It Gets Easier. No Really.

There’s a universal set of lies that mothers of adult children tell mothers of small children.

1. Enjoy every second – I sure did!
2. You’ll blink and they’ll be graduating high school!
3. Oh honey, keep your chin up – because it only gets harder.

I’ve spent the last nine and a half years of my life attempting to ignore and not explode over these completely not encouraging statements, and also debunking them for other young mothers who have that horrified, exhausted, overspent look in their eyes.

Like my dear friend Not-Crazy-Renee had Tuesday afternoon.

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First of all, no one enjoys every second of motherhood. There’s a lot of crap we have to deal with – more literal crap than figurative, but plenty of both. We should enjoy the beautiful moments, for sure – but the concept of “enjoying every second” only breeds guilt and shame and a sense of being less-than in comparison to these mothers who have wet-wiped away the many crappy memories of their younger days.

Second. I don’t care what they say. When you’re in the midst of mothering young children, it is NOT a blink. Maybe it feels like it afterward, but it does not, in ANY WAY, feel like it in the middle – no matter how delightful your particular children are. Ali is a great example – she’s really been an unusually easy and great kid since about 9 months old. She didn’t even have terrible twos, y’all. But even still, when Chris sent me this Timehop the other day, it felt like at least a century ago – certainly not a blink.

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But those first two statements have been plainly not true to me for nearly my entire parenting career. (I even remember how NON-BLINK the first six weeks of Ali’s life felt. I kept blinking. The seconds of her constant screaming kept crawling along. BLINK BLINK BLINK.)

The third lie, however, has been my newest revelation of how lie-ey of a lie it actually is. And that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

“It only gets harder.”

No, no it doesn’t.

I don’t know how many people I’ve had tell me this over the years – so many that I don’t remember any particular individuals – they all blur together into a continuous loop of it-only-gets-harder-honeys. And maybe teenagehood totally gets harder – it probably does. I’m not there yet. But I am here to attest – and to share the agreement of many of my friends who are in the same stage as myself – that it does NOT only get harder.

My kids are 9 1/2 and 5 1/2. And my life is infinitely easier and more delightful than when I had a newborn. In fact, I’m at a pretty dang easy stage of parenting. I don’t have to wipe any butts, carry any pumpkin seats, comfort any inconsolable babies, pack a diaper bag, wake up in the middle of the night to impart life-giving sustenance to anyone, or teach (over and over) the idea of what “no” means.

(Okay maybe the no thing is still being taught over and over. But the rest are solid.)

I remember when Ali was born. It was a horrifying shock to our systems – one of those OHMYGOSH I WILL NEVER HAVE MY LIFE BACK EVER AGAIN shocks. Newborns, especially first newborns, are all-encompassing. They take your sleep, your calories, your arms, your every waking moment, and your sanity. They cry inconsolably. They cannot tell you what’s wrong. And they give nothing in exchange – other than their tiny cuteness, which is NOT ENOUGH, I tell you.

(At least for the first one. It made up for a lot on the second one.)

I felt pretty panicky in those first few months, thinking I would never feel like “just me” again. But I quickly learned, and was able to remember and therefore make Noah’s infanthood easier, that you progressively get your freedoms and your sense of self back.

Renee did indeed come over Tuesday afternoon, and the chaos of her life reminded me how very much of my life I have back. I gave her a giant cup of iced coffee, sent my children to entertain two out of three of her children, and tried to encourage her that she is in Ground Zero of Parenthood – this is The Hardest It Gets (at least up to 9 1/2 years old, where my assumed expertise ends.) Those baby/toddler days are draining, and are definitely harder than the days I’m experiencing now. I even texted her (desperately attempting to be non-braggy) an example at 10am the next morning:

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Here are a list of things that I can do now, that I would have never dreamed of doing when I had an infant, or a 1, 2, or 3 year old.

– I can take a nap – with my kids at home – and they are perfectly able to entertain themselves.
– I can sleep in – because they can read clocks and know they’re not allowed to come into my room until 8 (and 8:30 on Saturdays.)
– Ali really likes making a little money on the side, she she voluntarily brings me breakfast in bed about once a week (an entrepreneurial delight that I reward with 50 cents.)
– I can say “I’m going out on the porch to read a book”, and they say “Okay!” – and I – get this – GO OUT ON THE PORCH AND READ A BOOK.
– My kids and I can go on adventures – hiking, exploring, having fun – without having to worry about naptimes or diapers or feedings or even constant whininess (sometimes.)

Here are a list of things that my kids do for themselves that seemed like a foreign and exotic fantasy when I had a newborn or a toddler:

– They get dressed. Brush their own teeth. Get themselves in the car and buckle their own seatbelts.
– They clean their rooms with minimal help.
– They know how much iPad time they’re allowed a day (1 hour during the summer) and how many TV shows they’re allowed to watch (2 shows each) and which TV shows they’re allowed to watch, and they access said allowed events without my help.
– They fix their own breakfasts and lunches most of the time.

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…………..and that’s as far as I got writing this post before I put it down for the day and got back to life.

…..Later that night, I discovered that in an effort to make money that morning, my daughter, while I was still in bed basking in my #ItGetsEasier lifestyle, had unloaded a dirty dishwasher. And I discovered it at 10:30pm that night. Which also meant that the bowl of #ItGetsEasier cereal she’d brought me that morning….yeah I don’t want to think about it.

…..And on that same night, my son, of whom I do not have to wipe his butt anymore because #ItGetsEasier, solidly clogged up the kid’s toilet with a massive dump – so much so that neither that night nor the next morning could my husband unclog said toilet.

So yes.

It does get easier.

You do get your self back.

But parenthood is a lifetime purchase.

And they’ll find a way to make you pay interest.

Disclaimer: Before you hate, I love my children. I love to spend time with them. I love being a Mommy. This post is only meant to encourage the fellow mothers in the trenches of what is a quadruple-overtime-required job – is it worth it? Yes. Is it seriously mind-blowingly hard sometimes? Yes. That is all.

Backwards Parenting: Because Nobody’s Perfect.

I don’t blog too much about Ali anymore – after all, she’s eight and a half and has earned the right to privacy in most matters. Not sharing her stories is my decision on her behalf, as she has certainly never expressed this to me, and quite enjoys reading back through my old blog posts about her. But even if they don’t understand it yet, there comes a time when it just seems right to not blog about everything in a kid’s life.

However, I asked her permission to share this story, and she readily agreed.


Ali is an extraordinarily good kid.

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She’s conscientious, diligent, helpful, and tries to please us any chance she gets.

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And I do mean ANY chance. To the point where, not long ago, I began to feel like I was going to have to have a talk with her about not trying to earn some extra measure of love and/or approval by outshining her little brother.

For example: Anytime Noah whines about something, she rather over-cheerily chirps, “Yes ma’am! No problem, Mom!”, and if he doesn’t want to do something I asked him to do, she’ll step in and say “I’ll be glad to do that for you!”

…Not to say I don’t rather enjoy her attitude, but I want it to be for the right reasons.

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But the opportunity to talk about her strived-for perfection presented itself a few days ago.

We were having an “at home day” so that I could get the house back in order after all of our construction. I’d told the kids at breakfast that I was going to work on stuff all day, and it was their job to play together and entertain themselves.

I’d never given those exact instructions before, but it was impressively successful – prepping the kids regarding their responsibility of amusing themselves cut out 90% of the whining and requesting of my boredom-busting services. I was pretty proud of myself.

…Until I heard things crashing down the stairs, followed by many giggles. So I called out for them to please quit throwing all the things – and for that matter anything – down the stairs.

Of course, eager-to-please Ali called back, “It wasn’t me! It was Noah!”

(She didn’t deny her part in the giggles, though.)

“Well, no one throw anything else down the stairs PLEASE.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Yes ma’am.”

And they went back to playing quietly.

…Until about half an hour later, when I heard crying coming from the base of the stairs.

It wasn’t frantic crying, so I walked through the house and to the stairs to find out what had befallen my four-year-old. Noah was sitting on the floor whimpering, and Ali had a shocked and horrified look on her face.

“What happened?”

“I .. I threw this down the stairs. While Noah was walking down the stairs. And it hit him and knocked him down.”

I was so confused by Ali’s admission of disobedience that I didn’t quite comprehend it. She did what? That’s not an Ali thing to do. Was she sure it wasn’t the other way around? Surely it was the other way around.

The item in question was a Study Buddy pillow. It definitely had the power to knock Noah down while standing anywhere, let alone the stairs.

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Once I fully absorbed what had happened, I said, “Do you know how much that could have hurt him? He could have fallen much worse and broken an arm. Or busted open his head. Didn’t I just tell you both not to throw things down the stairs?”

Ali instantaneously began crying and said, “I know! It was so very foolish. You can punish me now. Please punish me!”

Noah had quit crying by then and was looking at his sister like she was an alien. Did she just request punishment?

I was also feeling very out of sorts and confused about the entire incident, so I said “I’m going to call Daddy and talk to him about what your consequences should be. I’ll come see you in a minute.”

I walked to my office and called Chris. We were both perplexed, and discussed the situation thoroughly, including the fact that she was definitely punishing herself with her insane amount of “perfect child guilt”. Because of the latter, we decided that we did want to give her other consequences – out of mercy – so that she could feel like she received her punishment and not dwell in her misery of guilt. Finally, we agreed that she could be grounded off of TV for three days.

I found Ali upstairs in her room, where she was crying violently. As I walked in, she burst out between sobs, “I feel so stupid!!”

I’d never heard her use the word “stupid” before and I could tell that it was a gut-wrenching description of the state of her heart at that moment. Being a perfectionist myself that has struggled with desiring to appear without fault for my entire life, I felt awful for her and knew exactly how tumultuous she was feeling. A day doesn’t go by where my mind doesn’t conjure up some past mistake that makes me cringe and vocally groan at the memory – even if it happened 20 years ago.

I knew that the Study Buddy would haunt her every time she saw it for the rest of her childhood if I didn’t somehow help her train her brain better than my own. (Or throw away the Study Buddy.) So her coaching would be opposite of what her brother would need. Instead of reiterating what she had done wrong, I was going to have to convince her to let her wrongdoing go.

So I assured her that she wasn’t stupid, and that we all make mistakes.

“I put myself in time out. I don’t deserve to play today! I am so foolish. It’s like I lost my mind for a minute!”

I told her that she had to forgive herself, and began to explain to her what it meant to be a perfectionistic people pleaser. I explained that none of us can truly be perfect and that I’d already made many mistakes that week. I began telling her my laundry list of mess-ups, and she looked at me with wonder and a good deal of confusion.

“But I can’t forgive myself! It would be too prideful. I was too foolish for forgiveness.”

I tried again to explain, “Actually, it’s prideful to not forgive yourself. Not forgiving yourself is saying that you think you can be good enough if you try hard enough, and so if you mess up, you’ve ruined it all. That’s why we need Jesus – because none of us can be perfect – and all of us need forgiveness and a fresh start every day – and He washes our sins away and makes us perfect and new. You just need to do three things: ask your brother to forgive you, ask God to forgive you, and then you MUST forgive yourself.”

“I’ve already done the first two, but I just don’t know how to do the third.”

“I understand. I struggle with it, too. But you’ve got to let go of the idea that you can be perfect. NO ONE is perfect.”

She breathed a deep sigh and I could nearly see a little burden rolling off of her shoulders.

So then I told her, “Daddy and I did decide that you do need consequences – but only because I’d just told you both not to throw things down the stairs. Your consequences will be that you can’t watch TV for three days.”

Her shoulders got straighter and eyes brighter. She looked up eagerly at me, “Oh that’s fine. I DEFINITELY deserve that!”

I saw another bundle of burden roll off her back, and marveled at this bizarre yet beautiful exchange.

“None of us are good enough. We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to forgive ourselves. Okay?”

“Okay. I think I understand.”

Later that day, she proudly brought me her diary to read.

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Parenting a people pleaser may seem easy and even be easy on most days, but sometimes it takes a bit of backwards parenting to get through to them. And I am so grateful that my tiny perfectionist messed up so that she could realize that perfection is a hopeless cause.

…And remind me of that very same thing.

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On Experiencing a Personal-Sized Tornado.

Last weekend I went on a girl’s trip with a few Moms in my small group.

But I’ll get back to that another day.

I got home from that trip around 3:15 Sunday afternoon, and when I drove up and parked, Fred (The Cat) came running up to me, with a very uncharacteristic nervous series of meows. Although it was currently a hot, sunny day, a small line of storms were headed our way, and I told Chris that Fred seemed nervous about them.

“Nah, he’s just hungry. I’ll get him some food.”

I got all of my (much overpacked) luggage inside and sat on the living room floor to play with the kids, while Chris went to the basement to get a quick run in on the treadmill. We were going to get out and go to a playground or something with the kids, but we knew that tiny rain band was headed our way, so decided to wait until after it passed.

I’d just started doing an activity book with Noah when the power went out.

Then it came back on, then off again. Then on, then off again.

After about the sixth rotation, I was starting to find it odd, and then it then stayed off for good.

I looked out the window to see the sky darken and the rain begin to fall.

Then instantly, the wind started blowing in circles, insanely powerful and loud. There were leaves and branches swirling in our yard and hitting the house, and Ali and I screamed and yelled “BASEMENT!!” at the same time.

I’ve seen a lot of powerful thunderstorms and not one has ever really scared me, but this one sent me into an immediate panic. I’d never seen things flying around like that before. All the way through the kitchen I was yelling at the kids to duck and not get near any windows as the sounds grew louder.

Chris met us at the door of the basement as he was about to run up and get us. He said “I can’t imagine how loud that was up there – it was crazy down here!”

And then the storm stopped.

It had lasted maybe two minutes – probably less.

We stayed downstairs for about five minutes until Ali quit crying (she has a significant frame of reference for what tornadoes can do, so she had immediate fear, while Noah seemed fairly oblivious), and then we all cautiously walked back upstairs to see what had happened.

We stepped out onto the porch and there was a lazy drizzle of rain and a significant chill in the air. As we opened our door and crossed our arms to stay warm, our neighbors across the street were doing the same. We looked up and down the street, and in a very eerie A Wrinkle in Time kind of way, all of our neighbors were stepping onto their porches at the same time, crossing their arms at the cold.

The outside of our houses were polka dotted with leaf particles that had been blasted onto the siding. There was a tree across the road next door to us, a tree split in half on the other side of us, and all of our yards were blanketed in leaves, gumballs, branches, other people’s garbage cans, and anything else left outside.

Tornado Damage

We stood there, all yelling back and forth and trying to figure out what happened, and then the rain stopped, the sun came back out, and it was like it had never happened – aside from everything being quite out of place.

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Our street congregated around the tree in the road, and one of the neighbors said that she and her husband had been driving home and had just turned onto our street when the storm started. They saw the tree begin to fall and backed up just in time – it was a very frightening near miss for them, and she was still shaking.

We all set off in different directions trying to see how far-reaching the storm had been, and to make sure everyone was okay.

The damage was bizarrely concentrated on only two blocks – our road, the road behind us, and the road that intersects with it. Beyond those roads, there weren’t even leaves on the ground. A few blocks away, it hadn’t rained.

In that small area of the storm, there were at least two houses with trees on them,

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Well over a dozen trees uprooted or broken off at various points,

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all having fallen in different directions,

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And we even received an early Christmas tree delivery when our neighbor’s tree broke off and flew over the fence.

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Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Within minutes, a neighbor had driven up with a chain saw and gasoline in his truck, ready to remove the tree on our road. People congregated to haul, saw, and clear the road. I felt kind of stupid for having asked a few minutes earlier who we were supposed to call to get it removed. Who knew my neighbors were so handy – and prepared?

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One of Fred’s many owners was pacing the street, asking when we’d last seen him. I felt terrible that I hadn’t heeded his feline warnings, but knew he was a sturdy cat and had braved a few storms before.

The sound of chainsaws buzzing and generators humming filled the neighborhood, a sound that is still ongoing.

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Power crews came and started working on the countless lines down – both big and small.

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Our power was returned at midnight, although some neighbors are still out of power. Fred showed back up when Chris went to turn off the generator, happily purring over his exciting adventures. Although I’ve tweeted with the National Weather Service in Birmingham and they promised to investigate the specifics of the storm, it has not yet been declared a tornado, but all witnessing neighbors agreed – it sounded, looked, and acted like a tornado.

As for the kids, Ali had been immediately traumatized – every time the wind blew for the rest of the afternoon she whimpered and winced. We had some good conversations about God’s protection and God’s control over all things – even when storms do come. It took many conversations, but she is now at peace. And although Noah proudly told everyone how brave he had been during the storm, he was the one up crying several times in the night, telling me his nightmares about being on the sidewalk while branches and trees were falling and flying around him.

As for me, the most frightening part was the fact that we weren’t under any watches or warnings. There had been plenty of advance notice that there could be severe weather on Sunday, but no warnings related to the specific tiny band of storms that hit our neighborhood. We could have easily been outside on a beautiful day, or in the car, if we hadn’t been paying attention to the radar.

But ultimately, I’m thankful that I got home exactly when I did – I could have easily been driving in it. And I’m thankful that Noah hadn’t been able to nap – even though nothing had happened, the whole event would have been much more terrifying if he had been a floor above me when I needed to get everyone to the basement in an instant. And I’m thankful that my husband is a radar watcher – otherwise, I have no idea what would have happened.

And also, we won’t live in the bubble of “it won’t happen to us” anymore. Living on the side of a mountain and nowhere near the usual “tornado paths” made us feel a little shielded from severe storms, but now we know – they can do what they want to do.


Updated: NWS Birmingham just tweeted me back and declared it to be straight line winds, not a tornado. Which officially makes Sunday’s storm the most swirly and terrifying straight line winds that I’ve ever seen.