Monday, January 18, 2016

Balance and a tight rope walk

Sky gray
Snow blown about by the freezing wind.
Coffee warm in my hands,
Growing cool as I linger over thoughts of quiet,
Daydreams of naps,
covers drawn over my head. 

I have spent this past year longing for balance. Balance of time, energy, homeschooling... you name it. Having three children in 4.5 short years was definitely not the plan... I spent a couple of heartbreaking years wondering if we would ever have living children.

These three little boogers are amazing, precious and oh, the love... this mama love is incredible. 

But I need to back up... You must know that having a second child (and then a third) rocked me to my core. Three years ago, I kissed my husband and two year old goodbye as they bounded out the door for a daddy date. I crawled back in bed, pulled the covers over me and snuggled down to write and think. The night before we had finally gotten 'the CALL'. The call where your case worker congratulates you and your husband on being chosen by a birthmom and you fall on the floor crying and laughing. 
It was a great night. 
The next morning as I relished in daydreams and happy anticipation, my phone rang and our caseworker's number popped up again (aptly named in my phone 'BABY'). Dread filled me as I felt it could only be bad news. I never expected her to say that our birthmom had gone into labor the night before and that she had a healthy baby girl. We thought we had four to six weeks to prepare! I paced our apartment as our caseworker explained that though she was early, the baby girl was healthy and would be ready to leave the hospital tomorrow.... and would we be able and willing to bring her home then? 
Yes. YES! You can only imagine our response. 
Almost exactly three years ago, we drove fifteen minutes down the highway to meet our baby girl for the first time and bring her home. 

Being Ruby's mom is one of my greatest and challenging roles. It is a privilege and an honor. My love for her is far more complex and beautiful and deep than I could have imagined that snowy January day three years ago when we first learned of her precious life. 

I know comparing children is always a recipe for disaster, and I honestly never intentionally did that... but, you see... I had certain expectations ... as well as a self righteous, grace-less perspective on parenting.

Hannah was a laid back, "easy" baby. By the time she was 10 months old, she was sleeping soundly 12 hours each night. She napped three hours in the afternoon for years. Hannah Mae was not prone to tantrums or power struggles as a toddler (but has so.many.tantrums at five!!). I had so much of my identity wrapped up in my ability to be a "good mom" and in the fact that my kid was "easy". 

I really did think there was a formula to being a good mom and that I had cracked the code to having a tantrum-less, easily correctable and laid back good sleeper. 

Ever since Ruby was a very small baby, she has struggled with sleep. At almost three years old, I don't think she has slept through the night yet. She is high spirited and easily frustrated. She has always known exactly what she wants to do or say, and not being to do or communicate that will cause a screaming fit on the floor. My tried and true techniques just did not work. 

And oh, the mess of anger, guilt, failure and resentment that caused in my heart. Ruby is just a normal kid with normal kid behavior, but my heart elevated her behavior and her lack of response to my formula to dangerous heights because I had staked my identity on whether or not my kids were "good" and if they were, then that meant I was a "good mom".
Being what I had defined as a good mom was my highest aspiration. Of course, I didn't really know that was what I was doing in my heart, but it is now painfully and shamefully obvious as the past year and a half, I have become more irritable, less patient, more angry, and less gracious to my kids. Especially less gracious to my oldest daughter as I realize that I have boxed her into the role of the "laid back one" who doesn't have tantrums... except she does have tantrums now and struggles with emotional regulation (just like her mom). I have been walking a tight rope with my kids, focusing on behavior instead of their own individual hearts. 

Please don't hear me say my love for my kids depends on their behavior. It is not that all. 
The heart of the matter actually is much much more about my heart than their behavior. 

These past three years of parenting two (and now three) differently built children and I have been longing for more... more balance, more order, more time, more sleep.
(I really don't thing that those are bad things to desire... seriously, especially the sleep! Oh especially the sleep.) 
I have felt a growing ache in my heart recently that maybe what I have actually been craving was more grace, more mercy, more freedom... more Jesus. 

What if in seeking so desperately for balance in this chaotic life, we find that the balance is a man... and his name is Jesus. 

My prayers these past few months have been full of contrition and brokenness, and of hope...
I long to provide my kids a safe place. A place to be themselves, to mess up and to struggle. A place to be loved as they are. A place to see grace over and over and over again. A place to experience Jesus.


ashley said...

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing the real struggles of being a parent and walking this road of joy and madness and sorrow...

Katie Nelson said...

Even though we didn't know each other super well throughout seminary, I love the way you write and feel as though I know you just by reading. As we are on our own journey through infertility, miscarriage, loss, adoption, rejection, fostering....I have found several good resources that have brought me hope. One in particular is Safe House Parenting by Joshua Struab. You are living the premise of his book- creating a safe place where we can create emotional safety for our kids and they can be free to be a mess. Another is Karen Purvis' trust based relational parenting...
I'm sure you don't need another resource, it is true what we really need is jesus. anyways, i have enjoyed it so i thought i would share it. we would love your prayers as we ride the emotional rollar coaster of anticipation, hope, and loss.

Sara said...

Ebe, Even having kids for the last almost 19 years I still struggle with this sometimes and more finding what works for each child... They are all so different and yet so wonderful and beautiful! Each such a precious gift and I know you fully know that too:):) Thanks for sharing your heart! Love you friend! Come visit us in Illinois... We can't be too far from each other... just a few hours I would guess!

Open Air said...

Thanks for writing this, Ebe! I can relate to so much of what you said in your post. We, too, had a short notice adoption of our second child. We had one day's notice to fly across the country for three weeks, and at Christmas! Our oldest was only 18 months at the time.

While our oldest was an easy baby and a great sleeper, our son and second child has been just the opposite! It is such a gift after infertility and loss to have our kids and to love our kids, but doing so is a continuous and sleep-deprived challenge! I, too, pray for grace and strength to lay aside the mommy-guilt and to do my best to guide and love our kids. While our son's personality is stubborn and strong-willed, our daughter struggles with regulating her emotions, as well. Meanwhile, I'm just trying to hold on to His hand, and know that He put these children in our home for a reason. Raising them makes me feel like I am not enough, but I know that He is, and my prayer is that He will someday take our son's stubborn, tantrum-filled disposition and turn it into strength and boldness for His Kingdom. I know He will do it, and that He will do the same for your precious Ruby. Lifting you up in prayer today! ~Beverly