but we don’t really understand that saying until we’re parents. Parents of newborns, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, and I am sure my mom would agree, adult children, too! In essence, parenthood is just one big test of our patience. Are we patient enough to listen to what are children are saying? Are we patient enough to hear what they are saying? Patient enough to let situations play themselves out instead of intervening and cutting off opportunities for real growth and development? I, for one, am not that patient a lot of the time. But sometimes I find myself with unending patience and I wonder where did that come from?
This morning I came home from dropping N off at school and was all gung-ho for my uber productive day of cleaning the kitchen, folding ALL of the clothes in the multiple piles of now unidentifiably clean or not clean clothes in our house, reading sleep books, vacuuming the stairs and floors, and of course grocery shopping. All of this before I have to go back out to get N early from his school for a follow up eye check up (but that’s another awesome-moment-in-parenting story). I felt invigorated. It’s Monday and there is so much potential and hope ahead of me this week! I put my 7 month old, R, down for a nap, and like every mother, contemplated what I will have time to do before he wakes. I walk to the kitchen but that is WAY too overwhelming to deal with before I’ve had my second cup of coffee and anything to eat, so I grab a bowl of fruit, and decide to pump (item #34 on my TO DO EVERY DAY list- although this is the first day I’ve actually done it). Feeling quite accomplished already that I have actually done something I wanted to get done today, I pull the suction cups off and hear a grunt over the monitor. NO!!!! He can’t be up. It was only 30 minutes. I have 40 more things I was planning on finishing before he woke, he can’t really be up. I tell myself this every day, even though he typically only sleeps for 30 minutes in the morning- I let myself believe that TODAY will be different- today he will sleep for 3 hours in the morning. I let him whine for a few minutes as I am wont to do because, naively, every day I keep hoping he’ll go back to sleep- and every day I am disappointed that he won’t.
After a few minutes I walk upstairs and low and behold there he was with his face, hair, and ear covered in his own vomit- not spit up but vomit. I felt like a total crap mom. I knew he was making his distressed whining grunts but I kept hoping against hope that he would just go back to sleep. Poor kid. So I picked him up, gave him a bath and cleaned him up. I could tell he was still exhausted, so we rocked for 20 minutes, him all snuggly against me, and me on the brink of sleep while rocking back and forth. Now it’s been over 30 minutes since woke and he is beginning to fall back asleep against me. But because I am determined to get him to fall asleep in his crib, and I often have success transferring him from me to the crib, I put him down, pat his back, shush him for a minute and walk out, excited at all the time I still have left to get everything done on my list. Not even a step from the door I hear it- a whimper. I pull my shoulders up and walk back into the room. I am kicking myself for putting him down before he was in a deep sleep and begin to shush and pat, shush and pat….
After almost one hour later of him being exhausted but refusing to sleep in my bed, the pack and play, his crib or on me, the excitement of MONDAY is fading, and the minutes are ticking away. But I am obsessed with my children’s sleep. I am the commander-in-sleep at our house, and I am determined to get my child down to nap when they are tired. 30 minutes later nothing, except now he is so overtired, angry, and in all out hysterics that it’s clear he needs a change of scenery. I bring him downstairs and let him play on his mat for a bit while I eat some more, drink some more coffee, and scan the overwhelming amount of stuff that is taking over our house, reassuring myself I still have time to clean IT ALL today. I write a few emails and then decide to feed R lunch, after all it’s noon now and my morning has passed with no more accomplished than 2 oz of pumped milk- which at the time seemed great but now looks pathetic.
After pureeing the steamed carrots I made yesterday that have now sat in their own stinky vegetable juice out of the fridge for the better part of a day- because I forgot to put them in- I am feeling hopeful gain. It’s only noon, I still have two hours before I have to pick up N, that’s plenty of time to get IT ALL DONE. R likes the carrots, it’s the first time he’s eating them, and we both seem better now that we’ve had a change of scenery. But I can tell he is now beyond exhausted and his eyes are red and he’s making his tired grunting sounds and so I change his diaper and we head back upstairs (which feels more like walking back onto a battle field that you’ve already bloodied) for his ‘afternoon’ nap. I rock him, read him a book, put him in his sleep sack, and pat his back. His eyes are heavy and he is really gonna do it this time. I am feeling that excited/hopeful feeling again, of WOW, I CAN GET SO MUCH DONE NOW, and I head downstairs to tackle the kitchen, which should be condemned at this point. I look around at the dirty dishes, the sticky floor, the half eaten food left everywhere, the groceries left out from last week’s shopping and begin to sweat. I go try to find my sleep books since I am feeling at wit’s end about how to get R to be a better, more consistent daytime sleeper. I can’t find my sleep books so I sit down to write this post, and think about this morning. It is now almost 1 pm, I’ve been home for 4.5 hours and all I’ve accomplished is eating a bowl of fruit, sent 4 emails, ate a snack, drank two cups of coffee, and pumped 2 oz of milk….or was it?
As I sit down to write, I realize that I accomplished way more than that this morning. I may not have cleaned the kitchen, folded any clothes, read anything about sleep, went grocery shopping, or vacuumed the stairs, BUT I held my baby a lot. I never once lost my cool with R- I kept rocking, patting, shushing, and singing. I held him close to me and showed him that I care, that I love him, and that I am his number one. I listened to his needs, and put my needs second, third, and fourth. Without thinking about it and without much intention, I realize that despite how much I had hoped to get done, I was super patient with R this morning. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that every day my patience is tested again and again. Although I don’t know where that patience comes from, and I know that as he gets older it’ll wane significantly as parenting N has taught me over the last 5.10 years, I am grateful that today I was patient with R. I can take a deep breath and feel good about that. My house is no cleaner, my life no more organized and my brain no less cluttered, BUT I look at R and know he felt my love and patience. And it may have taken three hours of endless patience but now he has been sleeping for over an hour, and is finally getting the rest he needs and so I can feel good about that, too. As parents of small children that need us and need from us all the time, it’s easy to think we’re not accomplishing anything, but if we pause once in a while and think about it, we realize that we are giving them much more than we think, and usually that’s the stuff that really matters.