Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Growing Pains

As I sat in Mass on Sunday, it occurred to me that the younger version of myself would probably marvel at my calm demeanor. The younger version who had "only" 3 or 4 kids and would sweat bullets as soon as one of her kids spoke above a whisper during Mass, or dropped a cracker under the pew in front of us, or yelled out "I DON'T WANT TO BE AT JESUS' HOUSE!" during the homily. *oh, it happened. More than once.

My kids still do all of these things (OK, maybe not the older kids... Maybe), but my feelings -- therefore, my reactions -- are very different. But, how did I get here? And, is it a good thing?

Once upon a time, I had one, perfectly-behaved child. During Sunday Mass he would sit quietly on the pew, eating his snack and looking at picture books with titles such as, "Mary, Our Mother" or "Let's Pray the Rosary!". If he needed to get my attention, he would place his chubby hand on my back and wait for me to bend down to listen to his lisping whispers. He was mortified if he accidentally tripped on the kneeler when he entered/exited the pew. I don't really know if he looked forward to going to Mass, but I can't recall a time when he gave us any trouble about it. Do you know what I thought? I thought it was due to my husband's and my superior parenting skills. Yes, we were such calm and genteel people, who understood the psyches of small children and knew that if you just remained calm and expected model behavior that you would receive it. I would demurely smile and thank the senior citizens who would compliment me on his behavior after Mass. Gosh, I don't know whether to hug or slap the younger version of ourselves.

Enter children #2 and #3, or as I lovingly refer to them: The Too-Touchy-Titus Twins (no, they're not actually twins). These two gave us a run for our money, folks. They loved to touch everything, test things out, see how far they could throw objects, see how loudly they could make their voices echo. The fed off of one another. I used to tell people that #2 was digging my grave and #3 was pushing me into it. Even with these two, I could still use the fear of embarrassment and The Stink-Eye to keep them in check. "Hey, buddy, if you keep banging the hymnal on the pew, the usher is going to escort you to the back of church and keep you there until the end of Mass. Do you want to sit quietly with us, or do you want to sit in the back with the usher?". That ALWAYS worked with 2 and 3. And, so I would sit back in the pew with a smug look on my face and still accept the compliments on my parenting skills after Mass. After all, I deserved them, didn't I?

With the advent of #4's toddlerhood, I began to see that God maybe thought I needed a HUGE smackdown. This was the child who would call all of my bluffs (heck, he walked himself back to the usher one day. Poor, confused usher.), demand "MORE SNACKS! NO! NOT CHEERIOS!" at ear-piercing decibel levels, and generally make his parents' lives a living Hell for 1 hour every week. All before the age of 4. At one point, I asked one of our priests if Baptism "took" every time, and maybe this one need to be re-christened.

With #5 and #6, we've seemed to hit our stride. Yes, we know you little guys are going to be absolute stinkers in Mass for a few years. Yes, we know you are going to test all the limits and make us crazy. But, we also know that we've done this before and we will survive (cue Gloria Gaynor music!). So, I sit with a smile that is not-so-smug these days.

"BUT, WHY?" you moms with 2 and 3 little ones ask, "WHY? HOW?".

No, not this kind of growing pains!
Growing pains.

Lois, how I adore your mad parenting skillz!
Every time one of our kids went through his/her particular growing pains. We grew right alongside with him/her. We learned to come up with new ways to cope and deal with each phase for each child. We adapted our schedules and our lives to help that child. We didn't always like it, but we grew from it.

But, here's the real shocker: we went through our own growing pains as parents and as people, INDEPENDENT of our kids' phases.

Yeah. I KNOW! It took me by surprise, too!

There are certain seasons of our lives when we (as parents, spouses, and adult humans!) need to flex our developmental muscles in order to grow and change. Hopefully, we are able to discern things like mid-life crises from the true yearning to become better people * here's a clue: becoming a better person rarely involves sports-cars and a change in spouse!

And, much like our kids' growing pains, the process of going through our "adult-onset" growing pains is often, well... painful.

So, at the very least, I can offer this to all you mothers of 2, 3, and 4 kids: Wipe the sweat from your brows, take a deep breath, and smile a tiny smile. Enjoy all the crazy behavior during Mass, or whenever, and know that you AND your kids are experiencing some growing pains and it will bring all of you to a better place. And that grumpy old biddy who is glowering at you from the next pew? Smile at her, too. She should thank her lucky stars that she's still here and able to experience some growing pains of her own!


  1. You are so smart! Having kids has already made me into a way more patient, resourceful human. And we've only got the 4 so far :)

  2. Ha ha ha! So true! I am still experiencing growing pains since every child is so different and what worked for the older ones does not seem to work so well with the younger ones. And, they DO feed off each other. But, like Gloria Gaynor- I will survive!!

  3. @Dwija: Not smart, just beaten into submission! lol You are way ahead of where I was with 4!

    @CCC: Isn't it the truth? What works with one NEVER seems to work with the next in line! It's an act in complete humility.

  4. and thank God for donuts after Mass in the church basement!!! Really helps to keep the older kids in line.

  5. @Kyle: Yes, and it helps keep their father in line, as well. ;-)

  6. This is wonderful.

    I really appreciate such posts as my little blog world is often full of mothers of 1 or 2 kids who, like your younger self, have it all figured out. My mother might suggest that anyone who has it all figured out probably needs another child. ;-)

  7. @Rae: Thanks, I'm really glad you enjoyed it! Your mother sounds like an extremely wise AND hilarious person!