Our Kids Deserve Moms Who Ask for Their Forgiveness

I forgot my daughter’s first kindergarten assignment today. Not like, it was the first time I forgot, no… it was her first assignment ever (really, my first assignment) and I forgot to do it. It was simple – take a picture of her getting ready for school and bring it by September 3rd. Noooo problem, I told myself when I read it in her folder last Friday. I’ll get it done this weekend.

LOL.

My little kinder girl reminded me on Monday – “Mom, I need to bring my picture in!”

“No, no. Not until Friday. We have time. But let’s go ahead and take it.” I said, still confident I’d successfully be putting a printed picture in her folder for her to take in on Friday.

We took the pictures. Her pulling on her socks, backpack, and mask with exaggerated slowness so I could snap a couple pictures. Phew. Halfway there.

Wednesday came around, as it always does, and I was met with, “Maammmaaa, I need my picture!”

“Oh yes. I know. I’ll get it printed. You don’t need it until Friday, it’s ok.” My Wednesday-self reassured her as I bounced a crying baby and ushered her 3-yr old sister to the living room to get ready.

But. Then I slept for 3 hours Wednesday night because my sick 3month old was wheezing and coughing all night.

Sooooo when Thursday came around, I was running on caffeine and mom-power; y’all know that combo, right? So OF COURSE that’s when I found out my work had messed up my return from maternity leave and I’d somehow been removed from the payroll so I’d essentially been working for free for the past month. And, OF COURSE, as I was sending emails to HR, the nurse from the kindergarten called and said my daughter had been directly exposed last week to a classmate who had tested positive with COVID. I started googling where to find a rapid test available in the city, wondering if all the urgent care wait times of “548 minutes” were accurate, and asking my husband if I should just have her skip gymnastics (her fav part of the week) and take her with me to the pediatrician appointment I had for our son in a few hours to beg them to test her while we were there. He picked her up from school and we played car swap in the driveway as I made it to the doctor only five minutes late.

I got work sorted, got 2 of my 3 kids tested for COVID (both negative, thankfully), gave my wheezing baby a few puffs from his newly prescribed inhaler and Tylenol for his double ear infections, fed my kids fabulously healthy Happy Meals – then put them all to bed. I promptly sat on the couch with some cookie dough and watched an episode of Scrubs with my husband before going to bed.

Enter this morning. “Mama, I need my picture.”

Ugh.

Mom-guilt smacked me full in the face.

“Sorry, I don’t have it. I forgot and I don’t have it.”

“But, I need it! I’m supposed to have it!”

“I know, but I don’t have it. Tell your teacher I forgot and I’ll bring it later.” My voice starting to rise.

“But maaammmaaaa.”

“I’ve had a hard week! I can’t do everything for all of you all of the time!!!!”

Ugh.

It just came out. Mom of the year over here…

Her quiet little voice spoke up, “It’s not for me, it’s for my teacher…”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ll go get it printed and drop it off, ok? It’ll be ok.” I felt my face get hot and my eyes start to burn as my husband left to drop her and her little sister off at their respective schools for the day.

I felt terrible guys- this was not my best parenting moment. This was not the social media worthy moment of love and affection between mother and daughter.

Was the picture a big deal? No, absolutely not. I messaged her teacher, had the picture printed at CVS, and dropped it off to her school all before her teacher even responded with, “No worries, I’ll be accepting pictures all month.”

But it was the fact I had forgotten. I’d disappointed my little girl who loves school and wants so badly to please her teacher, and then lashed out in anger when what I was really feeling was guilt for forgetting, overwhelm with the whole week, frustration with myself for not being able to do it all, and mostly – exhaustion.

Parenting? Is hard. Being a parent to small children in the middle of an on-going, no-end in sight, pandemic? Is very hard.

And I felt it this past week. And I’ll likely feel it again. And again. And again.

When juggling kids, work, a marriage, household chores, church small group meetings, extracurricular activities, etc. … Sometimes, assignments are going to be forgotten. Kids are going to get sick. Dinner is going to come from a drive-thru window. Work reports are going to be rushed. Pajamas are going to be worn to daycare. Showers are going to be fast. Laundry piles will be mountainous. Sleep will be seldom. And yes, tempers will be short. Words will be said in tones or intentions not rooted in love. These things will happen.

And apologies will need to be made.

As parents – we are NOT going to be perfect. We just aren’t. We can try our best, and be pretty darn great most of the time. But there are still going to be balls that get dropped from the juggling act we are doing on the daily. And sometimes, unfortunately, that dropping is going to be cause for apology to our kiddos. Not an angry, sassy, “Well, sorry – I don’t have it!” but a big hug after school and a, “I’m really sorry for forgetting your picture and for talking to you the way I did this morning. I was upset with myself, not you. Do you forgive me? And do you want some ice cream?”

I think it’s important that we acknowledge our humanness to our kids, and model humility by asking for their forgiveness when that humanness hurts their feelings.

It’s hard and uncomfortable and takes work. But our kids? They are so so worth it.

So, excuse me. I have to go get some ice cream ready for my girl. ❤

Your Last Day of Daycare is a Bittersweet Farewell

This is the part that gets me.

Come Monday morning, I’ll be rushing to get you and your younger siblings out the door and into the car so we can make it to the various drop off spots on time. I’ve been doing this routine for 5.5years now. Getting you ready, helping you get ready, and now- just telling you to get ready, loading up the car, and dropping you off to learn and play while I go to work. From drop off to pickup, we are apart for nine to ten hours a day.

So the twinge of leaving you or thinking of you being without me for a good chunk of the day? Doesn’t really twinge when I think of you starting Kindergarten in just two days.

Because you are a daycare kid.
From 11 weeks old until this very day- I’ve dropped you off and picked you up in this exact parking lot, five days a week.

Five and a half years ago, I walked through that door with you in my arms as a new little baby- my arms laden with too many bottles of pumped milk (because I didn’t know how many you’d need) and my spirit laden with worry about my first baby spending her day with strangers.

Today, you’ll bound out of that door, a full on kid- your long arms laden with art projects and your spirit laden with confidence because you’ve spent not just the day, but years, with people who know you and love you.

Those people fed you bottle after bottle when I wasn’t there to feed you myself. They helped you learn to walk and caught you when you fell – wiping away tears as my proxy. They taught you to spell your name and count to 100. I came to recognize the phone number that accompanied the familiar voice on the other end saying, “Not an emergency Mom, but…” informing me of yet another tumble you took from the playground, or of another “incident” you had with a friend.

These people that started off as strangers in a strange building became the faces and names you’d come to tell me about on the daily, in the place you’d come to think of as a second home.

My strong, emotional, wild-child of a girl. You are who you are because of genes, and your dad and my parenting, of course. But you are also who you are because of this place. Because of these wonderful people who not only let you be who you are, but encouraged it with love. And I know you won’t remember a lot of these first 5years when you grow up. But oh man, I will.

As your Mama, I’ll remember the complete relief I felt after realizing the people at your daycare not only kept you safe and fed, but happy and loved as well. I’ll remember the peace I had dropping you off day after day, being able to go to work and do my job without wondering how you were being treated all day. I’ll remember the excitement and joy on your face in the pictures and videos I received during the day from your teachers and the smile on mine in return.

So, on Monday, as you start your new adventure in Kindergarten, where you will learn all the things and make all the new friends, I’ll not be emotional that you’re growing up and leaving the house. Because you’ve been doing that for years.

It’s this part that gets me about this Kindergarten thing.
Your last day at this place that has come to feel like an extension of my love for you. A place filled with people I’ve trusted with you, my greatest joy, for five years.

So my love, if you climb in the van this afternoon after walking through that door for the very last time, and see that my eyes are puffy, know that I’m praying your next place will be as safe and secure for you as this one has been.

Because as your Mama, that’s all I really want for you. To feel loved and secure wherever you are, even if I can’t be there too.

Mama arms are strong, but Mama hearts are stronger

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure babies are held and toddlers corralled.
Muscles defined like never before.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure lunches are made and backpacks are packed.
Loaded with bags as she heads out the door.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure sheets are bought and pictures are hung.
Embracing in the dorm as she whispers, “Just one more”.

Mama arms are strong.
They carry and carry, lift and lift.
Making sure wedding details are sorted and hearts are at peace.
Wiping her eyes as the pair grace the dance floor.

Mama arms are strong.

But one day those physical arms won’t be needed to carry, won’t be able to lift.

And that is just fine.
Because those strong Mama arms?
They do their job well, but they merely represent.

Represent the strength and love of a Mama’s heart.

Because Mama hearts –
They carry and carry, lift and lift.

Carrying their babies close forever, no matter how big.
Lifting their love to the heavens to pour down on their kids, no matter how far.

Mama arms are strong, but only because the love in Mama hearts is far stronger.

And that strength lasts for always.

Babies aren’t babies for long, so I’m gonna hold this last one a little bit longer.

My first baby and my almost-here-3rd-baby.

There’s something surreal about discovering your first baby’s first loose tooth the same week you hit 38weeks of pregnancy with your 3rd baby.

Like, that first baby tooth could fall out the very same week that 3rd baby is born.

A wide gap tooth smile meeting a gummy one- one kid already having outgrown the very tooth the other has yet to even begin to grow.

The unexpected full circle-ness hit me in the gut as I stared at my “baby”’s excited face right as I felt a tiny fist punch me in the hip.

Just one more shock to the heart and confirmation that my first baby is slowly, but much too quickly, putting more and more distance between who she is now and the day when she resided safely in my body.

That distance will just keep growing, as she starts Kindergarten the same week the new little one will go to daycare for the first time – in 4 short months.

I stare at her as she dances with so much fire and personality in our living room- with more rhythm than I’ve ever had- and see her as the couple week old baby who couldn’t keep her pudgy legs from moving to the beat.

I watch her help her two-year old sister “do gymnastics” in the backyard and clearly remember her curly little head jumping courageously from the stairs as an unusually coordinated toddler, demonstrating the fearlessness she still exhibits today.

I see these things happening as I rub my, now huge, belly and can’t help but think God knew what He was doing when he graced us with this new little guy – right when He did.

I’ll have a new tiny sidekick to rock and read “That’s not my Monkey” to, as my big girl starts to read books on her own.

I’ll experience the joy of watching wobbly legs take their first steps as I watch long, strong legs walk confidently across the balance beam at gymnastics.

I’ll have one more time of experiencing the all encompassing dependence on me, right as my first born needs me less and less.

With this almost-here-3rd baby, I’ll experience his firsts and know just how incredibly special and fleeting they are. Marveling in a way I didn’t know to with my first baby’s firsts, and didn’t have the time or energy to with my second baby’s firsts.

And as his little baby teeth start to pop through those pink gums, I’ll see a glimpse of the future as I look over at his big sister and see her first grown up tooth popping up at the same time.

I’ll see these things and feel my heart burst with pride and love and all the things a Mama heart feels as she watches her babies grow up before her eyes.

And I’ll squeeze that new little baby even harder, and hold him a little longer.

Because I know first hand how fast my babies lose that title of “baby” to everyone but me.

Becoming Mama to someone new – Can you ever actually be ready?

“Are you ready?”

They see my large, round belly and waddling gait at 37 weeks and ask.

I think about the logistical things they could be referring to and say, “Almost. We should probably buy a few more diapers. And pack the hospital bag.” Because this is the 3rd baby and eh, it’ll be fine.

“Are you ready?”

They see me loading my 2 little girls into our van and ask.

I think about adding another little to our crew and say, “We are excited! The girls are excited to have a little brother. I think they’ll be a big help. Just need to put the infant carseat in the car.”

“Are you ready?”

They hear me mention work and ask.

I think about the projects I’m passing off and the 12 weeks of unpaid time off I’m taking and say, “I’m ready to not work for a bit, but still can’t believe my company doesn’t have any paid time off.  Good thing I’ve got some time saved up!”

“Are you ready?”

They remember my previous 2 birth stories and ask.

I think about the birth course I’ve taken, the app I listen to every night, and the 300 page book I’ve read  in an attempt to calm my nerves and be as prepared as possible this time around and say, “Actually, I’m way more prepared for labor and birth than I was with the other two so I’m feeling hopeful!”

“Are you ready?”

I hear this question over and over now, and usually answer it with some half answer like the ones above.

Not quite sure what the asker means.

And not quite sure how to honestly answer.

Because this isn’t my first time buying diapers and pacifiers in anticipation of midnight changings and fussy cries.

It isn’t my first time anticipating the pain and frustration of breastfeeding during those early days/weeks/months wondering if I’m doing something wrong.

It isn’t my first time organizing tiny clothes, thinking there is no way a human could fit into anything so small, only to be surprised when it fits just right.

It isn’t my first time giving birth, or recovering from the huge physical, mental and emotional feat that is childbirth.

It isn’t my first time adjusting to an additional child, feeling torn between wanting to spend as much time with the first kid as before, but needing to tend to the new one instead.

I’ve done all these things. Most of them twice.

So you’d think, the answer to the question at hand would be an easier, “yes!”

And maybe for those things listed above, that’s true.

But…

“Are you ready?”

My mama heart knows.

It knows that those things above, while important and huge and sometimes overwhelming, are not the biggest adjustment of having a child.

Because it isn’t my first time.

Not my first time having my heart ripped from my chest to forever walk around outside my body, in the same surge of power and guttural cry that marks the end of a nine month oneness with another human being.

Not my first time feeling an instant love, almost terrifyingly powerful, mixed with slight panic as I gaze down and realize this tiny person snoozing in my arms is 100% reliant on me.

Not my first time rocking and praying in the wee hours of the night that I will be the best Mama possible to this little soul entrusted to me on this Earth.

Not my first time feeling comingled grief and pride as I watch my baby become a toddler and my toddler become a child, seemingly in an instant.

No, this isn’t my first time.

Not my first time becoming “Mama” to someone new.

And somehow, that makes me less sure of the answer to the question.

“Are you ready?

Because, my Mama heart knows.

There’s no way to actually be ready for the transformation that takes place in your heart, mind, and soul when a tiny person looks up at you for the first time –

As their Mama.

The new baby is coming soon…

This doesn’t happen much anymore.

My two and a half year old fell asleep in the car and continued to sleep as I brought her inside. She typically wakes up as soon as the car stops, but after no nap and a long afternoon at the park, she was wiped. I debated waking her up as soon as I walked in the door but I looked at her perfect cheeks and realized- the new baby is coming soon.

I sat on the couch, draped a blanket over both of us and studied the symmetry of her face. The face that still has chubby cheeks to smooch, but is transfiguring from baby to child more and more each day. I stared and stared as my hubby and five year old wrestled on the floor, amazed that she had reverted to her infant-like ability to sleep through the chaos. I traced her nose and said out loud, “I should wake her up now,” but didn’t move because- the new baby is coming soon.

This little girl snoozing in my lap, who has been the baby for two and a half years? She relishes that baby position. She adores babies but also calls herself “a big girl baby” and asks to be carried in our arms like a baby when getting out of the bath. That little lady will be dethroned in a single day, not knowing what hit her as her new baby brother is born and brought home. She’s got four short months left as the baby. So I postponed dinner another twenty minutes and snuggled her close, after all – the new baby is coming soon.

As I watched her chest rise and fall the same way I did when she was just days old, I smiled to myself. I can pretend that extra twenty minutes of impromptu snuggling was a gift from God to this soon to be middle child, but I know better. This Mama heart knows it better than any; I was the one who needed my baby to sleep in my arms one more time for I know the full meaning of the phrase on repeat in my head- “the new baby is coming soon.”

My heart will always be your home, little one.

I feel you in there, little one.

Gentle, but there all the same.

A jolt here, a tickle there – reminding me of your miraculous presence inside my body.

Soon, your daddy will be able to feel your kicks with his hand and your sisters will squeal as they see my belly rumble and rise.

But for now, you and your life-proving acrobatics are all mine.

I see you there, little one.

Just a little bump, but there all the same.

Trusty jeans not fitting, favorite shirts stretching out – my slowly expanding body evidence of your own rapid growth.

Soon, strangers will ask to feel my obviously pregnant belly, flowy shirts no longer obscuring the life within.

But for now, my subtly rounded tummy is mine to wonder over and relish in.

I imagine you in there, little one.

Your tiny facial features hidden from the world, but there all the same.

Will your eyes be expressive and kind like your sister’s? Will you have your daddy’s smile?

Soon, your face will be ooh’d and ahh’d over by family and strangers alike, the focus of much adoration.

But for now, the details of you are known by my imagination alone.

My heart beats for you all the while, little one.

From the moment I saw the tiny “+” indicating your presence, you’ve been a part of me.

My heart pumping blood through our bodies, keeping us connected and alive.

My Mama soul whispering to yours in the confines of our hearts and wee hours of the night.

We have a special bond, you and me.

So, while I will rejoice when you are here in my arms and I get to share you with the world, I am cherishing these months where you are mine and mine alone. 

I pray you feel my love, little one.

Gentle and strong, there all the while.

For now, while my body is your home.

But also for always, because as long as it’s beating-

My heart will be your home, my sweet little one.

I get it now, Mama.

I get it now, Mama.

The sad face you wrote on your menu plan for the day we all left.

The day your kids got back in their cars and drove further and further from you to their homes they no longer share with you or each other.

I get it now, Mama.

When your oldest asked if you wrote that sad face and you answered with a shy little smile, “I didn’t think anyone would see it.”

The little sad face meant just for you and your Mama heart.

I get it now, Mama.

Your excited welcome at the familiar front door as we all piled in after days in the car and months apart.

The toy boxes ready and sheets all laid out.

I get it now, Mama.

Your lack of complaint as the babies woke the house in the middle of the night.

Your willingness to rise early with excited wee ones so your daughter could rest.

I get it now, Mama.

The trips to the park and the favorite foods.

Your fridge stocked as full as the rooms in the house.

I get it now, Mama.

I get why you wrote that little sad face at the end of the trip.

Your babies were all home. Under your roof once again – laughing and joking like days long gone.

And then they all left.

Now that I have babes of my own- I get it now, Mama.

The sadness that must still bring – to see your babies buckle their babies in car seats and drive far far away.

I get it now, Mama.

And some day, if my babies are grown and live 1,000 miles away, I know I will prep and plan for their visit to make it the best of the year.

Then when they all leave, I’ll write a little sad face as my heart twinges inside no matter how proud I am of the lives they all lead.

Because once you’re a Mama, your heart is no longer your own. A piece goes with each baby no matter how far they go.

So, I get it now, Mama.

The little sad face.

But don’t worry, Mama.

I’ll always come back. To your house that was my home.

Because that piece of your heart that lives within mine?

It’s a tether of souls that continues to grow. And as I get older and my own babies grow, my understanding of your love for me as my Mama deepens and expands.

I get it now, Mama.

The love so great and so pure it makes you write a little sad face when your babies are all gone.

Oh Mama, I get it now.

Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

Sweet Baby May, Don’t Forget Your Mama’s Heart Song

My Sweet Baby May,

As I rock you to sleep, I feel your soft, still squishy cheek pressed against my chest. I feel my heart beating rhythmically inside that same chest and imagine the sound waves bouncing soothingly off your eardrums in a familiar sleep inducing pattern.  It is the same pattern that composed the soundtrack of your creation.  From the time you were just a tiny cell, my heart beat was there, pulsing with nutrients and blood, giving you life.  When your little ears couldn’t yet hear, my heart beat was vibrating in the fluid cradling you, lulling you in a cocoon of safety and love. As your tiny ears started working, my heart beat was the first and constant song playing in your head. 

Your Mama’s heart song, playing for you.

Oh my love. Do you remember that song now as you lay sleeping?  Does it still comfort you now that you have officially been out in this great big world longer than you were held in my womb? Now that you have heard many songs and rhythms more complex and loud?  As you learn to scoot and crawl, I see you look back at me as if questioning if it is ok that you are moving further from me. Are you listening for my heartbeat little one? Seeing if it will reach you as you cautiously venture further away?  Is it what causes you to reach your arms up to me when I walk by? Is it what compels you to cry out for me in the night?

Are you finding your song, my love?

I think you are.  I think you still remember and still feel the song within you. I can tell by the way you look at me in that special way that is just for your Mama.  I can tell by the way you fall asleep fastest when it’s me rocking you.  I can tell when you reach your little hand up to feel my face, eyes still closed, while you nurse in the middle of the night. I can tell by the way your face lights up when I walk in the room, and by the wails of despair when I walk out.  I can tell when we cuddle in the rocker and your eyes flutter trustfully.  And I think, when you pull your head in close for snuggles after daycare that you are checking to see if your song is still playing for you.

And oh, is it playing.

Your song will forever be playing, sweet one.  Long after your soft pudgy cheeks have thinned and you no longer press your ear against my chest to fall asleep.  It will still be playing when you no longer look back but bravely venture full force into the world.  I know there will come a time when you no longer remember how much it comforted and surrounded you in the early months of your life- both inside and out of the womb, but it will still be playing.  I know there will be a day that snuggling with your Mama is a thing of the past, but it will still be playing on that day.  You see little one, your song is my life force.  That heart beat keeps me living, just as it kept you alive when you couldn’t survive on your own.  So my sweet girl, while you will grow up and forget the lyrics of your song, I hope you will not forget the rhythm of love it has been beating for you from the beginning.  I hope you will know that no matter how big you get or how far you venture, those sound waves are reaching out for you from inside my chest.  I hope you feel the vibrations of safety and love surrounding you even when you are far away.  And when you feel down or troubled, I hope that rhythm of your song is what plays in your head and in your heart.

And oh sweet baby May, know that for as long as I live, your song and the memories of us listening to it together will be playing on repeat in my heart.  Know that your Mama will always be here playing your song, welcoming you with open arms to come have a listen.