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What I Know Now
What I know now is that it doesn’t get easier from here.
Days and days of sleepless nights. Feedings that never seem to cease. Diaper change after diaper change. Wondering what to do the first time the baby gets sick. Fearing that one wrong move during bath time will lead to unspeakable disaster. Trying to get those delicate little flailing limbs in one of those impossible sleepers with out injuring the baby. All those things that seem so difficult in the beginning.
I remember one particularly bad day about two months into my son’s life. My husband left that morning around 7 a.m., and wouldn’t return until late that night. I was going on about my 60th day of sleep deprivation. All I really wanted was for my baby to take a nap, so I could take a nap. But he started out the morning fussing and continued to get crankier as the day wore on.
I rocked my baby, I sang, I read, I put him in the swing, I put him in the bouncy seat. But he would not take a nap. I tried just laying my son down in the bassinet. That elicited angry screams, and at only 60 days old, I wasn’t ready to let him cry it out. So I rocked him and I rocked him and I rocked him, praying he would fall asleep, or at least stop fussing.
My son never went to sleep, and when I put him down even for a moment to use the bathroom, he would cry the most miserable cry. I just kept looking forward to the moment my husband walked in the door and I could hand the baby off to him. The evening went on and on, and I began to wonder if Daddy would ever come home.
Finally, my husband did arrive at 10 p.m., only to find me sitting in the rocking chair holding our crying son and sobbing myself, out of weariness and frustration.
When there were bad days like that, or when I could barely force my feet out of bed for one more three a.m. feeding, I kept telling myself, “It gets easier from here. This won’t last forever. You just have to get through now.”
Well, I do get more sleep now. And days are filled with more playing and laughing, than crying and fussing. Dinner time doesn’t mean being captive on the couch for 40 minutes with baby, bottle and another episode of A Baby Story on TLC.
But the diapers? We’re still working on that. Potty training, at least with my strong-willed boy who’s too busy building Lego towers to take time out to pee in the toilet, is harder than anything I’ve done the previous three years.
Now suddenly my son has an opinion about everything. Once compliant and easy going, he tells me no, directly disobeys and talks back. He even lies to me occasionally to try and avoid impending punishment for some wrong doing. (I am quite sure the dogs did not scribble on the wall with crayon.)
Those first months, even first couple years, of mothering were mostly about sustaining life and teaching physical skills. I fed him, I changed him, I nurtured him to he would grow healthy and strong. I taught him to talk and walk. For the most part, questions were answered and fears put to rest by a good baby advice book, the doctor or more experienced friends and relatives.
Then my son turned two.
My responsibility increased a thousand fold. Now besides trying to make sure he reaches his fourth birthday with out implaing himself with a dinner fork, I’m responsible for shaping this little guys morals, values and world view. I am responsible for making him into a productive member of society. I have to find the right balance between loving grace and effective discipline. When the milk goes everywhere after I just steamed the carpet, I have to hold in the angry words that want to leap off my tongue. When he pulls the dog’s tail for the millionth time, I have to make him stay in time-out, even though my heart aches as I listen to him cry in remorse.
And the answers? There is no book, no person, who really knows how to raise my unique son. They don’t know that when he wakes up cranky from a nap, his mood improves if you snuggle him for a few moments. They don’t know that nagging frustrates him, and only gentle coaxing really motivates him. I didn’t know either until I figured it out by trial and error.
A couple days ago at the women’s Bible study I attend, I listened as a mother of teenage boys poured out her heart. Tears ran down her face as she talked about what a struggle it is to raise young men in this world. “How do you know where to draw the line? When do you compromise? What battles do you choose? When do you just have to let them sink or swim? How do you protect their impressionable minds from all the bad stuff out there?” One son recently wounded both she and her husband with a blatant act of defiance and disrespect. You could see in her eyes the concern, heartache, love and desperation to “get it right.”
The problem was no one really had an answer for her. Even the women who’d been through it already. What do you do? “Pray, trust that it is in God’s hands and do the best you can,” was the only advice we could all come up with.
It doesn’t get easier from here.
It changes, and it might get even harder. But it also gets more rewarding. My son hugs and kisses back now. He says, “I love you.” When he succeeds at a new skill or does the right thing, I celebrate. I can’t wait to see what kind of man he does grow into. What will his special talents be? What career will he choose? What hobbies will interest him? What will his wife be like? What kind of parent will he be? Will my grandchildren be as mischievous as him?
It’s a long journey up-hill, and I’m not sure you ever really arrive at the end, even when the kids are grown-up and living on their own. But scenery along the way is well worth the climb.