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Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Is NOT Working...



It has been a crazy day here in the Watts house. I know that is shocking to you, my dear reader. You were probably expecting that I would write of our hour of family prayer time this morning, a bread-baking extravaganza this afternoon, followed by my children washing each other's feet as servant-hearted siblings do.

Yeah, it went something like that.

In reality, I feel like I have been playing referee all day long, focusing my energy on keeping tiny little people with more energy that NHL hockey players from beating the snot out of each other at a moment's notice. "You took my cracker!" BODY SLAM! "He said he loves Daddy more than I do!" UPPER CUT TO THE CHIN! "She acted like she was going to touch my boo-boo!" TKO!

There is no doubt about it - being a mom is stressful. I am tired. I have aged quickly. I have wrinkles on my wrinkles and cellulite on my elbows. I'm pretty sure the pitch of my voice has dropped to that of an old smoker lady.

I need a break. You probably do, too. The thing is, I actually GET ONE! Not to rub it in or anything, but I *might* be going on a trip in 7 days and 13 hours with my husband and dear friends to the British Virgin Islands. I *might* be spending a week on a 50-foot luxury catamaran, sailing the high seas and being uber adventurous. I *might* be. (For those who need clarity, I actually AM doing these things, but I thought if I wrote *might* you *might* not be quite so envious of or irritated with me)

But I have to say, if you could sit down and read a storybook of the last five years of my life, you might just ship me off for even longer, because it's been downright ridiculous. And hilarious. And tiring. And frustrating. And amazing. And refining. And did I mention tiring?

I know all of us deal with the same stresses, the same work loads, the same feelings of fatigue and impatience and anxiety. I know we all struggle with being the "perfect" mom, whatever the heck that means, and not damaging our children beyond repair.

Even though they severely damage us.

Oh, the good FAR outweighs the bad, but I am mentally and emotionally scarred in ways that I will never fully recover from, and I have walked through experiences with my children that bring me to the ledge. That ledge where I feel like if they push me one more time I'm going over. Embracing crazy. Lock me up and throw away the key, because Prozac ain't gonna be strong enough anymore.

I thought, in order to buy back your love and affection after mercilessly rubbing my amazing BVI trip in your faces, that I would share one of my personal favorite parenting stories with you. I affectionately refer to this as "This is NOT working..."

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On a hot, hot summer's day...

Actually, it was a morning in May. And it wasn't that hot until my blood boiled and smoke came out of my ears.

It was a Thursday morning like any other. I was getting my two big kids ready for preschool, running around getting breakfast done and teeth brushed and all of the other chores that seems to reoccur day after day after day. I was eight months pregnant with Foster, my third child, and believe you me when I say that I was as big as a house. He was my third child in as many years, and my body didn't know up from down (well actually, that's not true; gravity had done quite a work on parts of me that I didn't even know COULD sag, so I guess it just didn't know UP).

It was around 8:00am, and we had already been going strong for a couple of hours. My daughter and I had gone back and forth and around and back again about her attire for school that day. Let's just say, to keep it short and sweet, that she has opinions about clothes. A lot of opinions. Normally I allow her to pick her own stuff, because what do I care if she is wearing stripes and polka dots and plaid and Disney Princess cowgirl boots all at the same time? She does her thing and she makes it work.

On this particular day, though, I had chosen her school clothes because it was field day, and her teachers had requested shorts, shirts, and tennis shoes. Trying to respect their request, I laid out her outfit and explained to her that, just for this day, I was going to make the decision. This did not go over well with my OCD opinionated angel, and she commenced to arguing throughout the morning for her right to wear her Easter dress and her ballet shoes.

On the other hand I had my son, who at almost two was fully in the throes of mischief and exploration. He was the happiest little sinner you could find, a regular comedian, and he was always into something.

After getting the kids (finally) dressed and prepared for school, I headed to my bathroom to throw myself together as quickly as possible. I began to brush my teeth while eyeing the clock and giving myself a mental 10-minute countdown to get out the door. While I was brushing, my daughter walked in. Naked.

"Um, Emerson, where are your clothes?"

"What clothes?"

"Uh, the clothes we just put on you for school, along with that french braid that you requested and have now pulled out."

She just stared at me. I asked her again. She stared. And then she said, simply, "I don't want to wear them."

Oh, well that explains it.

I was irritated, but I kept my cool as I calmly told her that it would be in her best interest to go and redress herself in a very timely manner. She of course burst into tears, and as we all do whenever we don't get what we want, threw her naked self on the floor in a fit of rage.

As she was crying my son walked in. Naked. And covered in poop. Like, poop-caked-between-his-fingers-and-toes covered.

A few things went through my mind simultaneously: 1. "I think I am gonna ralph," seeing as I was eight months pregnant and had a VERY weak stomach, and 2: "oh, no, the carpet!"

When we purchased our home the carpets were in terrible condition. I think I referred to them as "germ-infested" in a previous post. I think a more apt term would be "janky." Just janky. I wanted to get them cleaned since were not in a place financially to have them replaced right away, but I decided to wait until closer to when the baby was due so that I could feel semi-okay about laying him down on the floors without worrying that he was going to get e-coli or something.

Well, I finally got them cleaned. Of course it had to have been done the day before my son walked into my bathroom covered in poop.

I did what any good mother would do in that moment - I held my breath, grabbed my son, threw him in the shower and turned on the water. Now he was screaming because the water was cold. My daughter is laying in the floor of my room screaming over her wardrobe. And, because I picked up my son to put him in the shower, I was now coated with a thin layer of poop all down the front of my new blouse.

I made sure my son was okay in the shower, stepped over my flailing daughter, and walked tentatively into the rest of the house. I was terrified to see the carpets. 

I walked down the hallway toward the first room with carpet, the room where I had left him playing. It took everything in me not to cry when I walked through the doorway and found his clothing, his nasty dirty diaper, and poop footprints all over the floor. It looked like an invisible little poop monster had come and run laps.

I walked with a sinking heart to the next carpeted room to find the same thing. And the next. And the next. That little rascal had managed to step in enough poop to track it good and heavy through every single carpeted room in the house. The day after the carpets had been professionally cleaned. While my daughter was throwing the world's worst temper tantrum. While I was 8-months pregnant.

I went back to the bathroom and rinsed off my son while trying to keep my breakfast down. At this point he was playing joyfully in the shower. Fabulous. I decided to leave him in there to play while I dealt with my seemingly-PMS-ing three-year-old.

She actually beat me to it. As I turned around to speak with her, she walked up to me and took my hand. What she said will be forever etched in my memory as the most amazing words spoken by the world's most precocious child:

"Mom, I know you're frustrated right now, and I get it. But this (she paused here, motioning to the clothing I had laid out once again for her to put on) is NOT working."

Yes, she meant that her outfit was not "working." Like, in the Devil-Wears-Prada-hoity-toity-fashonista way.

At that point I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, or just lay down and take a nap. I waited for a moment, then I turned and looked at her with my serious-as-a-heart-attack face.

"Emerson. Make. It. Work."

Amazingly, that was the last of the conversation. She frantically put her clothing on as I peeled off my poop-covered shirt, still make-up-less and even farther from being ready than I had been 10 minutes before. We were officially late for school. Obviously.

I threw on some sweat pants and a tee-shirt, dressed Sutton, and flew out the door to school. I figured since he had already ground the poop into the carpet with the Chariots-of-Fire-inspired sprints it wouldn't hurt for it to sit until I got home to start the clean-up process. Which I did. I scrubbed and I scrubbed. And scrubbed some more.

You can still see the stains.

But every time I see those stains I remember the chaos that I am capable of handling. I remember that even when I feel like I'm at my breaking point, I'm really not and that tomorrow is a new day. I remember how much I have grown as a mother since then, and I laugh so hard every time I think of that story. Because it was a disaster. But we made it through fairly unscathed, although I am pretty sure I'll be slightly mentally scarred for the rest of my life because of it.

We juggle a lot of balls as moms. Or, maybe more appropriately, we juggle a lot of poop. Even when the crises are not life-threatening, earth-shattering issues, even when we are trying to work our daughters through clothing drama and attitude problems, we are often covered-up in D-R-A-M-A, feeling overwhelmed.

I love what the Lord promises us in Isaiah 40, that even when we are exhausted, He will never fail us and He will refuel us to fight for our children another day:
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.
That's quite a promise. Something I will definitely cling to until I meet Him face to face. I am weak, but thankfully He is strong. He is so strong that I can't even wrap my brain around it, and He holds me near. Don't know about you, but I am sure grateful.

As for the carpets, I had them cleaned again about a year later. The following day my youngest threw up all over the floor. Twice. Que sera sera.

Feel free to laugh!