It started this morning before we were all even out of bed.
I slipped into my bedroom before breakfast to check on our little guy, and there he was- eyes barely open, sheets still clinging to his pajama-clad body, mouth arching wide for a howl.
And the noise began.
The demand for my time, attention, “hold me,” “MaMa! MaMa! MaMa!”
All. Day. Long.
Right now, fifteen hours later, the house is dark and quiet. Blessed quiet!
Everyone is asleep but me. I’m too busy enjoying just a few more minutes of quiet to call it a day.
Tomorrow, who knows what will greet me.
If I’m blessed to enjoy just another normal day, it will consist of school work with the four older kids, meals, the typical housework, maybe an hour or two of working my home business in the afternoon, helping my under-the-weather child get over his earache and cold.
The usual. Mom stuff.
Oh yes, and that demanding noise. Typically from my almost-three-year old toddler, but sometimes my older kids can slip into that role too.
High maintenance, I call it.
When I was a younger mom, I treated it immediately with discipline of some sort. Because, we all know that it is one hundred percent unacceptable to be a high maintenance, demanding child.
While I would have never consciously conceded with the centuries-old adage, children are to be seen and not heard, there were probably lots of times when I acted like I believed it.
The truth is, God gave me these five kids… and several of them can be quite high maintenance.
Come to think of it, all of them can be high maintenance at times.
And, while I’m confessing away my life over here, I’ll just tell you: I was a very high maintenance child. Probably still am! 😉
So what does a mama do when she has a child- or a houseful of kids- who NEED her every single second of the day… and night?
When it feels like there is no reprieve from the constant need, need, need to give, give, give?
I don’t want to imply that I am against discipline or correction. But if you understand that I am coming from the perspective of a rules and regulations girl, then I hope you’ll hear my heart and see why grace is such an important part of my parenthood these days.
A few years ago, today would have been a disaster.
I probably would have lost my cool, yelled at my kids all day long, then cried myself to sleep for being such a horrid, out-of-control mom.
Not that I was perfect today.
But a few things kept my heart centered through the chaos of homeschooling, taking care of a sick child, managing a household that is still slightly chaotic from remodeling projects and a keeping up with a demanding toddler who was flat out having a bad day.
I tried to remember what it feels like to be a pre-teen girl.
I know, I hadn’t mentioned that yet. But I have two daughters, ages nine and twelve. These little ladies can be high strung at times! I vividly remember the struggles of adolescence, and I try really hard to keep that close to heart when I respond to my oldest daughter.
She needs a mama with a gentle tongue, an understanding heart, and a good memory about how yuck some days feel… for no reason whatsoever.
I reminded myself that a little sympathy goes a long way.
My quiet, little low-maintenance boy was a high maintenance boy today… because he’s sick. I sometimes joke about what a terrible nurse I’d make, because I’m not exactly a natural sympathizer. But it’s really not funny when you’re a mom.
Kids needs sympathy. They need nurtured and hugged and loved on a lot, especially when they don’t feel well.
We tried to keep Mr K comfy on the couch with blankets, pillows, interesting books and good Amazon movies… and I kept reminding myself that if he’s whining, then he really must feel terrible.
I tried to see through the fussing and figure out the need.
So my little man is very often demonstrative in his emotions. We rarely wonder what he’s thinking or feeling, because he shows us… in technicolor and high definition!
Little Mr C, who will be three years old in a few weeks, literally fussed from morning until night. Every detail about today was a catastrophe for him, and the only “fix” was for Mommy to “hold me.”
While my Little C is typically demonstrative, he’s also usually very loving and happy. So I knew something was up with him today. I have no idea what, but something upset his little world.
Maybe he didn’t rest well last night?
Maybe he’s fighting a “bug” and just needed extra rest.
Maybe he felt insecure for some reason, and needed more emotional connection than usual.
Who knows? My mama instinct can’t read minds, but I do know enough to realize that sometimes little ones just need a little extra TLC.
A structured day so that they don’t miss their naps.
An extra snack to keep their tummies satisfied.
More cuddle time with Mom.
Hugs, kisses, kindness.
We all need it. Even moms.
Need to be understood, and just allowed to crawl up into a lap and feel safe and loved.
And moms need quiet. We need time and space to regroup and exhale and recharge.
I guess that’s what writing does for me, at least a little. An emotional breath out… sometimes, a breath I’ve been holding all day long.
And you need to recharge, my friend.
You need down time- even if it’s a hot bath or a cup or tea after the kids have gone to bed.
Maybe it’s sleeping in one morning when you’re husband’s off work, or catching a nap in the middle of a crazy day.
Maybe it’s letting go of some unattainable ideas about your life and just giving yourself permission to enjoy your day.
I don’t know what your day or your life looks like, but cultivate a little space to recharge and regroup.
Your kids need you to do it. Your husband needs you to do it. You need you to do it.
And if you’re dealing with a high maintenance child… or a high maintenance season of life… pour on the grace a little heavier.
Love a little deeper. Expect a lot less. Give a little more generously, and that includes the grace you give yourself.
These demanding little people, these demanding days…
they especially need the gift of generous grace.
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time! Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.