Ezra,  Motherhood,  Whitespace: one word for 2014

Second-guessing #whitespace

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At 5:55 AM the sounds started coming though the baby monitor.

Last night it took nearly two hours of rocking and crying to finally get the boy to pass out at 9 PM.

If morning breath can silently moan, then mine sure did. Everything in me wanted to turn the monitor off and go back to sleep.

But the words “forced introversion” and “maybe too much time alone for a three-year-old” rang in my ears. The words came from a friend, a well-intentioned one. (A lot of what she said was helpful so friend-who-knows-who-you-are, we are good, girl.)

This child of mine has brought me to the end of myself this week. No really. At one point I actually laid on the floor in front of him crying. 

There’s been screaming and yelling and hitting and pushing and kicking and thrashing and ugly faces and ugly backtalk and we don’t know why.

He doesn’t want to go places. Every morning he asks to stay home from wherever-it-is-we-are-going.

In fact, it’s now 6:21 and he’s already looked at the church picture on his new visual calendar and said “We’re going to stay home, we’re not going to church, we are going to watch Wild Animal Babies and not go to church.” 

But I suppose that just par for the course when you have a three-year-old who declares, “I do NOT want to love Jesus!”

But we push through and go anyway. And the results are horrible.

“He hit me today,” said Wednesday teacher.

“He had to go see Mrs. The-Worker-Lady-Who-Kids-See-When-They-Are-Too-Much-To-Handle three times today,” said Thursday teacher.

“I almost came to get you, but it was so close to the end so we took a walk instead,” said Mrs. The-Worker-Lady-Who-Kids-See-When-They-Are-Too-Much-To-Handle.

“He won’t stop crying and now he’s taking toys from the other kids and throwing them,” said Saturday childcare worker interrupting my workout after 20 minutes.

He tells me as we are leaving the gym that he wants to stay with me and that “leaving mommy is a sad choice.”

And so in desperation I ask for advice and the words in return make me second guess everythin.

“Maybe he’s feeling anxious about being apart from you so much if you are apart for the quiet times,” another friend says.

Maybe whitespace for my boy (and thus whitespace to give mommy peace and mind) is backfiring right in my tired face. Maybe the choice to let him play in his room first thing in the morning while I sleep in, listen to the Bible on my phone, and take a sip or two of coffee in peace isn’t actually making me a better mother but a worse one because I’m actually failing to meet his needs the way I should.

That’s not what they were saying, of course. But it’s where my brain goes and I can’t help but wonder if I’m making yet another mistake.

So this morning, at 6am, my feet hit the floor. I went in to get him. I picked him up and hugged him and realized he had grown (my arms so sensitive they are weight detectors).

I turned on Netflix and gave him a banana and strawberries and a bowl of Kix and he turned and snarled, “I SAID I wanted toast! Now get me toast!” 

I tell him that we don’t talk to Mommy that way and that’s not how we ask and inform him that we have to eat what Mommy gave him and then we’ll talk about toast. One 20-minute show later and all of his food is gone and he’s asking for toast. So I make him two pieces, and I know he will eat them because yesterday he ate a-horse-and-a-half for breakfast too.

You know what’s hard? When Mommy needs whitespace but the boy just needs Mommy – and lots of Mommy. This morning, I choose the boy. (Just as soon as I’m done with this blog post that is…)

Now it’s 6:44 and I’m going to go brew a cup of coffee and cuddle on the couch and watch Wild Animal Babies.

Second-guessing Whitespace


  • Janet Reeves

    A friend once told me that God has extra grace for mothers of young children. He’ll give you all you need of Himself as you make the choices you need to each day. You’re doing great! Hang in there. God loves you and your son, too! I will keep you in my prayers.

  • acookiebeforedinner

    I think it can be so hard sometimes, to balance our needs vs the needs of our kids- especially when they are conflicting. I don’t have the answer for you, my dear. I really don’t. But what I can tell you is that when Malone was three he went through a long period of needing me more than he usually did. The child development book that I read said that it is because suddenly, they’ve realized that they are part of something bigger than they are (the world) and at times it is so terrifying and overwhelming that they need extra comfort from their parents.

  • In Him Inspiration

    From someone who has been through this phase twice, 3 is worse than 2. I think 3 is when they really start testing the waters on how far they can push you. Stay strong and discipline when required. I remember when my oldest, who is now 13, was 3 and was pushing the boundaries. I knew also that he needed time away from me as well to understand there is life outside of mommy. I enrolled him in activities with the Park District where I could drop him off and leave. The activities were no more than 30 minutes, but it helped him to learn that it is okay to be away from mommy for a short time. Prayers for you to stay strong!

  • wifosaurus

    Aaaaaaaagh we are so in tune right now I just want to call you up and cry with you.

    I’ll tell you exactly why our sweet boys are acting this way. They want to be the center of our universe, and they can’t be 24/7. That pride is threatened. They are beginning to get an idea that the pattern of loving Jesus means denial of self. That control is threatened. Maybe we are called to have faith like children because children aren’t in denial of what it truly means to love Jesus.

    Maybe God is teaching us mothers the way he taught Hosea. He wants us to learn that while we were yet sinners…Christ died.

    Every day has been a battle in this house. J has been screaming, throwing, hitting, storming, peeing, raging. When I was describing some of the things he was doing to my grandmother, she said it sounded like he wasn’t getting enough attention from me.

    HOW CAN I GIVE HIME MORE ATTENTION? I wanted to slam my head into a wall. Maybe if I had gotten more than 55 minutes of sleep the night before, between a sick baby and a screaming preschooler keeping me up all night, I would have. But in my exhaustion, I just listened.

    She was probably right. During the holidays, J was the center of attention for my extended family. Multiple people were playing with him at all times. Then we came home and he started acting up. Then his baby brother started crawling and pulling himself up and getting into his toys. Then we started school and I started giving him more attention. Then things came up that meant we had delay school again. Then my in laws came and he was the center of attention again. Then his baby brother got sick. Then the in laws were back. Then they left, the same day his dad left for weekend drill.

    By the end of the week, the storm came to its head. If his brother wasn’t screaming because of congestion/teething/sickness/hunger because he can’t eat, then J was whining or screaming or crying. Both boys took naps, thank God, but not at the same time. I had friends praying for us all. My husband took part of the day off work and brainstormed ways to get out of Drill.

    Yesterday a friend came over in the morning to play with him and give me a break. I went to the store and came back, and they were playing on the floor. He didn’t even look up at me when I came in. He just said, “Mommy, I don’t like you.”

    This wasn’t the first time he said it this weekend, so I didn’t have a lengthy discussion with him. I just said, well, I love you.

    We spent the rest of the morning playing board games. We listened to the Frozen soundtrack in its entirety about six times. I didn’t even give him a chance to whine for food or drink because I kept offering them to him. It wasn’t out of some need for me to feel his love or earn his admiration back, it was more of an “I’m so very very tired. Let’s spend as much time together now as possible so I can get some time later.”

    Oh, there were still battles, definitely. But I treated them as cries for help and did my best to respond. That hour at the grocery store alone for me, and that hour of attention for him with someone else for him, were what we needed to get us through the morning without a bomb going off in our house.

    Putting him first did make a difference. I didn’t care if he liked me at the end of the day, but I wanted to show him that I loved him, and he responded. The afternoon was filled with “I love you, Mommy!” and hysterical laughter and skipping and running. I still looked like death froze over, but just being able to have thirty minute stretches without someone screaming or crying was enough to get me to make a healthy meal.

    I still had deadlines, and I still had to work, and I still had a sick baby, and I still said “Not right now” too much. Nap time and bed time were still war zones, but we managed. He had to sleep in his brother’s bed because he had an accident he didn’t tell me about, which meant his brother “got to” sleep with me.

    This morning, I had his brother with me in bed, and he woke me up with ice cold feet on my back. I pulled him in and let him cuddle. Then I enforced the rule that he needed to go potty and get underpants on before he could be in my bed. He threw a minor fit, but obliged. When I went into the bathroom a few minutes later, I noticed he had taken the picture of his brother & him out of the frame and left the frame on the floor.

    Whitespace is a great goal to have. I think you and I can both have more peace and white space, though, if we take half an hour or a few minutes of time with our insane little boys at the beginning of the day, to fill up their tanks, to take preventative measures, to give hugs and cuddles and pats on the back and eye-to-eye conversation and kisses and compliments, so that our interactions end up (for the most part) being more positive than negative in the broad view of the day or week, to get rid of our own distractions (I’m on my phone right now), to get them all set up with snacks and activities and options before we sit down to ourselves.

    I’m quick to respond to disrespect and dangerous behavior, but I’m slow to respond when my son asks for something or needs something. I’m quick to spank or throw him in time out when he does something bad, but sometimes I don’t even hear him say, “I love you, Mommy,” until a few minutes later.
    I’ve already cut back on blogging so much, and everything else, I don’t know what else I can cut. What I can do is rearrange my time.

    For us, I think that means I stay off the computer until lunch time, or at least until I’ve played a game or read a few books with my son. The quantity of time is certainly there–I’m with him 24/7–but the quality of the time isn’t. If priorities are judged by how we spend our time or money, I’m doing pretty well. But if priorities are judged by where we direct our eyes…it’s pretty clear I have my priorities out of whack.

    I think it’s time my son and I need more white space from distractions and more quality face time with each other. Even if it is just 15 minutes of investing each day. Even if it is just 1 minute each hour.

    I think it’s time for me to go.

    • Aprille

      I so love this comment…in all of it’s length and heart and even confusion. It sounds like our boys are going through a lot of the same things, although I don’t have a baby in the mix too. (GOD BLESS YOU!) I have really pulled back from computer time, phone time, and have even gotten up really early with him a few mornings to read books and such. Mornings are hard because I am NOT a morning person and I feel like I am so much of a better mother if I have a chance to wake up a bit before dealing with him , which is why I will often let him play in his room for a while before getting him up for the day. This morning, it worked well, but I think doing it every morning really backfired on me.

      Thanks for understanding. This comment meant so much to me when I read it on Sunday and it still means a lot to me now.

  • Katie Emanuel

    Aprille, I have so laid on the floor and cried right in front of my babies. Motherhood is hard and exhausting and can make you want to toss in the towel – repeatedly. The encouragement I have to offer you today is that in creating structure for him, you will in turn gain #whitespace for you. It may take some time, some growing pains, some tweaking, and some tantrums – from both parties 🙂 – but you will find your stride. Hugs and prayers to you!

  • beckydaye

    Hey, Aprille! My heart is going out to you right now. I know how hard this can be. But please don’t associate his bad behavior with whether or not you are a good mom or not! What is that anyway? The only thing we have is a great God and THAT is where our focus needs to be.
    Just a little idea that has helped me with my strong willed one- give options before you make a decision about food or clothes, etc., so that they have the opportunity to make a choice. At first when I heard this, I thought it would be giving in to her whims, but it has helped tremendously. And then you can fight for him respecting you, because you have demonstrated that you respect his choices.
    Praying so much for you!

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