Parenting Sucks

I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. Having the bonus child 4 years ago saved me from the empty nest. My older children were 17 and 14 years old when the bonus child was born. I always thought, I’ll never have any empty nest because by the time they all leave I’ll be busy with the little one and when he leaves I’ll have grand-babies to fuss over.

Then it happened.

Last night, it was so cold in Chicago. Too cold to go Trick or Treating. Too cold for trick or treaters to ring the bell. The bonus child dressed up in his Captain America costume ready for the trick or treaters that never came. When the door bell did ring it was the pizza being delivered.

And it hit me. As we sat at the kitchen table eating pizza.They were gone. The children I’d spent 21 years celebrating Halloween with were gone. I began to cry into my pizza. They were out with the significant others (a story for another post) and I was home missing them like crazy. Aching to hear them laugh, tell me about their day, listen to them talk to each other, listen to them argue over who got the most candy, talk about all the crazy costumes we saw. But silence filled the room. My face streamed with tears.

The bonus child was concerned and interrupted my silence, “what’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m missing your sister and brother,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, mommy. Meme is dressed like Starfire. And AJ is dressed like Batman. Papito is with Tori. They’ll be home later,” he said laughing at me.

The voice of reason from a 4 year old. Still my pizza filled with my tears.

I was not prepared for this…it’s like a break up. You spend years building a strong relationship…loving, crying, celebrating, arguing, growing together…then they just move on with their lives. You have to watch and be happy. I know this will pass and I will be too busy to get lost in the silence. But I also know that there will be more growing up to do…I just hope I can grow up without them.

Step on the Flowers

dandelion-1
Image courtesy of thaowurr.deviantart.com

One of the greatest difficulties of being a teen mom are some of the missed opportunities because you are trying to grow up and raise a child at the same time, it’s often difficult to stop and smell the flowers. But there are moments that you know matter, not only to you but to your child.

I had my first child at 18, my second child at 21 and my third child at 35. When my older children were younger, they loved picking the dandelions. They would bring them into the kitchen and I would stick them in a glass until they wilted, which was usually very quick. I always made a big deal about their humble gift to me, it mattered to them so it mattered to me.

A few days ago, my third child aka the bonus child noticed the dandelions as we were walking to the car.

He stopped mid-step and asked, “can I step on the flowers?”

“Yes, you can step on the flowers,” I replied.

He gingerly stepped on the dandelions, watching them crush under his captain america light up shoes. He giggled.

The next day, as we passed the same patch of dandelions, he stopped and stared.

Bending down to study the weeds he asked, “can I pick them for you?”

The memories of the bouquet of weeds I received 17 and 14 years ago flashed in my mind. My heart remembered of all those moments that mattered to my older children and how important it is to pay attention even to the weeds.

I pause more and try to see the world through the eyes of my bonus child. I know one day, he will bring in his bouquet of weeds and I will receive them as if they were prize roses, just as I did when his sister and brother brought them. The gesture of a child is so pure, if only we stop to step on the flowers.

It didn’t know the meaning of the word empty!

Recently my co-worker had surgery, her mobility is limited so she has been bringing in her 10 yr old daughter to assist her; get prints from the copier, deliver messages throughout the office, deliver mail. etc. It has been nice to have her around.
I’ve worked at churches for more than 11 years and working at any church coming with its own unique set of issues. Some church offices are very child friendly and others not so much. Sometimes, it depends on the co-workers. At the first church I worked at, all the employees had children. So my kids spent school days off including summer vacation at the church. I always wondered what it was like for them growing up in the church. A few months ago my 17 yr old wrote an essay for school about a place he feels comfortable. Below is an excerpt from his essay:
A place where I feel comfortable is not always around, it comes and goes. Not because I am insecure, but because I am an observant person. I notice things that make even the most comfortable place awkward. However I have come to learn that accepting things makes it easier to become comfortable almost everywhere, when I was a kid I practically grew up in church, my mom was always there because she worked there. As I grew up the place that was my jungle when I played explorer was my comfort zone, even though it was a big silent sanctuary I could see it come to life on Sundays as if it didn’t know the meaning of the word empty. The church environment is a welcoming one…
 
I love intimacy he describes about being in the church building. What a beautiful impression of his years growing up in the church! He was about 4 yrs old when I worked at that particular church. I’d often find him asleep under one of the pews. Sometimes he and his older sister talk about playing in the children’s Sunday school room and all the fun they had with the other children.
Yesterday, my co-worker’s daughter wanted to help with a ministry event that was happening after work. The church I work at is not her home church but she was excited all day, looking forward to helping. I stopped to see how she was doing on my way to the train. She was smiling, busily working along the church organist and music director. I thought back to my son’s essay… “The church environment is a welcoming one…” may this always be!