Do you ever have those epiphany moments where you realize that what you have been telling yourself about a particular aspect of life maybe isn’t as close to reality as you thought it was?
Before Alex was born Chris and I would have conversations about the fact that he (Chris) was a higher needs kid in the sense that he was intense and needed more attention, and Chris’ worry that Alex would be the same way. I brushed it off and reminded him that Alex would have a mix of our genes and that things would balance out. No need to be afraid!
I want to preface the rest of what I’m going to say with this: Alex is a sweet, charming, funny, cuddly, intelligent, adventurous little boy that I love so much it physically hurts sometimes.
That said, we have both come to realize that parenting him is a very different process than parenting Olivia was simply because he’s more needy in an emotional sense. For the past year we’ve basically been exhausted at the end of the day and it’s only been in the last month or so that we’ve admitted to ourselves that this is way more work than Olivia was at this age. She was easy-peasy. We fell into easy routines naturally with her. We could just pick up and go anywhere with her, and when we were out she was easy and well behaved. I’m sure most people thought we drugged her or something :)
Alex… Alex wakes up crying every. single. time. I can literally count on one hand the number of times he’s woken up without crying. That is draining. After he’s awake he needs to cuddle. Depending on how much sleep he got, it can be anywhere between 5 – 20 minutes. One of us basically stops what we’re doing to snuggle until he’s decided he’s ready to move on. And that process might be done in fits and starts.
He inherited my blood sugar issues which mean he can go from normal to freak out crying simply because he needs something to eat. When my blood sugar is low I literally can’t concentrate on anything and I’m crazy cranky. 15 minutes after getting something in my stomach I’m entirely different. The hour before dinner time is hellish most days. Alex will get so worked up that even when you do put food in front of him, or a cup of milk, to tide him over he freaks out and starts batting it away. Eventually he takes that first nibble or drink and then it’s all good, but those minutes in between… exhausting.
We expected jealousy issues for the first little while from Olivia, and there were. A year and a half later they are still there, though getting better. The reason? Alex requires more time and energy from us as parents, and Olivia has realized her easy going nature doesn’t glean the same attention that it used to, and we hate that. The result has been that we now have more parenting issues with Olivia. None of them are huge, but they require more energy and attention, and sadly it’s usually discipline type of attention. Olivia is a GOOD kid. Her heart is GOOD and SWEET and LOVING. Her getting in trouble issues revolve around a curious nature and not always thinking things through. She’s also 5 so it’s a nice combo. It’s just a lot of sibling fighting somedays, or her doing things to intentionally annoy Alex, but then not necessarily owning up to them when we ask what’s going on. You know, the conversation that goes like this:
Scream from Alex
“Olivia, what’s going on?” (She’s the only one that can talk, so sadly she’s the only one that gets questioned)
Silence. Birds chirping. More silence…
“Umm. Alex is just crying. I don’t know why.”
Yeah. Okay. Riiiight.
Our kids are both very busy little people too. Oh, and have I mentioned that God *blessed* us with a climber when he created Alex? Yes. Alex is 19 months old and to date has managed to climb halfway up a ladder, climbs up on and pretends to drive the motorcycles, goes up and down our stairs like nobody’s business, and has recently figured out how to get himself up on top of our car. Not on the hood of the car – the roof. Do you know how exhausting it is to chase a child like this? We have made a conscious decision to stop chasing him. Yes, we are trying to remove major safety issues like taking stuff away from the railings so he can’t stand up there and fall off, but getting up on top of the car? The first four times, which resulted in being disciplined made zero impact on him, so last time we let him sit up there for about 30 minutes until he got frustrated because he couldn’t get down. The guard finally went over to get him down, and Alex walked to the edge of the car roof, crouched down and jumped into Jean Claudin’s arms. BUT, he hasn’t been on the car since then!
Anyway, my point to this whole thing is that I finally got to the point where I admitted that Alex is a more needy child than Olivia was at this age. And the root of that neediness in NOT BAD. In fact, it’s GOOD. Many people have commented on how cuddly he is, and he is. The root of it is that he has a sensitive heart and needs that extra connection in a different way than Olivia did.
At our last bi-weekly missionary gathering when it came time for prayer requests I asked that people pray for Chris and I as we were going through a draining parenting phase and just needed to be able to push through that. I’m so grateful for the support network we have here! Later that week one of our friends from that group was visiting, and was watching our family in action and said, “You weren’t kidding when you asked for prayer. You must feel exhausted most days. Now I see why you asked for prayer, and I know how to be praying for you!” It was like a window opened in my heart and I thought to myself, “Yes, I’m allowed to feel this way. Not because there is anything wrong with my kid or our family, but because we all have these unique personalities that God’s mixed together, and meeting everyones needs is physically hard and draining sometimes.”
It was like I had permission to just let things be what they are.
This realization has led to us making some changes as a family and on the work front, but I’m going to share those in the next post!
For now, what I want to know is this: As a parent or caregiver, what do you do to look after yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually etc? If you’re a parent but your kids are grown and out of the house I still want to hear from you because I think your experiences can be valuable to those of us in the younger generation.