I came home from a run just now and got a little confused when I didn’t hear any sound coming from the basement where I’d left you for quiet time under the care of our new friends (more on them later). I called down to you and got no response so I went to investigate and there you were, sound asleep on a pile of blankets and cushions in the corner of the sofa, your little body curled around your stuffed animals.
You never nap anymore. Once a week perhaps, and maybe every couple weeks you’ll be running on fumes and sleep three or four days in a row. But you always opt to play outside or have quiet time in the basement if given the choice, and even when I do put you down to rest you rarely sleep. So I was surprised to find you there, the sweetest picture in the world, napping of your own free will. Good choice, baby boy.
I napped this afternoon, too, for the second day in a row. By the time you read this you’ll probably understand how odd that is – how I hardly nap ten times in a year – and you’ll understand that what I mean by nap is “Achieve a state of semi-consciousness for three or more minutes while lying still on the couch with my eyes closed.” I’m not a napper, but the last few days I’ve been up at 5:00 every morning to practice at Daddy’s school before you and Meredith start your day. Combine that with too much going on and rarely getting to bed before 11:00 this past month or two, and I am just wiped out.
Today after I put Meredith down for her nap I gave you a summer haircut on the porch and then left you with Charles to pick up Lewis, who had a flat bike tire and needed to retrieve his repaired violin from the shop. When I got home you begged a story from me and on principle I agreed. (The principle being that after a day as terrible as yesterday was, I owe you everything you could possibly want and so much more. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not but there it is.) We lay down on the couch together, snuggled up with Pickwick, and at the end of the Poky Little Puppy I was barely awake. I told you I was going to rest and then you laid right there, snuggling with me, and I dozed off. When I woke up you grinned at me and begged another story, and I obliged.
This month has been exhausting, settling into your new beds with all the sleep deprivation that ensued from the sheer fun of it all, and then giving up those new beds to a pair of brothers who’ve joined our family for a few weeks. But it’s been good, and I have to say how proud of you I am for the generous spirit you’ve had to share your prized new bed and for the adaptability that you never seem to run short on. You and Meredith are sleeping on your old crib-sized mattresses on the floor in the basement den. Again, there’s been precious little sleeping going on, but it’s been almost two weeks now and I think we’re catching our stride.
Charles and Lewis are our new buddies. You like them a lot – though not as much as Meredith does, which you find funny right along with us. They are boarding with us for a month while they attend an intensive music program here at Daddy’s school. So not only are they sleeping in your beds, they are eating meals with us, doing chores with us, and filling our house with hours of music. It has been a pretty good time for all involved, I think, and we have found their presence a blessing. I can’t imagine how wonderful you’ll be, all grown up as big as those boys, though I laugh at what I’ll have on my hands then, when I have to drive you all over town, pick you up when you get caught in the rain, cover the exposed food in the fridge (again), and turn the cups upside down the next morning before I start the dishwasher you loaded. But if you turn out as cheerful, passionate, respectful, and kind as these guys I won’t mind a bit.
This month in the cracks of life you’ve been playing with car stickers a lot, eating popsicles on our garden wall a few last times before it is removed by our new property owners, hanging out with your new BFF named Patrick (a colleague of Daddy’s), spending hours outside, helping me with chores (especially vacuuming, always the noisy noisy vacuuming), and sneaking off to play in the rain whenever possible. Your favorite subject of conversation is your sister’s funny baby words, and you explain to everyone who will half-listen that “Merry doesn’t say ‘Popsicle,’ she says “Pop-puh-puh!” And then you laugh at the good joke. You’ve also been doing some crazy bad stuff, like yesterday when you deliberately knocked Meredith off the couch and the day before that when you did your level-best to kick her down the stairs, though I rescued her in the nick of time.
You have regressed with the eternal saga of potty training, and now you have an accident more often than not because you are scared to use the bathroom, so the only time you go is if I remember to send you and then come and coax and cheer you along, right there in the actual bathroom next to you, while you do your business slowly, meticulously, with a dozen distractions. I am realizing I need to just re-commit that getting you through this crazy journey is a top priority for me, but these days sometimes I’d rather just leave you in your diaper after naps or do an extra load of laundry, because it’s pretty obvious you don’t care a bit. I’m hoping your month with your master-of-the-potty cousin will solve our problems and give us fresh zest to put all this drama behind us because I’m over it. (Oh, and also, the race is now on because your sister has decided she wants to start going potty now, too. No pressure.)
Yesterday was a terrible, very bad, no good, horrible, awful day. You know the type. I broke all my records for yelling. At lunch you and Meredith systematically distributed all your lentils across the table and floor and then Merry dropped her bowl, breaking it into the lentil carnage. I lost it and you saw something you’ve never seen before. I hadn’t seen it before, either, and we were all a little shell-shocked when the air cleared. I’ve been failing pretty miserably the last few weeks to discipline you and Meredith calmly and consistently, and my own laziness and foolishness has made room for all sorts of weeds to grow in you and your sister, to the point that I find myself yelling to get you to listen to me, since you ignore my voice otherwise. I do not believe in that. It’s been yucky around here a lot, and yesterday, if you will forgive your mother for swearing, the shit hit the fan. I am ashamed of how I behaved, of how I treated you, of how I failed you, of how I felt toward you, of how I made you feel. This sentence is a ridiculous understatement, frankly, and even still it is hard to write it, to bring it out of hiding. I slept terribly last night and woke from shame-ridden nightmares to half-hearted practicing this morning, desperately, nervously awaiting the moment when I’d come home to try again to love you, craving the chance to show you affection but fearful that I’d blow it in a million ways again.
I learned some very important things yesterday. The first lessons I learned while still in the middle of the mess. As I dashed around the house trying to continue to clean up from a weekend of chaos, letting you eat your lentils and macaroni in peace, I watched you start getting foolish. I ignored you, thinking of the irony that the mess you were happily making was what would allow me to start the laundry and unload the dishwasher. I noticed the lyrics of your beloved “new Rain for Roots”: “Come to me, walk with me, learn the rhythms of my grace. Are you tired? Are you weary? Worn out from the day? Have you been in a hurry? I will slow the pace.” It almost got through to me. Then as I cleaned up lentils and broken ceramic I heard the next few. Feebly, half-serious, I was asking God to make something of us, and I heard “If you held a mustard seed in your hand, you’d see that it was tiny like a grain of sand. But Jesus says that even if your faith is small, nothing is impossible with him at all.” Good, I thought, that’s how much faith I have, so we should be OK. Then as I scolded you I heard more: “If God had a child who wandered far astray, who was sad, broken hearted, whose guilt kept him away, what would He do? He’d say, go get the lost one, he’s who I came to see, he thought he was an orphan but he’s coming home with me. The angels are rejoicing! This sinner is my friend! Rejoice with me, my child is coming home again.” That was before I completely lost it, and I thought to myself, “Hmm… I should blog about these lentils and these words.” And then there was the very end, the minimalist paraphrase of the Lord’s prayer. “Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us safe from the devil and ourselves. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.” Check, check, and check.
Later, when things were calm, I had good comfort and practical counsel from two lovely older women who I didn’t even have to go looking for, and by the time you got up from quiet time I was rested and hopeful. Daddy & I are working hard, afresh, on behaviors that we feel are essential to your learning to be “Jesus Disciple,” behaviors like asking forgiveness for an offense, standing up straight with your hands by your sides and not fidgeting, looking us straight in the eye and speaking intelligible, clear words. This could be an Olympic sport for how much work it’s requiring but I am set on it and I know it will shape you for your whole life – shape you to be humble, vulnerable, to take your sin seriously and its effects on others, to experience the grace of genuine reconciliation. I won’t settle for any less for you.
So now, armed with some new resolve and perspective and some very practical advice from two seasoned moms, I am putting my shoulder to it all again, thankful for grace upon grace upon grace upon grace and for the privilege of being your mom, since I have made it quite clear that I don’t deserve you. And it’s been a very good day today. One of the practical bits of advice I got was to create some systems to focus on positives as I train you. So yesterday before dinner we made a little chart with 9 boxes, each for a different behavior or attitude you need to work on. Now instead of just correcting you or rebuking you when you are speaking disrespectfully, there is incentive: “Make it all the way to lunch time without speaking disrespectfully to Mommy and you get a sticker.” There are also stickers for not hurting Merry, for not bullying her or controlling her, for not saying “I don’t want to…” when I talk to you, for confessing sin with a soft heart and strong words, and other things like that. You are enthusiastic about these stickers and the prospect of cashing in 100 of them for ice cream at the mall. You’ve already managed to look past your irrational fears and go potty by yourself a couple times for a sticker. So I guess we’ll see if this works. At this point, I’ll try anything.
I’m sorry about yesterday. I have been tormented by realizing that my sin hurt you so much. Thank you for forgiving me. I love you, my special boy.