Last night was just one of those nights. Fed the baby at 1:00am. Three-year-old crying at 1:45am. Fed the baby again at 3:30am. Toddler crying at 4:00am. Baby needs a serious diaper change at 4:45am. Mama finally gives in to the morning just before 5:00am, because the infant is not going back to sleep. A snapsort of mothering little ones in all its glory.
This weekend a sweet friend asked me for an update, wondering how being the mom of three children is going. Well, we are tired. Real tired. I am making it through the day just fine but by about 6:00pm I’m in the danger zone—as in, if I sit down there is a 100% chance I will fall asleep right there on the couch with three unattended children watching Dora, throwing things in toilets, attempting to pour their own milk, giving the baby his gas drops and explaining to me as I come out of my momentary coma to a gagging baby that she was ever-so-not-gently “just giving Jordi his paci, mama.”
Life with three. Please excuse the cliché, but there is never a dull moment.
Jordi is six weeks old today, a fact I can hardly believe. I feel like a moment ago I was marveling at his brown hair underneath the newborn hat, and today we can already load the car in under 15 minutes. (It started at about 45, so I consider this a win). But our newest family member is a dream: he is mello and cuddly almost all the time, save for the hours he is working out the gas his little body is still not used to. He sleeps well at night, waking up every few hours for milk but then going right back to sleep. He loves his swing, his big red dog paci, and his mama’s chest—and I love him there, too, so we’ve got a good thing going.
Cannon is twenty-months old, and ever my sweet, introverted little man. Two things make Cannon giggle like nothing else: his daddy’s tickles and the map on Dora—he just loves that little guy and claps his hands excitedly every time Dora announces that it is time to ask for help because we don’t know where to go. He could drink ovaltine all day long and be totally happy with it, and if there is a slide around he wants nothing else more than to go up and fly down again and again. Cannon is not talking much yet; he says mama and dada, Dora and “ma” (more), and he also has the sweetest rendition of “do-du” (thank you) going on, as he taps his mouth to sign it but seems to think one says it as you hand something off rather than receive it. He sees the sweetest speech therapist every Thursday, and he reminds me with every challenge and victory that one of the greatest privileges of motherhood is getting to be our kids’ cheerleaders.
If Cannon is quiet and introverted, well the very opposite of him would come in the package of love and energy and fire that is his big sister. Harper is three years old, and if she is awake, she is, quite literally, putting on a show. She can, and does, turn anything into a microphone, comes up with her own words to the rhythm she chooses—which will undoubtedly have something to do with a ballerina or princess—and shake her hips from right to left like she has been doing it all her life. She has a wild imagination, and although we spend a good amount of time every day training her heart to listen and be kind and learn what respect is, we spend even more time laughing at the things she says. For example, she handed me the Kazoo she earned at a birthday party this weekend and said, “Here mama, you blow.” I tried a few times and could not get that kazoo humming, so I gave it back to her and remarked with sarcasm, “I’m glad my daughter can do this and I can’t figure it out.” To which she responded, “Well, you’re husband can do it to, mommy, and you can’t.” (Thank you, three-year-old).
These three are the joy of my life. They really are. And yet, they all need very different things from their mama right now, and I have certainly had my moments of despair at the incapability I have to parent each one of them well. Harper wants anyone within twenty feet of her to watch her show and listen to her stories, and she needs a hard line of discipline to know that her strong will is a gift but it has a limit that must be respected. Cannon wants one on one time and his own space to learn, and he needs encouragement and correction in a much softer manner than his sister does or his sweet soul will break rather than repent. And Jordi, he just needs me: a breast to eat from, hands to change a diaper, eyes to make sure no one pulls him off his boppy pillow, and ears to listen for the rise and fall of his lungs as he breathes. But sometimes, most of the time, all three of these precious babies need these things at the very same time. And I can’t. Someone has to wait, and no one wants to wait. And if the wait gets too long then all four of us are crying and that looks about as bad as it sounds.
But here’s the thing: I have never loved being a mom more than I do today. God has so graciously and tenderly given me a heart for the training and stewardship of my babies that I just did not have a year ago. I have always loved them, but I have not always seen this job as the job, the work of my life. Motherhood, quite by accident, became something that I had to “finish” in order to get other things done: like writing an essay, grading papers, prepping a lesson plan, finishing a task around the house, or something really important, like posting the perfect caption to my instagram picture (obviously that is a joke. Not the part about picking my phone over my children for moments at a time, the part about it being important, that’s the joke. It just took me far too long to realize the joke was one me.)
On my worst days, I saw my kids as in the way of these things. You would probably never say that about me, though. It was more of a heart condition than an outward action. But that’s the sweetest thing about the Holy Spirit: he loves to gently correct the heart. Good behavior done with bad motives is not good behavior at all; it is people-pleasing and box-checking (story of my life!) and God sees right through that. We don’t want that for our children, and God does not want it from our parenting. As I learned this, God began to strip down my goals for motherhood from healthy, happy, successful, smart, kind, articulate, brave kids to just this: sinners saved by grace. That is all I could ever hope and pray for my babies.
So while I am exhausted and many days feel in way over my head, I am so full. Did you really give me these three souls to steward for a lifetime, Lord? He did. My joy is too big for words here. And I feel the weight of this blessing in a new way since Jordi joined our family. I am not capable of motherhood. It is a job far too big for me, because I default to worry, anxiety, frustration and an utter lack of patience at every turn. But I am capable of calling on Jesus, and he is so happy to show himself glorious where I am the weakest. I know that that will be the story of my parenting, one day after another of Jesus saving the day.