When it comes to having kids, nearly everything is a surprise. Sure, you know to expect certain things…sleepless nights, less time alone, and many dirty diapers…but even with those things, we don’t really know how it FEELS to have sleepless nights and less time alone and completely explosive, innumerable dirty diapers (or even diaper-less dirty diapers….like the “dump in the bathtub” variety) unless you are actually experiencing it. And usually it comes with that thought, “Yeah, that’s not how I saw this playing out in my head.”
One thing I’ve been surprised by since the day Heidi was born was how much and how often I would have to feed her. Good LANDS, I hadn’t even considered that every time she needed to eat, I actually had to FEED HER. As silly as it sounds, I really hadn’t thought that through. The child cannot feed herself, obviously, and won’t be able to for quite some time. Granted, she does eat finger foods, which allows me to prepare dinner or unload the dishwasher while I keep an eye on her during a meal. But still. As a brand new nursing mom last August, I was overwhelmed by her need of me. Every two hours, I had to attach her to my body and sit with her for nearly an hour. I remember thinking, “SERIOUSLY?! You have GOT to be kidding me.” This routine did wonders for my Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy addictions. Yet even those ENDED!! And she KEPT EATING! And until we could convince her that bottles were not the devil, it was all on me. I could escape for MAYBE an hour but it was a slippery slope if I wasn’t home within a shade of when she might want to eat again. Now, at nine months, she eats every four hours, so things are admittedly a lot better. But even now, mealtimes seem to take ffffooooorrreevvveeerrr. Why do babies/kids get completely antsy and distracted when it’s time to eat?? She flails about and stretches and acts so bored and laughs and whimpers and plays with the high chair tray and smears food in her hair and does anything but eat one bite every 10 minutes. It’s maddening. MADDENING. Like slowly plucking my own arm hairs, one by one.
I also hadn’t thought of how MUCH STUFF a tiny person needs. When we travel, or even when I go somewhere for just an afternoon, I need food, the pack ‘n play, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, her favorite toys, snacks, sippy cup, her blankie, and extra pacifier, and on and on and on. It’s like you have to plan your vacation for extra long just to give you a couple days to pack up and then to put everything away. And of course, you typically end up not needing everything you bring. But of course you WILL need it should you forget to bring it. You brought the pack ‘n play? She’s happy as a clam without a nap. You brought all her toys? She loves playing with a box she found. You brought food? She’s too busy to eat. You forgot any of those things, and Pandora’s box busts open like the bottle of syrup she knocked over and shattered at Target today (yes…SYRUP…of ALL the things to splatter all over the aisles). She will DEMAND the one thing you forgot. Babies have no mercy.
One a more serious note, one thing lately I hadn’t thought about was Heidi’s future. I mean, yes, of course I have thought about it. I have thought about her first day of kindergarten and learning long division in grade school and playing sports in junior high and helping her get ready for prom in high school and her wedding day. But I hadn’t thought that it gets to a certain point in her life where she will start making choices. Big choices that affect the rest of her life. What if she moves across the country? Or OUT of the country? What if she makes a huge mistake she regrets? What if she experiences darkness and loneliness in her life? What if she tries drinking and drugs? At the tender age of nine months, I can snatch her away from an electrical outlet or from running out in the street or putting something dangerous in her mouth. But what’s a mom to do when I can’t scoop her up in my arms and make it all better?
Now, before you go saying I am a crazy, over-thinking, over-bearing mother, I will say we plan to teach Heidi core values and morals. We are a Christian family, and we intend to teach and discipline Heidi in order that she will grow up knowing she is loved by God and knowing how to set healthy boundaries for herself. That being said, there comes a point where I can no longer make choices for her. I can’t guarantee she will put to use anything I taught her. I can’t keep her locked in her room, and I can’t guarantee she will always be happy. The thought of Heidi experiencing darkness in her life makes me tear up. Yet I know it will mostly likely happen. Because it happens to all of us, whether it’s because of a choice we made ourselves or not. Our children will suffer or be sad or be hurt at some point.
To deal with these thoughts, I began a prayer list for Heidi last week. I got the idea from a book I was reading, The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. While some of the book is a little cliche and corny, I felt so much comfort when I started making a list of things I wanted to pray over Heidi: I wanted to pray for protection over her spirit, body, and mind against any evil or harm…protection from accidents, disease, injury, or abuse of any kind…for her to have a heart of love, peace, patience, and understanding…for Cody and I to parent her wisely…and most of all, for her to know that God and her parents are here for her always, no matter what she is experiencing.
I realize praying these things over her does guarantee a bubble of protection. I’m not ignorant, and I know this world is a pretty dangerous place. But it does mean I’ve done all I can for her as a parent. I’ve placed her heart and her well-being in God’s hands. That’s all I can do.
And yet it feels like more than enough.
We can’t be everywhere. But God can.
We can’t see everything. But God can.
We can’t know everything. But God can.
1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”