Wednesday, June 17, 2009

what i've learned part 2

I'm human.

That's the second thing I've learned in the past year: I'm only a person. Only one person, finite in my ability to produce formula/chopped food/ sippee cups/ clean diapers/ entertainment on demand. And only one person, requiring the same things everyone else needs to function. I require food, and water, and sleep, and coffee, and occasional emotional/spiritual nourishment, or I begin to shrivel up and wither into a demanding, short-tempered, over-caffeinated ball of mush. I'm only human.

Because Silas didn't start sleeping through the night until he was 10 months old, I didn't start sleeping through the night until he was 10 months old, either. I also stopped sleeping when I was six weeks pregnant with him, which means I did not get a full night's sleep for about eighteen months. When I don't sleep, I am tired. When I am tired, life is harder - I have less energy and am more focused on doing only the things that are necessary to sustain life (like producing formula, chopped food, and/or sippee cups on demand). When I am tired, I am cranky. When I am tired, I am not the ideal friend, wife, or mother. Last year, I was tired a lot.

So I would have the same conversation over and over - "I don't know what's wrong with me," I would say, GENUINELY PUZZLED. I have just been so TIRED lately. Maybe I need more protein." (Or water, or sunshine - I'm not unlike a plant, really. Just water me and turn me towards the sun ...) And then whatever dear friend was enduring this conversation AGAIN would comment something to the effect of, "Well, maybe when he starts sleeping through the night you'll feel better," and I would remember - OH YEAH. I HAVEN'T SLEPT FOR SIX CONSECUTIVE HOURS IN THE PAST YEAR.

I was constantly surprised and disappointed in myself, that I couldn't somehow rise above the sleep deprivation and take up new and interesting hobbies (like completing a sentence). I was constantly comparing my life to others, who were able to both get dressed, go to the grocery store, and have a conversation with their spouse, all in the same day. I was constantly asking, "What's wrong with me that I can't get it together?" Well, I was tired - no, I was exhausted. And it would seem that motherhood does not come with a cape and superpowers, though I can't imagine why NOT. Lord knows you NEED THEM.

And then when Silas was four or five months old, my mom changed my perspective. I was lamenting AGAIN how TIRED I was and how neglected the house was and how groceries just refused to spontaneously appear on my shelves, and how I had other friends who had newborns and were teaching yoga, leading Bible studies, growing their own food, and opening businesses, all at the same time. My mom's response was, "Well give her a gold star."


There are no bonus points in life. I don't get extra credit for neatness or spelling. If my house is clean or messy may effect my mood, but it does not earn me anything - not one single damn thing in the whole wide world, except whatever personal value I have put on having a clean house. The things I was worrying about? DID. NOT. COUNT. I wasn't making a bad grade in life, which is how I felt - nobody even cared but me! There are no gold stars past the second grade.

Who. Knew.

From then on, I began to ask God for the grace to live the day He had given me - not the day He had given someone else, but ME. And I was free from the perception of expectations of others, or the personal demands I putting on myself to be, well, perfect. To be anything other than human. I was still tired, my house was still a mess, but I began to think about what do I ACTUALLY, really care about in my day? What is really, actually important to God? What is success and failure in my job? And are the markers I have created for myself accurate? Is a vaccuumed floor always sign of order in a home? Can't it also be sign of an imbalanced need for order placed above a child's need to explore and play? Is a day with no tantrums and clean dishes really success? Or do I care more about building relationships with my sons, teaching them how to learn and explore, and providing opportunities for curiosity and fun to grow? And isn't curiosity sometimes messy? Can't a messy house sometimes be a sign that we had a good day, too?

It changed my thinking, my mom's statement and the prayer that resulted from it. There are no more gold stars, and as long as perfection is my goal, I will constantly be frustrated. But when relationships are my goal, then there is room for tiredness, for crumbs and dog hair (praise Jesus there's room for dog hair, or I would be in TROUBLE). Sippee cups, chopped food, and formula are all necessary to sustain life, but so are curiosity, love, and rest. When I began to see the larger picture, I had more patience for myself and my children. I had more patience for my fatigue, and could accept that this was just not going to be my year to learn yoga or start my own business. This was going to be my year to have my baby boys - tired as I was, tiring as they were, it was my only year to have them as two babies, and to enjoy the moment for what it was, and not just for what it could be.

After all, I'm only human.

Thanks be to God.


Carrie B. said...

"to enjoy the moment for what it is, not just what it could be" love that quote. I can so relate to this post. my best days with my girls and family is when i remember these things. you communicated it beautifully.

Nick M. said...

Being a mommy may not have come with "superpowers and a cape" but I bet your powers of deductive reasoning are not to be mocked. Your powers of ordering however probably stink!

Great post!

Lisa said...

Amen! Sleep deprivation really changes the way you see yourself. There are days when you just have to scrap your plans and realize that the most important thing you can accomplish that day is to keep your kids happy and make sure everyone gets a chance to rest.

Amanda said...

I needed this post. Thank you. I'm new to your blog, my sister Kendra posted the link about your son and his lawnmower- priceless! But I was just pondering with my husband how other women seem to manage to juggle several children, home businesses and run Bible Study small groups and I can't even manage to simply make it to Bible Study on time, keep the laundry from taking over the house and I only have one little one! I was feeling pretty down on myself. And I, too, have not yet risen above the need for a decent night of sleep consistently. I've also found that I need food regularly instead of simply focusing on getting food into my daughter. Tired Mommy mixed with Hungry Mommy makes Cranky Not Quite Able To Connect The Dots Mommy.
Thank you for your post. No cape here, but I didn't really need any gold stars either. I agree, a messy home full of fun memories bursting with adventure and creativity beat dishes in cupboards and laundry in drawers any day.

Madame Rubies said...

Yup yup. I just sent your link to my friends who are new parents. :)

My word scramble is "rexcri." Like, if your baby is rex and he cries....

Kendra said...

Hmmm...this post spoke volumes to me, and I am not even a mother yet. I was just telling my husband the other day "how do other women DO IT ALL???", I can't seem to work full time and keep up on everything. There is ALWAYS laundry to be done, groceries to buy, floors to vacuum, someone to call or reply to, bills to pay, or just general crap to pick up. Can't a full hamper be a sign of a relaxing evening? Time spent with a loved one??
Thank you for that perspective.

Allison Redd said...

Hi! I know this post is 3 years old -- it's almost as old as my second son. I forgot I follow your blog until tonight (I'm friends with Mary and Lane) and just wanted to say thank you. I was reading more recent posts then clicked on this one and it was JUST what I needed to hear. I have an almost one-year old (our third boy) who has started waking up in the middle of the night again. And so it's been at least 18 months since I've gotten a decent night's sleep. I broke down crying tonight after knocking over and breaking a jar of salsa. A jar of salsa. What is that in the scheme of things? But it made me realize how I've let all sorts of things get to me.
Thanks for sharing your heart, and blessing mine.