Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Love and Bliss in the Early Days of Graves's Third Year: A Follow Up




Someone commented on my recent post about Graves's early days and it got me thinking some more. First of all, it led me to think about my style of blogging and how it could potentially effect my children. It led to a discussion with Peyton and also to my asking a couple of friends who I know understand and appreciate why I write the way I write but who also deeply love my children to help me make sure I stay within the boundaries that will protect them and their hearts. I'm sure I'm going to be blogging more about this because it's something that I've been thinking about a ton.

But it also led me to realize that maybe I should write a follow up to that post.  Like I said, I love sharing our story (even the hard parts) but it's also important to me because I want to say the things I wish someone had said to me. When I finally saw that solidified connection between Graves and Peyton recently, it brought these thoughts and feelings to the surface and I just kept thinking about them so much lately. Also, I think the fact that I've been surrounded by several families that have either just welcomed or are expecting their second has brought back these memories.

 I'm not writing this because I feel like I need to defend myself (for what it's worth, I don't think the commenter was really putting me in the position of needing to do that- she was very gracious), but because the comment just prompted more thoughts. But if a fifteen year old Graves who is delving into the archives that chronicled his boyhood gains comfort from reading this follow-up then that's all the more reason to write it.

The truth is:

- In some ways, I did love Annie more than him those first few months. I wouldn't be able to type that sentence if those feelings were the same today. And maybe "love" is too strong a word. Maybe a better way is to say that I just didn't feel the "connection" that I had with her (even the one I had with her as an infant). There are a lot (alot!) of different ways to define "love" and it can be a vague term.

- Once I figured out the things he needed (me to stop drinking the freakin' cow's milk, me to be more physically present, me to let go of the idea that I should have it all "together") I was much more equipped to mother him well. And when I mothered him the way he deserved, it wasn't hard to fall in love with him. This is not something that's espesially unique to Baby Graves. When Peyton's needs are met, guess what? Our marriage is much happier. When I began to realize that Annie struggles with her emotions, at times, the way I did at her age and I began to relate to her differently, things improved with her. I'm not saying that was the whole issue, but it was a huge part.

- With Annie, I did learn a lot of spiritual truths (mostly relating to anxiety/trust/fear/faith), but I didn't feel God using motherhood to sanctify me the way he has in the past two years. That has everything to do with both Graves and Annie and I'm beyond thankful that God has used them both as instruments to make me more like Himself. 

- Which brings me to this. Honestly, Annie is the child that is much harder for me to parent right now. It's hard because she's a lot like me (I know I say that all the time). She's just much more stubborn than Graves and she's also terribly emotional at times. He's more laid back and takes things in stride. Peyton tends to get less frustrated with Annie than I do probably because he's nothing like us in that regard. However, he does get frustrated with Graves who tends to want to come up to you and just poke and pull at you until you give him attention (because that's *exactly* like Peyton). Annie can be a bit of a basketcase, which Peyton tolerates extremely well because, eh, he has experience with dealing with someone like that. And Graves can be super obnoxious which I tolerate well because, well....married that guy, your know?

- Graves is at the age he is now is probably the most "fun" I've had with any child. Annie and I have (probably daily) some of the most beautiful, almost poetic moments but she isn't fun the way he is. Again, with the parental parallels :) I'm thankful for Graves because I think (especially when Peyton's not here) he brings a lighthearted cheerfulness to mine and AP's more serious sides. He's just a very bubbly, very affectionate child. Now that he, you know, talks(!!!) he's also very verbally affectionate and it's endearing. I said I don't like the phrase about there being "something about mommas and their boys", but I think there's just something about my boy. That child (like Peyton) has done wonders to help my anxiety. He has an infectious joy and he's a bit of a flirt. There's nothing that sucks about being on the receiving end of that.

- I want to say a little more about the gender dynamic. I found myself quickly in the role of being a "girl mom" but it was harder for me to really get into being a boy momma. That's why I love things places like MOB Society and why I really gravitate to blogs of mommas with little boys these days. When I post a picture of Annie playing with a tea set and baby dolls, the intense joy I feel in that moment came very naturally. When I post a picture of Graves dirty and sweaty and so cheerful in all his disgusting glory, the every bit as strong intense joy came supernaturally. I struggled thinking about what kind of "boy mom" I'd be. And while I don't think I'm the epitome of the perfect boy mom or anything, I do think I've embraced it and love it. There came a day, actually around this time last year, right after he turned one, that I just felt something in me shift. It was one afternoon late and we were playing outside and he was disgusting sweaty. Actually, we all were, but I looked at him and thought "My, aren't you such a darling, so dirty like that?" and from then on it was like the dirtier/messier/wilder he was, the more adorable he got. I was blown away by how much I loved having a little boy. Again, I don't think this is unique to Graves- this learning to love. I feel like God has worked powerfully in my heart to help me become much understanding and flexible and ultimately embrace the way Peyton likes to live life. Similarly, I feel like He's done something amazing just in the last few months in helping me better understand Annie's little personality. The way that it manifested with Graves was that I got over my need to have to be in control of as much- in his infancy that meant allowing for less schedule and structure and in toddlerhood it's meant embracing more dirt and mess and broken things and filthy outfits. 

- At this point, I feel comfortable sharing this sort of thing. Partly, I think I feel comfortable because I know the context now (that I adore them equally) and partly because I've seen the ebb and flow, the variance. My love for these two little people doesn't vary in degree, but the closeness I feel to one or the other sometimes does. My mom was honest to a fault and made no bones about the fact that at different times she was closer to my sister than to me and vice versa. I doubt she'd have shared if it hadn't changed year to year (or month to month!). That honesty was good for us. I felt a lot of stability knowing that she loved us equally, but her feelings changed at times. Because heck, my feelings toward her sure changed! I will also say that I think I was able to take such truths in stride because Cookie and I were surrounded by a wonderful, LARGE support group who valued both of us for our different, unique gifts. There were plenty of people to affirm and encourage us in addition to Minnie. My stomach gets torn to pieces when I think about people who know their parents have a favorite child, but I know that wasn't my context growing up and I know it won't be my children's. So I feel like I have the freedom to explore the hard, as well as the lovely, parts of mothering them. At least at this point I do.

I'm writing these things because that's the sort of blog I have. I want to look back and see the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the hard and the almost effortless. And honestly? I think it'll be great if they look back and see it all, too.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Sarah Denley,

Thank you for hearing the heart behind my comment and not thinking I meant it to be a barb or an attack on you-- I was so worried about that! I think you are an excellent mama, and the way you described your feelings in this post made so much more sense to me. I think it was the starkness of saying you "loved" AP more at one point that really stood out to me in the initial post. Obviously, you will be closer with or have an easier time parenting both AP and Graves (and future babies!) at various points in their life and that will change and vary.

I'm dying to start my family soon, and I love reading about yours. I appreciate that you post honestly about being a mom, but also thoughtfully.

Sorry for this novel of a comment from a random blog reader :)
Megan (<-- the one from the previous post)