Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Parenting on Days Like Today

I expected certain things to be hard as a parent.

The lack of sleep.  That's hard.  Newborn constant nursing lack of sleep, toddlers with bad dreams and potty trips lack of sleep, general trying to get everything done in 24 hours lack of sleep.  Sometimes Tyson and I even get a trifecta where each individual kid sleeps relatively well, but  they each wake once during the night.  Spaced out every couple of hours, this is a hard night, and makes for a rough next day.

With three under three, the physical demands of taking care of several very small children is hard.  I am often trying to feed one, give attention to another, and deal with a bathroom situation with the third (or some combination of the three) simultaneously.  They all need me for even the most basic of tasks, often it seems constantly.  It's hard.

But the hardest thing that I've found?  The emotional component.  When something happens that rocks my world - my adult world - and I still need to continue being the parent.  To mother.  

The first time I remember this happening was when we were determining our next steps after leaving Madison.  Where would we go?  What are the possibilities?  Things seemed to change by the week and we had a rough couple of months as Tyson was accepting positions, denied positions, minds were changed, and the plans were upheaved so many times that it was difficult to keep up.  I was literally mentally all over the map for a few weeks - Missouri!  Oregon!  California! - and it made for some desperate Google search sessions for jobs and housing to try to calm my mind while also keeping twin toddlers entertained.

The next time I remember feeling this kind of emotional tension at odds with the needs of having to parent was this past summer, when we experienced shooting after shooting after shooting.  My mind was so fried trying to comprehend and grieve one day that the twins mostly just watched PBS and played outside.  My ability to interact - to interact well - was minimal.

And now this.  This election.  It has consumed my thoughts and mind for much of this past year, especially the past few months, but never more so than today.

Not being able to process these issues at my leisure is the absolute hardest thing I find about being a stay-at-home parent.  There is very little room to think, to have a moment to read or watch or get away and understand and grieve and come to terms with what is happening.  And yet it's very lonely.  There isn't an adult around to have an uninterrupted conversation with, unless it's early in the morning or late at night.  There are immediate needs in my here and now - another nose to be wiped, another diaper to change, more food to prepare - that consume my attention, leaving me with a dull sense of anxiousness that is difficult to assuage.  My mind can be so consumed with a train of thought and then so quickly be derailed as this need and this need and this need are met.  And then I'm back to square one and the cycle starts all over again.  It's hard to put my mind at ease when I am so consumed with other duties.

And all the thoughts swirling around in my head mostly lead to this: I am so saddened and heartbroken but mostly stunned that this man has been elected the leader of our country.  It is beyond belief.  That half of this country decided that a man whose rhetoric includes extreme examples of misogyny, racism, and pathological lying is capable of running our country is absurd to me.  While neither candidate was perfect, I am legitimately concerned about what a President Trump might do.  Not to mention that he himself and many of his supporters seem to disregard things like logic and actual facts.

I'm not sure what he may or may not be able to do.  Republicans fully in control across the board is concerning to me.  Whatever he may or may not accomplish, just the basic character of this man and  type of speech he uses (and has made "okay" in our country) regarding women, minorities, and others is highly problematic.

Which leads me to this: my children.  I truly felt yesterday that a vote for Hillary was a vote for my children.  That it was leading our country in the right direction both morally and socially.  My comfort right now is that at least my children are too young to understand what is happening.  They didn't know that a presidential election was going on.  (Though, yes, they were jealous of my sticker.)  Whatever processing I may need to do personally, at least I do not need to explain to them why we have elected this man as president.  Tyson and my biggest task right now is to keep upbeat and cheerful around them, avoid heavy discussions while they are around, keep the news to a minimum, despite what we may be feeling.  It's amazing the emotions even small children can pick up on.

But in four years?  Caden and Brooklyn will be 6.  That's old enough to know who the president is.  That's old enough to hear what he is saying.  That's old enough to understand some of what is going on and to know what we are teaching them is right and wrong.  I'm concerned for what I will have to explain to them two, three, and four years from now.  My children - our children - deserve better.

Jeremiah 29:11 keeps resonating throughout my head. " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "  I have to say that is small comfort to me right now.  While this election is not a surprise to God, it is certainly a surprise to me, and to so very many in our country.  

So that's it.  The thing I find the most difficult about parenting.  The absolute hardest thing is having  all of these thoughts tumbling around and around and around in my head just needing to get OUT...and not being able to.  I've had to wait until naptime - hours and hours now - to get most of them down.

I may not be able to process this all as much as I would like today with the kids around, and I'm sure I will have another late night reading and discussing what is happening in our country and our world with Tyson.  Despite how we may feel right now, we will take time to collect our thoughts and get ready to move forward, as a family and as a country.

Despite my confusion and even anxiety, I do know this.  Today, as any other day, I am called to love.  That's my parenting job today.  I am called to love my children.  I am called to play and protect and mother and snuggle and discipline them no matter what else is going on.  Despite the news blaring this morning, I set the noise aside and made Nolan giggle uncontrollably in his high chair.  I got up early (hahaha like I was sleeping anyway) and made a spread of pancakes and eggs and sausage for my family.  (Mickey Mouse so you KNOW they were special.)  Whatever rhetoric or despair may be spreading, we are called to be kind.  My children are watching me, me.  They don't even know we have something called a president.  So today I can turn off the TV, put down the phone and the articles and the statistics, and attempt to set my mind not on earthly things, but on things above.  

It's the only thing I am called to do right now.

(Also, this:

One day at a time Sweet Jesus.  It's all I can usually handle anyway.)

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