The Squeaky Wheel

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It has been said:

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

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As head “emotion and behavior mechanic” of our family, I must say there is undeniable truth in this old adage.

In past blogs I have referred to this parenting struggle as “triage”…a necessary practice used to focus the most time, energy and resources on the child in greatest crisis at the moment. It is a survival tool for any family as sacrifices are made to keep the weakest, sickest, most hurting family member in tact for the sake of the entire family unit.

It is a necessary practice but regardless of its necessity with it comes its fair share of heavy parental guilt.

We all long to be the super mom that can effortlessly meet the needs of all our children equally, with no single crisis or struggle taking priority over another, but as mere mortals we are limited in our own strength, in our own capabilities, and in our own power. This  humbling realization is usually brought to our attention when child #2 is born and previously high “supermom” standards are dropped for the sake of survival and sleep. Then #3 is born and any illusions of motherhood perfection are tossed out the window as we engage in parenting behaviors we swore we never would…that no true “supermom” ever would.

You know the ones I’m talking about:

Using the TV as a babysitter so you can take a 3 minute shower,

Giving in to your toddler’s plea that ice cream is an acceptable lunch,

Bribing your preschooler with a toy from Dollar Tree IF THEY WOULD JUST GO TO SLEEP. PLEASE JUST GO TO SLEEP!

It seemed that with the addition of each child my Momma Mojo decreased exponentially.

In my early years as a mother I struggled with frustration and feelings of failure as I compared my parenting skills as a mom of one with my parenting skills as a mom of three. I considered all that I wasn’t able to do for my kids now that there were multiples…you know: the homemade baby food, the mommy and me playgroups, the daily crafts built around the letter of the day. Now I was simply trying to get everyone fed and have them all still alive and well when Toby got home from work, raising my arms in victory when his truck pulled into the driveway:

“WooHoo, we survived another day! Everyone is alive!”

Now that I am older, and maybe a bit wiser, I recognize that the shift in focus and priorities that occurs between baby #1 and each additional child isn’t a weakening of Momma mojo but a strengthening of it. We learn that we can do longer rely on our superhuman powers but now, in our weakness, turn to a greater power. In my frailty and failures I have become more dependent on the Lord and have found a strength and sweetness in the journey of motherhood that only comes when we have reached the end of ourselves. It is often when we are at the very end of our rope that we look up an take note of who is holding us up at the other end of that rope.

This is a lesson that has become more powerful and more pronounced in my life in the last four years. The addition of two children from traumatic backgrounds though foster care adoption has completely changed my parenting game and make me completely dependent on the Lord’s guidance and power as I parent through some of the hardest, darkest struggles a parent can face. The “supermom” that parented Grace  17 years ago has nothing on the Super God that leads this broken, hurting, lost Momma today. It is His power that has sustained us and lead us through a minefield of scary and traumatic moments these last few months as we help one of our adopted treasured face down some enormous demons from his past.

In the midst of this war I have found myself trying to get a handle on the mom guilt that comes with the triage of caring for the child in crisis while the other kids simply must hang on for the ride…

and while I, as a parent, know that all the kids need some oil. It is the squeaky wheel that was the recipient of all we had to offer during these last two months.

Now that Toby is home and the patient is stable enough that I can leave his bedside, or at least take shifts with my handsome coworker, I can now check on all the other patients wandering around the hospital in their open backed gowns.

This is what parenting triage is all about. Good or Bad, this is reality…at least in our home.

This “checking in” with the others is coming in the form of some adjustments in the schedule, reprioritizing, and setting of some new goals as a family in 2017. One of the big adjustments we made this past week is to pick up on our “one on one dates.”

“One on One time” is a practice we began 10+ years ago, when the kids were little, as a means of making focused, individual time with each child a priority. As a home school family it felt as though we moved through life as a group, with all family members present for most activities. This togetherness, while a blessing to our family as a whole, didn’t allow for a lot of individual, specialized attention for the individual. This noticed need led to us setting up a weekly date that was written into our daily schedule for each child. As our family grew this specialized focused time became even more important as it gave me an hour of  uninterrupted time with each child every week to take their vitals and really know where they were at emotionally.

This special time is something the kids look forward to. It occurs every day between 5-6 pm as one child meets with me for a date. The kids get to choose what activity they want to do with me in the uninterrupted hour they have with me. The activities are as varied as my children and their interests. One might choose to bake, another might want to go for a walk, one of my boys usually will choose a Wii sports showdown against mom, while still another might choose to do a craft.

This special time each week is a chance for me to check in with each child, to make a memory, to listen to that child without sibling interruption, and let that child really have a safe and open forum to discuss what is on their heart, as well as an excuse to lay down the broom or pile of dirty clothes and just play with my children.

It is a parenting tool that has served us well.

Unfortunately it is a tool that had to be set to the side these last two months, during a tough season, so that all my time and energy could be spent on the child who was in crisis. Now that things have stabilized we have begun “One on One” time again.

Grace was up first.

And she wanted to make homemade bath bombs…a new hobby of hers.

She gathered up all of her supplies. From my mom she was gifted with hand-me-down soap making supplies, including molds, dyes, and scents that have made crafting bath bombs all the more fun.

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She pulled up the recipe she always uses and we got to work.

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We began by mixing the ingredients

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Until the texture and consistency was right.

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Then we added our scents and dyes.

There was 20+ scents to choose from and it was fun sniffing the different flavors and deciding on what combinations would smell good together.

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Once the scents and dyes were mixed in to make the perfect color we were ready to pick what mold shapes we wanted.

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The mixture was pressed into molds and then popped out and laid on a towel to dry.

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The end results smelled so yummy and will be a fun addition to our bath time.

But the real reward was not the completed bath bombs. The real reward was a sweet hour spent with my sweet girl and the chance to listen to her talk about her concerns, her wishes, and her hopes for the future as we sniffed the sweet smells of citrus and blossoms.

It was a wonderful hour spent with my oldest.

Parenting can be hard, exhausting, discouraging… heartbreaking. When you are on the battlefield, hunkered down in a trench with one of your children who is “bleeding to death” …just trying to keep them alive… it is easy to feel overwhelmed and incapable of this parenting stuff,

But then the sun comes out,  a cease fire is called, the bullets stop flying, and you can emerge from the darkness…

check on the other troops…

and breathe a sigh of relief.

That is what parenting is all about.

The struggles are inevitable.

It is not about being a “supermom.”

Sometimes the goal is simply to not go AWOL.

Take  deep breath, Momma…

You will survive this battle.

You will win this war.

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