"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

11 September 2012

Parental Remorse: An "Owie" in My Heart

Most people who know me would probably say that I'm a fairly confident person, and overall, I think I would agree. I've rarely been one to be insecure, hesitant, afraid to try new things.

However, as my dad very accurately told Dave Pollock during my TCK orientation week before I started my freshman year at college, my perfectionistic tendencies sometimes holds me back from doing things when I know there is a minimal chance of success. My logic was, "If I know I can't do it well, why do it at all?"

And then came motherhood.

I've been told often in my life that I would be a great mom. I've always loved children, and it's one of the reasons I became a teacher. I wanted to impact young lives and be reminded daily of the beauty of childhood. I've worked with children in countless capacities: summer camp, church nursery, youth group, mentoring teens.

Then there's motherhood.

I have never felt so "I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing-I'm-going-to-ruin-my-kid's-life-who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea-to-make-me-responsible-for-a-child" in my life.

Before I scare off some potential, first-time mamas-to-be, I have to say, most days go by swimmingly. I love being a mother to our happy-go-lucky little boy. He's such a joy to my heart, and we have such fun together.

But some days, I fail.

Yesterday was one of those days.

We headed out to the airport early in the morning. Early enough that N and I both needed coffee. Early enough that I went into B's room to "wake him up" (normally, I wait until he calls out for me to come get him), only to discover that he was already awake. There was something about him sitting and quietly playing with his animal buddies in his crib that just delighted my spirit, and I scooped him up, kissing him soundly on his cheek and squeeeeeezing him tight, saying, "Mama LOVES you!"

My I-don't-like-to-be-cuddled little boy squirmed out of my arms, running out of the room -- which really isn't that unusual, because he runs everywhere these days, resulting in lots of scrapes and bruises ("owie" is a daily used word around here) -- calling, "Daddeeeeee!" (translation: Mama's lost her ever-lovin' mind!).


We took the wrong exit for the airport off the highway.

Isn't it ironic how these things always happen at precisely the wrong time?

We've driven that road SO many times in the past six years. How did we miss it? It wasn't even like it was in the middle of March and there was a crazy snowstorm or something.

And then we missed the first entrance to the economy parking lot.

And then there was a lo-o-o-ong line at security.

I had done pretty well controlling my frazzled nerves up until the security line. But when we came up the escalator and saw that line, I felt a tiny little thread coming loose. I grumbled something about "inefficiency of airports," but a sign about people "born on this day in 1937 or before" and a joke from the elderly man behind us in line smoothed it done.

The security officers were patient and kind, allowing me to carry B through the scanner and walking his bottle of whole milk around (so it didn't have to go through the machine) and testing it themselves.

B wasn't enamored with his first plane ride or anything. It was a puddle jumper to Detroit, so we were pretty squished. But we came armed with the works: plenty of his favorites snacks, new books, reusable stickers, a new airplane toy, "Signing Time" videos uploaded on the iPod, new B-sized headphones.

When we landed in Detroit, though, we realized we had waited too long to change his diaper (darn disposables!). He was damp through his shorts, so while N wrangled all our gear (car seat, stroller, carry-on), I took B to the bathroom to change him.

As soon as the diaper was off, he proceeded to pee ... and pee ... and pee ... and pee some more. All I could do was hold my hand over it so it didn't go everywhere. By the time he was done, there was a significant puddle under him and his shirt and socks were soaked.

The genius who designed the changing station at this airport obviously didn't have any clue about babies and toddlers. There was a sink with an automatic faucet at the foot of the changing table that kept going off (which obviously made B want to play with it). There was no place for a diaper bag to be set down or hung. There was no paper towel dispenser near said sink. So after I took B's soaked shirt off, I firmly told him to sit down (which he did) and ran to grab a handful of paper towels from the opposite wall ... only to discover that it was one of those irritatingly slow "automatic" dispensers where you wave your hand in front of the blinking red light and about three inches of paper towel comes out.

So I'm standing there waving my hand like a maniac in front of this thing, while B is sitting in a pool of pee. I was so nervous he would stand up and slip and so impatient with the darn paper towel dispenser.  I kept calling out loudly, "Don't touch it! Don't touch it, buddy! Yucky! Sit down!" as though me shouting at him would really create some kind of force field around him and protect him while I was three yards away - too far to catch him if he fell, and all the while, he's just staring at me, wondering why on earth I'm yelling at him and letting him sit in all this wetness.

(In hindsight, if I was doing that all over again, I would have just picked up his pee-soaked self and carried him.)

Meanwhile, there are women all over the place, coming and going, and NOT ONE of them offered to help.

I cleaned up all the pee on the changing station and on B, sanitized the area (good thing I always travel with sanitizing wipes), wiped B down with wipes, and got him dressed in the extra clothes I had packed in the backpack.

Then I realized I hadn't packed extra socks.

Then we had to walk to the other end of the terminal to our gate for our connecting flight (Detroit, your airport needs some reorganization), N running ahead to make sure they had seats for us together (because the guy who booked our flights was obviously having a bad hair day or something and didn't think two parents traveling with a toddler should probably sit together) while I waited forever at Popeye's for the apathetic, middle-aged women to first, TAKE my order (they were just walking around in the back) and then to MAKE my order. We barely had time for N and I to take turns going to the restroom and wolf down our sandwiches before we had to board.

Only to discover we were in the VERY LAST ROW. Next to the bathrooms.

We spent the next 3 hours breathing in everyone's poop smells and B.O. and trying to convince B that he really could take a nap.

He didn't.

As soon as we drove out of the rental car garage, B conked out. He was so exhausted, and looking back at him, my heart started breaking. But N and I had to discuss the evening's plans, so I didn't get to think about it much.

We got to our hotel, and B was still asleep, so N went in, checked us in, and took in all our luggage. We went over to friends', as they had said they had a "play area" for B to run off some energy and then we could go to dinner. We didn't realize that "play area" would mean a short stint in their backyard (where he tripped and gashed his knee - "Owwwieeeeee!") followed by a long walk to a playground in the bright Texan sunlight - and the sunblock was packed away in the big suitcase.

As I lay down in the dark tonight, with B sleeping soundly in the crib next to our bed, I felt the tears pouring out as all the threads unraveled. In a choked up whisper, I confessed to N about how out of control I had felt in that bathroom, how I had made all the wrong decisions in there, how I had felt so stressed out with the events of the day, how I never wanted to hurt B's heart or make him feel I was angry at him.

I try not to ever speak sharply or raise my voice to B. Although we are not against spanking, N and I choose to discipline in other ways. I have many of my own heart-wounds from my childhood spent being the dumping ground of misplaced parental anger, and I never EVER want B to feel a smidgen of what I felt as a child, wondering why.

N held me close, stroking my hair, allowing me to process and grieve.

And then he spoke words of mercy and affirmation over me, words from God, words I desperately needed to hear.

I'm still tearing up as I consider my innocent little boy and his long day today. He really handled everything quite well, all things considered. I am also weeping with gratitude for a God who heals and redeems, who knows and understands motherhood much better than I do, and for a husband who tenderly reminds me of that.


  1. Beautifully written, Hannah. Parental guilt seems to loom over our heads, doesn't it? By God's grace, our children will know someday that God is at work where we are weak. You're a beautiful, loving mom and I know B will look back on his childhood with all fondness.

    1. Such reassurance, isn't it, that the Lord is always at work, especially where we are the weakest. Thank you for the kind words, Anna-friend.

  2. well said Hannah. and because of this post i know just how good of a mommy you truly are. i have many days where i know i need more patience or to do things differently. it is truly humbling to be a mother. but no matter what mistakes we make they love us and that is what matters most, love. so i hope and pray the rest of your trip goes smoothly, but if it doesnt go as planned it will be okay. love you guys!