Back in February, my now-4-year-old son, Joshua, was pretty sick. He didn’t have the flu, but he might as well have, because he ran a high fever for about 5 days straight. He was REALLY puny. And so I let him lay on the couch and watch what he wanted. And what he wanted was – what else? – PAW PATROL.
He’s more than slightly obsessed. And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself wondering so much about the logistics of these kids’ shows.
(Coming from a family that knows child death, OF COURSE I want him to grow up. But you know what I mean.)
It’s probably just that he’s most likely our last child. But at 2 years and 3 months, I think he is quite likely the cutest thing that has ever happened to Planet Earth.
Don’t get me wrong: he is trouble and a half. I spend half my time trying to keep him from hurting himself. But it’s well worth it.
Because every morning when I get him from the crib, he makes some proud declaration like, “Nemo sleep my bed!” His curls go every which way and he smiles his trademark giant, goofy, toothy smile. Joshy has been giggles and grins since he was born and is almost always happy. (Except when he’s not. Like when I won’t give him “another one cup milk.”)
I know how much kids change between 2 and 3. I’ve been through it twice before. I know that soon he’ll start using more real grammar, he’ll stop running his silly gallop around the apartment, he won’t be so eager to give me “hug and a kah-iss.” I might have to cut the curly mop. He won’t fall asleep cuddled to my chest nearly as often.
Oh, there are so many sweet things about them growing up. I love the stage Libbie is in, where she still likes me but is old enough to do fun stuff with. But I’m scared. I’m scared of moving on past the baby-and-toddler stage we’ve been in for nearly seven years now.
Who will give me slobbery kisses? Whose sweet baby language will make me shake with laughter?
If the end of the school year wasn’t so close I could taste it, I think this week would have done me in.
Libbie woke up on Monday morning unable to walk. (She’s 6 1/2 and 50 pounds, people. Not exactly portable.) On Sunday night, she had complained about her leg hurting, but nothing more than in passing as she went to bed. But on Monday, she couldn’t straighten it out. She ended up spending most of the day on the couch … except when Mama carried her up and down the stairs and the car to take her to the health center at school, and then the doctor.
We thought they would probably do x-rays, but after being forced by the pediatrician, Libbie was at least hobbling around a little. Instead they insisted my little one have her blood drawn – after much, much screaming – so they could test for arthritis. SERIOUSLY, DOCTORS? One pulled muscle?
(P.S. Thank you to our children’s minister, Sarah, who stepped in and watched the boys for me until Mr. V could take over.)
So Monday evening Libbie was still limping heavily, but at least I didn’t have to carry her. I thought she would probably go to school the next day, and I made plans with a friend to hang out with our little ones (her daughter is about 6 months younger than Joshua).
Tuesday at 5 a.m., I woke up to Mr. V throwing up.
Bye bye, plans. Can’t risk contaminating other children. No other puking, thankfully, from anyone else in the family.
Wednesday, I think I will get to go to Bible study. But taking Libbie and then David to school (which, by the way, is an hour-and-a-half endeavor … thank God I don’t usually have to take David!), Joshua coughed … and coughed … and coughed. It was a sad and pathetic cough. So I canceled the plans and took him home. Where he promptly started running a high fever and then took a 4-hour nap.
My home is cleaner than it’s been in months. Seriously. And I shredded papers. And finished the laundry.
Because Joshua was still running a fever Wednesday night, I didn’t feel like I could take him anywhere Thursday, even though he woke up fine. So I missed our last MOPS meeting of the year this morning.
And here’s what Joshua did today.
Started the dishwasher and pressed buttons on the yogurt maker.
Dumped a slushy on the sofa.
Threw an untouched banana in the garbage can.
Asked for pizza for lunch then promptly cried about it and refused to eat it.
Cried about being in the stroller.
Cried about having food on his plate other than processed cheese product at dinner. (Then went and swiped more processed cheese product off the food line where we were eating outside the dining hall.)
Cried mercilessly all the way from our apartment until I got to David’s classroom to pick him up, then some more after we found David, causing a giant spectacle for the other preschool parents.
Tried to take a cupcake off the counter.
Colored himself with marker.
Tried to put a medicine dropper in the paper shredder when I left it unattended for 20 seconds.
Yep, he’s just your everyday Toddlerzilla. But after this week of a little too much togetherness, I am stir-crazy and tired of the toddler antics. Someone send help if I can’t leave the apartment tomorrow.
(Did I mention that he wanted to sleep ON TOP OF ME for half of last night? Not beside me. ON TOP.)
(Thank you for dealing with my pity party. I feel better now just getting it out.)
I just got a giant box of back issues of ParentLife in the mail. Something had been messed up with their contributor copy system, so it’d be more than a year since I got any physical copies. I flipped through each issue, glancing at my own articles, remembering how and when I wrote them.
The first time I was published in ParentLife it was almost a scandal. I still worked at LifeWay, although I was on the brink of leaving. My friend Jodi asked me if I would write something for them – I think it was about being a working mom. And I wrote it. And then my manager came in and told me they wouldn’t allow internal freelancing. He made me feel like I was about 5 years old. This was my dream, period. It was finally coming to fruition. And I felt it go splat on the carpet. I’m pretty sure I cried heaving sobs once he left.
After he found out that I’d actually already written the article, before he even knew or spoke to me, he let them publish it. I would have done it without the payment, though. For me, it was all about the byline. The actual being-in-print. Seeing my words sitting there in a magazine and knowing people might actually read them.
When I first started working from home and freelancing for the magazines, I scanned each article that I wrote, so I would be sure to have a digital copy in case I lost the magazine. For my “portfolio.” I laugh a little bit now at this 2009 Jessie.
I’ll admit that now I glance at the articles. I make sure they haven’t edited me so much that I no longer sound like myself. (This has never happened, but you never know.) I am glad for the paychecks but it’s longer glamorous to have my name in type. It just is. I love to write, and I am so thankful that someone pays me to do so. But it’s not the same level of excitement it once was.
Parenting feels the same way, for me. When we had just one child, everything was a big stinking deal. Decorating. Doing the right thing when she was sick or eating or sleeping. Every moment was new, and it was exciting. I remember asking my mom, when Libbie started grasping at toys, if it was as fun when your subsequent children did the same thing. Would I still be enthralled? She looked doubtful.
In some ways, I am. I am still tipsy with love when each child learns to totter around, talk, give kisses. It’s not less special just because I have experienced it three times. But in some ways, it is less of a high. Those long days they talk about can turn everything into monotony. Yes, Joshua narrated everything I brought home from the grocery store. David did a 48-piece puzzle … again. Libbie read me a chapter book. Can I go to bed now?
Joshua will be two in a little more than a month. (Let’s not talk about that, OK? It makes me cry.) For Libbie’s second birthday, we had a big old Dr. Seuss-themed party in our rental home’s backyard. For David’s second, we had some friends, mostly adults, come over and ate appetizers and failed to take a single picture. And for Joshua’s second birthday? Ummm … maybe some cake at home? He’s only going to be TWO, right? It’s not like he’ll remember!
I’d like to remember to get down and experience some of that wonder every day. This involves closing the laptop and ignoring the dishes. (Because I don’t totally ignore the dishes anyway …) It means I actually get down on a child’s level and listen to him or her talk. I wonder at the magnificence of their tiny voices, of David’s precise coloring skills, of Joshua’s curly blonde head, of Libbie’s sensitive heart as she talks about interactions with her classmates. I don’t try to multitask. I just am, there, with them.
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
It was right around two years ago that I found out I was carrying around an unsuspected visitor in my abdomen. Having just returned from a vacation to the Outer Banks where I was in my best friend’s wedding, in the weeks prior I had: drank wine, taken Aleve and muscle relaxers for my back problems, been in a hot tub, and probably 18 other things you’re not supposed to do pregnant. After spending a whole day in bed sleeping – which I chalked up to recuperating from the trip – I woke up the next morning after having a vivid dream, the kind I only have when I am pregnant. And I knew, right away.
I didn’t tell Mr. V until I took a test that afternoon, and you can read about the very subtle way I announced it to him here. It was a manic day anyway, and I was upset. Angry. With my PCOS, it SHOULDN’T be that easy to get pregnant. We were practicing natural family planning, but my cycles are kind of crazy, not to mention I was still nursing David when we got pregnant. Only a few cycles in, I was still trying to figure out how NFP worked for me.
Everything about Joshua has been a surprise, from his conception to his gender – I was SURE he was a Katie – to his relatively easy birth compared to my other two. I’ve been surprised by his personality, how he is like and unlike his brother and sister, by his unwillingness to eat solids until 9 months, by the way he used mommy like a teething ring. As a third child, you may think there wouldn’t be much left to surprise me about parenting … but you would be wrong. Because when they say each child is different, whoever “they” are, they’re right.
Nothing about him, though, was an accident.
I’ve written before that I’m not sure we would have taken the leap willingly into three-child territory. But Joshua’s place in our family has been perfect. He is a laid-back, extremely happy little guy. He entertains his siblings and lets them entertain him. He naps well and often, and sleeps at night. While Libbie is an extreme extrovert and has zero attention span and David is an introvert and very focused, Joshua rests in the middle. He embraces activities with enthusiasm, sometimes playing with cars for half an hour and sometimes listening to three words of a book before bounding away. He is mischievous in a way neither of my other two have been.
Looking at our Joshy’s sweet, smiling face, I find it hard to believe that at one time I wasn’t at all excited to hear about his presence. Joshua makes our family better, happier, sillier. I know that his existence is no accident but a gift from God, whose timing far supersedes my plans.
What I want to say to other moms who might be facing unexpected pregnancies is this: pregnancy may be awful for you, or maybe you think you can’t handle another child, or afford one. But no matter how this baby was conceived, in love or hate or with perfect timing or what you find to be the worst timing conceivable … he or she exists for a reason. You will get through it, Mom. And I’m pretty sure some day you will sit back and realize what a blessing this unexpected child is to you.
(And if you’re in an impossible situation, I hope and pray that you will consider adoption, the greatest gift you can give another couple and that child.)
Until Friday, I had been breastfeeding or pregnant for all but six months since February 2008. For a few months when I got pregnant with Joshua, I was even both!
I’d been ready to wean Joshua for awhile, honestly. You might think that’s strange since I nursed David until he was 20 months old. And really, I think David just gave up because I was pregnant and there wasn’t much there. He is my most dependent child. And that’s OK! We were mutually OK with nursing.
Joshua is a fierce biter when it comes to nursing. I’ve tried every trick and tool in the arsenal to get him to realize that this isn’t allowed. Nothing works. He might stop for a little while – a few weeks, maybe – and then as soon as he is teething again it’s back with a vengeance. This has been going on since he was about 9 months old. At 10 months, though, he was rather feisty and refused to take a bottle, which hampered any weaning. At 11 months, we were better with the bottle … and then he got the flu. He wouldn’t eat or drink except for nursing. So that’s what we did.
For the last six to eight weeks, I’ve only nursed him once or twice a day. And he hasn’t done much chomping down, but he thinks a little gnawing isn’t too bad. I beg to differ.
Friday he pretty much demanded to nurse (it’s amazing how insistent a nonverbal person can be, isn’t it?) and then didn’t actually drink anything, just tried to chew. He likes to do this with his bottles – drink some, then chew on the nipples and walk around with the bottle hanging from his mouth. It’s cute when it’s the bottle. Not cute when it’s my body.
After repeating this twice, I gave up. And decided that was that. We were done.
We’ve now gone four days with no nursing. He hasn’t asked, either, so that helps. I thought I would be jubilant. In a way, I am. I will be glad to have my body back. I am sincerely hoping my chest will deflate a little.
But then I saw my Boppy. Someone had tucked it away in the linen closet. It made my heart sink. Because I am guessing Joshua is probably our last baby. I am not 100% sure, but it’s probable. And I do love nursing. I love that connection. I am mourning the fact that I didn’t have one last sweet nursing time with my Joshy. (Not that I remember any “last times” with the other two.) I’m sad that it might be the end of this part of mothering for me.
Like every phase in parenting, I think, there are many times you wish it to be over. And then it is. And you mourn, deep down, soul-sinking kind of sadness. Just one more time, you think.
One more toothless smile.
One more time that he sleeps in your arms.
One more bang on the high chair.
One more glittery shoe.
You wanted her to eat solids, him to sleep through the night, to get rid of that high chair, to stop seeing glitter all over the carpet each day.
But then those pieces of parenting are gone. And you miss them.
Four days without, and I miss the nuzzle of a baby at my breast already. The feeling of accomplishment, that my body nourishes my baby, it does what it’s supposed to do. The sweet wisps of baby hair on my hand as I rub his precious head. Tiny hand beating me like a drum, happy at his milky time.