Church has not always been central in my life, but I must admit that I have found amazing help there as a mother. Church as a center for raising your family is so important! Besides the guidance that I get, I have used God as a model for parenting. He is a loving Father. He gives us boundaries and rules to follow. He gives us free will and He disciplines us when necessary. See, the perfect model.
I have also found that God has a sense of humor. We had three priests at our marriage ceremony. During the service and the sermon we were told to bring forth a family. God knows me and therefore knows that I am an overachiever. I guess I really took that blessing seriously. So, we had one child. How do you explain to a little one that you love her so much you are going to have another? Two year olds can do advanced math you know. When you have one mom and two kids, that to her is division of time and attention. Little ones have trouble with the idea that your love actually multiplies. It is a miracle, but it does.
Suffice to say that when "Calvin" arrived, "Sake" was not happy about it. Her first struggle was over another person getting my attention. Her second struggle was over who was the parent. I could not convince her that I was in charge. I had to be very careful not to leave her alone or I was likely to find that she had taken "Calvin” out of his seat. I also learned not to react with a gasp. My point, no matter how much you prepare your oldest for the birth of their first sibling, it is a shock. Your oldest could react in any number of ways. Be patient, be loving, and set those boundaries. If you don't get a handle on it right away, you have the potential to create a monster and make life miserable for yourself, your family and everyone around you. Discipline is loving too.
Don't be in a big hurry for all of the firsts in your kids’ lives. Enjoy whatever moment you are in…"Sake" was the center of our world when she was born. Our lives were dictated by her needs to eat, sleep and have her diapers changed. Have I mentioned that I do not like getting up in the middle of the night? As a result, I was particularly anxious for her to start sleeping through the night. So you would think that the first time it happened I would awaken pleasantly surprised and refreshed from a full night of sleep, right? Nope. I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic and sure something was wrong. In fact, I got up multiple times to check her.
This was followed by a host of other exciting firsts that weren't all that they were cracked up to be. Rolling over - which also means they can roll off places, crawling - which equals mobility, teeth -which means biting and crying, food - which is messy on the way in and smelly on the way out, walking - which means more mobility, and of course talking and potty training. It is all very exciting when it first happens but then reality and consequences come.
It was nice to be able to put "Sake" in one place and know she was safe and staying put. When mobility starts, you have to reassess the safety of your home. I have been to homes with children that look like padded rooms. Everything is covered and padded; only toys are in reach, shelves are empty, and everything seems to be nailed down. Now, I am all for safety. We covered outlets, and hid cords under furniture, some things like that. I saw no sense in teaching her that she controlled the house. I put something special up high because accidents happen and things get broken (well into early adulthood). I think there is a line between safety and excessive safety. It seems to be that it is important to start teaching children at an early age that there are boundaries and what they are. Believe me; they are capable of understanding that at a young age.
Enjoy each stage that your child is in. Don't be in a hurry to move on to the next. Be a parent. Set boundaries. Incorporate them into your lives and don't allow them to control yours.
So today, after spending a week with a new granddaughter, I went back in time to when her mother, “Sake” was born. I remember being really excited to be pregnant and a little surprised when at the end of nine months it was time to go to the hospital. She was due on Christmas Day and was the perfect child, not arriving on Christmas yet beating the end of the year deadline as a tax exemption! Oh yes, she was absolutely perfect in every way.
I am still shocked that she was born without incident, but I guess that is why God made doctors. We did all of the childbirth classes. I am a nurse, I went to class and was still unprepared for what was going on. “Doc” failed miserably. In fact, I made him retake the class when “Calvin” was expected. Have I told you that I hate peanut butter? Well, in our “Go” bag he packed peanut butter cups for himself. He ate them and breathed them in my face during labor! Oh yes, the breathing part. We were doing stage one breathing during transition. Thank God for epidurals! All the medical training in the world did not prepare us for this moment!
Sometimes I have a hard time relating to what my girls have experienced with their pregnancies. There is a lot more testing done during the nine months now. We never had an ultrasound unless something might be wrong. I am sure my mother felt the same way about me. Back in the dark ages when I was born, moms were put into a “twilight” sleep and woke up with a baby and dads were in waiting rooms not delivery rooms. My girls were very nauseous throughout their pregnancies. I may have had a few episodes, but for the most part I felt great. My weight gain was reasonable. My girls made me look like I was carrying a basketball in front of me. My boys gave me a big butt and thunder thighs.
I wasn’t the greatest baby sitter as a teenager, I am not sure why I thought I might be qualified to be a mother, but as always I jumped in with everything I had. My best advice to brand new mothers is to relax. They are little but sturdy. I listened as my girls were given advice by nurses on breastfeeding, car seats, bathing, etc. All good information, but you need to sift through it and do what feels comfortable for you. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. I encourage you to give it a try. It does give you a closeness to your child that is very special. Believe me though, your child is able to thrive on formula too. It is more about your contact with the child than anything else. Don’t let people guilt you into what they think you ought to do.
Get your rest! Those night time feedings can mess with you. I am not a person who enjoys being awakened in the middle of the night. “Doc” will vouch for me on that. Make sure your husband participates in those night time moments. “Doc” was great about getting up, cuddling the babies, changing them and then bringing them to me. Both of you need to bond with your baby. My biggest advice: Put the baby to bed in his or her own crib in a separate room. If you don’t you will be the one waking up every time the baby moves!
I still smile when I think about how it felt to become a mom. Just remember, the best thing you can do for you and your new baby is to love.
Sometimes when you are a parent, yoou feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. You feel like you have to be perfect. You feel like every mistake you make will leave a permanent scar on this beautful child that God has blessed you with. You are sure that everyone is judging everything you do and that every bad behavior or tantrum thrown is a reflection of your failure.
News Flash: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!! Every parent who has walked on this planet has been there. We have all had those moments where we "snap". God is beyond wise in providing two parents. This is not your life partner, your spouse is your tag team partner. Your spouse is supposed to be there to give you a break and save your little darling (s) from being grounded for life. And just in case your spouse is not available God gave you parents and friends to lean on for advice or a hug.
Give yourself a break when it comes to your expectations of yourself. I wish someone had told me that. In spite of my many mistakes, my kids always knew that I loved them, still do and always will. My moments of meltdowns are now the topic of many dinner conversations and always provoke laughter. ( don't worry, there will be plenty of opportunities coming up for me to share these shining moments with you ). Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do! You are not alone!
My best advice to you today is to develop your mom-sense. It is the common sense of being a parent that has been bashed for years by the "experts". I wonder how many of them have really succeeded at this job and how many are full of hot air. I will match my parenting against Dr. Spock's ( and I don't mean the pointy eared guy from Star Trek) any day of the week.
So, I am back to trying to decide where to go from here. Is there an order to follow, what is the most important thing I have to say. I have been keeping a list of things that I want to share at some point. But where does the path take us now?
You know, I have watched a few of the reality TV shows. Let’s face it, they are train wrecks. Once you start watching you just cannot stop. I, for one, really have to stretch my imagination to find five minutes of real life in any of those shows. Real life is boring, it is fun, it is exciting, it is happy, and it can be incredibly sad. Believe me though, there is not a dull moment when you are raising six kids. Every day is an adventure.
Everyone told me when I had our first child to treasure the time. It goes by quickly. They were right. Where has the time gone? I blinked and my babies are having babies. I can truly say that every age has been special. I have enjoyed the changes in our relationships as we have all grown. We raise them to be independent and responsible, yet it is heartbreaking when they do. “Sake” lives four and a half hours away. Close enough to visit for a weekend, but not close enough to give her a hug when one of us has had a rough day.
“Doc” and I were talking the other morning over coffee about whether or not it is important for the kids to get out on their own. I guess we finally decided that it depends on the kid. It works for some, but not others. We did conclude that something has happened to the American family. Something as simple as family dinners have become a rarity. We are that weird family who bans phones and technology from the dinner table. We actually talk to each other and communicate and laugh. As the “Ninja” has said “Dinner and a Show”. We are not willing to give that up. It is very precious. In fact, we are talking about copying a friend’s family and planning a family meal on a weekly basis. Our time together on this earth is relatively short and we need to use it more wisely. Talk, laugh and get to know, love and respect the individuals who make up your family. That’s my lecture for the day.
So, you probably think at this point that I am ready to officially introduce”Doc”. It would seem logical, since we have partnered in producing this amazing brood of children. Every once in a while, I prefer to put logic aside. For right now, let’s suffice to say, that our lives have been intertwined for over 31 years and he is already part of everything I have had to say so far. Trust me, you will learn about him as we go, just as I have for the past 31 years.
There is someone very important to me, and to all of our family that you need to meet. She would like to be known as the “Ninja”. I will give her that one because of her immense involvement with Karate, but she is definitely not ninja around us. She is part and parcel of the whole package and a full member of the family whether she likes it or not. The “Ninja” has been around almost since we moved into the area which was in 1993. Personally, I do not know what I would do without her friendship and oh yes – constant technology assistance. She has kept me technologically viable in this century.
Outside of that, she knows our family better than anyone in the world. Her simple description of an evening at our house is “it is always dinner and a show”. By the way, that is a pretty accurate description of dinner time. The jokes role, the antics begin, my son falls off his chair after being warned if he rocks backwards again …. (use your imagination). Reality TV? There is nothing real about it. Dinner at our house – it doesn’t get more real than that. Ask the “Ninja”. We love her and plan to keep her with us for a long, long time, or forever – depending on which comes first.
Well, just when you thought you had met all of the characters, and I do mean “characters” in my life, there are two more I would like to introduce you to. One would have thought that six children would be enough for anyone. I have a very special aunt who has seven. I am quite content with her holding the family record. Our seventh child is being introduced out of order. He is actually, age-wise in between “Calvin” and “Mini-Me”. I did not give birth to him; therefore my aunt gets the record. He did join our family as a teenager and Doc and I are pleased to be his Godparents.
“Superson” arrived as a fully grown man, with lots to learn. He earned his name because of his difficulties getting used to my “temper tantrums”. You know, those moments as a mother when you feel totally used and abused. You are the unpaid maid, laundress and cook. Those moments when you simply lose what is left of your mind. I tend to explode and chastise, knowing full well that silence is the better route. I cannot seem to control that mouth of mine yet.
At any rate, during a particular “storm”, “Superson” had been corrected. He tends to panic a little when that happens and goes overboard the other way, trying to appease me by being overly helpful. On one particular morning, I believe it was about 6:30 am in fact, he came in from mowing the lawn. His new brothers were horrified at the lengths he went to in order to quiet this “storm”. The boys immediately christened him “Superson” and they remind him of it every time he gets just a little too helpful. But seriously, we love him and are proud to have him as a member of our family.
One more important “character” to introduce – until tomorrow. . .
Finally to Number 6, the youngest. I am a nurse, my husband is a doctor. We understand human physiology. We withstood all of the “Haven’t you figured out what’s causing this?” comments. I smiled when people looked at me in the grocery store with five small children, pushing one cart and pulling a second cart, and pregnant with number 6. Those who said “God Bless you.” Heard a response of “He has!” All that being said, the youngest was “The Surprise”.
“Pook” chooses to torment him and tell him he was not wanted. Definitely not true, but what are brothers for? So, in spite of all of our medical training – number 6 was, The Surprise. I was shocked, but not nearly as much as 11½ year old “Sake” who declared that her life was ruined. Always thinking, “Calvin” saw it as an opportunity to balance the male/female ratio in the house or even take the lead if God would just give us two boys at once.
Thankfully, or should I say mercifully God simply evened the score with one more boy. After five children, this one gave me an education on unconditional love. I have always felt his love, from the second he was born. He has taught me how to receive love more than anyone else in my life. I look at him as a gift, let the others believe he was “The Surprise.” Love you too.
I am enjoying sitting with “Sake” and her beautiful family and remembering when each new baby came home from the hospital. I specifically remember how excited “Calvin” was when he finally got a brother (he had just about enough of all the girls we kept bringing home). We brought number 5 home at the ripe old age of 2 days. “Calvin” was ready to go and excited about his new playmate. Imagine his shock and disappointment when his new brother just lay there or cried. Why isn’t he playing?
Eventually “Pook”, as “Mini-Me” named him (we have no idea why) got mobile and was ready and willing to get into all of “Calvin’s” things. This baby brother thing was not as great as it first sounded. Later on,”Pook” became quite useful to his brother as bait for cute middle school girls. With that dimple of his, what girl wouldn’t fall for him?
“Pook” and I have always had a special relationship. We got even closer when he was injured in a car accident years after he was born – more on that later. No offense gentlemen, but for a guy he has always been very perceptive. He could walk into a room, take one look at me and know something was wrong. He would always give me a hug and kiss on those days. My heart would lift or tears would flow depending on what I really needed. To this day, I get my hugs and kisses from “Pook”, even in front of his friends! I hope they never stop. Love you “Pook”.
Number four arrived when the oldest (Sake) was only 5 ½. Apparently, I thought even back then that I was pretty good at this parenting stuff. “Doc” would ask if we could afford all these kids and when after delivery I would cry and say I was not ready to give this up, he would tell me it was just hormones and it would pass. Little did we know, we still had two to go.
We lovingly refer to number four as “The Blonde” for multiple reasons. First and foremost she is blonde. I actually have pictures of her when she was little where her hair actually seemed to glow. She was beautiful! (But they all were/are). You would have thought we were parenting experts. We came home from the hospital and she slept a full six hours! She was well-behaved and bright (most of the time). She would finish lunch at age 2 and grab her “blankie” and lay down for a nap, all without me saying a word! I was good!
Then she developed speech and some of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard started to come out of that beautiful mouth! An example, we were talking about head trauma and boxers one day and she made a comment about talking boxers (you know – the underwear). Her brothers can be a bit tough on her. They often say that she is the dumbest smart person they have ever known. She takes it all in good stride, and if nothing else she has made me laugh. She is incredibly bright and gifted athletically and we have enjoyed many triumphs and tears with her. She is a loving, giving, gentle soul and we love laughing with her.
Wife, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother, Nurse, Grandmother, Friend...that's me in a nutshell!