Waitressing and Parenting are Basically the Same Thing

I was a server for two-and-a-half years post college graduation. Immediately following that, I became a mother. Few things in life have prepared me for parenthood like my stint in the service industry. Just like raising kids, waiting tables was hard, humbling work.

I don’t want to give the name of the restaurant where I worked away, but it may or may not have rhymed with TGI Shmidays. Frankly, the similarities between serving and parenting are a little too spot-on.

In the weeds

There is a term that restaurant staff use to describe their situation when they are really, really busy – it’s called being ‘in the weeds.’ It’s been over five years since I have waited tables, but I still have nightmares about this scenario. All six of your tables need refills, the kid at table 20 just spilled his drink, table 21’s food was ordered 25 minutes ago and they are giving you the stink eye, table 22 has a gift card to use and the machine to validate it is broken down, and table 23 has just informed you that someone at their table has a birthday which means that you have to make their free sundae and lead a troop of fellow servers while you belt out a solo in the middle of a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night. Fun times are had by all. Did I mention that this stroke-inducing stress will only render you approximately $12 in tips?

TGIF

I have just walked in the door from work and find that my kids have barely napped. I quickly change my clothes, assess the fridge for dinner, defrost some meat, sit down for five seconds, immediately receive a request for a sippy cup refill, fill the cup, sit back down, smell a poopy diaper, change the diaper, get the defrosted meat, brown the meat, pick up a fussing kid, cook with one kid on my hip and another one at my legs, avoid burning everyone, set the food down on the table, pray for our meal, a kid puts too much food in his mouth and barfs, clean up the barf, get the other kid more to eat, now everyone needs drink refills, sit down to take my first bite and it’s cold. Guess what – I’m back in the weeds.

86 That

The first week or two of serving, I kept hearing people say, “86 spinach dip!” “86 Jack Daniels sauce!” “86 broccoli cheese soup!”

I had no idea what they were talking about.

It turns out, when you ‘86’ something, it means you are all out of it. I used to love it when guests would come in and ask for something right off the bat, which, of course, would be the one thing that you were completely out of. Then they would complain the rest of the time and continue to ask for that one item for the duration of their dining experience. What did they want me to say? “Now that I’ve handed you your check, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been messing with you this whole time and we’ve had macaroni and cheese bites all along!!! Muahahaha.

I’m trolling for tips, people. I want those mac-n-cheese bites as badly as you do.

I don’t know that I have been able to eat more the three vanilla yogurts in my own home in the past three years. We are always out of it. It is no sooner unpacked from the grocery store before it is flying out of the refrigerator. I was putting the laundry away the other day, came downstairs and found that my son had slammed two yogurts while I was upstairs. Obviously, they were the last two yogurts we had. For the rest of the night, that same son continued to ask for more yogurt. Why didn’t we have any? Where did it go? I’m sorry, did you black out while you housed all of the yogurt that we had? You know that it is all gone and no, I do not know how to make yogurt. I checked the fridge one last time and found that we did have one more yogurt – it was strawberry. Wailing ensued. It.must.be.VANILLA! 86 that.

Bite your tongue

Sure, I remembered the nice customers and the once that tipped well. Ideally, they would be both nice and great tippers. BUT, the jerky jerk guests were imprinted on my brain. I would see them walk in the door, see the hostess grab the menus, see her start to head toward my section, see her set them down at my table and then walk away. Things just got real.

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of things that a server has no control over. It would drive me nuts when a guest would say, “this will reflect in your tip…” Oh, really??? At least with them, you knew not to expect a decent tip. The ones that really got me were the guests who ran me around for an hour and fifteen minutes and then would leave NO TIP AT ALL on the table. Just because our titles literally mean that we are servants, does not mean that we are less than or are not working insanely hard. Servers remember you and they remember how you treated them. I can’t even count the amount of times I had to just walk away to keep myself from saying something mean in return to a rude guest.

I have to admit, there have been times when I have been drawn into a verbal ‘negotiation’ with my kids. When frustrations are high, it’s so easy to do. If it’s not a negotiation, then my sarcastic nature will rear it’s ugly head. When my kid wakes up from a nap and promises to behave better than he did that morning, I have to bite my tongue. I want to tell him that he better behave because he was being a real poophead earlier and I can’t take much more of it. Instead, I just give him a hug and we move on. Most of the time, I can remember that I am the adult and they just learned how to use the toilet, so maybe arguing with them is not the most productive thing that I could do. Many days (like getting stiffed on a tip), there seems to be nothing to show for all of the work, but you just show up, keep your mouth shut, and do it anyway.

Leftovers

Whenever a meal was ordered incorrectly or there was an extra meal for any reason at all, my co-workers and I would jump on that freebie like no other. I would take my meal to the back of the restaurant in a dark corner and shovel that food into my mouth as fast as I could. Inevitably, I would burn my entire mouth and get extreme indigestion, but it was totally worth it. I couldn’t afford to spend my tips on Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta even with my discount. So a treat like that was hard to come by.

I cannot tell you how often I don’t get to eat a real dinner. I’m usually too tired to cook and if I do make a home-cooked meal, the kids are suddenly not hungry. Most of the time, I just make them something then eat their scraps over the sink like some sort of rat while I clean the dishes. It takes me back to the good ol’ days of hiding out in that dark corner at work in between checking on my tables.

Last Call 

The restaurant where I worked was across the street from the host hotel for our town’s minor league baseball team. All the visiting teams stayed there and would often come over to eat lunch and then dinner after the game. I can’t complain too much because there were times when I got free tickets to the games, but when it is 11:45pm and you close at 12, you did not want to see 26 hungry ball players walk across the parking lot. I would just be honest with them and say, “Look, you are all more than welcome here. But, if you order a well done steak I cannot guarantee what may or may not happen to it.”

Bedtime is the new last call.  There is something about it that makes my kids request more things than they did the rest of the day combined. They need water, they need their blankies, they are suddenly interested in reading books, they need songs to be sung, they need you to do a River dance, they need their backs rubbed, and just when you think you are done, they will get out of bed and come downstairs to ask for something else. Bedtime is my cardio routine.

Humility 

Right before I finally got a job that launched my career, a frequent guest of mine came to the restaurant and asked why I continued to serve when I was educated.  Basically, he was insinuating that I was too good to work there. I stopped for a moment and responded truthfully. Other than the fact that there were no jobs to be found, I told him, “When I first started as a server, I believed that I was too good for this job. But nothing has taught me more about humility and grace than serving others. No one is ever too good to serve.”  See what I did there??  Pretty deep for someone who was ‘just’ a server.

There were many days when I was waitressing that I felt like the worst version of myself.  I was bitter and angry that this was how I had to make a living and I was frustrated with the way people treated me.  Motherhood is much the same.  I will lay my head down at night and feel as if I did nothing right throughout the course of the day and I am constantly surprised (and disappointed) by my reactions to things both large and small.  But I pray, ask for forgiveness, and my slate is cleaned.

Parenting is one big sacrifice. You serve others daily, often with little appreciation. It is all about humility, perseverance, and more grace than you can even imagine. But it will teach you more about yourself and what you are capable of than any other job this world has to offer.  I cannot conceive of a life without my kids.  They have shown me what an incredible blessing it is to be able to serve others.

Plus, both experiences have given me enough stories to write a book.

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No Bathroom Left Behind

bathroom

My children are on a self-imposed journey to visit every bathroom east of the Mississippi River. They have conspired together and are determined to make this happen. It doesn’t matter if we are in our hometown or traveling – we must check out any and all bathrooms.  There will be no bathroom left behind.

The kids know that if they mention that they have to go to the bathroom, I will move mountains to find them a toilet immediately. This is due to the fact that children don’t mention their need to go until they are a sneeze away from soiling themselves. I can prompt them to go before we leave the house, but if they are otherwise preoccupied, forget about it.

Case in point, we were leaving my parent’s house recently and getting ready for the 20-minute drive back home. I told my 4-year-old to go to the bathroom before we left. He said that he did and we drove away. I stopped for gas and when I did so, he began to yell through the window at me that he had to go NOW. I finished filling up the tank, unbuckled both boys from their car seats, and hustled them into the gas station. The cashier showed us the back room that housed the toilet and I told my son to go.

“Mom, it smells horrible in here! It smells like old toots!”

“Yes, it does smell bad.”

“I can’t go! I’m going to barf. I can’t pee, I can’t pee!”

This is when I tried to take a deep breath (then regretted it because of the awful stench) to calm down. I was holding my 2-year-old who kept grabbing on to a rusty pipe and then popping his thumb in his mouth. He’s up-to-date on his tetanus so he should be fine. Anyway, I managed to keep my cool as I said to my oldest, “You are going to need to find a way to put some pee in that toilet. We are 6 minutes from our own bathroom and you told me that this had to happen now. Make it happen.”

Two drops of pee made it into the toilet. But at least we know what the bathroom looks like at the local Sunoco station.

A few weeks later, we were traveling the hour-and-a-half to my in-laws over Memorial Day weekend. Again, I hear from the backseat that nature was calling and it was calling hard. We had to drive ten more minutes before we could reach the nearest public toilet. Do you know where that toilet happened to be? Boalsburg, PA – the birth place of Memorial Day. Do you know where you do NOT want to randomly stop on Memorial Day weekend? Boalsburg.

As it turns out, it was a false alarm. But the boys can cross the Boalsburg Mart bathroom off of their list of places to see.

We recently took a long trip to South Carolina and back for vacation. Normally, we drive through the night so that the kids are sleeping and the trip doesn’t feel as long to them. However, my husband and I decided that this year we had no desire to struggle to stay awake and then figure out who had enough energy to take care of the kids once we reached our destination. As a result, there were more bathroom breaks.

I always love it when my 2-year-old insists that he use the restroom. He still wears a diaper and I can’t get him interested in using the toilet at home to save my life. As soon as we go somewhere, he immediately wants to visit the bathroom. Part of me feels like saying, “Just go in your pants!” But a bigger part of me wants him to learn to wipe his own butt. So we journey into the restroom where he attempts to unroll the toilet paper and then we all get covered in soap and water because holding up a small child so that they can ‘wash’ their hands is a nightmare.

It’s all worth it because the Buffalo Wild Wings in a random Virginian town is now one less bathroom for us to visit.

Sometimes I’m the one who needs to use the bathroom. On long trips, I try to go as long as possible but that is dangerous because you never know when you might get stuck in traffic. For example, on our recent trip down south, I took over the wheel and about an hour later realized I could use a bathroom break. I didn’t want to stop so soon, so I continued on. At one point, I saw a beautiful rest stop that looked like it was part of a day spa. We were seven hours into our drive and I really could have used some cucumber water and a ten minute neck massage! But no, I soldiered on only to see a sign a mile down the road that said, “Next Rest Stop – 108 Miles.”

Grrrreat. It’s just me, the road, and a handful of shady Exxon’s between my bladder and a decent toilet. If my option is retrieving a key from a gas station worker so that I can walk around to the back of the building to pee in a room that looks like it should be taped off for a crime scene investigation or just hold it, I think I’ll hold it.

Once we reached our destination, the kids were able to hit up more bathrooms than I can even mention. They’ve got to be making great headway with their list.

At one restaurant, the boys took turns making trips with me. My oldest locked the door and then crawled out the bottom rather than unlocking it. Nope, you need to crawl back under and unlock that thing and then I need to wash your clothes as soon as possible now that you crawled all over a bathroom floor. My youngest kept hugging the weird statue that was in the corner of the bathroom and then we both got drenched during the hand-washing portion of the bathroom visit.

*I would like to take a brief moment to discuss family bathrooms.  These seem like a great idea until you realize that your kid is tall enough to unlock the bathroom door and run out, leaving the door open while you are still on the toilet.  This may or may not have happened at Kohl’s.

While shopping, we made another trip to the restrooms. We walked in and my son, always feeling the need to comment on everything, said, “Someone is pooping in here!”

This was accurate, but I quickly explained that this is a bathroom and that’s what people do in bathrooms. Also, just zip your lip.

He just kept at it. “It’s smelly! Are they done pooping yet?” Judging by the orthotic sneakers I saw under the stall, I can only hope and pray that this woman was too hard of hearing to catch what was going on. Given the fact that my son must state everything at the loudest possible volume, especially things that he should keep to himself, I doubt she missed it. My apologies, innocent bathroom goer – but yet another venue has been crossed off of the list.

On the way back home, we stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast and a quick stretch. The thing that baffled my mind was that this McDonald’s had a PlayPlace, but no diaper changing station in either restroom. Whaaaaat!? You have tried to accommodate the many children that will pass through your doors by offering a place to play, but you failed to allow their parents to change them?? C’mon, man! My oldest could go, but I had to wrestle my youngest in the front seat of the car in order to give him a fresh diaper. At least we put a check-mark beside that location.

The last time I asked the boys, we had only 4,796 bathrooms to go! Ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

 

*On a side note, there needs to be changing stations in men’s restrooms, too. Is it really that much of a shocker that men take their kids places by themselves? I don’t think so. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has not been able to change our children’s diapers in the men’s restroom because there is no option to do so. This is an easy fix, people!

My Kids are Always Dirty

My kids are always dirty. I don’t take the term ‘always’ lightly, yet I feel confident in saying that they are always dirty.

They will cdirtome to visit me at work and my husband will swear that they were clean when they left the house, yet somehow on the ride to see me they have full-grown dirt beards. They are like dirt magicians. They could attract dirt even in one of those scientific ‘clean rooms.’

I will try to make them presentable when we go out in public, but they are sure to have uncooperative bed head. In the winter it might not be bed head so much as hat hair. Regardless, it is sticking up everywhere. The kids also like to rock the one pant leg up, one pant leg down look. If we are not covered in dirt, we are sure to look disheveled.

They are also stain magnets. New clothes don’t stay new for very long on these guys. I try to save or donate the clothes that I can once they have outgrown them, but usually they are so well-worn that it’s not even helping anyone to donate them. Grass stains, dirt stains, and food stains are constantly being pre-treated in our laundry room.

The dirt just doesn’t stay on them, either. I have finger prints all over my walls and my windows. If you find a light switch in my house, odds are that the paint around it is covered in crud from their tiny hands. I have given them baths only to drain the water and find the biggest ring of dirt circling the entire tub. Our remote control buttons sometimes stick because they have gotten who-knows-what all over it.  Several times a week, I must ask the question, “Is that chocolate, poop, or mud?”

Dirt travels from them and covers me, as well. After their visits to see me at work, it is not uncommon for me to go to a meeting, look down, and realize that they rubbed chocolate on my sweater (my co-workers always give them candy) or gave me a muddy boot print on my leg when I picked them up for a hug. When I’m at home, I’m pre-treating my clothes too because I am joining in on the activities that make them so dirty. Like the time that my oldest son found a huge mud puddle by our old house and ran into it before I could do anything about it. I had to wade into it to get him out but we played for a while first. When my husband came home he found a pile of muddy clothes out on our deck.muddy

Our bathrooms are always in need of a good scouring, not because I don’t clean them, just because the regular dirt mixes with bodily fluids in this room. When asked why there was pee everywhere, I was told by my son that sometimes he likes to stand there with his eyes closed and “see what happens.” I’ll show you what happens – you’re going to start cleaning the bathroom yourself!

Recently, I thought that there was just run-of-the-mill dirt on the rug in the boys’ bathroom. I waited a few days to wash it with the bathroom towels until I came to find out what it really was. My son informed me that he had run out of toilet paper while going to the bathroom, so he just wiped himself with the bathroom rug. Instead of just walking over random dirt, we had all been stepping on a skid mark for a couple of days. What I can’t figure out is why he didn’t just ask for more toilet paper? I mean, he is never home alone so someone could have helped him out. So gross.

I used to try to fight all of it, but I feel like I am getting better at accepting the fact that where kids abound, dirt abounds. I do my best to keep things clean and dress them nicely, but I can’t keep them from playing and having fun. So stain up your clothes and fingerprint my walls – that’s the stuff memories are made of.

Every Woman Needs Her Tribe

Sometimes I collapse on the couch at the end of a long day and I just can’t shake it – this feeling of loneliness that creeps in and stays with me. How is it possible that I am lonely? I am never alone. I spend my days surrounded by kids or coworkers. It is the great paradox of motherhood – I long for ‘me time’, yet I long for connection just as much, if not more.

Every woman needs her tribe.   Those few people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, who pick you up when you fall down and are the first to pat you on the back when you succeed – I need them.  My tribe is my place of belonging.  It’s just that I have been distant from my tribe for a long time – years even – and it’s starting to wear on me.

I have always been one of the guys. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and have never been into girly things. Looking back, I can see how this prepared me to raise boys. But, I need my girlfriends more than ever now. No one is better able to relate to me and where I am in life than the women I call my close friends.

If I have these friends, why am I so lonely? Time, responsibilities, family, career…they all pull us in differently directions and leave little to nothing for any semblance of a social life.

Growing up, you go to school with your friends. In college, you live with your friends. Before marriage, you work, but you have a cash flow (albeit small) that enables you to enjoy time with your friends. After marriage, there is less time, but there is still time. Once the kids come, you blink and realize that six months of your life has passed and you can’t remember if you have spoken to any of your friends in that time-frame.

Some of my friends began having kids a little bit before I did. I didn’t get it. Why can’t we just go out for coffee? Can’t you just keep the baby in the infant carrier? How hard can it be? Then I had a kid and realized that just meeting for a cup of coffee turns into a 57-step process that requires three weeks of advanced planning to pull off. And even then you aren’t guaranteed to be able to keep this simple social engagement. If you are like me, then you found yourself just staying isolated in your own little world because it becomes easier than the extreme effort it takes to leave the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to see or spend time with my friends – I desperately did – it’s just that demand, after demand seemed to pile up on my plate and my relationships were the first things to go.

I have found that the best thing we can give each other as women is grace. Grace in our friendships to know that because we haven’t heard from one another in a while does not mean that the love and caring is no longer there. Grace to realize that this too shall pass – it won’t always be this crazy.

My friends are grace-givers. I pray that I am a grace-giver. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something happened and I needed my girlfriends to come to my side, that they would drop everything and be there. I can still depend on my tribe and that is amazing. They don’t hold it against me when we haven’t talked in a while or haven’t shared that precious cup of joe. I try to do the same thing because I finally get it now.

tribe

Just last week I was having a day. You know, one of those days. As soon as I put the kids to bed, I myself crawled under the covers and prayed that God would give me the strength to deal with everything. And I prayed that God would help me to feel connected to others again – that I could find the time and energy to be with friends.

Shortly thereafter I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that I had missed a text from a friend.  She said she was just thinking about me and wanted to see how things were going. The text was sent about ten minutes after I had poured my heart out in prayer. Coincidence? I think not – that’s a God-thing.  I responded honestly and said that I was overwhelmed and would appreciate her prayers and that I missed her greatly. She promised to pray for me and I believe her. I know she cares and I know those weren’t just empty words sent to my phone.

That’s the second best thing we can do for our tribe – remain honest. I didn’t have to share that I was overwhelmed, but it was the truth and hiding it wouldn’t get me anywhere.  I don’t need to feign perfection around these women, or pretend that I can do it all – no one is buying that lie.  Like I said, I know she cares and I know that she genuinely prays for me. Not only that, but these women are willing to give me tough love if I need it.  I trust them to speak the truth to me, even if it is hard to hear.  If my relationships aren’t authentic, then my loneliness will never be eased.

Honesty also provides an opportunity to give and receive encouragement. I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I feel like I need an awful lot of encouragement.  I’m talking about an insane amount of encouragement.  Most of my closest friends are in the same stage as I am – young kids, figuring out how to keep our husbands first, maybe juggling a career, definitely juggling housework. It can be rough, but we need each other.

I’ve often heard it said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Frankly, I don’t want the village to raise my child because I don’t agree with all that the village does. However, I do believe that it takes a village to encourage a woman. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs or viewpoints on parenting differ, I can still offer encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. Also, encouragement shouldn’t be limited to just mothers. Some of the people in our lives who could use the most encouragement from us might be the ones in waiting – waiting for marriage, waiting for children, waiting for careers. Those can be incredibly difficult and lonely times.

I have seen encouragement come to me from different angles. It has come from the mom with kids the same age as mine. It has come from the woman at church who has been there and done that but has been a mentor to me in many ways. It has come from a fellow working mother with a heaping pile of responsibilities on her plate. Encouragement is a miracle worker and it can be so simple. I mean, that text that I received didn’t take a lot of effort, but it was still sincere and it meant so much to me. Reaching out to my girlfriends does not need to be this elaborate thing. The connection has already been made; I just need to acknowledge that connection.

Recently, I have had friends come out of the woodwork to reach out to me.  One woman noticed that I needed a pick-me-up and sent me a care package in the mail.  Amazing!  Another dear friend had a gift certificate to a salon that she offered to share with me.  Not only did we get to pamper ourselves (rare), but we desperately needed that time together.  It was what I like to call ‘soul therapy.’  There is something so special about meeting the needs of others, especially when you don’t even realize that you ministered to them exactly when they needed it the most.

Realistically, I can’t go and hang out with my friends all the time. I can’t afford to have a weekend away and I can’t meet for play dates in the middle of the day. But, it’s not always going to be this way. My kids won’t always be as needy as they are now and someday I might be able to afford a girls weekend. And when that day comes, I know that my tribe will be there waiting with arms wide open to welcome me back and pick up right where we left off because I will do the same for them.

I Don’t Want to be in the Trenches Today

trenchesofmotherhood

It was early on Saturday morning and I was already in a foul mood.  I had been coughed, sneezed, and snotted on too many times to count by 8am.  There is just something about wiping someone else’s mucus off of your face that will cause you to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not today.  I don’t want to be in the trenches of motherhood today.  I don’t want to be so heavily needed.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the day with my kids – I did.  I just wanted them to wipe their own butts, blow their own noses, properly brush their own teeth, cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and use their inside voices.  And for the love of organization, I wanted them to just pick one or two toys out at a time rather than dump four bins and decide that they have nothing to play with!  I didn’t want to become the broken record that I am by the end of each day by repeating, “Be gentle.  Be careful.  Be kind.”

After a long week of working mommy, today was stay-at-home-mommy day.  I was girding my loins for a full day in the trenches when I felt so ill-equipped to be leading my troops.  My husband had a ten hour shift and the kids and all of my neglected housework from the week lay before me.  I just didn’t want to do any of it.

Before my husband left for work he could already sense my poor attitude.  I had raised my voice to one of the kids over something that really didn’t necessitate a raised voice.  He called me out on it.  While I knew he was right, I was less-than-thrilled that my weaknesses were being pointed out right in the middle of me displaying said weakness.  I accepted the accountability, but I did give him an icy stare-down for about 30 seconds.

My husband also pointed out that this was my day off and I look forward to stay-at-home-mommy day all week.  That’s when my thoughts overtook me.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?  Don’t I know how blessed I am?  Aren’t there so many couples who would trade places with me in a minute?  Am I a horrible mother?  The thing is, recognizing how blessed I am only made me feel worse because I couldn’t seem to legitimize my feelings.

Then, as if on cue, Satan made sure that guilt (who he always has on-call) came to keep me company.

I finished my coffee with guilt, grabbed some lunch with guilt (and I severely burnt my tongue), and started the laundry with guilt.

Then something happened.

My oldest son went to spend some time with his grandparents and it was just me and my youngest who was fighting a nasty cough.  My little one coughed so hard that he threw up all over the living room.  Then he just stood there looking at me with his big, blue eyes saying “Mommy, mommy, help me!”

I was the only one who could comfort him and clean him up and assure him that it was okay and he would be fine.  He needed me and in that moment I was so glad that I could meet those needs.

When I got him situated, I suddenly felt like I was walking around without one of my limbs.  I realized that I missed my oldest son terribly and he had only been gone for a whopping ten minutes.  It turns out that I wanted to be needed after all.

I stopped what I was doing and prayed.  I begged God for forgiveness and prayed that He would give me strength and a change in my attitude.  I can’t do this parenting thing on my own.  The trenches can be downright suffocating and I’m truly not equipped to deal with all of these responsibilities every day.  But He is – God is the only one who can give me the ability to deal with life.  Not only that, but my feelings are legitimate to God.  He wants me to pour out my heart to Him rather than keep everything so bottled up that I fantasize about running away (I would never do that, but you know what I mean…maybe just a few hours alone in a bookstore).

I had to continue praying to get through all of my duties for the remainder of the day.  That and the four peanut butter melt-away Easter eggs that I may or may not have eaten seemed to do the trick.  I had a renewed sense of energy to tackle my housework and care for my sick son.  By the end of the day, my precious toddler was feeling better and he asked me to dance with him when he heard his favorite song in a movie.  We danced and twirled ourselves into a fit of laughter and it was amazing.

Not every day ends on a high note and not every day feels like I am deep within the trenches.  But, at this time in my life there are enough of those brutal days that can leave me feeling pretty discouraged if I let them.  I’m just going to refuse to let the hard times get me down.  This is far from my last rough day as a mother, but because I have Christ by my side for eternity I know that I will never be left to handle it on my own.

 

 

I Just Want to Go to the Bathroom Alone

I am incredibly grateful for the fact that all of my needs and the needs of my family are met – roof over our heads, clothes in our closets, and food on our table. We can pay our bills and while we might not have much left over for material indulgences, I can’t really think of much that I actually want on top of what I already have been given.  I don’t take this for granted and I thank the Lord for these realizations every day. But, there is this one thing that I want more than anything else.

I just want to go to the bathroom alone.

I’m not trying to be gross or inappropriate, but being able to sit down and take care of your business by yourself is one of the simplest life pleasures.   And it is a simple life pleasure that has eluded me for the past four years.

I have always had bathroom issues. Case in point, my high school class once took a train from Pennsylvania to Florida and back for our senior trip. I had to be drugged with Dramamine so that I could relax enough to use the bathroom on the train.   I kept thinking, ‘What if the door jiggles open? What if it didn’t lock? What if someone bursts in to see me?’

Then I became a mother and all of these things happen every single time I try to go to the bathroom.

bathroom

It started out innocently enough – put the baby in the infant seat right in front of the toilet. They aren’t going to go anywhere and they won’t remember what’s going on. Soon I found myself multitasking in every facet of my life and the bathroom was no exception.  Let’s face it, nursing while pooping is weird, but sometimes necessary.   I felt weird about it with one kid, then when I added the second kid, I would be nursing, going to the bathroom, and trying to stop the other kid from dumping (pun intended) Q-tips and cotton balls all over the floor.

Once the nursing stopped, I still didn’t find myself with bathroom privacy. Now they will just storm in and verbally ask for things.

“Can I have a snack? Can you get me a snack?”

Ummm. How do you suggest I get you a snack? I am otherwise occupied and pretzels are going to have to wait for a few minutes.

This is when I hear the kitchen chair being dragged across the floor so that my kid can climb up and get the pretzels himself. Heaven forbid we have to exercise any patience in this home.

Even worse, the minute I sit down on the throne the kids begin to fight. Not just little fights, but they start to scream and push each other and come way too close to the edge of the stairs. Pull up your pants and get out there to break up Friday Night Fights, Mama!

The kids don’t seem to realize that they need me for anything or want to be by my side until I feel that nature is calling. They will knock, but despite this polite gesture, they do not heed my instruction to wait outside of the bathroom until I have finished. First I spy little hands reaching under the door. Shortly after that they will just bust down the door and come in to see what I’m doing. What do you think is going on in here?

Lately, my youngest one comes into the bathroom and wants to sit on my lab while he enjoys a lollipop. Is this real life? Should we have a conversation or just sit here in silence and pretend that this isn’t incredibly awkward? Why don’t we open the window blinds and invite the neighbors to this bathroom pow-wow? Sometimes he will bring a book with him and we will read for a little bit. So you’re telling me that you won’t sit still long enough for me to read to you in the living room on the recliner, but when I’m sitting half-nude on the toilet reading suddenly seems like a good idea?  Ironically, he often chooses the book ‘Everyone Poops’ for me to read.

I could shadoobie at work, but there might as well be a revolving door on that bathroom. It is Grand Central Station in there – not exactly ideal for such a private act. So I hold it in all day, take care of everything I could possibly take care of at home, then at 9pm it hits me that I still haven’t had a bowel movement and it’s probably why I have been so miserable for the last 4 hours. By now everything is practically impacted and even though the kids are in bed and I can use the bathroom alone, it is a less-than-pleasant experience. Good luck passing Stonehenge!

Honestly, all I want to do is wake up and take care of business first thing in the morning. If things work out this way, I will literally skip from my car into the office because I will be in such a great mood. It just never works out that way. The life of a mother means that you are endlessly side-tracked from morning till night. So, if you have to go badly enough, you just adopt the open door policy and roll with it.

In a few years, the kids will realize that it’s not cool to barge in on someone in the bathroom because they will want their privacy in there as well. When that day comes I will rejoice and reclaim this precious alone time.

At the end of the day, if using the bathroom alone is all I really want then there is no room for complaints.

Dreams for the Strong-Willed Child

strong-willed

From the moment we found out we were expecting you, your father and I began to dream. When we found out you were a boy, our dreams got just a little more specific. When I first held you in my arms, so many of my personal dreams were realized.

Do you remember that first night? Of course, you don’t. Long after everyone left the hospital on the day you were born, it was just you and me in the dark room getting to know one another. I held you skin-to-skin, showered you with kisses, and told you all of the dreams I had for you.

As I’ve had the joy of being your mother and watching you grow, those dreams really haven’t changed. Now that your personality is intact, there is no doubt in my mind that you are capable of great things. You, my child, are strong-willed. Or as I like to say, passionate. Everything you do is done with such intensity and purpose and I love this about you!

Many people talk about changing the strong-willed child, but the last thing I want to do is change this part of your personality. To squelch your strong-willed nature would be like forcing you to write with the opposite hand or wear your jeans inside-out and backwards. It might be doable, but it would be awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

My dreams for you now encourage the use of your strong-willed temperament. As your parent, it’s my job to make sure that you develop this part of your personality appropriately. I want to help you strike a balance that enables you to assert yourself while maintaining self-control.  While it is not okay to talk back and throw fits when you don’t get your way, it is okay to respectfully share your thoughts. While it’s not okay to try to take control over every situation, it is okay to be a leader.

My dreams for you and your strong will include the following:

  • Respect the thoughts and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. This can be difficult because the strong-willed often feel the need to be ‘right’ or have the last word.
  • I see in you great potential to be a leader. Be the kind of leader that is worth following.
  • Treat everyone as if they matter, because they do. When everyone else walks past the not-so-popular kid in the cafeteria, I want you to sit down and have lunch with him.
  • Know what you stand for and don’t be afraid to stand alone because of it. Being strong-willed gives you an advantage in this area. I pray that peer pressure would be no match for you.
  • Let your work ethic speak for you regarding your skills and abilities. You are still too young for us to know where you excel, but odds are there will be something that you are great at or enjoy more than anything else. Work hard and be humble. Right now, you have a work ethic that I didn’t even know existed in kids your age. I will do everything I can to continue to encourage this in you.
  • Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. This includes the disabled, the unborn, the elderly – they all matter.
  • When others run from a problem or tough situation, I want you to run towards it and tackle it head-on.
  • Don’t let the real world steal your love of life.  You have so much energy and ‘zest’ for life – it would break my heart to see you lose that.
  • Come to your own faith in Christ and live your life to glorify Him.

Honestly, I have so many dreams for you that will keep growing and evolving the older you become. But, none of those dreams involve material things; they revolve around the character and integrity I want you to have.  I have never dreamt for you to be a doctor, high-powered business man, or professional athlete. I don’t care about those things and I don’t want you to think that is the measure for success. Actually, you have told me on more than one occasion that you would like to be a garbage man. If that’s your passion and you give it your all, then I would be so proud of you for being a garbage man.

There are days when we butt heads, you and me. I am strong-willed, too. I understand that you want to be right and I understand your intensity because I am the same way. We both have a bit of the perfectionist bug to us as well.  It has been and will continue to be a challenge to help you focus your strong will in a positive direction, to develop self-control. There are times when I am in tears because I don’t know if I am teaching you in the right way, or if I am even getting through to you at all. But there are more times when I see a glimpse of the man you will one day become and I know that the hard days are worth it.

While I am not much of a gambler, I’ll tell you this much – I’d bet my life on you.

Your strong-willed personality is a gift, not a hindrance. I can’t wait to see where life will take you and I pray each and every day that God would use you in mighty ways.

 

Because it’s Winter and I Don’t Enjoy Every Moment

forweariness

I had every intention of writing something uplifting and flowery and everything-is-so-wonderful, but that’s not what came out.  Because that’s not how I feel right now.  I am weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.

Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, life is full of these stages – these hills and valleys.  Winter is always the hardest for me.  As silly as it sounds, things that I could brush off in the summer become big issues to me in the winter.  If we are having a hard day in the summer, we just go outside and literally run it off.  As I write, the thermometer reads zero – as in, zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Running it off is not an option, so we are stuck inside where we find ourselves keeping everything inside until the festering becomes too much and our behaviors show our true feelings.

On top of my winter weariness has been my disdain for the phrase ‘enjoy every moment.’  I just can’t stand to hear it because I don’t – I don’t enjoy every moment.  If I didn’t have kids I certainly wouldn’t enjoy every moment of my life.  So, why I am expected to enjoy every moment just because I am a parent?  This is what I am learning – I don’t need to enjoy every moment, I just need to be there through the moments.

What I’m saying is, I just have to be there to get us through to the times when we are less weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.  I just have to keep showing up.  By saying we should enjoy every moment, we imply that these seasons in our lives shouldn’t exist and perhaps we are doing something wrong if they do.  That’s just not the case.

This is the reality:

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my son clogged the toilet today with a roll of toilet paper.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my other child ran through a store like a wild man when I needed to get some things (like the aforementioned toilet paper) and we couldn’t just leave due to his poor behavior.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I worked and worked to cook dinner for my family only to have it met with rejection.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my kids ignored my request to clean up and instead made a bigger mess before throwing tantrums.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I had plans with my husband and was asked to stay late at work.

It’s reality and it’s life and it’s okay.  I am reminding myself of this more than anyone.  I serve a God who has overcome so much more than a clogged toilet and a temper tantrum.  That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to feel frustrated, it just means that He understands what frustration feels like.

Just like the promise of spring, I also know that there are so many rejuvenating and wonderful times when I more than enjoy the moment.

This is the reality:

I enjoyed the moment when my children ran up to me for no other reason than to hug me and tell me they loved me.

I enjoyed the moment when my kid used such great manners that other people noticed.

I enjoyed the moment when my family raved about a new recipe I tried (cooking is neither fun nor easy for me).

I enjoyed the moment when the kids cleaned up their toys without being asked.

I enjoyed the moment when my boss thanked me for my hard work.

I know I don’t have to tell you that the good times far outweigh the bad, but sometimes that hope and that reminder is what pushes us to keep showing up.

Spring is right around the corner.

 

Why I’m Dating My Sons

myboys

There is something about one-on-one time that can make something ordinary feel extraordinary. If my husband and I get to go out to dinner by ourselves, it feels like a special occasion even if we just get fast food. The same concept applies to my children; they love to have one-on-one time with us. Whenever I get to spend that quality time with my boys, we call it a date. They get so excited and I do, too.

There are several reasons why I’m dating my sons:

Undivided attention

I try to give them each some one-on-one time with me each day, but it is usually not for an extended period of time due to naps, meals, etc. So, when we get to spend a few hours together and they have Mommy all to themselves, it’s a big deal. At this stage in their lives, this is probably the most beneficial reason we go on dates.

Someday, they are going to meet someone that they feel is special enough that they would like to spend time with them one-on-one. Of course, we are far from this stage in their lives, but it is never too early to prepare their minds and hearts.

Planning

I have many parenting goals – both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, the boys get to choose what they would like to do on our dates. They plan where we will eat and then the activity that we will enjoy. Usually, it involves a fast food restaurant and the park or the train station. That is what they love to do and I love sharing it with them.

My long-term focus is to teach them that when they go out on a date with a girl they are romantically interested in, they need to have a plan. While considering her likes and dislikes, as well as her interests, they need to carefully choose a place to eat and perhaps an activity that they can both enjoy. This will show her that they cared enough about the time they were about to spend together by thinking about it beforehand. Also, by having a plan, it is less likely that they will find themselves in situations that they might later come to regret.

On a personal note, I didn’t go on many dates, but it was always frustrating to me when someone would ask me on a date and then show up without a plan. Call me old-fashioned, but I have always felt that for the first few dates, the man should take the lead in the planning. After you get to know each other better, then feel free to plan together or let her plan the date.

Manners

I don’t have to wait until our date nights to teach my sons about manners, but our special time together gives us a chance to put manners into practice outside of our home. Of course, we say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me,’ and all of that good stuff. But, I also teach them to open doors, pull out chairs, and thank the wait staff. Granted, they are not always strong enough to open the doors and we sometimes sit in booths, but you get the picture. They also love to think that they are paying for our meal. My oldest son usually offers to pay. I will give him some money and let him think that it is his. He beams with pride when he can pay for our dinner.

Chivalry is not dead and I want my kids to prove it. Having good manners shows someone that you respect them and find them worthy of the best possible treatment. I will expect my sons to be chivalrous and respectful to their dates, just as I would expect their dates to be respectful in return. Another way I am old-fashioned, but I think the man should pay for the dates. If he is asking a woman to join him for the evening, he should be financially responsible. If he is making a plan and considering his budget while doing so, then it shouldn’t be a problem. Again, after a few dates, split the cost or she can pay every once in a while, but the man should take the lead in this area. It’s all a part of having good manners.

Purpose

My purpose in ‘dating’ my sons is to have fun with them. I love them both so much and I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. We are making memories that I hope will last a lifetime. I also want to prepare them for their future.

People have often said to me, “Oh, he’s going to be a heartbreaker!” or, “He’s going to break all the girls’ hearts when he gets older!” Now, obviously I know that these are just meant to be cute things that people say and they don’t mean much by them, but whenever I hear these sayings I think, “I hope not.” I hope and pray that my sons don’t take the feelings of others lightly. I hope and pray that they don’t string girls along and break their hearts. I hope and pray that they are thoughtful with their words and actions by not saying things they think their dates want to hear or doing things that they can’t take back.

I don’t want my sons to date a girl just to say that they are dating someone. Dating should be fun, but I want them to consider the ramifications of what it means to date someone. Yes, you are getting to know a person better, but ultimately, the purpose of dating is to see if that person is someone you could spend the rest of your life with. That’s heavy stuff and it’s why I believe the decision to date someone should not be taken lightly. I have my future daughters-in-law in mind and I want to give them a wonderful husband.

Right now, my sons are much too young to understand that our date nights are meant to prepare them for anything more than just a fun time with their Mom. On one such night out, I asked my oldest son what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation and with a lot of passion, he said, “I want to be a MAN!” I laughed and told his Dad when we got home that night. We are certainly going to do all we can to get him there.

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women

Guest Post: Blissful Ignorance

** Today, I am excited to share with you a guest post written by my friend, Chelsea Shepherd.  Chelsea is the woman behind The Play Lady, where she writes with honesty about her journey as a new mom and experiences as a play therapist.  I’m sure you will enjoy Chelsea’s writing as much I do!

blissful ignorance

I’m glad I didn’t hear the stories of sleepless nights, sacrifice and isolation. Don’t get me wrong, the stories were told and the words were said, but for whatever reason they didn’t sink in. I had this sort of blissful ignorance before parenthood {even during prengancy} that may have protected me from the ‘what if’ game I definitely would have played had I known. Without that blissful ignorance, I am quite certain, my life would be quite empty.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy…I just didn’t realize it would be so hard. I am the oldest of five children, I started babysitting as early as possible, I am a certified child life specialist and I am trained in play therapy. I should have known. I should not have been surprised. But I was – I was surprised.

Even with all my knowledge and experience, it is my nature to be organized, deliberate and in control. The decision to become a mom was not one taken lightly. I knew there were things I needed to do, things we needed to do as a couple before we could become parents. After many of those things were completed and careful consideration was given to the idea, we thought we were ready. And we were as ready as we could be, but the truth is, without that blissful ignorance, we would have never been brave enough to take the leap of faith to grow our family. Parenthood is heavy, it is not for the weak and, without that blissful ignorance, I would never have had the confidence in myself required to be a mom.

Now, mommy-in-training that I am, I can hear the stories. The words that would have once brought fear and hesitation, now bring comfort {and usually a smile, because I am not alone}. Not only are the stories heard {loud and clear}, but the words sink right into my being and I realize this thing called parenthood is a mystery for a reason.

Thank you blissful ignorance for protecting me from fear, hesitation and over-thinking.

Thank you tales of parenthood for letting me know that I am not alone.

Thank you God for giving me strength that I never knew I had.