When Friends Suffer

“It’s cancer, LJ.”

“They couldn’t find the heartbeat…”

“He wants a divorce. I thought we were just fighting, but he wants a divorce.”

“My dad had a heart attack last night. We were supposed to meet for lunch today.”

What do you do when a friend is suffering? What do you say? Are you paralyzed by the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing? Do you have cliche responses on standby? I think I used to fluctuate between doing nothing and saying unhelpful things.

“It’ll all work out.”

“It’s all a part of God’s plan.”

“Give me a call if you need anything.”

“I know how you feel.”

These were some of my go-to phrases. Writing them makes me cringe now. I wish I could go back to the moments when they escaped my mouth and snatch them out of the air before they reached my friends’ ears.

I’m no expert on suffering, and I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to the ‘right’ things to say. I do, however, have some experience in these areas. I have had friendships fizzle out because I was too paralyzed to be a supportive friend during times of suffering. I have also had the benefit of hearing firsthand accounts of relationships strained by suffering.

I worked as a cancer information specialist at the American Cancer Society before I became a momma (and throughout the first year of Big Brother’s life). While most of my interactions with callers began as basic questions or requests for assistance, many calls ended after a discussion about the caller’s relationship to cancer. I’d say that most of the people who called me were not patients- they were family members or friends of patients.

When told about the information available to friends and family, they often wanted to delve deeper. Many people wanted to know what they could do for their suffering loved one. Many of them wanted to know what NOT to do. So many of my callers were afraid of doing the wrong thing.

The truth is, seeing people suffer is hard. It’s often uncomfortable.

So, what about seeing people suffer when you’re a parent? Parenting has changed the way I observe suffering in several ways. At times I’m hypersensitive to the suffering of others, and at other times I’m completely unaware of the hurt going on around me. Sometimes (and I’m super ashamed of this) I see suffering and completely ignore it because I don’t have the time or energy to devote any attention to it.

My chief complaint as a new momma was that I felt like I didn’t have any friends. When I think back about that time, I realize that I didn’t have any friends because I wasn’t able to be a friend then. I felt like I had nothing to give to anyone other than my son. I felt like every ounce of energy that i had was going to keeping him alive. I’m sure a lot of us feel/felt that way when we first became parents.

Eventually, though, that feeling of emptiness wears off. Time passes and we realize that things have gotten a little easier. That newborn stage can be rough, but once it’s over the world seems to get a lot bigger again.

At the end of Big Brother’s newborn stage I went back to work. I went back to talking to people about suffering. I went back to sharing information with people who were watching their loved ones die. And it hit me in a totally new way.

I felt more, and I listened better. This translated into my real-life relationships too. I began to feel like I could actually contribute to friendships. I became more available to the people around me, and eventually I became a friend who people could talk to.

I learned about my friends’ suffering, and my cliche responses no longer seemed adequate. Suffering, after all, is personal. My responses needed to be personal too.

(The American cancer society has a wealth of information on this topic at cancer.org. They detail several helpful things to do and say when a friend is suffering with cancer! I highly recommend looking at their documents. What I’m about to share is what I’ve learned from personal experience. Some of it may resemble information in their documents, but my perspective is not intended to teach what the American cancer society shares with callers.)

So, here are some of the ways that I now respond to my friends’ suffering. These certainly don’t cover all situations, and I’m not trying to govern the way that you support your friends. These things have just been helpful to me!

1. Say something! I used to say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing. I’ve found that friends feel much more supported when I choose to say something than when I choose to say nothing at all- even if I initially say the wrong thing. Don’t offer advice or try to change their perspective. Simply offer words of support. Like “oh man, that sounds so hard!”. Let them know that you have heard them. Let them know that you care.

2. Follow up! I used to say “call me if you need anything”, which was totally intended to be a message of support and willingness to help. What it can come across as, though, is a way to say “I’m making you responsible for my response to your pain”. It distances you from the situation while still giving you credit for being supportive. Now I choose to call or text to check on friends who have been suffering. I keep the responsibility of following up instead of being willing to help them if they ask for it. Sometimes I’ll offer to do specific tasks that may be difficult for the suffering person (grocery shop if they haven’t had time to). I generally keep my offers of assistance fairly small. I can’t offer to care for someone in their home right now. I have a family to take care of, and no one expects me to do more than I can.

3. Remember that it’s about them! This is a big one for me, because I tend to empathize too much when friends are suffering. I now try to remind myself that it’s possible to care deeply about a friend’s pain without wearing it as my own. Let your friend hurt. Don’t try to take it, because you can’t! In the same vein, I try not to use my friends suffering as an excuse to relive my past sufferings. I think it’s ok to share past experiences with friends who are suffering (it could be super helpful to them), but pay attention to their responses. Don’t expect your previous suffering to make their situation easier. Every situation is different. Don’t make their suffering about you.

4. Love them! Every person receives love differently. If you know what makes this friend feel loved, do it. For some it’s gifts. Others feel loved when you spend quality time with them. If you know what makes your friend feel loved, do it. This can serve as a reminder that their suffering isn’t pushing you away, and that you’re committed to being a present friend.

I’m still not good at being a supportive friend all of the time. Im often paralyzed, and I still say the wrong things sometimes. But, I am committed to being available to my friends who are suffering.

If you are trusted enough to be informed of a friends suffering, don’t run away from it. Being a supportive friend doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. When friends share, they’re not expecting you to fix anything, they probably just don’t want to feel alone.

Hopefully some of what I’ve learned will be helpful to someone else. Thanks for reading!! Feel free to comment if you have anything to add.

Things Every Momma Should Know About Herself

I’ve referenced ‘personal growth’ a few times now, but I haven’t really explained what I’m talking about. Here it is.

I am prone to being quite insecure. I lie to myself about how people see me, and I care way too much about what other people think. I always have. I doubt my instincts, and constantly question my convictions. I tend to see other people as ‘above’ me in most aspects of my life, and for a long time I was okay with knocking myself down every time I felt any confidence.

None of this serves me well in my role of momma. It got in the way, and it kept me from fulfilling my responsibilities to my kids.There was a point where all of this was so overbearing that my anxiety was crippling. I was so afraid to be around other moms that I froze. I became stuck because I doubted every decision I made. It was easier to not make decisions. By giving in to my anxieties and insecurities, I was deciding to let them win. I decided to believe the lies that I was telling myself. All mommas were better than I was. I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t a good friend. I was a lazy mom. My husband could have done better. I was selfish. The list goes on!

All of this came to a head when little brother was a few months old. I was exhausted all the time. I was trying to control everything because I felt like having control would be fulfilling. I was faking it around everyone, and falling apart when I was on my own.

I thought I was really good at ‘faking it’, but friends have since told me that I was a mess (thanks, friends!). I was so distant from everyone because I was terrified that they would see ‘the real me’ and judge me. Oh how I wish I’d let everyone in! Everything would have been much easier if I’d been wiling to openly admit that I was struggling.

I did, however, eventually see that I was not in good shape. I prayed for change. (I attribute this self awareness to my husband, who is very self aware. His example of self-care and his commitment to personal growth served as light bulbs. They illuminated the fact that change happens. I felt less stuck as a result of his encouragement and dedication to being the best dad/husband he could be.)

I gradually began to reach for help. This help came in several forms. I started to read my bible and other helpful literature (like brune brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection). Nursing all the time created lots of time to read! I joined a mom group and made a point to go to play dates so the boys and I weren’t alone all the time.

Eventually these small steps led to a desire to really delve in and find the root of my insecurities. That is a ton of work that I’m not quite ready to share with the internet, but I have learned to conquer things instead of cower.

Now I have an active social life (Ha! Well, it’s more active…what mom of toddlers actually has an active social life?). My husband and I communicate much more openly. I give of myself in ways that make me vulnerable to people’s opinions. I  write my thoughts and post them on the world wide web for everyone to see. I don’t give in to my insecurities. I rarely even think about myself as compared to other people. I’m even (dare I say it) confident.

So, I thought i’d share some things that I think every momma should know about herself…every person, really, but I learned these things as a mom.

1. You can’t achieve perfection, so stop trying! You may not struggle with this like I did, but I think we all want to be, or even just seem perfect in the eyes of others. It’s so much work! It’s exhausting to always wonder if you did or said the ‘right’ thing. There is no such thing as perfect. Every decision that you make will be wrong to someone. You will look back on what you once thought was perfection and realize how wrong you were, so stop comparing yourself to impossible standards and just be you!

2. You are not alone. Momming can feel so isolating (whether you’re a sahm or a working mom). At times I’ve felt completely alone, even if there are people everywhere. The truth is, mom’s are never alone. There are so many resources for mothers, we just have to access them. My resources have been other moms, my husband, God, and counselors, but yours may be a little different. The point is, you aren’t doing this alone! It feels like it sometimes, especially in the beginning when you are physically alone with a screaming ball of confusion, but people (real people who will happily take your screaming baby for a few minutes) are close! You don’t have to do it all on your own. Some of you probably have very different people in your life than I do. Some of you may be saying, “no, lj, I really am alone.” If you feel this way, leave your house. Take your screaming baby to the grocery store and make eye contact with other moms. I assure you that you will realize that you are not alone. I have been rescued by strangers too many times to count .

3. Your value does not come from other people (No matter what they say!). Don’t believe the lies that have been told about you. I’ve been called selfish and lazy. I’ve been shamed for not letting people emotionally manipulate me. I’ve felt like I had no value because someone who didn’t see their own value decided to tear me down. I’ve been through it, y’all, and I can assure you that my value does not come from anyone else! And neither does yours! Your value rests in the fact that you were beautifully and wonderfully crafted to be uniquely you. Listen to those who speak the truth about you. It’s so hard to find the right voices to listen to, so keep your eyes and ears open. Seek counsel of those who are wiser and have more life experience (or professionals- I have loved using counselors as a guage for what is and isn’t true!).

4. Your body is important. Treat it well. Exercise. Eat good food. You’ll feel so much better, and your life will look so different. Trust me. I started  by doing what my boys were doing, be it jumping or crawling. I realized that I was in horrible shape! I couldn’t breathe, y’all . So I started waking up super early to get some exercise before the boys were up. It was great while it worked for our family, but I started to get tired of going to bed before my husband, and I got pregnant, so I had to make a change. I just did workout videos at home. Quick and easy. My kids play around me, and sometimes even participate.

5. Your mind is important. Treat it well. Say nice things to yourself and others. Practice gratitude. Try to be aware of what’s going on in the world. Think about things that aren’t kid related…it’s hard! I once had to look up a list of non kid related topics 😂. Feed your mind. Use your mind. Teach your kids things…I’ve heard that teaching is great for your brain.

6. You know more than you realize (you haven’t lost IQ points since becoming a mom). We definitely don’t access all of our stored info when we’re parenting, but it’s still there. I sometimes feel like I’m incapable of contributing to adult conversations. I’ve often asked my husband if I seem stupider now. (Not joking!) I’m not! And neither are you! You’re a mom! Your brain is on overload all the time. You are constantly learning about tiny humans and how to care for them (and each one is different!). Your active knowledge bank is huge, so give yourself a break. Read a book in the cracks and you’ll reconnect with some of your passive knowledge.

Mommas, love yourselves! It’s a journey that I’m very much still on.

Time Flies (Sometimes)

Time is a weird thing. I know you’ve all heard the phrase “The days are long, but the years are short.” It becomes so true once you’re an adult, and maybe even truer when you’re a parent. Today little brother turns two. Two! His first year was definitely the longest year of my life, but his second year has flown by too quickly.
I have this rule- my babies are still babies until they turn 2. I know it’s silly, and I know that 22 month olds can walk and talk, but they’re still babies until they’re two.
A month or so ago the boys and I were traveling to chattanooga, TN to spend some time with my husband’s family while he was overseas on business. Anxious and pregnant, I was dreading having little brother on my (almost non existent) lap for three and a half hours.
There was a beautiful little girl sitting across the aisle from us, and she was thankfully very eager to keep little brother entertained. She played peek a boo with him for almost the entire flight!
At one point I asked the girl (who was probably 10 or 11) if she liked babies. She said, “I do, but he’s not a baby! He’s a toddler.”
I have never been so irrationally angry with a little girl before in my life (although I’m sure that sister will help me give this moment some company)! I, choking back (irrational) tears, said, “Yes he is a baby!”
Her eye roll was not subtle, and neither was her mother’s. I laughed and informed her mother that I was pretty pregnant and feeling a bit of guilt about him already being the middle child. I wanted to preserve the last month of his ‘baby stage’. She returned the laugh and explained that her daughter was also a middle child (on her way to spend the summer with her dad, and super excited to be leaving her sisters for a month).
Today is officially the day that I have to stop calling him a baby. It would be breaking my own rule to do otherwise, and I am no ‘my own rule’ breaker (bologna!).
Today is probably going to go like most days, though. The boys will wake up- neither of them will have grown a beard overnight. We will dress them and take them downstairs for breakfast. Someone will throw a fit about something, and for a couple of hours I’ll forget to be emotional about my baby turning two.
This day will likely be very long, just like the rest. It’ll be a domino in the train of this year, and it’ll zoom past at the end of 2018. It will feel like no time has passed at all. My boys will somehow continue to get bigger, and their little sister will be a few months old. I fear that I will have been too tired and too busy to have soaked it all in. I fear that I’ll forget.
Time is so weird!
When little brother was born I was determined to breast feed him. Big brother had refused to nurse after a short stay in the NICU where he’d been given quick-pay-off rubber nipples filled with (apparently) tastier than mom’s milk- formula. So, I pumped and supplemented for several months (and let me tell you,those were LONG days…someday I’d like to just throw a pump against a brick wall…just for the satisfaction!). He got fed, but I felt guilty- because I’m a mom.
Little brother was a nursing champ! He loved it so much, in fact, that he refused to take a bottle…ever (actually, I think he once took one from my husband’s grandmother…she must be a wizard.) He would cry whenever my boob wasn’t in his mouth, so he was latched on ALL THE TIME. Feedings took an hour each, and he wanted more before I had time to put lanolin on my bleeding nipples. I wanted to give him to one of those women who had pressured me into ‘avoiding nipple confusion’ and let her nurse him 20 hours a day!
My post partum anxiety was ruling my life. I was in tears all the time. I held little brother when I wasn’t nursing him because I felt guilty for feeling so angry with him. Meanwhile, big brother wasn’t getting enough of my attention, so, more guilt.
This went on for 9 months! NINE months! (It got easier around 6 months, but this phase wasn’t truly over until he was 9 months old) when he was 9 months old we finally decided to let him cry (I know, what took me so long?!). He cried for three hours one night. My momma heart broke, although part of me (a part that I’m very ashamed of) felt a little satisfaction at the idea of not giving in to him. He eventually stopped crying.
He has slept through the night most nights since. I have not once gotten up to feed him since then. (I’m not recommending this tactic. It just happens to be what worked for us.)
Since then, little brother has been the sweetest, craziest, most cuddly little nugget. I breastfed him through his first year, and gradually weaned him off around 15 months. I would not relive the first nine months of his life for all the money in the world, but I’d readily redo the last year. Where did it go?!
So, little brother, I hope you always know how special you are. I hope that you never feel forgotten all wedged there in the middle. I hope that your incredible personality always shines brighter than the mess in this world. I hope that you learn to love yourself early on, and that you never let others determine your value. I hope that you are always as curious as you are right now, and that you continue to ask questions and demand answers from the world around you. I hope that you always know that your parents love you. I hope that you know that we respect you. I hope that you grow to see that your actions have a ripple effect, and they last longer than their execution. You are already so strong and mighty. You are already a force. Your dad and I are so excited to see what you will become. We talk about your future a lot, but it’s ultimately up to you. Be good. Do good. Love others. Be smart. We are here to help guide you. We love you loads!
-Momma

The True Story of a “Stay at Home Mom”

I worked for the entire first year of big brother’s life. A few weeks before his first birthday my husband and I did the math and realized that childcare for two children was going to cost more than my non-profit job was bringing in (I was a few months pregnant with little brother at the time). My husband happened to get a raise around the same time, and everything fell into place for me to finally be home with my kid- something I’d never imagined I’d want to do until I became a mom. (I mean, how did women not go crazy just sitting at home watching their babies play all day?!)

Being a working mom was nearly impossible for me. My husband and I were both exhausted all the time. All we did was work, come home, and sleep. It felt like we were always playing catch-up (with each other, on errands, on home projects, on breathing). There weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. If we were responsible about cleaning and cooking, it felt like we were missing out on valuable time with our kid. If we took the time to take care of ourselves, we were either missing out on valueable time with our kid or we were missing out on SLEEP. I know that so many families thrive when both parents are working, but I was miserable. I loved my job, but I desperately wanted to experience being a stay at home mom (the grass is always greener!).
I remember my last day of work, the last day I had to miss my kid, the last day I had to read about his day on a sheet of paper or see pictures of his new developmental milestone. (He went to a fantastic daycare, but nothing quite replaces experiencing your child’s firsts.)

I thought that staying home would fix everything. I was mistaken- big time! It did, however, fix the biggest thing, my outlook on our situation. Staying home with big brother didn’t make everything easier (what?!). It didn’t magically make the days more productive, or give me more time to focus on my marriage or our home.

What it did was teach me that I was always a victim of whatever situation I was in. I’d chosen not to be happy at work (even though I loved my job, and I was really good at it), and I had slowly begun to chose not to be happy with staying home. I loved seeing my kid grow! I loved teaching him and playing with him. I loved going to places like the museum and the grocery store, but I felt so inadequate! I felt like a quitter who had given up. Why could so many other moms have successful careers and be well-rounded moms?
When I was working I felt like I didn’t do enough at home, and when I was home I felt like I didn’t work hard enough. The house was still never clean (and it still isn’t!). Errands we’re still never done. Home projects never seemed completed. And I’d go long stretches without remembering to take a deep breath.
I was just as exhausted as a stay at home mom as I’d been when I was working full time. I grew to resent the fact that my husband had regular conversations with people who didn’t spit up on him.
I remember waking up one morning after a particularly difficult teething day and thinking, ‘ugh! This kid is the worst! I wish I could just give him to someone for the day!’ I immediately felt guilty and burst into tears. I think it was probably the first time that I told my husband how exhausted and lonely I felt at home.
After that I realized that I had to make some changes. My environment didn’t need to change- I did! I was unhappy because I’d forgotten to be grateful. I was unhappy because I couldn’t see past the guilt and exhaustion. I couldn’t see the things that I did have because I was so focused on what I didn’t have. When the newness of staying home wore off I got bored.
Everyday I worry that I don’t do enough. I don’t make money. I don’t cook enough. I can clean all day and the house still looks like a tornado hit it. I still haven’t folded the ever growing pile of laundry.
So what do I do all day? I play. I teach. I rejoice with my boys. I cry with them. I discipline. I run earrands (Wich is no easy task with two little boys). And if they nap (big ‘if’ these days) I take a much needed break so that I can repeat it all when they wake up.
There are definitely moms who do it all, and they do it all well! I know my limits, and I am not one of those moms. Not yet anyway.
Big brother and little brother will have a sister in a couple of months. We will have had three kids in less than four years. My husband and I have given in to the fact that our home will be a mess for the next few years, and I’m choosing to be okay with it.
Being a stay at home mom has given me the space to learn about myself. It has taught me so much about patience. It has allowed me to give myself grace. It has equipped me with valueable skills like resilience, persistence, and gratitude.
Staying at home or not staying at home says nothing about a person’s character or even what they value. Any mom can do either and still be miserable. I think that most moms love their children unwaveringly, whether they’re home all day with them, or working to provide for them.
I wish I had some new, significant lesson to share with you, but you’ve all heard this a million times…
Being a present parent is hard, no matter how you do it. Loving someone, letting them depend on you, and trusting yourself to be up to the task is draining and exhausting! Don’t add to it by caring about other people’s expectations.
Do what is best for you and your family! If you’re a momma (or daddy) who is happier and healthier when working, then work! If you have to work to afford to pay your bills, then work! If you’re desperately unhappy in your situation, Im so sorry, and I can relate. We we’re fortunate that our situation changed, but the change didn’t fix everything. Being home isn’t what I thought it would be, but I’m so glad that it’s my reality for now.
Babbling over. You do you, boo 😆

Is Chaos the New Normal?

Yesterday I met a couple who is expecting their first child in a month or so. My boys and I were in the waiting room at my OBGYN’s office waiting for my 32 week appointment. The boys were ‘circle racing’, and the couple watched with wide eyes and raised eyebrows as the boys ran around in a tight circle. I asked them if the boys were bothering them. They quickly responded with, “Not at all! We have to get used to it sometime!”. They laughed and we talked about how much energy little boys have. When we left the office I tried hard to remember what the waiting room had been like before I had two rambunctious toddlers in tow. Did my husband and I watch other kids and try to mentally prepare for the changes that were to come? Would it have been possible to expect and prepare for these two (very different) boys?

Becoming a parent comes with a lot of ‘adjusting’. For me, it has come in many forms: on the job training, prayer, reading, utilizing my ‘village’, self-care, mentoring, and learning from other parents around me. Our oldest is three and a half, and I have learned an important lesson about myself almost everyday of his life. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever “get used to” my role as a mom. There is no job description, no set of guidelines for raising each child. Each of my boys is so incredibly unique. They have come with their own sets of parenting challenges and joys. One thing that I have gotten used to though, is the chaos.
This may not be a popular opinion, but I believe that chaos is a part the new normal. Chaos doesn’t have to be bad though. Chaos, or a lack of order and understanding, can be a beautiful and manageable thing…most of the time. And when it’s not manageable or beautiful, we learn from it. Chaos has been a huge change for me. I like to feel like I’m in control. I like for things to be the way that I want them. I like being able to do what I want when I want, and not having to give into my environment.

My older son has recently become aware of how uncomfortable chaos can be. He has started shouting “Everything is out of control!!” when he notices chaos. This initially bothered me a lot. As his momma, I want him to be comfortable and non-reactive (because it makes my job a little easier). I didn’t realize how good recognizing chaos could be for him.

When the characters on sesame street were running around snatching things out of each other’s hands (the key symptoms of mineitis- the sickness that results in an inability to share), he shouted “Momma! Everything is out of control!!” He got super upset and started crying. I calmed him down and resented sesame street for making my big boy cry. He shared like a boss the rest of the day (and ever since, really). He and his brother have played with fewer conflicts and much less shouting. Momma has even been better at sharing since we saw how chaotic not sharing can be.

Chaos is unattractive, but it’s not all bad! Chaos is unpredictible, but it’s not unmanageable!

Managing Chaos

Picture this: An obviously pregnant young momma pushes a whale of a shopping cart toward the sliding doors into target. Her list includes milk, bath salts, mascara, sunscreen, pull-ups, wipes, and a sugar free decaf iced vanilla late. Big brother and little brother (who have been briefed on momma’s expectations of the short shopping trip) eagerly await their check-out treat (because bribery). They are almost through the sliding doors when little brother screams that he wants to “play red balls”. Momma, who is in a hurry to get in and out in time for brothers to nap on schedule (LOL!!!), tells little brother that if they have time they’ll stop at the red balls on the way out. Little brother agrees to these terms and they head inside.

The entire shopping trip is rushed by little brother, who is still very eager to “play red balls”. In fact, he “neeeeeed” red balls now. Momma has finally made it to the diaper aisle, their last stop before checkout and starbucks. She parks the cart, expecting brothers to continue to chomp on their free cookies and laugh at each other. She walks over to the pull ups and sees that there’s a discount on up and up pull up training pants with the purchase of a case of up and up wipes. She weighs the possible pros and cons of this deal. Pros: She spends almost $8 less than she would on her usual huggies wipes/ pull ups combo. Possible cons: wipes and training pants are less than adequate, which results in wasted money and an extra trip to target. Then momma slips into her thoughts and gets stuck somewhere between ‘Why are we still using pull-ups?’ and ‘Why can’t I control everything?! I’m a failure as a mom!’

All of the sudden big brother screams, “Momma!!! He’s out of control!!!” Momma turns around to find little brother holding a super expensive package of burts bees baby wipes. He’s already pulled out about 32 wipes, and tossed them over his shoulder. Big brother is shaking and crying, still shouting about little brother’s shenanigans. Little brother begins to shout, still pulling wipes out and tossing them. Momma is frozen.

(Before I became a mother, or even before having a toddler, I would have swiftly judged this momma and her kids. I would have tossed around thoughts like, “I can’t believe she’s letting him do that!” “Why did she put the cart so close to the wipes?” “Isn’t he old enough to know better?” I was the worst!)

A sweet momma wheels over to the chaos and removes the boxes from mommas hands. She chuckles and tells momma of their recent chaos in the target bathroom. He daughter had just turned the restroom into a ‘winter wonderland’ of toilet paper while she’d been on the phone with her friend. This sweet angel of a woman takes the wipes from little brother and picks up the wipes all over the floor. She doesn’t let momma (who is totally me, by the way) bend over to pick up a single wipe (super pregnant, remember?). She motions to big brother as if to encourage momma to deal with that chaos while she finishes the clean up.

Momma and big brother talk for a moment and big brother calms a little. He continues to be very upset that little brother was ‘out of control’. Momma reminds big brother that sometimes little brother’s aren’t super aware of appropriate behavior, and that’s ok, because little brother’s are still learning. Big brother finally calms enough for them to get to the check out line and head home. Momma never gets her vanilla latte, but you win some, you loose some; and this was , overall, a huge win!

Later that day I overheard big brother reciting pieces of our conversation to his little brother. He said, “I don’t expect you to be perfect, and I want you to ask for help when you need it.” I remembered saying something along these lines to big brother while we were at target. The context is lost on me now, but the message that stuck was so so valuable. Big brother retained the fact that momma doesn’t expect him to be perfect, and he remembered that momma is here to help! Our target chaos resulted in more security for big brother. The chaos was manageable, and it led to good things!

So, chaos kinda is the new normal…or at least a huge part of it. It’s not all bad, though. Most of it is really great. Chaos has changed me for the better. It has made me more flexible, more able to think on my feet, more adaptable. Chaos has made me a better wife and friend, it has stretched me in ways that have grown me. Every chaotic situation is new and unexpected, but I’m becoming more and more able to handle chaos with each new situation.

If you’re a soon-to-be parent, or a new parent struggling with the chaos, know that it’s ok to not be in control of everything all the time. Embrace the fact that parenthood is an adventure. Be open to personal growth. Know that you will face the unexpected, and prepare to be unprepared.

Parenting has been the greatest adventure of my life, and I hope that it never ceases to surprise me. I hope that my boys continue to know that momma doesn’t expect perfection from them, and she’s always going to be here to help when they need it.