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.

The sanctification process that is the postpartum period

sanc·ti·fy (v)

present participle- sanctifying

Webter’s Dictionary defines this word as:

“set apart as or declare holy; consecrate”

“to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to”

“to purify”

I gave birth to my third baby two and a half weeks ago so I am in the throes of the postpartum period – or the 4th trimester, as it’s often called.

Diapers overflow the trashcans in basically every room.

Spit up is on virtually every shirt I own, and every onesie he wears.

Giant pads still grace our bathroom, alongside the squirt bottle sitting next to the toilet.

Stitches, not yet dissolved, a physical reminder of the force a 10lb6oz baby has when making his way through the birth canal and into the world head-first.

Lanolin cream stashed in all the common nursing spots, to hopefully prevent the cracks and blood that accompanied my previous two nursing journeys.

Sleep coming in two to three hour stretches, bleary eyes half open as I answer the midnight cries of the babe by my bedside.

This is not my first time experiencing the postpartum period.

But, it is my first time seeing it as sanctifying.

“To purify.”

As I rock my sweet babe in the middle of the night, clad in giant pad and spit-up crusted nursing tank – I am being purified.

As I sit out from the pool until my stitches have healed, with my guy strapped to my chest, perfect lips trembling in the way only newborn lips can – I am being purified.

As I do the tenth load of laundry in a week, in between cuddles and snuggles, the scent of laundry soap mixing with that distinct baby smell that only lasts so long – I am being purified.

As work is put on hold, the general busyness of life comes to a slow crawl, but the hours in the day are long and repetitive – I am being purified.

As I have to tell my daughters I can’t play with them right now, but witness them dote lovingly on their brother – I am being purified.

Purified from selfishness. My body, time, and energy are devoted to caring for the wee one that depends on me for survival.

Purified from pride. Motherhood is the ultimate humbler, reminding me I can’t do it all and help is to be accepted.

Purified from busyness. Slowness is forced upon me, and it is a gift.

Purification and sanctification.

So, yes, this 4th trimester? It is intense. It is messy. It is painful. It is exhausting.

But, oh. It is healing. It is beautiful. It is love-filled.

It is sacred.

And for it, I am exceedingly thankful.

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 pain and grief of Saturday amplified the Joy of Sunday

“But why is it called Good Friday? If he died? They didn’t know he was coming back, right?”

This is what my 5year old asked me this week as we were talking about the upcoming weekend and what the different days it included. I told her it was called “Good Friday” because the Sunday after was the day Jesus resurrected, so it was a good thing for us that he died. She still looked puzzled but went on and said, “Well, what is Saturday?”

I paused and thought about it. What was Saturday? Friday was full of terror and pain and injustice and weeping at the cross. Sunday was full of shock and joy and grace and incomprehensible happiness at the empty tomb and upper room. But Saturday?

I imagine Saturday was dark and heavy and full of grief. Creation itself dampened and dulled.

Mary, waking with a cry in the night with swollen eyes and a broken heart, the image of her precious baby boy crying out on the cross, forever seared into her mind.

Jesus’ disciples, feeling the weight of their dear friend’s absence as they opened their eyes and shamefully remembered their scattering of the day before – feeling lost and alone without their Shepherd.

The women, gathering to cry and make logistical preparations to pay Jesus’ body respect the next day.

Jairus, and his very much alive daughter that Jesus had reached down into death to pull back into life– eating breakfast quietly together as tears silently slid down their faces.

The leper, surrounded by family and friends, because Jesus had crossed religious and cultural barriers to touch and heal him– weeping openly that his healer had been crucified.

The old lady who had been brave and full of faith to reach out her hand and touch Jesus’ cloak – given extra years of life – sitting in her house, staring out the window, unconsciously caressing her wrinkled cheek with her fingers, remembering the feel of the material and the piercing gaze of eyes blazing with love and compassion.

And the tomb. Full. Full of Jesus’ body while he experienced utter separation from his Father as he spent the day buried beneath the weight of human kind’s sin and sadness – cut off from Love.

Cut off from Love because of his great love – for us.

As we go about our Saturday sandwiched between somber Good Friday services and bright Easter Sunday services – let us not rush past the grief of Saturday.

And as we go about our lives, sandwiched between our births onto this Earth and the bright joyful Eternity – let us not rush past the grief and pain and other feelings that come from living this human life.

Because there is room, in this ultimate story of hope, for grief. In fact, deep sorrowful grief is built into this very story of hopeful joy.

So, there is room in our stories for it as well. In fact, our stories of grace and hope and joy have grief and sadness and disappointment built into them as well. It is what it means to be human.

We are not meant to sweep our feelings aside, much like Children’s Bible books sweep past Sad Saturday, just because “this is not our home.” Jesus makes it so very clear in his life, and in his death, that when bad things happen in this fleeting life? It is ok and healthy to feel them and be sad. Jesus WEPT when his friend Lazarus died, even though he, himself was about to raise him from the dead! And God could have resurrected Jesus 5 minutes after he died and took the weight of our sins. But he didn’t. He let Saturday happen.

You see. Saturday’s deep pain and grief? It did not cheapen the joy of the resurrection on Sunday. Absolutely, not.

In fact, the grief of Saturday amplified the joy of Sunday’s resurrection.

Just as the moments of suffering and grief in this human life we’ve been granted will amplify the joy of the Eternal Sunday we’ve been promised.

So yes. Sunday is coming. But remember – Saturday happened too.

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.

A prayer for my kids on Election Day 2020.

Jesus,

Please help me to teach my children, and lead by example, the way of Love. Your Way.

Let me raise them to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
Let me raise them to welcome the stranger and visit the prisoner.
Let me raise them to tend to the sick and give drink to the thirsty.

Jesus, please.

Let me raise them to love their neighbor as themselves and let them understand the vastness and inclusivity of the word ‘neighbor.’
Let me raise them to take care of the widow and the orphan.
Let me raise them to strive for peace and humility while giving a voice to the powerless.
Let me raise them to know that the Kingdom is greater than one country.

Jesus, please.

Help me to show them how to use their words to instill hope and healing, not division and hate.
Help me to show them how to love their enemies and recognize that all are your image bearers.
Help me to show them that faith apart from works is barren.

Jesus, please.

Show me how to raise lights in this darkness.
For this world has been, and will continue to be, dark in the hours, days, weeks, months and years to come – no matter the outcome of this election.

Please, Jesus.

Help me be the kind of Mama that points her children to you and your ways with my words and actions.

Today, and every day.

Amen.

Mamas. If we profess to love Jesus with our lips, let us remember to act like Him as well. Especially when/if the election does not go the way we voted.

Let us remember that God chose to send his son – the King of Kings and Lord of all Lords, as a helpless baby, who grew up to be a humble man, not living in a White House, but who traveled around with nowhere to call his home, spreading love and the good news of salvation to everyone.

Let’s be careful to remember that we are members of a Kingdom not bound by this Earth first, and citizens of this country second.

Please, exercise your right to vote. It is a privilege many do not have. But please, please. Let us remember our calling and mission – to love God and love His people… all of His people… all of the time.

Little eyes are watching us and it’s our job to show them how.