I used to be. And then I had Maeve.
The confidence I thought I had left me the moment I stepped into the delivery room.
Shortly after I had her, I lost my mind. No, really, I lost it. I've written about it, but have yet to share it. I like to think that one day I will. But for now I'll leave it simple and give the ol' textbook answer, "After having my baby, I learned I cannot control the universe."
That loss of control thing, it felt like a huge, two year long, slap in the face. Yes, it took two years of being a mama to Maeve to calm down. And I'm not exaggerating. My journey to "here" has been insane. (excuse the pun). It's been filled with doctors, medicines, hospitals and a whole lotta reality checks.
I am in a completely different place today. I am a functioning, (mostly ;) good mama, wife, daughter, friend, etc. I can drive my car without panicking. I let my kids crawl on the floor. And- wait for it- I pick their pacis off the ground, "suck the germs off" and plug them back in their mouths. To say I've come a long way is the understatement of the century. And if you think I'm being dramatic, ask Ryan.
Still though, I notice my lack of confidence all the time. In silly every day happenings, like at the grocery store when someone makes a comment about my "huge" family of three kids. Instead of being confident in my beautiful, amazing kids, I'll blush and high tail it to the checkout.
Choosing schooling for Maeve. Hold. Me. Back. My confidence meter with this? Um... that would be a zero. I don't know what I'm waiting for or what I'm hoping for, maybe a giant sign to pop out in front of me that says "SEND MAEVE HERE" or "HOME SCHOOL MAEVE."
Ryan likes to talk about having another baby. And while that idea is beautiful, my thoughts aren't directed at what a family of four would be like for us, but rather what other people would think. Because that matters... right? Am I confident enough to stand up to the comments, "You know how babies are made, right?"
This morning I was feeling like a pretty decent mom. The kids were eating peanut butter toast with banana faces, laughing and watching that adorable show, "Small Potatoes."
As I sipped my coffee, I browsed through my emails,shaking my head at the cuteness of those stinkin' small potatoes.
I felt a poke on my hip. It was my four year old, blue eyed beauty. "Mama? Do kids die?"
I was planning on answering a question about some bodily function (she's been interested with watching her stomach suck in and out). Half my cereal dropped out of my mouth and I quickly said, "We'll talk about that at quiet time, m'kay?" And that was that. She was off running, going along with her morning as if all was fine. And I was left wracking my brain with the "right" answer.
It was so much more than a question. This was parenting. This was parenting 101. And I felt like that kid on the first day of high school, with a million hallways to choose from but not having the slightest clue where a single one of them led.
I texted Ryan, "Maeve just asked me if kids die... what should I say?"
And then I consulted facebook, because you know, that's just what you do.
I actually did got tons of great feedback and answers. And as I drove to Publix, I went over the conversation I would have with Maeve, inserting much of what I had read (from you all) on my status. You'd think I was prepping for a talk with the President of the United States. I mumbled to myself in the front seat, trying to perfect my answer: "Well, yes. Kids die. But you're not going to. No, no wait... I mean, you could. But you won't. No I mean I don't know if you will. But you won't." I shook the thoughts out of my head and put the question and answer on the back burner pretending it would go away.
We did our shopping. The day went on. Quiet time came and went. I didn't bring up the topic.
It was nagging at me. And I knew I needed to have a talk with my girl.
After dinner, I plopped down on Maeve's bed while she was playing on the floor. It was just her and I but I felt like I had an audience watching, waiting for this "defining parenting moment." I could see the moms of the year, gathering, whispering, "Here it is. Will her answer hold up to mommy standards?"
"Hey bugs. Remember this morning, when you asked me if kids die? What made you think of that?"
She instantly stopped playing and climbed up on the bed next to me. Her eyes welled and her lips shook. She twirled some hair, chewing on her answer. And then looked me straight in the eyes. "Because I don't want to die."
And there she was. My baby, floating high in this bubble, looking at me with the naivety that only a child can posses, wanting me, her mama to keep that bubble intact, give her a good answer, tell her that, "No silly! Kids don't die!" But instead, I was wielding the stick. The stick that would pop her bubble.
"Bugger. Mama has to tell you something important. You know how we call this our home? Well there's another home too. It's with Jesus. And when He's in our heart, we get to go there and live with Him. Sometimes kids do die. And its so sad for us, because we miss seeing them here in our home. But you have to always remember that when Jesus is in your heart, you have another home in heaven. And when we die, we go to our heaven home. Do you understand that?"
She pondered it. The tears continued to flow (she's very dramatic... I have no idea where she gets that from...;) and then she stated, "I want you to die."
That definitely threw me back.
"Oh. Okay. Well... umm...why do you want me to die?"
"Because I don't want to die alone. I be so scared."
And then I didn't have any words. All of the answers and "smart" things I was planning on saying left. I bear hugged her and cried with her. I cried for her innocence and how darn hard this world can be. I cried that the loss of a child in this world is a reality. And I cried that my little girl was growing up. I held her for a long time, because I could. There were no words. And I wasn't sure if I had answered her the right way. After all, here I was breaking down with her.
I was thinking, "Way to go Ash! Way to teach her that death isn't something to fear. Sobbing and holding her will surely convey that message."
Parenting is so hard. Loving your kids is so hard. And I mean, that loving them, with this intense, fierce love is hard. It is gut wrenching and all encompassing. The love I have for my kids aches every bone in my body and can easily bring me to my knees.
To bring them into this world wanting nothing but perfection, but having to watch the world we live in chip away that shiny veneer. That's hard. This is hard!
So yes. Maeve and I had a super depressing talk. It wasn't fun and for awhile there, I felt like I had failed. There's something horrific about bursting your child's bubble. I guess I was hoping I wouldn't have to.
But today has taught me a few things; First, life is precious. We are here. Ryan, Maeve, Henry, Stella and I. We are here now. And I will take joy in that. Secondly, I must find confidence in myself; in my parenting, my answers, my role as a wife (and the list goes on and on). And last, this is not our home. I can cushion my kids with the fluffiest, prettiest of bubbles. I can fill them with rainbows and butterflies. But this life will always poke holes. And my job right here, right now is not preserving their bubbles, but preparing them for the holes.
And tonight? At the end of this long, emotional day? How do I feel with my answer? Confident.
I may not always have the "right" answers or the most eloquent of words, but I am here, ready to hug and hold, listen and love. And no matter how low on the mommy totem pole I'm feeling, I know I will always, always be able to do that. And that, makes me confident.
PS... this is my 1000th post!!!
And here's my girl... sticky with a peanut butter face. ;)