Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Need to Stop Surviving

I was caught off-guard last night by my son's big toe.

Ever since Evie was born in April, I've found that most of what my husband and I do could be considered "surviving". We make sure the house isn't a complete disaster, that no one is dead, make sure we tell everyone we love them and that we love each other, and we make meek attempts at sleeping. Whereas five and a half months ago, I was noticing everything - these days I have realized that things are flying right by me and I am very likely missing things.

I have no idea what things I am missing. I have no idea if the growth and development milestones I've noticed in both of my kids recently happened well before and I didn't notice or if they just happened. Like Will coloring in specifically identified areas in pictures or Evie pulling the glasses off of Daddy's face. Did that just happen, or has there been a build-up that I missed? Did it happen before right now and I blinked?

On my wall is a reminder that I printed from a Proverbs 31 Ministries devotional: "Noticers see the lovely in front of them and learn to love their story."

I try to be a noticer. I really do. God has blessed me with a home filled with love, a home that is filled with the smiles and laughter of two wonderful children, the resources to allow me to stay at home with them, a husband who loves me and tries his best to show it, and so many other things that I just don't deserve. There is so much for me to take pause, to notice, to take joy in during the course of the day that it's insane that I don't just walk around with perma-grin.

Seriously. Just look at these little blessings.
But my noticing skills are getting lost in the survival shuffle. And with it the moments that I should be taking to thank God for the joy that He is trying to fill my home with.

Yes - all of this thought process was triggered by a brief 10-second encounter with my son's big toe.

Why my son's big toe? Well... it's big.

As anyone with more than one kid will tell you, the first period of just you and your first child are filled with moments that you can just savor. You can take the time to memorize every detail of that child. Their hairs, their smiles, their eyebrows, their eye color, their smile, their coos, their giggles.

Then number two comes along and life changes instantly. And I don't know if it's because they're only 2 years apart, but I feel like life with a toddler and an infant is especially crazy. The 2-year-old doesn't understand the logic of "No, I can't read you a story right now because your sister is attached to my breast and doesn't just chill and eat". The 5-month-old doesn't understand that you're way overstimulated with dinnertime chaos and the last thing you can cope with right now is her crying fit.

The time to analyze and memorize every detail of the children has been gobbled up by making sure everyone gets attention, making sure everyone is fed, making sure everyone feels loved. By surviving.

I've stopped noticing and started surviving.

Then last night happened. Last night I was down on the floor playing trucks (or maybe Mr. Potato Head) with Will when he pointed out a "boo-boo" (crayon mark or something) on his big toe. Of course I made sure I took a close look before reassuring him that there was not any boo-boo and that it would come off in the bath - and that was when it happened.

I missed a breath. His big toe got big.

Those who know my son know he's a peanut (we're talking 3rd percentile on the charts), and so this is the kind of big that only a parent who realizes suddenly that their kid is growing up. But I really had to stop and say... when the heck did Will's toe get so big? Where did his baby big toe go?

I hid the tear because my son is also incredibly empathetic and I didn't want him to see me crying right before bedtime, but the tear was there. I missed it. I blinked. And his big toe got big without me noticing.

What else haven't I noticed?

When you focus on survival, you don't take the time to realize what is in your surroundings because you just want to make sure you don't die before you get to the other side. Say, for instance, you're lost in a jungle. If you're lost in a jungle, you're not going to focus on "Gee, that's a gorgeous flower on that tree" or "I bet those vines would weave into a really comfortable hammock so I can enjoy the sounds of the river and the monkeys and such". You're going to focus on "What the heck can I do to get out of this horrible, humid, place where every animal wants to eat me for breakfast alive?".

Image from www.survivalkit.com. I've never been to a real jungle.
I'm in a parenting jungle. I want to make sure I get myself, my husband, and my kids out of the next couple of years alive. The thing is that in a parenting jungle - you need to focus on the gorgeous flowers or the vines that make hammocks. I mean... the crayon scribblings and the blanket forts. If you don't, you miss big toes that become bigger toes.

Every mom that has come before me tells me to make sure that I slow down and enjoy the moments because they're not little forever. No one has the answers as to how though. As far as I can tell, there's a whole lot of moms out there that are missing big toes.

We need to figure out how to stop surviving and start noticing. The way I figure it, the right place for me to start is to pray. Pray that God can help me to slow, because I can't do it myself that's for sure. Pray that God can help me to treasure these moments close to my heart. The goofy smiles, the interactions of toddler and baby, the tickle giggles, the filthy diapers, the moments in the ER, the snuggles, the shoulder hugs, the floppy tired baby.

The big toes.

And we need to prop each other up as moms and dads. We need to help each other survive so that we can better notice.

I need it, anyways. I guess I should stop speaking for you. I need to stop surviving. I need to notice more. Maybe you do too.

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