“But the other kids are going to know I’m leaving.” She lamented.
I could have lied. I could have lost her trust by trying to convince her that, no, they wouldn’t.
But I met her where she was.
“Yes. Yes, they will. And this is a choice you have to make.” I said, instead.
“Either you endure a read-aloud that sends you into a full-blown panic-attack or you make accommodations for yourself, like anyone else with a disability does and you excuse yourself to the library. In other words, you own it.”
For me, it’s environmental allergies. When I pet a dog, I immediately wash my hands. I’ve owned dogs. I love dogs, I take allergy shots for dogs, but I am, alas, allergic to dogs. I make accommodations.
For her sister, it’s food allergies. I make separate meals three times a day to accommodate.
My daughter suffers from anxiety. We treat with professionals and we do the best we can do avoid triggers, when we can.
“What will I say, when they ask why I’m reading a different book?”
“You tell them the truth.” I explain. “You own it, you brave, girl. And you give others the chance to know that they are not alone, if they, too, feel the same way.”
Typically, it’s “You’ve got your hands full!” Or “Wait until they are teenagers!” And “I hope your husband has a shotgun!”
But instead, this stranger at my door remarked, without hesitation, “You’re so lucky.”
And my heart smiled.
The girls, never far from me, peeking from behind my legs smiled, too as I replied, “I really am. I hit the jackpot!”
To be valued, to be appreciated, to be wanted- aren’t these all things that make us feel safe and joyful?
Getting my girls to the ages of 4, 6, 8 and 10 has been a rocky road. In the back of my mind, I always held these particular ages up as the light to the end of my endless tunnel.
And we made it! We are here! We are cruising and absolutely cherishing our baby girls.
For the first time, I finally feel what mothers have been telling me for a decade now. That it goes so fast. That I’ll miss this time, one day. Before, another baby always followed so I never felt like I had the chance to miss any phase.
Now, I look at my eldest and I see her changing. I want to bottle her up and cherish this moment in time. But there she grows. I find myself equal parts nostalgic and eager to continue to witness who she is becoming. To know her.
I’m no fool. I realize the teenage years, especially with a house-full of girls (sharing one hallway bathroom with one sink!) is going to have its share of drama. It already does.
But I am actively choosing to focus on the light. To focus on the blessing of their existence. To feel lucky.
Lately, bedtime at our house has been a scene of chaos.
Commands of “Brush your teeth! Get your jammies on! Go potty!” are blatantly ignored, while my and my husband’s patience are next to nil.
The littles go on the offense: running around the house, slamming their legs down repeatedly on their beds as if they are mermaid tails or tossing stuffed animals back and forth all while incessantly giggling.
This would be funny if it weren’t 9 PM and their parents weren’t desperate for a moment of peace and quiet.
But it is and we are.
Threats of no treats are empty, worthless ammo, so last week, I spent an hour reading articles about bedtime routines.
I have to admit, since this isn’t my first time at the rodeo, I felt a little foolish having to research something I feel I should have nailed down. For a time, I did but with the addition of each daughter, the loss of control has humbled me.
Upon reflection, I recognized that if I want my children to be calm, I, too, must model the same behavior.
Like most things, when it comes to solving problems, the change begins with me.
My days are spent in constant motion. Even when they are at school, I am cramming in chores, particularly those which are easier without their presence like grocery shopping and laundry. Throw in after-school activities, dinner-time and homework and next thing you know, it’s time to get the kids ready for bed.
There’s very little time to wind down, for all of us.
So, I asked myself: “How can I make them look forward to bedtime?” Instead of this battle of wills, how can I get them to buy in?
Enter this article by Nurture and Thrive and this one by Picklebums. Their suggestions include lullabies and massages, something I used to do when they were babies but have since stopped.
I approached that same evening with a zen-like calmness rivaled only by Buddha himself.
Instead of yelling at her to brush her teeth, I grabbed her hand and gently led her to the bathroom to begin the process. Instead of picking up her room as fast as possible while tossing her the jammies, I sat down on the floor and helped her put them on. I read her books, as usual, and stayed on the edge of the bed to sing a lullaby while scratching her back. I then repeated this to some degree for three more children. . . .
It seems like it would take longer but in actuality, my children were left calm and relaxed and thus, for the love of all that is holy, stayed put.
Thank you Jesus and internet blogs.
Slower motions. Lower frequencies. Tiny changes make the biggest difference.