On Thursday of last week my son got prescribed an antibiotic for a sinus infection. Four days later my daughter was prescribed an antibiotic for an ear infection. I asked the doctor if the two things were related. She told me the virus we’d been passing back and forth was definitely contagious, but needing two antibiotic prescriptions was just “bad luck”. I knew it wasn’t bad luck. It was God humbling me for the time just a couple weeks ago I told somebody we NEVER took antibiotics, as though that was some great accomplishment on my part. You know, good mothers don’t have sick kids or something like that. Motherhood is strange. Even in sickness I feel like I can’t win- some people will think you’re cruel for not getting your kids to the doctor fast enough and some will think you’re a wimp for taking them at all.
Which brings me to the experience of the doctor visit. Normally we’re in for well-child checks every couple months for one of them and while I try to arrange my schedule so I don’t have ALL my kids there for each child’s appointment, it isn’t often that I have the experience of just one child at the doctor’s office. Having my kids who are just 9 months apart (my son is 4 and my daughter is 3) at solo doctor visits just four days apart was a very enlightening experience.
My daughter’s visit is fresh in my mind from last night. Having adopted kids sometimes makes me have some irrational anxiety in these official settings- like somehow the nurse (who I haven’t dealt with before) can tell that I didn’t birth this child and she’ll think we don’t belong together. As though sensing that anxiety, the moment the nurse walked in the door my daughter crawled up in my lap and said, “I love you so much, Mommy” just loud enough for the nurse to hear. Preciousness. When the nurse told her to take her shoes off so she could be weighed, she happily took off her sneakers and skipped (skipped!) down the hall to where the scale was located. She stood perfectly still while she was weighed, skipped back to the room and then snuggled in my lap while the nurse asked questions. After the nurse left, my daughter sat on the floor and colored methodically on a tiny notepad with a broken crayon from my purse. After spending quite a long time on one particular picture she brought it to me saying, “This for you, Mommy. It a flower.” And it almost kind of was. She then asked me to draw a flower for her and while I was drawing she quietly and sweetly leaned against my leg. When the doctor came in she sat still so her lungs could be listened to and ears could be looked at. She smiled and thanked the doctor when the exam was over (did I mention all this was while she had a severe earache?). When we picked up her antibiotics she declared this, “The best day ever” much to the pharmacist’s delight.
My son’s appointment? Oh boy. When we entered the lobby he ran immediately to the fish tank and banged on the glass. You know- the fish tank that always has a sign “Do not touch the glass” taped to it? That’s the one. While I filled out paperwork he ran across the lobby chairs (as I’m saying, “Chairs are for sitting CHAIRS ARE FOR SITTING”). When they called our names to head back to a waiting room he sat down and didn’t want to go. I told him he didn’t have a choice, but if he decided to go with a happy heart there would eventually be fruit snacks. So he dragged his feet all the way through the labyrinth of a hallway to our waiting room. When the nurse came in the room (thankfully one we’re familiar with) he hid under a chair. When we finished with the formalities and were left to wait for the doctor he decided it would be a good idea to climb up on the exam table and them jump off. After we discussed the potential dangers of that, he decided to spin on the doctor’s rolling chair until he fell off. They he opened up cabinets in an attempt to find a trashcan for reasons I have yet to figure out. I offered him toys from my purse, which were interesting for about three minutes and then became projectiles. When the doctor came in he refused to make eye contact or answer any of her questions. While the doctor was asking me questions he sat in my lap very quietly repeating the word “poop” over and over and over and over. Because we’re just that kind of classy. At one point he stood up on my lap and swiped the outlet cover off an outlet above my head I’d never even noticed before. Nice. Every tool the doctor used to examine his body he insisted on using, too. And when he needed to have a finger poke blood draw done (long story on why) he ran screaming down the hall before any kind of needle could even get close to him. I seriously had to chase my child down the hall, catch him by his coat hood, wrestle him onto my lap in the chair and restrain him until it was over with him kicking and screaming the entire time. It. Was. Rough.
So all this makes me wonder- which mom am I? Even as I write the story of my doctor visit with my son I am humiliated all over again. Sometimes I feel the same way as I’m writing about the antics of my kids on Facebook. Surely a better mother wouldn’t be having these problems! I can think of a thousand parenting tips or tricks or reasons why this behavior should be totally avoidable. But as much as I can rationally think of ways to fix this “problem” and as many solutions as I have tried, here we are. And I am the SAME mom with both of these children. Obviously there are ways I parent them differently because they are different children with different needs, but overall I am parenting them both with the same priorities and parenting philosophy. I also know that while it might be easy to look at these two accounts and think one of these children must be easier to love than the other, you’d be totally incorrect. I love my daughter’s gentle, sweet spirit, but I also adore my son’s spunk and his rabble rousing ways.
This is why we can’t put our identities in our children. If I judge my parenting based on my daughter I’d say I’m a total success. I won’t even begin to get into my feelings about what kind of parent I must be if I’m only judged by my precocious son. And looking at their outward behavior is missing the point entirely. The behavior may be an expression of their hearts, but it isn’t always easy to interpret. My daughter may struggle her whole life with a desire to please others and may have a difficult time standing up for truth if it puts her in an uncomfortable position. My son may have no trouble fighting injustice and taking risks to help others. Who can say? I hope they will strive to love others and fear God, but I can’t choose it for them.
I can’t see the future and a mother can ruin her days by worrying about it. I can do my best to influence and manage my children’s behavior, but it’s their heart I’m really concerned about. Sometimes I actually prefer to see the troubling behavior so I know what we’re dealing with. I also know there are reasons for some of my son’s quirky behaviors- reasons we are just beginning to understand. If I use my expectations for my daughter’s behavior and apply them to my son we’re both going to be frustrated. And when I’m interacting with the kids in children’s church or during playdates with friends, am I judging them with the grace I hope people are giving my son in his challenging moments? I am a big fan of consistent, calm discipline and reasonable expectations for kids and I know their personal bents influence much of what works in our parenting specifics. We may find ourselves taking credit for what is essentially a personality trait of our child or offering sure-fire tips for raising perfect kids based on what worked for the personalities in our house, not realizing some parents around us are raising kids with unique needs and struggles.
Mothers raising little darlings or tiny hellions- keep pursuing their hearts. Motherhood is a marathon and we have a long way to go until we see what God is making in our children. Be calm. Be kind. Give grace to the moms around you who are fighting battles of their own. And please- don’t judge your success by what your kids do in the doctor’s office.