Saturday, May 14, 2011

The bipolar world of raising children

I just got back from a once in a lifetime vacation.  For our family, it was the first time we've taken more than a weekend trip anywhere, and it's the longest vacation for John and me since our 3-night honeymoon almost 9 years ago.  We took a magical 4-night Disney cruise to the Bahamas.  It was magical not only for the beautiful locales we visited and the legendary Disney service and entertainment, but more importantly for the ways it enchanted our children.  While we have wonderfully sweet and intelligent children, they are also on the high maintenance side.  I can say that honestly as I guess we have nurtured them to be this way.  They are not good travelers (an hour and a half trip to the grandparents' house can have us all looney) and they are pretty needy and demanding under normal circumstances.  And yet, our trip was a dream.  From the moment we entered the airport, our sensitive and clingy baby girl seemed to grow two inches and two years.  She did not cry about the early hour (as she normally would) and she did not whine to be carried.  She shouldered her own backpack and marched proudly and independently through the airport.  While I had envisioned every manner of meltdown and packed multiple diversions in their bags, they were so transfixed by the flight that we actually received compliments by those sitting around us at how well-behaved the children were and what a beautiful family we make.  For the first time in years I felt my shoulders unclench and the tension melt away.

The vacation seemed to have the same impact on Maryn, who has a nervous habit of picking her lip.  Not once did I catch her doing it on the trip.  Instead, she was silly and happy and fun.  She spoke to the people around us and was actually talked animatedly and without fear about seeing the Disney characters (although we learned that she only liked them from a distance).  She was content to be dropped off for the children's programs and was playing happily everytime we picked her up.

It kind of marked a turning point in some ways.  I had a chance to reconnect with John while also having wonderful family time.  The kids and I could enjoy one another's company without many of battle of wills that seem to be so prevalent at home.  While there were meltdowns, it didn't feel that we were constantly on the verge of disaster.

And then we came home.  I was hoping the vacation spirit would linger, but instead, the kids seem to be "detoxing".  There have been hearts broken, tears shed, battles, and new rules, and family talks.  It has been two days.  I'm trying to hang onto paradise while living the reality of parenthood that is not the "Hallmark card" that I envisioned it to be (to borrow an image from a friend).  It is a gift, and it is beautiful, and messy, and painful, and funny, and stretching.  I am learning and growing, regressing, and finding grace, again and again. 

Recently, Brady made me a "book" that I keep on my nightstand as a reminder of who I am and the choices I have to make:

"Mommy is so mean.  Mommy is so sweet"

"I love Mommy, Daddy, Rye, Colin,  and Me"  (I should feel blessed...poor Maryn didn't get any love!)

It's a big reminder of how my attitudes affect the ones I love the most, and how my behavior shapes their perspective.  While there is a need for "mean mommy" sometimes, I never want that to overshadow the love and grace I have for my sweet babies.  May they always know that love for them and for God guides my actions, and may I let that Love to guide me in better directions.


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  2. I have heard, "You're the meanest mommy in the whole world!" more times than I can count. I'm okay with that because sometimes it is necessary. Plus I hear, "You're the best mommy I've ever had!" at least twice as often. Yes, I do realize I am awarded "best mommy" by default since I am the *only* mommy she has... but I'm still going to accept the title. :)

    As long as the best continues to outweigh the worst, I consider it a success... and I think we're doing just fine.

    -Kathie (No, my name is not really Invitation. ??)