Every night before bed, I tiptoe into each of my boys’ rooms. Mikey is usually scrunched up in the fetal position with everything thrown off his toddler bed except his beloved blanky. His hair is matted with sweat and mouth is sucking adorably on the binky I rationally know he is too old to have. He still looks like my sweet baby boy (I know my attempts to keep him as such border on pathological and will be a source of family therapy topics later on in his life). Then I make my way to Will’s room. There he is, lying on his back with his hands behind his head (just like his Daddy), sleeping in his full size bed, Lightning McQueen sheets, and favorite stuffed animal of the week. Books are strewn about him, as he is proudly learning to sound out letters and words (“proud mommy face”), and undoubtedly there are a few action figures in his bed. His “pooh blanky”, which until recently he clung to ferociously, is nowhere to be seen most nights. It’s most likely shoved under blankets or under his bed. But, the fact that it is no longer over his face or snuggled on his cheek reminds me of just how much he is growing up. He looks so old to me lying there that I swear in the glow of his various nightlights I can actually see him growing up. When did he stop being my little toddler and become a full fledged boy? It’s this time of night when those mommy fears and doubts creep into my mind. What if I am failing them as a mother? What lessons did I let slip away because it was just too hard, and I was just too tired, to stop and teach them? Did I give them more material for their future memoirs on why they are neurotic perfectionists or lazy sloths? Most importantly, did they feel God’s love and learn His wisdom through me or did they just see a tired, stressed out mom barely hanging on?
It’s been a tough month…okay, months. This week alone I have been impatient, neglected my husband, said things I regret, not listened to my children as I should have, let them get away with things I should have disciplined immediately… the list goes on. I am in the middle of a detox of my medications so we can see what un-medicated Stephanie looks like – good-bye pain medications, good-bye prednisone (and various other medications that have supposedly been “helping” me) – all in an effort to see what is a side effect and what is a symptom of this mysterious connective tissue disease I have (Sounds fun, eh?). It has been a painful and wearying process. But, we are blessed despite the pain and disruption to our lives. My beloved “Other Mothers” have come to the rescue taking care of my children so I could get much needed naps, go to appointments and, often, they take over mothering all together when my body does not cooperate and leaves me stuck in bed. While I lie in bed hearing my oldest having a meltdown because he just doesn’t understand why mommy is in bed again, my heart aches and I worry what psychological “damage” my illness is having on them. Because I am often ill and they are taken care of by various (caveat: wonderful) caretakers (or a mommy not fully “there”), I know they get too many treats, are said “yes” to too many times when it comes to toys at the store or runs to the ice cream truck. I know there is a certain amount of “path of least resistance” on my bad days that leaves me praying I’m not raising little hellions! However, they are also two little boys who are loved and cherished by many adults. They know they are special and have their own little pep squad to help them with the challenges of being two and three. I just hope they know how crazy their mommy is about them, even when I can’t be the one taking care of
I fear…what if…if only…I wish…I think all parents do (especially mothers). If there is anything I have learned over the past 31 years is that God can use it all – our successes, our screw-ups, our strengths and our not-so-lovely traits. He certainly uses mine to refine those around me and myself. During a particular difficult time with my illness and its impact on my family, my husband was venting to his best friend about the burden of being a spouse of a chronically ill wife. His best friend wisely suggested, “Maybe she isn’t sick for what it can refine in her, but what it can refine in you.” While I know it was intended to help him look at the situation in a different way, it helped me to remember that God can redeem the challenges of having a chronically ill wife or mother for my husband and children. He can bring joy out of suffering, peace out of chaos, and comfort when the world says to despair. The key is to what voice we pay attention. It’s easy to fear for my children, my marriage, my own future with the unknowns with which I am faced. But, living like that leaves the present an awfully bleak place to be. From experience, personally and through others, I have seen the power in surrendering your reality to the Almighty – He transforms people, even when He doesn’t transform the situation. Sometimes I have to surrender my fatigue (pain, moods, frustrations…) over and over again — every hour or every minute. But, when I do it allows me to quiet the noise of fear, anger, resentment, disappointment and hear the quiet voice of God reassuring me “You’ll get through this and so will they. You have no idea how I am going to use your pain to do My work on this earth. Trust Me. And, this life is just a pit stop. There will be a day with no more pain. Whether it comes in one month, one year or when I begin eternity with God – it doesn’t really matter. Joy always comes in the morning. And during this dark night, I surrender myself to the God who will help me, my husband and my children find the Light.
“Should we feel at times disheartened or discouraged, a simple movement of heart toward God will renew our powers. Whatever He may demand of us, he will give us at the moment the strength and courage that we need.”