Photo credit: kattebelletje.
I am not a fan of the question that’s often posed to new mothers: “Is he a GOOD baby?” As if an infant can misbehave. Even in toddlerhood, it’s not as if the child truly grasps the concepts of good and bad or even allowed and unallowed behaviors. But I know what most people mean when they ask this question, so I answer it as they expect: Yes, Garrett was a good baby. He didn’t cry unless he was hungry, in pain, or terribly overstimulated. He didn’t even cry if his diaper was wet or dirty, so it was my job to monitor the state of his waste management. He was so easy to care for that he lulled me into a false sense of security and tricked me into thinking that I was a GOOD mommy. And he left me completely unprepared for the times when he would be feeling ill or out of sorts and would cry for hours on end (read: 20 minutes).
I know many moms have been through the boot camp of colic many times over, and they would probably roll their eyes at me. But honestly, I worry sometimes about whether the next baby will be needier than Garrett, and if so, how will I handle it? Will I resent him or her? Be rough and unkind and unresponsive? I hate that feeling when Garrett’s cries begin to wear my patience down, where my frustration begins to feel like a physical ailment, and I snap at him or at Jon or the animals or start throwing a little fit of my own.
Yesterday Garrett had a bad case of diarrhea, and when I came home from work the babysitter said that he’d been moody most of the day. He was moody for the entire rest of the night. I’m guessing that his stomach was cramping because he just laid about listlessly, moaning and crying, occasionally thrashing about and hurting himself or whoever was holding him at the moment (usually me). He was warm to the touch but not burning up, and all I could think to do was give him some gas drops and a little Tylenol and a full sippy cup. I laid him down around 8 p.m. and he spent the next hour and half doing the crying/moaning/thrashing thing in his bed in the dark, with me sitting on the floor next to him and crying.
At those moments I just pray for compassion, because that’s when it’s in short supply and my mind is filled with ideas about how I’m getting the raw deal. It’s easy for me to feel sorry for my baby when he falls and skins his knee and comes rushing to me, lets me kiss the boo-boo and cuddle him, and then he turns around and gets back to work as if nothing happened. But in those times when he needs me, when he is just consumed with sadness or pain and yet is pushing me away, those moments I am tempted to just stand up and walk away, because that is HARD. Right? It’s hard when someone you love needs you badly but they are resisting every bit of help you have to give and you just want to leave them to their devices because hey, you don’t deserve to be treated like this!
Surely you see where I’m headed.
And it is frustrating to get to a point in parenting (and in so many other things – in your job, in your marriage, in your faith) where all of a sudden your confidence is pulverized because dear God, THIS right here? THIS is hard. Things were going good and you were feeling like you had it all figured out. And then something – a rival coworker, an impossible-to-please boss, a job loss, an indiscretion, a pastor’s betrayal, you name it – almost LITERALLY brings you to your knees. You would feel humbled if you weren’t so tired and hurt and ANGRY.
Right? Am I the only one who’s had this happen? (Over and over and FOR GOD’S SAKE OVER.)
You know, this reminds me of two awesome sayings I recently saw on Facebook, both of which literally had me laughing out loud. The first one was, “Why does life insist on teaching me lessons that I have no desire to learn?” and the second was, “Okay, I’m ready for some blessings that AREN’T in disguise.” They’re funny because we all get it. We’ve all had times in our lives when it has just sucked to be us.
I think it sucked to be Garrett last night. I joke a lot about how it’s “hard to be little” but seriously, last night it was. He had no idea WHY he felt so bad, no concept of when it would end (or even that it would) and no idea why mommy and daddy couldn’t fix it. At one point while he was trying to get to sleep he sat up in bed and looked at me with the biggest, saddest eyes ever and all that compassion I’d been asking God for hit me, because I wasn’t thinking about how hard this was for me anymore, my heart hurt with how hard it was for Garrett. And he leaned over, three or four times in a row, to give me a kiss. As if he realized that he really needed mommy even though he felt so crummy he couldn’t stand to have her touch him. Then he laid back down and continued to fuss quietly while occasionally throwing a for real I-feel-like-shit fit.
He slept in this morning and was in great spirits when he got up. He cuddled with mommy for a bit, ate a big breakfast and colored and played bubbles, was appropriately cranky at naptime and went right to sleep about five minutes after lying down. I guess the virus or whatever it was has run its course, and we’re back to normal life, just like that, as if it didn’t even happen, and I thought to myself, I have to write this down. I have to write down how it felt to sit through that with him, how it felt when my husband joined me on the floor and rubbed my back as I rubbed the baby’s, how I realized at that point I am so blessed to be a mom, it’s not just the Kodak moments that make me feel immeasurably grateful, it’s the times when I realize that I’m actually doing some good, that our little family is exactly as it should be. And I know that whatever comes, it too shall pass, and sometimes blessings in disguise are the very best ones because what’s a gift – what’s life – without a little suspense, a little mystery, a little surprise?