Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not So Terrible

In exactly three months, my middle child will become a three-year-old.

The trademark terribleness of his current age will melt away the moment the clock strikes midnight. Owen will assume his position as a well-mannered toddler in complete control of his emotions and his argumentative nature will fade to the picture of obedience.

Right? Right?!

I've been around the block before so I know the tender age of three isn't always much better, but I'm holding fast to any idea sturdy enough to pull me out of this parenting slump. In recent weeks, Owen has been one defiant little kid. His bedtime routine has been turned on its head and he refuses to stay in his room. We've tried music, we've tried bribes, we've tried threats, we've tried ignoring him, and we've put the railing back on his toddler bed. As you might expect, he easily launches his tall frame over it and wanders the halls, half-crying, half-groaning, half asleep. The only thing that works is a 10:30 parental give-in and a 15-minute rock in the big chair.

A few nights ago, we were over it and let the little squirt squirm his way into the big bed. We woke up frazzled and in desperate need of caffeine after a night of kicking and poking and prodding. Owen woke up refreshed, with a smile on his face. He was extra happy because he didn't even have to get up right away to use the potty. He took the opportunity to use it while wrapped up in my amazingly soft sheets.

And this, my friends, is why the big bed is no longer an option.

On top of that, I'm simultaneously feeding a ravenous baby who doesn't like to take turns in the rocking chair and trying my best not to forget about their quiet six-year-old brother. At the height of these frustrations, I lose my cool. I can't be the first mom to feel like this and I doubt I'll be the last, but I feel that it's important to put it out there. Not to come off as whiny and clueless, but to remind myself {and you} that parenting is hard. There is absolutely no way around that.

You've been there, too, haven't you?

Sometimes I let it get the best of me. Why do I have more kids than hands? How am I still sane? Am I still sane? I throw my hands up in surrender and attempt to out-yell my children. Mean mom comes out more than I'd care to admit and anyone with a two-year-old knows she usually makes it worse. Last night was particularly trying and as my head finally found my pillow, I counted my blessings. I started off thankful for the quiet, thankful for a break, thankful for a means to recharge so I could do it all again in the morning.

As I thought about how thrilled I was to not hear the voices of my children, tears found my eyes. Owen can be a trying little kid who knows all the right buttons to push, but he is mine. He is funny, he is genuine, and he is a sweetheart. He fills a part of my heart I didn't know was missing until his nine-pound body first came into view. Parenting is hard, but there would be an enormous hole right through me if any of those three weren't tucked cozy in their beds.

That's when I decided in the times I'm struggling {which is more often than not these days}, I need to focus on the good. When someone is peeing in your bed, that can be hard, but there is much more to Owen than that:

  • His eyes. Particularly the way those deep brown puppy eyes light up when they connect with mine. Whether I've been at work all day or left him at his grandparents' house so I could go to the church for an hour, it's as though he hasn't seen me in weeks. He squeals "Mommy!" and wraps his arms around me tight. I melt into him every time.

  • His morning ritual. He may test my limits, but this guy is 100% a mama's boy. I see the fear of separation in his eyes when we arrive at the babysitter's house each morning, but he swallows it down and opens the door like a gentleman. He grabs his blanket, greets his teacher, and asks for a "tiss and hug, Mommy!" This is followed by about four or five repeats, until he finally waves goodbye.

  • His manners. I love a kid with manners and I like to think Nathan was born with them. Apparently we've done something right the second time around, too, because this little guy never forgets them. Even in the middle of a late-night temper tantrum, he won't miss a "bless you" if his Daddy sneezes and he's quick to say "excuse me" after one of his classic burps.

  • His heart. Owen plays hard, he fights hard, and he loves hard. "I love you, Mommy" comes out of nowhere several times a day and still takes me by surprise. He is head over heels for his baby sister and obsessed with making sure her needs are met at all times. As for Nathan, Owen looks at his older brother like he hung the moon and placed the stars. Sunshine beams from his very being when playtime is requested and the two march into their room, set on adventure and growing their friendship.

  • His needs. He is still stuck between being my baby boy and being my big boy, but on those late nights when he can't take anymore and climbs into my lap, I see it. His long legs drape over the armrest and his body contorts into positions I couldn't possible recreate, but it's there. My baby is still there. I brush his shaggy hair out of his eyes and find his mile-long eyelashes. His little lips make a perfect pout and his cheeks are still as heavy as the day he was born. He is my baby. He is my son. He needs me and he always will.

I know as much as the next mom that this, too, shall pass. The only problem is when "this, too" passes, my son will grow up. He'll grow out of his bad habits, but he'll grow out of this sweet stage in life, too. He's already got one foot in his childhood and the other one is quickly drawing away from his baby days. It's hard, y'all. It is frustrating, it's confusing, and it has the tendency to drive me off the deep end.

But really, it's not so terrible.

{Photos by Corey Kramer Photography.}

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