One Sunday morning during church, I was standing around bouncing my fussy premature baby around the cry room. This room is special—a place for nursing moms and moms with young kids to watch the live sermon on a monitor. I wasn’t alone, two other moms sat on the couches, and we were all chatting. A beautiful but tired mom sat with her little girl snuggled in her arms, gazing at the lights.
“She’s so chill. She’s like this all the time, much easier than my other son.”
I looked over at her with big eyes and a laugh, “I’m jealous! My baby is so challenging!”
This poor mother’s face fell as she apologized. I reassured her I wasn’t mad; in fact, I was thrilled her daughter was going easy on her. I know what it’s like to have the difficult one, and a calm, quiet baby sounds like every mother’s dream.
It’s been 15 months with my once-premie baby who has now grown but still cranks up the scream machine quite a bit. She is vocal, opinionated, needy, and quick to express her very strong thoughts. It has driven me to tears so many times I have lost count.
She is a difficult child.
The challenge started when she was born one month early and hasn’t really ended. Sickness has plagued her little life, and she has struggled against everything from drinking milk in those early days to stranger anxiety, ear infections, and even riding in a car seat. It’s a daily battle to not only take care of her needs but figure out what is triggering another outburst.
The other day it was 11 a.m. and I was trying to keep both her and her 2-year-old sister busy until lunchtime. I knew if I could hold them both out until after 12 p.m., they would get better naps.
But she was all over me fussing and arching her back and throwing her hands up to the sky as if to say, “Why me Lord? I am thy servant who suffereth.”
Well, we were both suffering. I didn’t know what to do with her.
We played for a little while, but she was still so miserable. I got out a bucket of ice for them to play with, hoping she would use it to press onto her achy teething gums. She did for about five seconds and then continued to whine and cry.
In these moments, I want to quit. I want to put her in bed and walk away. But I knew that wasn’t the solution, and I had to press on. My big girl was behaving, so with that appreciation in mind, I bolstered the strength to try an early lunch.
It’s easy to feel like we should know everything about our kids. When we feel clueless about their needs, it feels strange. At that moment, I knew she was tired and hungry and teething with three teeth, but I couldn’t read her mind. Every mom can rest and relax in the fact that we may not know what our difficult kids need or want every second of the day, and that’s okay.
We don’t have to know everything in order to be the best mom for our kids. We already are.
I ran inside to grab peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs. My big girl was so excited about the eggs that she ate her sandwich quickly so she could eat those next. The baby struggled in my arms, but once the yogurt was doled up on a spoon, she was thrilled.
We spent the next half hour playing with neon-colored stencils shaped like animals. My 2-year-old was using her imagination more than I had ever seen, and my little peanut sat in my lap, and we clapped and sang and squished each other’s cheeks. Her smile told me how much she was enjoying our face-to-face time.
And then as if magic happened, we made it to nap time.
As I walked my big girl inside and carried the baby to her crib, I thought, What if I had given up and put her to bed early in frustration?
If I had listened to my doubting self that told me giving up would be easier, I would have missed the cheek-squeezing. If I had strapped them in for an ordinary lunch inside, I would have missed my baby’s pure joy for the yogurt I fed her bite after bite—her mouth agape in gleeful anticipation.
Life is not made up of big chunks of time, years, or even heavy decisions.
Life is made up of moments.
One inhale of breath, tiny minuscule moments that fly away when you blink.
Sometimes I feel so incompetent in my motherhood that I do want to quit. Or run away. Or believe the lie that I’m not God’s best choice for these girls.
But the imaginative 2-year-old and squirmy 1-year-old who just needed some old-fashioned quality time tell me otherwise.
I am the best mom for them. Yes, they are challenging. Yes, they test me. But I feed them hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches, and I have been faithfully by their sides since birth.
I am not going anywhere.