In the Middle of a Muddle

It has been a long night. Maybe it has been a long week. The preacher and I have spent the last hour hopping back and forth from the beds of our two older girls. At this point I would welcome the throw up bug, the one where your child is so weak they lay in your arms as you feed gatorade and motrin into their sore little bodies. Instead we have been trying to calm each girl off the ledge of sibling rivalry and well, insanity. It happened somewhere in the great abyss of the upstairs, an argument over which movie to watch. Obviously, as the laws of the jungle state, survival of the fittest. Since the oldest mastered netflix first, her movie got watched. Not one to be a shrinking violet, Anna has taught herself the technology as well but can never seem to get her hands on the remote. She feels anger, outrage even, and swindled. She is at the mercy of a gatekeeper, one who is capable and a bit bossy.

First came the “reporting” from both sides, objective of course if you think the Fox News channel simply provides facts. It arrived in the kitchen where the grown ups were finishing a balanced and home-cooked meal of baked chicken and mashed potatoes. I was feeling good, successful of my day’s accomplishments. I ran with a friend this morning and solved our world’s problems as the sun rose. I passed two exams for my lacrosse referee job and pure barre instructor certification. I went to the elementary school and helped 125 kids in the running club train for our upcoming 5k. We ran two miles which is a lot. There was not a lot of joy or freedom or “I need this” going on in their heads. Mostly they thought of why they needed to walk. But it is a start and I felt good for motivating my herd without getting frustrated. And I had a meal to share with our neighbors one whose spouse had to work late and the other who was feeling under the weather.

But once the neighbors left, the sheer hate came and it poured from their mouths like venom through a snake bite. We were beyond a teaching moment or talking it out or finding a solution or even apologizing. It simply had to end. Cheyney had long since fallen asleep on the sofa and been carried to bed. She is blissfully unaware of the role she played in our family tonight. But according to Anna she is partly to blame. “The baby who gets everything because she is cute and she cries!”  “And Coco gets everything because she is smart and the oldest!” “And I am stuck in the middle with nothing!” Oh how my heart breaks. It is textbook behavior and yet no one has a solution for me yet.

Anna’s latest phrase has been “I wish I had a car so I could run myself over. I hate my life”. She is 6. What is it going to be when she is 16? I told her I loved her anyway. I listened, hugged, touched, loved, snuggled, and cried. I prayed. None of it worked. I remember her newborn days when she would wail like her fingernails were being ripped. It wasn’t reflux or colic or sickness. It was discomfort. We would have her sleep on her back swaddled/unswaddled or in her carseat or on her stomach (forgive me Lord and pediatrician) or in the swing. Mostly she slept on someone else’s stomach for the first six months of her life. And while I would wake 97 times during the 3 hour window only to have my neck stuck in a 45 degree angle to the right, I did it. During those newborn days we would do anything to make her happy.

I wish the fix was so easy today. I wish I could take her pain and make it mine, trade a few hours of sleep  for a crick in the neck that could be ironed at the chiropractor. I would bear it, gladly. Because taking on a child’s ache is nothing compared to watching one suffer and not knowing how to make it go away. As a parent you feel it double: as a memory of your own childhood hurts and as a parent wondering where it went wrong.

I can only imagine what puberty will be like: boyfriends, cliques, broken hearts, self image, outfits, tryouts, who got to drive the car more this week and such. There are a million minefields I am not even aware of yet. If ever there was a perfect setup for Lent, my kids provided it tonight. No matter how hard I work or how much I love them or how cushy of a bubble I provide, these three miracles are people in the real world and this place often forgets that. We forget we are created perfectly and loved unconditionally. I know my girls cannot understand I love them each in their own way  because -and in spite- of their decisions. I love them equally but very differently. This is how God must love each of us right? Fiercely and with conviction, even though sometimes it feels like God loves the people with the easy lives more.

I closed the door to Anna’s room tonight feeling like a failure. How on earth am I going to keep this wonderful creature safe long enough to learn nobody can take away who she is and how much I love her? Tomorrow will come, there will be swollen eyes and headaches from crying. There will be new chances to show love and feel comfort and start over. May angels visit her dreams and mine tonight.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30


10 responses to this post.

  1. :(:); and i don’t know the symbol for hug


  2. Posted by Allison A. on February 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Being a mother (parent) is the greatest, hardest, job in the world…
    I hope there is sunshine in their lives tomorrow morning.


  3. Posted by cindi bartol on February 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    oh – ache and tears and understanding of Anna’s frustrating words and rejoicing that she can shout out her feelings so that you know and can talk/respond – you have given her that ability – she is safe in being able to express her feelings – she will rally more quickly than you will

    …there is never one conversation that sheds light into our minds, only repeated opportunities to express what you said tonight to her which is a repetition of all that you tell her. hugs (), love and prayers this night and may the angels watch over all of you and bring comfort…keep watch, dear Lord, with those who…weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep [BCP-Compline] May you all rise with refreshing outlooks on the day ahead.


  4. Posted by Amy Blawas on February 24, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Melanie as the mother of three older girls I feel your pain. What always amazes me is that in 15 minutes or the next morning – all is forgiven and they are partners in crime again. I anguish over their rough road so much more than they do. What my children have taught me in their growing up is not to make light of their troubles in the moment, but when they move on I need to also. All we can do is give them to tools to deal with life and be there when it doesn’t go their way. You are doing an awesome job and if Anna is anything like my middle one she’s going to rock the world! Great post – I cried!


  5. Posted by Frances Penick on February 24, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I was the middle child and just like sweet Anna I had my frustrations and rages with my older sister. It wasn’t until high school that we made peace and only then because we went to separate boarding schools. However, my mother had a faithful exercise that was demanded of us after every fight……and they sometimes got physical. She made us hug each other and say I love you. We obeyed even though it was through clinched teeth and cold embraces. Amazingly over the years, the fights were less frequent, the hugs got warmer and longer, and we actually looked at each other during the I love you. The bitterness faded into forgiveness. To this day, even a disagreement is not resolved until we embrace. Hang in there my friend, the Lord has a perfect plan with the placement of each child in the family order. I hope I live long enough to see what He is preparing for Anna for that requires such mental strength. It has got to be amazing!


  6. Posted by Linda Berry on February 24, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Beautiful, Melanie. And oh, did it bring back memories. Hang in there – you are a great mom.


  7. Posted by Anita Lisk on February 24, 2012 at 9:53 am

    “Because taking on a child’s ache is nothing compared to watching one suffer and not knowing how to make it go away.” Truer words were never spoken. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the child birth order is, a child’s pain and suffering – real or imagined, physical or emotional or mental – is the hardest thing a parent has to endure. Blessings on your journey with your girls!


  8. Posted by Lisa Meadows on March 31, 2012 at 1:43 am

    I truly enjoyed reading your blog… what an inspiration you are and so very insightful! Your honesty is lovely!


  9. Posted by Robert Marshall on May 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Sweet Anna. This is well-written. Your emotions are palpable. Thanks for sharing.


  10. very powerful post – thanks for sharing.


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