A very well meaning woman asked me if my four and five year old sons have cell phones yet. I laughed, thinking that she was joking. Why would my children need a cell phone? Does someone who still needs help going potty and can't reach the sink really have a need for a cell phone? She asked again and stated that most children have cell phones by first grade. After researching her stance, I found that (depending on who you listen to) the average child gets a cell phone by 8-11 years old.
The advances in technology have benefited our society greatly. However, there are many ways in which we might have been better off without it. Social media has allowed us to keep in contact with people from all over the world. We can maintain friendships with the click of a button. We can FaceTime, Skype, PM, text, call, and generally keep up with the lives of friends through multiple social media platforms. Our social circles have expanded across countries and continents. Yet, how is this affecting our face to face relationships? How can we maintain our relationships with real people when we are always attached to a device?
I spend too much time on my phone. I care too much about Facebook. My children are more important than my stupid phone. I downloaded a usage app on my phone to track just how much time I spend on my phone. I estimated like 20-30 minutes. I just check it quickly a few time a day, right? Wrong! Over the course of the day, I logged 2 hours. Two freaking hours looking at my phone. WTH?!?
I hate it when people answer their phone or text in the middle of a conversation. I hate it when I am trying to talk to someone who is looking at a screen and not my eyes. Yet, I also know that I have done that to my children. I explain that Mommy needs a minute. But does that mean Mommy needs to get out her phone? My five year old is obsessed with texting. He tells me that he can't wait to get a phone of his own. I tell him that he does not need a phone, yet he cannot wait until he can text emojis to Grandpa and Grandma from his own phone. I know he gets that from me. I know that he sees Mommy on his phone. And it makes me sick.
I have a goal. I am going to spend less time looking at my phone and more time looking at my children. I am going to show them that they are more important than people on facebook that I haven't seen in person for 5-10 years. I am going to put my stupid phone down. I am going to unplug.
I read another article today trying to make me cry. It reminded me that every day my children get older. And that one day they will leave me. One day I will be alone. One day my life will have no meaning. One day I will have no babies and I should wallow in sorrow.
I don’t need another person to remind me that once the snuggles are gone they are gone. That once the diapers and spit up and baby coos and teeny tiny clothes are gone they are never coming back. I don’t need to cry every day because my children are growing. It’s what they do. It’s how God planned it. “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife”. It’s life. I grew up. My parents grew up. My grandparents grew up. We cannot stop the process. We can only relish in the moments as they come. As much as I have wanted to stop time and snuggle those little miracles forever, I also would not have given up the other moments - first steps, first time I heard “I love you”, wrestling matches, and running races.
Each stage is a gift from God. Am I sad when a stage is over? Of course. But would I stop time and miss the things yet to come? No. I will enjoy today and the moments I have been given. And yes, one day they will move out and my life will feel empty. But it’s just to make room for the other little miracles yet to come. They will grow up and have babies of their own. And I will get to enjoy those stages all over again from another perspective. And I will thank God for every second he gave me.
Your son was screaming during the gospel reading. I couldn’t hear anything. Your daughter was banging some toy on the pew and I missed the sermon. Your toddler spilled Cheerios all over the floor. I was so distracted by your children that all I could do was glare at you. I thought it was your fault. I thought you needed to take a parenting class or be more consistent or just leave. I was wrong. I was stupid. I am sorry.
That was before I had children. That was before I knew anything. Unless you have a child day-in and day-out, you cannot judge. At all. You do not know the situation. Hunger. Exhaustion. Naps. Bedtime. Parents working. Daycare. Changes. Toddlers. Babies. Phases. No. Mine. No fair. He said. She said. You DON’T know anything.
I know you saw my glares because I see them too. I know you heard my exasperated sighs because I hear them too. I wish you could hear my apology. I didn’t know. It’s hard. And it’s not your fault. It’s not your children’s fault. You don’t have bad kids. You are not bad parents. I was just stupid. I was wrong. I am sorry.
Thank you for bringing your family to church every week. Thank you for being role models to childless couples. For showing them that no matter what, you put Jesus at the head of your household. That you are teaching your children how to love the Lord. Thank you for the hour that you spend wrestling your squirmy toddler. One day that toddler will be wrestling squirmy kiddos of his/her own. But because of you, Jesus will remain central in his/her life.
Know that your family is always welcome. Because Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me" and not because of anything that I say. My opinion, past or present, does not matter. Only Jesus. And he loves you. He loves your children. He loves every squirmy, loud, snuggly, cheerio filled moment of your time together.
I have two energetic little boys. One day they will have hyper little babies of their own. And when that day comes I can only pray that we will have taught them how to be the best fathers that we could. Until that day I am going to enlist help from all the amazing men in my life to help me raise these crazy mini men. This is their future thank you letter to all those wonderful role models.
To Daddy: Thank you for being there every day to play and wrestle with us. Thank you for being silly and not taking yourself too seriously. Thank you for being tough when I needed to get my act together. Thank you for working hard to provide for our family. Thank you for being strong in your faith. Thank you for showing me how to love and respect my future wife. Thank you for everything you do for our family.
To Grandpa: Thank you for always looking at us like we are the most important people in the room. Thank you for not listening to mommy and spoiling our dinner when she wasn’t looking. Thank you for teaching us to play silly games. Thank you for loving us unconditionally no matter what.
To Our Priest: Thank you for always being so welcoming to children. Thank you for encouraging our parents to continue to sit through mass even though sometimes we made it hard for them. Thank you for offering family friendly organizations and events so that we could grow in faith with other children. To
Our Uncles: Thank you for showing us how to act like little boys. Thank you for teaching us how to take risks and conquer our fears even if it made mommy nervous. Thank you for teaching me to make jokes. Thank you for teasing us and helping us to learn to brush things off.
To Our Godfathers: Thank you for loving the way Christ lived and loving the way Christ loved. Thank you for being willing to pray for us and guide our faith life as we grew.
So you planned on having a vaginal birth? So you planned on laboring quietly in a relaxing birthing pool? So you planned on avoiding all pain meds? And it didn’t work the way you planned? You had a C-section!?!? With an epidural!?!? FAIL! You failed at birth. Now your child is doomed to a life of even more mommy failures like processed foods and screen time.
Or you made an informed medical decision to make sure that your baby entered the world in the safest possible way. Whether it was planned or an emergency C-section, it was not a failure. It was the right choice.
I had a c-section during my second pregnancy. I delivered my first child vaginally and had some serious complications. It took months for my body to heal. Luckily my little angel was happy and healthy. When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I had to make a choice - try again and possibly suffer even worse or have a c-section. I was advised by friends, family, and medical professionals to have a c-section. I felt like I had failed. Like I was unable to do the one thing that women are supposed to be able to do. I was devastated.
My second pregnancy progressed very similarly to the first and I went into labor naturally two weeks early. As I entered the hospital I was still debating my choice. I knew what I would be risking and I decided that my baby needed my body to be as healthy as possible. And that meant I needed a C-section. The recovery was 2 weeks vs 2 months. Granted, I couldn’t lift my toddler for several weeks but it was still much much easier than the first time. And my son was delivered safe and healthy. I did not fail. I made a choice for the benefit of my family. And it was the right choice.
My boys are very close together. It has always been my hope that they grow up as friends as well as brothers. For the majority of their short lives they have played next to each other and with me. I have been their best friend. They acknowledged that the other was there but had no interest in playing together. Hugs and kisses were forced and awkward. Until the day when they realized there was someone other than mom who wanted to play.
I love playing with them but watching them play together is wonderful. The giggles. The screams. The sound of chasing feet. It doesn’t bother me that they now choose each other over me. Granted they still love mommy time but they are each other’s best friend. The first words out of their mouth in the morning are “where is brother?"
I won’t always be around to be their play partner. They need someone who loves them as much as a mother does. Someone who cares for them and stands up for them and walks with them through life. That is why I have never been so happy to be ignored by my children. They are fostering a friendship that will benefit them for their entire lives.
I am a people pleaser. I hate it when there is conflict in my life. I usually try to bend over backwards to make sure that no one is upset with me, my friends, or my family. However, I became a mom and then became a mom again shortly thereafter. And my people pleasing personality took a hit. I was tired. I was cranky. I was lonely. I was hungry. I was scared that I was going to make some small mistake that would be detrimental to my children. I became hyper vigilant and narrow focused. I am still learning how to be a mom and have a life outside of those little people. But I have determined that there are some thing that I do that may seem inconsiderate but are just me being mom. That I don’t need to fret and worry that someone will be mad because I engaged in one of these “inconsiderate behaviors”.
1. Blocking Your Parking Spot
When it is 90 degrees outside and I am wrangling two tiny badger-like toddlers into carseats, I have the right-of-way. I have received many glares from fellow shoppers waiting for a parking spot. I am sorry that you have to wait an extra few minutes to get your groceries or iced latte. However, I am not going to close the car door and hot box my children so you can park. I am going to take as much time as I need to safely buckle my children in the car.
2. Screening calls
You know who you are. You are the friend/relative who can’t have a conversation that lasts less than 30 minutes. Sometimes, I don’t have time to talk to you. You don’t take the “subtle” hint that I have to go. You don’t even respond to the screaming toddlers or my direct comment that I need to go. You keep talking. Therefore, sometimes I don’t answer. I want to give you as much attention as I can, so I wait to answer until I have time to talk to you.
3. Not returning calls
I don’t mean to forget to call you back. I just have a lot on my mind. I have about 30 seconds of free time during the day and I usually use that to pee. I promise that I want to call you back. I am not trying to be rude. It just slipped my mind.
4. Texting rather than calling
And if I do remember to call you back, I am probably going to send a text. Texting is so much easier as a mom. I can send a text in a few seconds and get back to feeding/washing/playing/cleaning/etc. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you. It’s just, again, the best way to give you the attention that you deserve. If I called you, you would not have my full attention. When you text me back, I can read it and fully think about what you said.
5. Happy hour
I want to go to happy hour with you. I want to socialize. I would love to be a functioning adult that eats and drinks and dances with other adults. However, I am asleep by 9:00 every night. Yes, every night including the weekend. It’s not sad. It’s necessary. I am awakened by 6:00 every morning and several times in the night. In order to function, I need to sleep. I also need to feed my children dinner and put them to bed at a decent hour. I could get a babysitter and I do sometimes, but it’s just not going to happen every week.
6. Leaving early
When I do go out, I will likely leave earlier than the childless people. It’s not that I’m having a terrible time. It’s not that I don’t enjoy your company. No. It’s for three different reasons. Number one…I’m tired. I have expended all of my evening energy on adult conversation and I still have to get up in the middle of the night to feed babies and shoo monsters out of closets. Number two…I have probably used up all of my interesting adult stories. And you may not want to hear about Thomas the Train, blow-outs, or play dates. Number three…I like saying goodnight to my children. I like tucking them in. I want to snuggle them. I want to kiss them and read them a bedtime story. They are only little for awhile and I want to experience it all.
The road goes both ways. Childless people have an easier time traveling. It’s a fact. If you want to see me or my family, sometimes you need to come see me. I should not be expected to always drive to see you. It is an all day event to pack a car full of diapers, toys, children, wipes, snacks, etc. and drive (even an hour or two) to visit someone. I have to plan around meals and naps. Then, if by some chance, my children don’t nap well in the car, they will be very very grumpy at YOUR house. And I will spend the entire visit making sure that they do not break any of your nick-nacks and nice decorations (which are definitely displayed because you don’t have children).
1. I secretly smile when my younger child gets a good shot in.
He gets tackled, bonked, hit, kicked, and thrown around a lot. It’s nice to see him stand his ground. It’s nice to see him stand up for himself. I don’t want to see my older child get hurt, but sometimes he deserves it.
2. I hide from my children sometimes.
There are times when I just need a minute. Alone. By myself. In silence. Sometimes, I hide. To my husband, it may look like I am doing laundry or going to the bathroom. But I just need to take a minute for myself.
3. I love and hate the car cart
Grocery shopping is hell. Children do not like to be restrained and pushed around a store full of food without being able to grab and eat said food. Everyone knows that, so some genius decided the solution was to make the restraint look like a race car. It can be a miracle. It can be a disaster. On the rare occasion that there is a cart available and both of my children sit nicely and pretend to drive, it’s wonderful. However, most of the time I push this giant monstrosity through the tiny aisles while also holding at least 1 screaming child who decided that driving was just too traumatic.
4. I love naptime
I love snuggles. I love story time. I love mealtime with my children. I love playing and playing and playing and playing and playing. But at some point I just want to catch my breath. I need to do the laundry and the dishes. Nap time is my time to catch up. Stay-at-home moms sometimes get chastised for nap time. To clear the air, nap time is not a time for sitting on the couch, eating bon bons and watching soap operas. And even if that is what we did, everyone gets a lunch break, right?
5. I fantasize about destroying my children’s future homes
My children will grow up and have homes of their own. When that happens, I am going to walk in, open the cabinets, and throw everything on the floor. I am going to unfold all of the folded laundry. I am going to spill milk all over the floor. I am going to eat Cheetos on the couch and wipe my hands all over it. I am going to paint a picture, rub my hands in the paint, and then touch every wall. I am going to wipe boogers all over everything. Or, I will walk nicely through every room and just fantasize about doing all of these things.
6. There is only so much touching that I can handle
I love my cuddles and snuggles and hugs and kisses when I stay at home. But that also means being pulled on, pushed, jumped on, and stepped all day. My children fight over me, and to be honest, I’m not that great. I don’t understand why I’m the ultimate prize. They need to touch me ALL the time. There is a point of no return. There is a point where I just can not be touched anymore. That usually happens about an hour before my husband comes home. I don’t think he fully understands why I cringe when he walks in the door and hugs me. I really wish I didn’t. But I just can’t endure anymore physical contact.
7. I wish I was more patient
I wish I had more patience. I wish I had more endurance. I wish I had more energy. I see my flaws very clearly, so there is no need to point them out. I know that I am not a perfect mom. I know that my children are not perfect. I know better than anyone just how flawed I am.
8. I love my children’s independence
I know that children grow up too fast, but I love when I don’t have to do everything for everyone. I love when I can just tell my son to go potty and he does. I love when I can set out clothes and magically my son is dressed. I love being able to give my son a whole sandwich with the crusts on. Their independence makes my life easier.
9. I miss my babies
I love my children’s independence, but I do actually miss my babies. I miss their baby smell, their baby snuggles, their baby giggles, their baby breath. I miss nursing them and rocking them to sleep. I miss the time when they didn’t argue with me. I miss their utter dependence on me for their every living need.
10. All the parenting advice is crap.
There are thousands of books and articles and podcasts about the “right” way to parent. There are nosy relatives who think they know what is best. There is no one right way to parent. There are a bunch of wrong ways to parent, but there is no holy grail of parenting. You have to learn who your child is and what they need. No one can judge what you are doing if you are trying your best. No one knows what is working and what is not working except you.
You were an easy baby. You were an easy toddler. I appreciated your content personality. You were a breath of fresh air after having a strong-willed first child. You were a piece of cake. However, you were also easy to ignore. I am sorry that I take advantage of your easy-going nature. I am sorry that sometimes you get ignored. I am sorry that your brother gets more of me because he is louder and bigger and more demanding. You are content to play nicely while I take a minute to catch my breath. You are willing to help me pick up your toys as well as your brother’s toys. You are content to let your brother have the toy you are playing with. You are content.
I love how sweet and mellow you are. You remind me of your daddy. His unwavering calm is one of the reasons I love him. However, it’s also one of the reasons that he rarely gets his way in his relationships. He is more interested in maintaining peace than speaking his piece. I push him to speak his mind and I will do the same with you. I will push you to move out of your comfort zone. Peace is sometimes not the answer, especially if it means you get walked all over. It is okay to break the silence. It is okay to push the limits. It is okay to get your way sometimes. It is even okay to call me out if I take advantage of that easy-going personality. Tell me when you need something. Tell me when you want something. Tell me when you need me. Tell me when you need attention. Don’t always settle for maintaining the peace. Stir it up. You deserve to get your way.
A rainbow. A special gift from God. A personal revelation that God keeps his promises, that God is sovereign, that God loves us. They are the calm after a storm. Rainbows are beautiful, but they are fleeting. They only last for moments. That is why I hold my rainbow.
The storm. About a year ago, my husband and I were graced with another child. We saw the positive pregnancy test and were elated. Our family was growing. Our little boys were convinced they were going to have a baby sister. We talked about how amazing it would be to meet our newest little blessing. However, we never did. We lost our third child around 14 weeks gestation. Our home was filled with devastation. My husband and I mourned our loss with our two older children. I cannot describe the pain that comes with losing a child. It is something I would not wish on my worse enemy.
My rainbow. God blessed us with another child just several months after our loss. We were overjoyed, yet terrified. A miscarriage stays with you. Thankfully, our little girl thrived. She was born healthy and happy almost a year to the day of the loss of our third child. She is our rainbow baby. Rainbow baby is a coined term for a baby born after a miscarriage. The calm and beauty after a storm.
With our first two children, I listened to the "expert" opinions. They told me that my sons needed to get used to sleeping by themselves. That they needed to get used to time without mommy. I laid them down for naps in their beds. I cherished the snuggles with them, but also tried to make sure that they learned to sleep on their own.
With our daughter, I cannot bring myself to lay her down sometimes. It takes several tries to let go. Losing our third child made me realize that this time with my newborn is a blessing. I was never able to snuggle our third because she was gone too soon. I see my older two children becoming little boys who don’t want to snuggle with mommy anymore. I understand that my baby will eventually be gone. She will turn into an independent toddler, a little girl, a preteen, a teenager, and finally an adult.
I have lost three babies. Two are alive in memories and glimpses of their baby-selves within their growing faces. One is alive in Heaven. My daughter will only be this little for moments. She is a rainbow. A fleeting picture of God’s love for me. I will hold her and cherish her sweet baby smell as long as I can. So when someone tells me to put my daughter down, I will smile but many times say no. I will hold my rainbow while she is still little. And love every minute.