Monday, December 29, 2008

Parenting Reflections for 2008

Hmmmm, as I sit here fingers poised and ready to type out a novel, I find myself with writer's block. Isn't that funny coming from someone who usually has way too many things on her mind and has trouble narrowing down what it is she will blog about. But that's me. I have started this post about thirty different times on probably just as many occasions, and I still am not sure what it is that I want to convey in this post. As you can see by the title of this post, it is about parenting, but what about it?

I guess I could sum it up by saying that a parent is a continual work in progress, and that no matter how awesome they appear, they are far from perfect--------ahem, speaking from experience that is. Take two weeks ago---- While I was going to the bathroom, you know who was sitting at my feet and in an instant, Dennis reached behind the shower curtain and pulled out a razor and stuck it in his mouth...... before my quick reflexes could take it out of his hands. How did I not see that one coming? Don't worry, I was there to prevent him from getting hurt, but it was sobering that even I after years of practice, didn't have it all together all of the time.

Oh, and what about Sveta's ringworm on her face? I saw that she was developing a rash on her face, but refused to believe that it was ringworm at first. Doesn't everybody know that Reed kids are too good to get ringworm? After I was thoroughly insulted by the school nurse who suggested that this is what my lovely daughter had, I went home and googled it, and sure enough, she had it. I immediately started putting on an anti-fungal cream, but the ring wasn't getting any better after two days. That is when I noticed that she kept touching it, like every few minutes. I insisted that she stop touching at, but after three more days, it was evident that she was touching it when I wasn't around. No amount of love, encouragement, begging, or demanding was going to get my sweet Sveta to stop touching it, so I got my creative parenting juices flowing.
"Sveta, No gum or candy until your ringoworm goes away. That means, don't touch it!"
And guess what? Within two days, the ring was nearly flat, and on the third day, we celebrated. Sveta got a piece of gum. I winked at her, and pointed to my nose and simply said, "Mama knows."
Little things like this happen everyday..... I think it comes with the territory, and I can certainly handle it, but there are times when I feel like I am not enough, not patient enough, not caring enough, not strong enough, not wise enough, and not able to do the things that I was sure I could handle. Actually...... I don't feel this way too often, but when Dennis started bleeding and had to be rushed to the hospital, I panicked feeling very inadequate. Everything I knew about parenting temporarily slipped my mind, and as I rode to the hospital thinking that perhaps the child in my arms would die, I wondered if he would have been better off just staying in the orphanage. My heart knew the answer to be no, but my head thought that if he was still there, he would not be riding in an ambulance having blood sucked out of his mouth to keep from choking.
All I was able to do was hold my son.
Even my faith temporarily faltered as I wondered if God would indeed save Dennis. Only when the bleeding stopped, did I have peace that Dennis was going to be okay. What kind of mother loses hope, if even for a second------ just because things are out of her control? I know. This kind of mother. Later, my husband told me that as he was racing home in the car, he felt God telling him that Dennis was going to be okay. That was when I was gently reminded that I was not doing this alone, and that while I momentarily didn't have everything it takes to be an awesome parent, I didn't have to be because God was right there picking up the slack.
Well........... God picks up the slack for me many times a day.
And it doesn't make me weak to admit that. In fact, I have told my kids on more than one occasion that when they do something that makes me upset with them and even possibly makes me dislike them because of their behavior, they can take comfort in knowing that I turn to God to fill in and make up what I am unable to give at that moment. And because of that, they can trust that I will always love and be there for them, no matter what.
Everyday, I am learning to be more patient, and I am working hard at being gentler and softer when I speak. This is an area where I need major work, but it was really encouraging to have my daughter notice and say two days in a row, "Look at Mama. She is being gentler when she speaks." Hunh?, (looking both ways), where did she get that? Gentler? I was just trying to keep from raising my voice when I speak. But, I can handle being called gentler, although she hasn't used those words to describe me in a few days.
As a mother, I have to continually be open to change, and I have to remind my children that they have to be open to change too. Just because we are in a comfortable place in the mean time doesn't mean that things are going to stay that way forever. Just this year, I became the parent to not one but two teenagers, and with that comes change. Not just on my part, but on their part too. This year, I took my kindergartner out of school because he needed to be home with me one more year. Had I been unwilling to change or acknowledge that my son just wasn't ready for school yet would have been detrimental to his well being, I believe. Just a month ago, I had to address one of my son's obsessions with fire----- which was a huge change for me. These are just to name a few.
Recently, John and I had a major breakthrough with one of our daughters. It started out with something trivial------- another daughter coming to us and saying that someone had been in her room to turn on her Christmas lights without asking. The rule in our home is to not touch something that is not yours without the permission of the owner, so for the daughter whose lights were touched, this was a big deal. I went around asking each child, and each one said it wasn't them except for one who said that Dennis probably had done it. Stupid, stupid me, actually entertained that thought, and was almost convinced that it couldn't possibly be the daughter who was the only one who had alone time in the room, who had a habit of using things without permission, and who was trying to blame someone else. Even after 2 years home, she was more convincing than ever and stupid, stupid me even went back and asked the daughter with the lights if she had made up the story to get someone else in trouble. Of course, I apologized for that one, and learned a valuable lesson about my forgiving and very honest daughter, and had my husband who is often times much wiser than I deal with our lying daughter.
He came down on her very matter-of-factly, and said that he knew that she had turned on the lights. Her story changed. Now, she probably did do it, but her brain couldn't remember doing it. Still a lie, but to her, she was convinced that she had us convinced. Thankfully, I was doing something with the other kids, and my husband wasn't buying it. Eventually, the truth came out, hard as it was, and our daughter learned once more the same thing we have been teaching her from day one. Consistency continually, I like to call it. It was hard to see just how much more work we have cut out for ourselves with her on such a simple thing as lying. She was willing to blame another child, she was willing to have the whole family forgo movie night, and she was willing to lie to our face not once, but as many times as it took to deny that she did anything wrong. At the end of her confession, I was not so graceful. Probably because it was like pulling teeth to get the truth out of her, and mainly because I thought that we were past this kind of nonsense.
This happened five days ago, and we did go on to enjoy a wonderful Christmas with her, but until she has rebuilt her character--- one of honesty and trustworthiness which amounts to being responsible and respectful, she will enjoy a much earlier bedtime and less privileges than her sisters. I periodically joke with her that I wonder if she will still have an early bedtime when she is seventeen.
As I wrap up this post, I am still blessed to report that I am doing exactly what it is that I want to do with my life........ and through it all, it is still very rewarding, every last bit of it. I am still excited that I found a solution to my sock dilemma, I am still following the five finger rule, and I remind my kids daily that they are all stuck with me. My wonderful husband and I are getting ready to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.... with overnight childcare courtesy of my Mom and sister. If we still don't have trouble getting people to watch our kids, that must mean we are doing something right, right? Ending with a big smile!