Mr. Aksel Turns 3 – On Letting Go of Birthday Expectations

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.  – Voltaire

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.  – William Barclay

I still haven’t forgiven myself for failing to have my hospital bags packed when I was a week over due. The irony is that, though my bags were not packed, my homework for the next two weeks was complete ahead of time. But my bags were not packed, and if they had been I would have missed Mr. Aksel being born on that infamous first day that people like to attempt to fool one another one. Alas…

And now it has been three years. Three years and finally most days bring more smiles than they bring tears. And while he still is a challenging child, speech delay and all, I finally feel like we are getting there. Like I can handle each day and not need to talk to a therapist at the end of each day.

But another year older bring another years party…and parties have proven to be all but disastrous for Mr. Aksel. I can’t remember one of his birthdays that have been “fun” or “cute” or anything that you would generally imagine.

Of course, year one he put the candle out with his fingers – and didn’t cry – I should have realized then he had sensory problems 😉

Year two, I can only remember thinking…let’s get this thing over with.

When your child, the birthday star, is clinging to you and fussing through his entire birthday, too overwhelmed to even eat his cake, and dis-interested in opening his own presents you start to wonder if having a party is even worth it.

It is sort of one more thing that I’ve grieved over this boy-I-never-wanted, but the boy-who-God-knew-I-needed.

So I won’t have all of the instagram and Pinterest worthy pictures that every other mommy posts.

So I won’t get to make my daughter’s day planning and decorating for a party (she on the other hand, thrives on parties).

No cute pics. No cute decorations.

I’ll tell ya, you definitely get some weird looks when you tell your family and friends that you are not having a birthday party for your own child.

But guess what?

We didn’t have a party.

And it was the best birthday that little boy every had!

All day smiles and all day celebration.

Ellie and daddy went to the store and got him balloons and a sister-present before breakfast.

He opened his presents from us, played with them, and ran around with his balloons most of the day.

Grandparents and his Aunt stopped by throughout the day to give him a gift and wish him happy birthday.

And we ended the day with cupcakes and candles and singing happy birthday.

Because even though you may think that society expects you to have a party and that is just what you do if you are a good parent – sometimes, it is just not true. And while you yourself may grieve the fact that your baby boy just does not like crowds, and noise, and parties and all the pictures and planning that go along with them…you may be surprised to find out that you like a no-party birthday after all.

Because every child is different. And every child needs different things.

This idea is the whole reason why I began studying child development and chose my career path anyways.

God made them all, but He made them all different too.

And what’s good for one is bad for another. And in learning about your own child you will learn a lot about yourself.

And so Mr.Aksel…I hope that you remember this day – your third birthday. Or at least the feeling of joy that we saw on your face. What a long way you have come! Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly – finally prepared to face the world in a beautiful way, independent and with emerging confidence.

I pray that you take this gift of life that God gave you and live it well. I pray that along the road He takes you down you will come to understand yourself, and realize your purpose in this world. We are so lucky to have you in our lives…mom, dad and Ellie, you have taught us so many things. And because of you we have realized that it is okay to let go…and now we understand what is truly important in this life. The little things.

 

It’s Your Turn To Smell the Baby’s Butt: On Parenting and Committment

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“Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you.”
Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys

“No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”
Plato

Children. To those who don’t have them they are serene, perfect little faces on a Christmas card or Picture People portrait. And while children might have perfect moment, like us, they really are far from perfect.

And their imperfection allows for some interesting adventures that a mother or father would rather not embark upon.

Yet we do it anyways. We bring our children into the world and raise them through all of its uncertainty and chaos. Here’s a high-five or pat-on-the-back to all the parents who are doing their best to love and teach their children…because really, who has time to raise their glass in any sort of toast, ’cause when you’re holding the baby in one arm there is a good chance that they might grab your glass of wine and try to drink from it themselves. A high-five is definitely the safer route.

And for all of those who do not have children…well, you’re honestly missing out.

Yes, parenting is sure an adventure. Perhaps it is the most exciting, thrilling, exhilarating,important, interesting, terrifying, and fulfilling adventure you may ever embark upon in your lifetime. And what a responsibility parents have! Plato really hit the nail on the head when he references the commitment that parenting is.

It’s being committed to finding which of your children is emitting that awful smell from their body. No, that was definitly NOT a fart. The stench is lingering way too long. So off you go picking up the baby and smelling his cute little bum, ’cause when you are a parent, little bums are cute. It’s not him so you begin to freak out that you potty-trained child might have had an accident..no maybe it was a fart. So you cautiously peak down her backside only to stick your thumb into ACTUAL POOP only to quickly withdraw it and start demanding the march of -oh-my-word-you-just-pooped…anti-biotics-nasty-poop- and-its-all-over-your-butt-get-to-the-bathroom-now up the stairs and to the bathroom where your almost three year old is freaking out because she pooped, not on the toilet, and you STILL have it on your thumb. Yes, parenting is a commitment. It’s being committed to taking care of your children and wiping poop off your potty-trained children’s bums even though you are missing the latest episode of The Voice.

It’s being committed to making sure that everyone gets fed and actually eats. Which often likely appears like a circus to anyone who happens to be watching you. The baby starts off in the highchair…you take a bite of your food, give him a bite, repeat like twenty-five times. At the same time, you are talking to your husband while also bribing your almost three year old to eat her food if she wants any snacks. The baby starts screaming. You put him on your lab while continuing to finish your food, which is now a good foot away from you so that the baby cannot reach it. Hopefully it’s not soup. But somehow that little angel grabs your plate, sticks his fingers into whatever-it-is-you-managed-to-cook and proceeds to splatter it all over him and you. Your other child thinks this is funny and proceeds to imitate the baby and also ends up with food splattered and spread all over her head.

Looks like everyone needs a bath. Yes, being a parent means committing to never eating a normal meal again until, well I’m guessing until those little dears grow up and move out. Of course, then normal might feel abnormal…so will it ever really be normal again?

Being a parent is walking around your house and noticing the stickers that your child loving has placed because she is “decorating”. Or walking into a store with said stickers on your butt because she decided to decorate you, and you don’t notice until you go to bed at night and find them on your pants. Well, I probably made someone at the story laugh anyways.

Being a parent is being committed to watching anything with a somewhat interesting rating or title until at least after 8 PM. And that’s only if bedtime goes as planned. Which never happens. So really it’s like 9 PM, so you only have time for a short show instead of a movie  because you also have to  be in bed and sleeping by ten since your children wake  up all night long and you have to be awake enough tor drive to work in the morning. Oh the sacrifices. At least there is coffee. Unless you’re also breastfeeding and your baby is sensitive to caffeine.

Being a parent is knowing all of the songs that Sofia the First sings. It is also driving down the road without your children and finding yourself singing along to these songs for a good ten minutes before you realize that you don’t have your kids and could be listening to grown-up songs. Eh, who cares…Frozen songs are pretty fun to sing even when your kids aren’t with you.

Commitment to parenting means being peed on, pooped on, a walking-talking tissue for your boogery children, never saying anything that remotely resembles a bad word. It’s getting your kids bathed and dressed and running out of time to do the same for  yourself. It’s reading stories and playing games instead of going out with your friends. It’s never being alone again, or if you are it’s thinking about your kids most of the time you’re not with them; which really is like never being alone. It’s working hard to live as an example. To provide love and support. To forgive them when they need forgiveness. To teach them, guide them, pray for them. Commitment to parenting means doing these things all of the time.

Parenting is hard. Parenting is an ongoing sacrifice. But you’ll never regret it.

Parenting is also sitting back on the couch with your husband and looking…just looking (while also simultaneously listening to MasterChef) at your beautiful children now that everyone is clean an poop free. And they’re really just the most beautiful thing in the world. And they notice you staring at them and just smile at you…and you know they love you.

Parenting is the joy you feel when your oldest wants to pray before you start eating. I’m doing it right…they’re catching on. All the hard work is paying off…in that one simple prayer. “Thank you Jesus for our food, and monkey and blankey. Amen”

Parenting is watching your children splash each other in the tub. And being thankful that you have a tub and clean water to bathe them in.

Parenting is seeing those stickers all over your house and smiling inside because the intent to help “decorate” was so innocent and sweet.

Parenting is looking at your sleeping child and thinking of the day that really isn’t far off when they will be old and too big to really hold in your arms.

Like the book Love You Forever. Now that I have children I finally understand this book. And whenever I read it, even to my students at school, I get tears in my eyes. Those little beings join you in this world and often turn in upside down. You spend so much time cleaning up their messes and working to ensure that they turn into a somewhat normal person. But its also those times that you spend rocking them and holding them, telling them that you’ll love them forever…no matter what. And knowing that someday they might be the ones rocking you, and whispering how much they love you in your ear.

No, you will never regret being a parent.

And so Ellie and Kreade. I want to thank you for being the reason for the greatest and best adventures of my life. And through all of these adventures please remember…I’ll love  you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.