It is strange sometimes to say that I have five children now but the addition of Alena has changed our family dynamic completely and she's not even mobile or vocal yet. The kids have all adjusted incredibly well to their baby sister and they do everything in their power to smother her with kisses and hugs. Dean routinely comments on how cute she is and Christopher must kiss her upon entering and exiting a room. The girls are supremely helpful and lavish her with just as much love and affection as their little brothers. Their love for our sweet little bundle of Alena Joy has caused me great relief in times that would be otherwise stressful... for example they offered me a break just the other week.
Michael's job requires that he travel from time to time and recently we had two weeks where he was on the road Monday-Friday. It is exhausting attempting to "solo-parent" five children; from the morning routine with the girls, normal cleaning, entertaining the boys, and spending countless hours feeding the baby... by the end of the day, I felt spent. Not having my back up around in the evening made even the simplest task feel overwhelming by 8pm.
Half way through the week without Michael, I just felt down in the dumps. The boys tested my patience all day, the living room was a mess, the kitchen trashed, and Alena wanted to nurse continuously or be in my arms 24/7. The kids and I were sitting in the living room and without realizing what was happening, I just began to cry. Tears were rolling down my face in rapid force. I'm a cryer, always have been... it's the way I release emotions from joy and fear to anger and sadness. My kids are probably used to this behavior by now, but something that evening caused them to take notice.
Tyler Marie came over and said, "Mama, let me hold Alena for a little while. You need to just close your eyes and rest". Sierra and Tyler spent the next 45 minutes holding and loving on their sister while I rested on the couch without a baby attached to me. The tears continued to flow, but not out of stress or frustration... out of pure joy.
As a mommy it's a given that my children will dislike me from time to time. Disciplining is not fun and it happens often in a household of five kids. But it is in moments like that night that made me realize how amazing and wonderful my children are and reminded me that the discipline I have given them is paying off in the way they behave and treat others, including me. It also caused me to stop and think about how often we miss the opportunities to reward and celebrate the good. So often negative reinforcement becomes the predominant means of parenting in a busy household but rewarding our children when they have behaved well is so much more effective. And thus an idea was born.
We started doing family devotionals in the evening (though we have slacked off lately) and I decided to add a new element from time to time. I purchased a little notebook that will become our book of encouraging letters. Because sometimes kids just need to know that you have noticed the good and are thankful for them. In our house I want it to be more important to celebrate the good than bring attention to the bad.
My letter to Tyler:
One day Tyler you may have children of your own and you will juggle household chores and being a mommy (and much much more). I hope in those days of your life that I will be there to help you the way you helped me one night with Alena. Your love for me and love for your sister that evening blessed me in a moment when I was feeling overwhelmed. You may not understand now how much that meant to me but I hope to repay the favor one day. Thank you for loving me and being so helpful when you didnt have to be.