby and will bring her out. Backwards.
Emmett and I, until our date yesterday, were on different pages. I, the steadfast disciplinarian, insisting on order in fear of raising my children without the structure I so desperately craved and needed as a child and yet did not get until I went to boarding school. Him, the level-headed, calm presence with the ability to allow for flexibility and yet subject to the blurred lines our children have been creating as of late. Backwards.
God first. Marriage second. Children third.
When things get chaotic, I go back to the basics.
I pray to God for patience, for strength, for His calming hand to help me find clarity amidst the chaos.
Emmett and I exercised together. He grabbed a hold of me and hugged me for a long, long time until I was able to exhale all of the stress built-up inside my lungs. We agreed that we must tackle each obstacle one-at-a-time and we must do it together, as a unit. Our children sense when we are at odds and seize on the opportunity to prey upon our weakness.
First, we are addressing Aurora’s fears. I jogged to the library yesterday and picked up a book about Monsters, the final page reading, “You see, sometimes, it’s only when you’re brave enough to face what you’re afraid of that you find out there was nothing to be scared of after all.”* By allowing her to come out of her room, we are confirming her fear that there is indeed, something inside her room to be afraid of. By telling her “there is nothing to be afraid of” we are dismissing her fears instead of validating them. Instead, we listen to what she is afraid of, we discuss it and then we remind her that she is a super-hero. We have her say out loud, “I am brave.” And we agreed to crack the door half way last night, gradually closing it more and more until just a sliver is left so that she can fall asleep without the disruptive sounds of her parents still awake in the living room. We started a sticker chart. Every time she stays in her bed, she gets a sticker and after 5 she gets a prize. One down, four-to-go this week.
Next we will address Harper’s backwards progress and lastly, Emma’s sleep.
Two steps forwards, 1 step backwards. All at once, it seems too overwhelming to handle, so we take a deep breath, we hug it out for a long time, we pray and together, we help our children until we feel we have broken the surface once more.
It’s exhausting and overwhelming. Defeating and demoralizing. But with each small victory, we are reminded of our ability to overcome our adversities. If only we can work together and tackle them one-at-a-time. Two steps forward, after many steps backwards.
*Love Monster and the Scary Something by Rachel Bright
Feature image by Camille Vaughan Photography