I heard a tiny mew from the baby, “Mama, poop.” I glanced over at my thirteen-month-old and sniffed subtly. I didn’t smell anything other than the sweet cinnamon of sticky buns and rice crispy treats dipped in white chocolate from our high tea at the American Girl Doll Salon. Or maybe I was in denial? We were having so much fun with our lovely little girls dressed in tulle and bows with their dollies sitting beside us that I didn’t want to leave the table. I picked up the baby and realized her tiny lavender party dress was not only wet, it was dripping. Why is it only at the finest dining establishments that my baby has a butt explosion worthy of a natural disaster?
I carried her through the dining room with her bum in the air attempting to remain elegant and unfazed. The waiters passed me with disdain and the fancy women and little girls in lovely frocks turned up their noses as I walked by. Once I got to the bathroom, I laid my little angel down and assessed the damage. As I pulled off her diaper, poop splattered the wall. All the little girls were pointing and screaming, “Stinky!”
Surrendering To The Season
Forty minutes later, I returned to my family after bathing my child in the sink and destroying all the cloth towels in the nearby vicinity. My fears of more poop shaming from patrons were naught because the entire restaurant had cleared from the high tea seating. My husband gave me a squeeze, took the baby, ordered a bottle of wine and we belly laughed until they kicked us out for the dinner seating.
Why oh why is parenting little kids so messy? Babies and nursing, tantrums and tummy aches all make for an exhausting roller coaster season of emotions and chaos. The toys take over, carrots are thrown against the wall and milk cups are discovered under the back seat of the car the only due to their three-day stench. As new parents, we are conquered and vanquished by tiny tyrants whom we love with every breath in our being.
Through the bleary eyes, it’s important to remember you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and other parents experience similar feelings – that everything involving our babies and littles is out of our comfort zone. The emotions of being stretched beyond our limits to love sacrificially are so deep and unfamiliar that they leave us feeling raw and exposed. Small children usher in a season where we grow in depth of character by simply raising our hands and surrendering to the mess as our selfish natures are replaced with seeds of unconditional love. Never in our lives will we be more like Christ as we lay down our lives for another.
It’s important to remember this mess won’t last forever. I’ve heard it said, “The days and nights are long, but the years are fleeting.” As my oldest son starts college, I am blessed with the perspective to appreciate these baby days knowing just how tender and brief they truly are. The sticky fingers reaching up to grab your neck and snuggling in for a hug are ephemeral; enjoy them, as they truly are short-lived.
By the time you get your freedom and the “old me” back, your babies will be teenagers discovering who they are without you. I know it’s hard to keep perspective in the trenches of diapers and sleep deprivation, but keeping a long-term vision of your parenting journey can help you to not only keep a sense of humor, but also a sense of awe at the beauty of child-rearing and the gift you have been entrusted to steward.
Don’t Forget The Oxygen Mask
Often, we become so enmeshed with our kids that we forget to take care of ourselves. In my own experience raising three kids from 6 to 17 years, I know now that ignoring my own needs actually risks the well-being of my kids. If we, as parents, become too cranky, worn thin or stressed out, our kids will take the brunt of our poor self-care. It’s important to make sure to build in times of rest and replenishment so we can parent to the best our abilities without being compromised by irritability or illness.
I look at exercise, down time and healthy eating differently now because of parenting. I want to be around a long time for my kids and experience everything this journey of parenting offers, so health has to be a priority. Take care of yourself, enjoy this brief season and laugh when it gets unbearable. The love that explodes in your heart is worth every bump along the road – even the poopy ones.
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