Today I am feeling a little sorry for myself. Sorry that normal things that regular people do everyday are so hard for me. Of course, grocery shopping is one. I did that this morning and came home exhausted. But more than that, it is the “little” things that may seem routine to some folks are extremely difficult for me.
Getting out of the house in the cold weather is one. It takes about 20 minutes from the first call to the kids to get dressed for outside to having everyone buckled in their seat belts in the van. Now, this isn’t a pleasant 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of trying to put boots, hats and mitts on two squirmy babies who take them off the second you finally got it on. If you don’t have small children and can’t quite picture what it might be like, imagine trying to dress a slippery fish, fresh out of water: jerky,squirming, rapid movements, slippery skin, and tiny fins you somehow have to put tight clothing onto.
Mia is especially intent for peeling things off. As soon as I get her socks on and I turn around to put on Cor’s boots, she’s running down the hallway away from me with two socks in hand. As soon as I get her boots on, she gets up, walks a few paces, sits down and starts undoing her straps.
On top of that, I have two or three older children who can’t find their other boot, who need help with zippers, pulling on mitts and opening doors. Of course they repeatedly complain about their inability to get dressed over and over again while I’m trying to pin down and dress the floppy fish. By this time, I’ve broken into a sweat and am ready to throw hats and mitts all over the hallway. And maybe kick a boot or two. Ok. Who’s the toddler here? In my defensive, it is a high-stress moment and my examples of how to handle stress are all under the age of 5.
To save some sanity, I did make an outdoor dressing chart which does cut down on some of the instructions coming from my not-so-patient mouth. The only problem is, I have to remind them there is a chart to follow so they don’t have to stand there looking like they’ve never done this before.
My trip to the doctor earlier this week is one of those times when I came home completely spent. It was exhausting taking all 4 kids in the freezing cold to our medical building on the complete opposite side of our city. The building has a large and always full parking lot. I don’t put Cor and Mia in the double stroller anymore, so I’m often carrying one and dragging the other one who does not walk fast or steady while keeping an eye on the other two who have no fear or understanding of traffic. I’ve abandoned the double stroller for a few reasons. One is because the wheels are not heavy duty enough to make it through much snow. Another is I want to save “time” and avoid setting up and putting it away again. The other reason is because I may or may not have forgotten to put it back in the van one day before I backed up. One of the wheels may be a bit twisted and crunched.
So, without the use of the stroller, the dragging in the cold and the guiding to the doors while one child slips down my waist and the fighting over who pushes the elevator buttons and the steering two small toddlers away from the lobby Christmas tree and the waiting in the elevator requires a fair amount of energy on my part. When the elevator doors open, I see the sign, “please remove outdoor footwear before entering office. ” This is a simple instruction for a regular person. But for me, I have to put down my purse, diaper bag and child, get everyone to take their boots off (only one kid can do it independently), discourage them from undressing completely, run after Mia who has taken off down the hallway, pick up my stuff and herd the kids through the doorway. For me, it is not so simple.
This week I avoided going grocery shopping with the kids. I mean, it is -25 degrees Celsius with windchill. But by this morning, my fridge was starkly empty, so I had to bite the bullet and go with four kids in tow. I experienced all the usual attention: stares, comments, glares, etc., but when a woman rounded the corner of the cereal aisle with 4 kids hanging off her cart, I gave her a huge smile and said, “hi!” like I’d known her all my life. I followed my familiar sounding “hi” with, “you look like me!” She returned the smile and said, ‘I’ll ask you what they always ask me, “are they all yours?”‘ I laughed and proudly said, “yup” and we went on our way. No time to stop to chat, we had 8 children milling about the grocery aisle with impatient people behind us.
It felt so good to meet someone in the same situation as me. Besides the fact that it is just plain exhausting doing normal things with 4-5 kids along, part of the “hardness” of doing things with all my kids is the fact that I feel quite alone in it. It isn’t something you see everyday. Our family in our city is a bit of an anomaly. It is hard to get used to the attention I get for doing normal things. Standing out and being set apart puts me on edge. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
Flashbacks to early childhood when fitting in with the crowd is what really mattered come to mind during these times. For some reason, we have this inner desire to fit in and to not stand out or draw attention to ourselves. The interesting thing is, God calls us to be a light to this dark world. A light is a pretty obvious thing in a dark place. I don’t feel qualified to be something people are drawn to look at as an example. I don’t feel I have enough spiritual maturity to have people see Christ’s light in me.
I realize the reason people look at me is usually not because they are seeing “Christ’s light” at that moment. If anything, I am not feeling much like a “light on the hill” during those moments at all. But as I feel people’s eyes on me as I interact with my kids, I do think I can demonstrate a parent who loves her kids. Who respects them and speaks kindly to them. Who exercises patience and who disciplines when necessary. I can be the best parent I know how to be, even in the stressful moments. Not only because the world is watching, but because God calls me to be like his Son. A light in the darkness. A loving shepherd. A human full of compassion and love. He was anything but “normal.” He was like no one the world had ever seen.