Having five children is very eye-opening into the kind of person I am. Things that have been easy with one child have been difficult with another one. They are their own little people and require different things from different people…even their Mommy. This has been shown to me in the most drastic ways through parenting my third daughter, Helen.
She’s a “Momma’s Girl.” She always has been. Truth be told, I’m shocked it worked out this way, even though I prayed for it.
You see, when I was pregnant with Helen, I already knew she would be a “Momma’s Girl.” I told people how independent Sarah had been while she was still a baby (!!) and that she had this strong, enviable bond with her Grandma. I told people how Dani seemed as though she couldn’t care less if I was around and that she always wanted her Daddy. So, I figured, that meant that my third child would want me since my arms would most likely be open much of the time.
Honestly and fervently, I prayed that I might experience a bond with this child that was stronger than other bonds the she would have with any other person. I wanted to experience what it was like for my daughter to always want me to be her anchor when things got tough and her comfort.
I don’t know if that’s a normal or a crazy thing to want to experience. On the days when Helen wants to cuddle and doesn’t whine my ear off, I think it’s very normal. On the days when Helen fusses and doesn’t want me to go in to work and cries because she “just wants her Mommy close”, I think it’s very crazy.
Helen and I have a true roller coaster relationship some days. My heart swells with love for this daughter of mine who is sweet, gentle, cute, smart and all around just a big hunk o’ love! Then my heart breaks when she hits her brother, screams at her sister (or at me!), refuses to go to sleep on a school night and then reaches for me when she’s disciplined and rebuffed.
I don’t think I love Helen any more or any less than the others. I do believe that our relationship’s intensity requires much of my attention. I know that Sarah and Dani are often jealous of the attention I must pay to Helen…even when it’s not the kind of attention they themselves would like to receive. I can’t say that I blame them for being a bit put-out with Helen because sometimes her behavior (and my dealing with it) puts me in a bad mood. Sarah and Dani never try any of the things Helen does, so while they get some “bad” attention it’s mostly for slight infractions (comparatively speaking).
When I combine the energy I spend dealing with Helen along with the energy needed to get Dominic potty-trained and learning to be a “big boy” on his way to age 3 and top it off with the energy needed to take care of Vincent, some days it leaves me wiped out.
I wish I didn’t have to include “exhausting” as one of the adjectives I use to describe my relationship with Helen. Sure, there are lots of positive words I can use, too, like “close” and “affectionate” and there are less-positive words like “contentious.” I find myself wondering if it will always be this way and what that means in future stages of our relationship. For example, I find myself trying to deny that we’ll ever hit age 15 with Helen because I’m not sure I can handle it.
But then I remember that I need to live in the present.
Right this minute, I love Helen with all my being…even as she is crying herself to sleep, crying for her Momma, in her room after I have done all I think I can do to get her ready for sleep.
Right this minute, even with the trials laid before me, I enjoy Helen’s spunk and her feisty nature.
Right this minute, I’m grateful that God answered my prayer even with the growth it requires.
Lord, I pray that I won’t wish away these moments, for they will be gone all too quickly. Having a child just-turned-ten
illuminates for me that childhood indeed is fleeting. I only get so much time with them at home.
And when they are gone…when Helen has grown up and is no longer here to cry for me at bedtime or flash me her million-dollar-smile and joyfully embrace me upon my return home from work…I will be sad that it went by so fast and I might regret that I didn’t enjoy it more.