Have you ever jumped off of a high dive? You climb up the ladder, each step making you feel more and more panicky than the last? When you finally reach the top step, it takes an incredible act of courage to step off and onto the narrow board. Shuffle-walking to the end of the board, you are finally, incredibly, standing on the edge looking down. You feel all swoony and the wind is blowing and everyone is so small but so LOUD. The only thing to do is jump. Do you feel that? You catch your breath, or maybe it was knocked out of you. Your stomach is up around your ears and the fall feels like it takes an eternity. When you finally hit the water, you smack with a sting and rush to the bottom. When you reach the surface and you have your face wiped off and your breath back, you’re almost ready to do it again. That’s what parenthood feels like to me.
I had my first, Kendall, when I was only 19. I was married and divorced and pregnant and finishing my senior year a year late because I lost my mind over Kendall’s dad. I was so scared. What kind of mother would, could, I be? I had created quite a lot of chaos for two years. To say I was reckless is a bit of an understatement.
Then there he was, Kendall Stephen Soden. He was a wonderful baby. He was so easy. He didn’t cry unless there was something very wrong, usually he was too hot. He learned to walk at 9 months. He talked in complete sentences, clearly, by the time he was 18 months old. When he was 2, I potty trained him in a day by purchasing the Mickey Mouse underwear he wanted. He did what he was told, usually the first time. He loved animals, his Nana, Lady and the Tramp and he was kind and curious. He was also beautiful. He did well in school, all the teachers bragged on him. Everyone bragged on him. What was the fuss? This parenting thing was a piece of cake. I had this bought and paid for. I was an AWESOME parent…..but God has a sense of humor and he sometimes knocks us off our pedestals.
When Kendall was 3, I reunited with his dad, Bill. Our relationship was every negative conitation you can use to describe a relationship. Using our superior decision making skills, we decided to get pregnant. It took 3 years and when Kendall was 6, we had our sweet Kade.
Kade is an amazing young man. His heart is enormous. He loves so deeply and is loyal to the bone. We have a strong relationship and he is very close to his brothers and sisters. Kade is smart and artistic and imaginative and funny. I mean he is hysterical. All that being said, when he was born, he put my fabulous parenting skills right into the wood chipper. My confidence, self-assurance and conviction were sprayed all over the dairy farm that Bill worked on at the time. It mixed in with the cow shit of a relationship that Bill and I had and formed a pool of maloderous sludge that I thought I might drown in.
Kade was born and quickly became jaundiced. When we finally got him home, things were fine for about 6 minutes, then he started crying. That might not accurately describe what I mean. Screaming, wailing, sobbing. This ear splitting, clamouring, insistant call for comfort began at 6:00 pm every evening and ended at 9:00 pm every evening. Bill would take Kendall to the Dairy Queen and I would sit in a rocker in our bedroom, trying to comfort this poor child. At the end of the spell, we would both be red amd sweating and exhausted. This lasted 3 months. It stopped as suddenly as it began. Whew…
This was just the beginning of years of ornery. This was also the beginning of an obbessive compulsive disorder that I had no idea even existed until Kade was almost grown. Kade always felt out of control and he had an irrational fear of a lot of things. I thought it was me. The anger and the bad behavior, I thought he needed tighter boundries. He hid from me until I thought someone had taken him, a few times. He emptied a can of comet and a bottle of powder all over Mother’s bathroom in one day. He drove the car into the side of the house at 2. He was afraid of ‘bad duys’ and wouldn’t sleep alone. He would become very upset over things we thought were no big deal, someone eating his lunch at school, for instance. This was so overwhelming. I often felt so spent. Couple that with my crazy marriage and I eventually just sort of let Kade go. I quit fighting with him. When he was 18 and had graduated high school, I finally made him leave. There is nothing harder on a mother than that. I felt at times that I had given up on him and I felt like a horrible mother. Then something started happening. We started talking. We started figuring things out. When he was about 10, we took him to church camp with his brother and sister. He flipped out. I made him go anyway. As we started talking, he told me what it felt like when I left him there. How afraid he was that something would happen to me while he was gone. I had no idea. We prayed a lot. I read and he listened and we eventually ended up where we are today. We still have bad days, but who doesn’t. We are still learning, but Kade has grown leaps and bounds in the last 2 years. I am so proud of the young man he has become.
Parenting isn’t easy. It’s hard every day. I have 5 children and 2 bonus children. Each of them are so completely different. You do the best you can. You cry and scream and throw things and laugh and clap and cheer. My parenting had no more to do with the personality of these boys than it did the changing of the tides. I wish I would have realized this when they were small. I took everything so personally. I was always defending myself, defending them. I wish I would have just relaxed. They are who they are. You lead and guide and try to set an example, and in the end, you hope and pray for the best. I am a good mom. I have good sons. They are as different as night and day. My children love me and love each other.
I am about to have a grandboy. He will call me Birdie, a story for another day. I will be a good grandparent, I will try to lead and guide and set and example. I am also going to sit back and smile. He is part of the legacy of my mothering. How cool is that….