“guys, get out of the water!” and other words of toddler wisdom

Josh and Samuel were sleeping peacefully at about 4am this morning while I was a bit restless. That’s not at all ordinary. The prednisone is making me a bit hyper. As I was laying there, I heard Samuel rustling in bed in the other room, and then suddenly he shouted out, clear as day, “Guys, hey! Get out of the water!” Josh woke up, very confused, but being already fully awake I realized Samuel was talking/yelling in his sleep. Josh wandered confusedly into the hall, but I told him to go back to bed, nothing was wrong. I went in and looked at Samuel, and he was just laying there, sleeping as soundly and quietly as if nothing had happened. Neither of them remembered when they got up two hours later. I am still laughing a bit and smiling. The scene made my day, possibly my week.

It continually blows my mind how absolutely infatuated I am with Samuel. Of course he misbehaves sometimes. I recognize he’s very sensitive, perhaps a bit coddled. He cries more easily than some of his friends over small insults. He has a temper. Parenting is not easy, but it’s not nearly as hard as I’d imagined and it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by far. Even when I think back to periods when Samuel was younger when he didn’t sleep through the night, or was clingy, or sick–I always conclude that it is easier than I thought it would be.

I have a great spouse, who has always been an equal partner with childcare, and since my health adventures began in earnest in September, he’s been shouldering far more than half the burden of household and childcare responsibilities. I miss doing more. I hope more than anything that June will come without much drama and I can transition to being a mom to two healthy boys.

I feel like I might be bragging with this post, but I don’t mean to come across that way. It’s just that I see a lot of posts come across my Facebook page with parents complaining incessantly about their kids. (Don’t worry, if you know about my blog, you’re not one of those parents. Everyone complains a little during hard days and weeks.) One woman I know, an old friend who has said for as long as I’ve known her that she wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom, is now one. Her Facebook page is a litany of complaints about her little one. Sometimes I really just want to post, “Shut up and have some gratitude.” Other sources of complaints from other parents: lack of sleep, potty training, picky eating. I just cannot deal with the woes of the parents of healthy toddlers. Sure, I smile and offer my experience, but mostly I find it mind boggling. (I’ll feel really differently during the teenage years, I’m sure, when it gets genuinely scary).

Part of this might be a pathology in me. When I made the decision that doctors should try to save Natan’s life if I delivered a micro-preemie, I heard a litany of statistics, read a lot of distressing information. When I went forward with my pregnancy with Samuel, I worked to wrap my head around accepting our fate with ever-improving outcome predictions. Two months before he was born, a friend delivered a 31-week preemie via an emergency c-section. Old readers know our relationship was fraught with pain and tension, but in comparing our experiences of our children’s first year, I always thought, “Holy shit, this is easy and fun,” when considering mine. He was in a level-3 NICU for quite awhile, was on oxygen and/or daily breathing treatments until he was one, and continues to struggle with eye and breathing problems. I was beside myself and terrified when Samuel had RSV, and pneumonia, but all of that felt easy in comparison to her year. My nephew had multiple major surgeries on his spine before he was one–one of them left him permanently paralyzed below the waist and involved major malpractice. Again, I looked at Samuel and thought, “Holy shit, this is easy.” My nephew is incredible, but his life looks harder to me than mine on a daily basis. So does my sister’s. So does my old friend’s. They also include some incredible triumphs and joys that trump our mundane milestones.

The difficulty I deal with in my daily life comes from lack. I’ve had two pregnancies where I delivered a child–one is dead. What’s hard for me is missing him, missing the experiences we should have had, and looking back on the pain, hard work and challenges of the past. I feel stressed about work, but I feel like I struggle more over what I don’t have to do, than over what I do have to do. I don’t have to do anything for Natan, but I want to. I’m excluded from the parents of multiple-children club so far, but I’m floored at getting advice from people about second pregnancies–because this is my third. Daily concerns often feel absolutely petty, and yet I’m still just a mortal person, for whom those can often feel paramount.

It’s easy for me to feel like asking, “What the hell is the point of all this?” Why suffer and struggle? The answer, for me, is Samuel. His waking me up with shouting is an absolute gift. His tears over having to sleep in his own bed at night are tough–but wonderful. I am so lucky to have a little boy who thinks being separated from his parents at night is torture. I am so lucky to have a little boy who has a living spirit–who throws tantrums and cries and even sometimes hits. I’m not saying I don’t worry about whether I’m a good parent, or whether I’m doing the best I can for Samuel. I actually do, every day. I just cannot imagine ever having a complaint about having to be a mom and to be there for him that would last longer than a moment, that would linger long enough for me to tell anyone else about it. I’m so lucky to only have to wake up every morning to his face, or to glance at a picture during my workday, to remember what’s great in life.

We chose his name to remind us of that. They’re very religious names that reflect my most hopeful and happy visions of life. Not because I think God intervened, but because I believe in a higher power, and the divine wisdom of Torah. I also think the wheel of fortune dealt kindly with me, and I should feel lucky and eternally grateful.

Samuel — God has heard, or the Name of God
Nadav — Generous

6 responses to ““guys, get out of the water!” and other words of toddler wisdom

  1. This is really beautiful.

    After my first baby died at birth, after my second baby very nearly died of meningitis at eight weeks … After all of that, I was and am never anything but astoundingly grateful. Parenting is a gift. Having a family is a miracle. Even during the really difficult times — and they come, for all of us — my children are amazing and I am so, so grateful and happy to be their mother.

    And the teen years? My kids are 23, 12, 9. I can honestly say that my eldest was a joy as a teen — just as much as he ever was when he was younger — and he has grown up to be a truly amazing man. It was never scary. Take heart: the teen years need not be fraught. 🙂

    • Thank you, Ellie. If my children are anything like my siblings and cousins (and me to a lesser extent) teen years will be tough! But we’ll make it through. I just wish I could slow down these years. Every milestone is so exciting, but makes me miss the baby years,

  2. Sara, I remember an old post of yours in which you wrote something like “if you think it’s hard to write your dissertation after brining home your baby, try not bringing home your baby.” I was actually thinking about that post last night. For me, raising one kid was really hard. Raising two has been, at times, enormously hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I was thinking about how not having the chance to raise my children would be so much harder. For everything you’ve gone through, I’m glad you have, at least, the gift of getting to be present and content in your relationship with Samuel.

    • Courtney, wow, that was a harsh statement I made! But it felt extremely true at the time. You are a perfect mom to me–the perfect balance of grace, humor, and humility.

  3. Sara, thanks for posting this. You are the first person I’ve heard say directly this idea I’ve been suspecting…that if our current pregnancy actually results in a living healthy child, raising her will never be as hard as NOT raising Elizabeth. At least I hope that’s how it works for us. And I block anyone on Facebook who primarily complains about their kids.

    • That’s a good idea, Sonja, I ought to follow your lead. Raising a living child is hard. It’s just not as hard, and it’s rewards are constant and endless. I so, so hope you get to experience that with this little one.

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