Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stinky and joyful

Ryan is growing into quite the little stink.  Believe it or not, he has started taking punches at his sister, hitting the nearest thing in sight, and even yelling or throwing objects when he doesn't get his way.  I am learning a pattern, or should I say becoming reacquainted with one which another child, who will remain unnamed, followed when she was Ryan's same age. 

One night about a month ago, after teeth had been brushed, bladders had been emptied, arguments had been resolved, songs had been sung, and prayers had been said, it was time for bed.  Just as we were ready to tuck kiddos in so that Neil and I could enjoy a few moments of sanity before collapsing ourselves, Chloe realized she'd left her blanket downstairs.  It was at this same moment that I realized Ryan's blanket had also been left downstairs.  My initial thought was to have Chloe grab it since she was heading down there anyway, however I knew that this could potentially result in disaster.  So instead I gave Ryan the option of getting it himself or letting Chloe.  Sometimes he's perfectly willing to let her do things for him.  Sometimes he's not.  The key is convincing him that he's in control and that the decision is his to make, not someone else's.  Well, as I suspected, "I do it!" was Ryan's response.  That, along with "I don't like that" are two of his favorites these days.  Now top that with it already being past his bedtime, when he tends to be a little more unreasonable, irrational, possessive, demanding, and whiny than usual, and the prediction is simple.  He was going to go get his blanket, NOT Chloe! 

Well, poor Chloe, in an attempt to be helpful, and obviously not having heard my conversation with Ryan, had already raced down the stairs before I even had a chance to tell her to leave Ryan's blanket behind.  In fact, she was three quarters of the way back up just as Ryan was approaching the stairs to go down.  You can imagine the sheer terror in his eyes when he spotted his blanket in Chloe's arms.  She quickly handed it off to him, but the damage had already been done.  With tears in his eyes, he threw himself onto the floor and started screaming like an honest, healthy, and very tired two-year-old would!  About ninety seconds in, he slammed the blanket onto the floor and proceeded to kick it down the stairs, screaming the entire way, until he and the blanket had reached the bottom.  After all, the only way to gain complete control back was to undo Chloe's good deed.

About twenty minutes later when Ryan had finally settled down, we were trying to determine where he was going to sleep.  Ever since we transformed his crib into a toddler bed, Ryan has preferred sleeping on his floor.  On occasion he'll choose to sleep in his bed, but because I never know, I've just added the question, "bed or floor?" to our nightly routine.  Well earlier this week, Ryan had become more particular than usual about where on the floor his head would lie.  He has this soft monkey mat (from Aunt Sue) that he sleeps on, and always wants his pillow in a specific place on this mat.  For some reason though, I just couldn't get it right.  It didn't matter where I put the silly mat or where I placed the pillow on the mat.  His reaction was inevitably the same: throwing head back, more crying, followed by a, "Nooooooo!  Ight dier!" ("right there"), while pointing two inches from the current location of his mat and pillow.  I'm sure this partially stemmed from the episode that took place twenty minutes prior, but either way, it was absurd and a little over the top.  He did eventually give in and sleep but not without a good fight.

While these stories illustrate the events of a single night, they also represent a lot of habits and tendencies Ryan has started to exhibit.  Some more examples?  Let's see.  He can't manage in the bathroom when I've got my hands full in the kitchen, yet the minute I'm free to help him pull up his pants or wipe his bum he discourages any contact with me whatsoever.  He demands the pink cup until Chloe expresses interest in the yellow cup.  Then suddenly he has to have the yellow cup.  If I place his green blanket on him before placing his blue blanket on him (both of which he sleeps with every night), he wants the blue blanket on him before the green blanket. Yet had I done it this way to begin with, he will have demanded it be done the other way.  So in essence, whatever I do, or how I do it, dictates what he wants and how he wants it. And that is more often than not the complete opposite of what I just did.  As I am slowly catching onto Ryan's patterns, I am becoming better equipped at handling him.  Sometimes giving him options is the trick to maintaining a happy boy, and sometimes it doesn't matter what I do because he's already decided that he's going to be miserable regardless.

I know Ryan is learning, and sometimes I think I'm doing a good job at handling him.  He sure does exhaust me though.  Motherhood in general exhausts me.  In fact, I've never found it more exhausting than right now.  I don't know if it's the current stages of both of my children, but those two literally suck the life right out of me.  I recently stumbled upon this quote and found within it great comfort (and hope).  In sharing his thoughts on mothering, M. Russell Ballard said this:

"First, recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments.  There will be hard times and frustrating times.  But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction. . . .

Second, don't overschedule yourselves or your children. . . . Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place.  Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together.

Third, even as you try to cut out the extra commitments, sisters, find some time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests.  Pick one or two things that you would like to learn or do that will enrich your life, and make time for them.  Water cannot be drawn from an empty well, and if you are not setting aside a little time for what replenishes you, you will have less and less to give to others, even to your children."

-M. Russell Ballard (from Hilary Weeks' Bedtime and Naptime..., p.49)

Ballard's thoughts really hit home for two reasons.  First, the concept of joy in motherhood coming in moments is so very true, at least for me at this point in my life.  What I've realized though is that it's okay that it only comes in moments - even normal, in fact!  And that it's not all supposed to be joyful and perfect.  After all, it's the challenges, disappointments and heartaches we face day in and day out that help us cherish and hold tight to those "moments" of joy that come unexpectedly.  And really, if life were perfect and our children were perfect, and our houses were perfect, and everything were perfect, what would be our purpose on this earth?  And would all the many joyful moments really feel joyful after a while, or would they start to feel boring and less exciting?  We certainly wouldn't have many opportunities to grow if there weren't some unpleasant moments to mix things up. 

Second, Elder Ballard's encouragement about finding time for ourselves was a good reminder for me, and something I especially needed to hear from an Apostle.  I think in the monotony of motherhood, it's easy to lose ourselves.  After all, if my kids, who since I can remember, I dreamed of carrying, birthing and raising, can drive me crazy and wear me out and often make me feel everything BUT joy, then I must be failing!  It's usually when I'm not making time for myself and not cultivating my gifts and talents that I start falling into this trap.

So Ryan is a little stink.  We've established that.  He has his sweet moments, but most of the time, at least right now, he's a stink.  I get it.  I am accepting it.  And I will continue to work with him over and over again for as long as it takes him to understand how he should be.  I will do that because I am his mother and I love him.  Despite the challenges, I am grateful for him and for the lessons I am learning.  I am also grateful that I am not naive to the realities of motherhood.  It really isn't always fluffy, flowery and beautiful.  But somehow enduring life's challenges helps me to recognize and appreciate even more those occasional moments of joy.  And when they come, I cherish and remember them. And I really truly believe that that's how God intended it to be.


Wendy said...

Great post. Just what I needed to hear after my day yesterday. Thanks for sharing.

Jaimee said...

Oh my heavens, Valeri... I NEEDED this post today!!! Every. Bit. Of. It. It helps to know that my little Casey isn't the only one throwing these fits and hitting. Ugh. I even got a book at the library titled, "No Hitting!" (which did no good- btw) Casey and Ryan sound so much alike. Casey has recently added a THIRD blanket to the nighttime routine and I'm scared or wary of transitioning him out of the crib and/or potty training him because its such a challenge right now! :) But motherhood is great and it was wonderful to read that we need to make time for ourselves too! Thank you so much for posting this. Miss you!

Cristi said...

I can totally relate. Motherhood is MUCH harder than I ever expected. That's why I only have 2 kids! ;) I realized that I'm a low energy person, and I need to take more time for myself than maybe some other higher energy moms do. I loved this quote when I heard it! Thank you!

Leslie said...

THANK YOU!!! I've loved reading these posts, especially this one. You are wonderful, and I appreciated being able to relate to you and this posting. Miss you!