Indeed, within seconds at least ten blue scrub-clad staff poured through the door, including the midwife who expertly pulled her out, was able to remove the double knotted umbilical cord that was around her neck and from that came the most relieving sounds: a piercing and determined sounding little cry. My ever-calm, "piece of cake"-approach- to-tough-situations husband who was there for it all, and actually helped deliver her, later told me her head was blue when he first saw her. She had come out on her own time and stirred up a whirlwind when she did.
I should have seen the (obvious) signs.
This beautiful, tenacious, smart and exceedingly strong-willed child has not veered from her birth day approach to living. I have found this almost-ethereal looking child with her wild sun-colored hair and wide blue eyes, perched precariously over a picket fence in her beloved Dora swimsuit, trying to escape our fenced in yard by the dawn's early light (more than once). She is a sleuth who has a built-in sensory that detects concealed candy from Halloween and Easter, stashing them in places where I find a pile of empty wrappers weeks later. No height is too high, no obstacle too great, no force of gravity too strong. She is our blonde haired, blue-eyed little whirlwind with a will made of steel and when we're not too tired from keeping up, we are flat out amazed at the gift at the honor of being the ones to mold her early years.
From the hospital, she came home to a big stepbrother, a littler big brother who had just turned two and a sister who had celebrated her first birthday only weeks before. Unbeknownst to us, just a little over a year later, she herself would become a big sister to twin brothers. In addition to her built-in "spirited" personality, she is also smack dab in the middle of two sets of "twins" (the "Irish" -less than a year apart- first two and the identical ones that come after her). I get the struggle she faces in trying to establish her place in the line-up. None of her siblings are exactly docile themselves, they are all a wonderfully colorful and bold in their own ways...a small posse that band together and turn on each other at any given moment of any given day during any given week of the past seven years. There are moments, usually the ones that fall right before dinner and/or bedtime, where I am convinced it is their common goal to get me committed.
I am writing this here on my couch while the house is still asleep (I call this time of the day "bliss". This is when I am at my personal best as a mother) and I am stringing these words to you in the very thick of raising this miraculous child who challenges me multiple times every day to contain the whirlwind that comes from her being her. I have let many battles go. There are so many surface issues that do not reach the heart in which I have reserved until the bigger ones are "won".
Our steely whirlwind, for all her might, can also be the most charming, adorable child in our possession...particularly when no one is thwarting what she has already determined in her mind she WILL do. We praise her to the highest heavens when she makes good choices, try to not reign in her adventuresome spirit in too narrowly and marvel at her beauty, for when she truly smiles the entire world seems two shades brighter. It's just that, well, I am absolutely EXHAUSTED. She demands the intercession of three children combined, and fears very little-- consequences of any kind included. I have had people suggest placing her in her room, on a chair, in a corner until her personal storm passes and I think "You actually think she would STAY there???" This is not a child who meekly accepts loving discipline. Oh no. She fights it and she does not give up easily, all the while her still-young siblings are watching and making their own plans while the mama is up trying to figure out how to best deal, and for the sake of all that's holy, TRYING her best not to get sucked up into the emotional whirlwind. There are days my husband comes home and we both like we've been reenacting scenes from Twister.
For those who also have such a child, I raise my now-lukewarm cup of coffee to you. I come to you with no miraculous child-behavior program, all-the-answers book/conference/dvd series or Bible verse. I've read some, and honestly, I want to invite the author to my home to observe for a few days and the say "ok, now tell me again, what was that you had to say?". That reads as though I'm jaded by parenting books. Possibly because I am. No family (or author!) has perfect children within it's fold, but neither does every family have that child that stands out so brightly for their blazing will of steel. I have asked new friends, "Do you have that one darling child that just gives you a run for your money?" and when they have to pause to think about it, I already know they do not. This does not mean their existence is easy. Everyone has their own whirlwind, a person or circumstance that blows in and stirs up the weakness of the bystander. Many have people endure gale-force winds and will, for all their lives, of the likes that I have never seen.
"She will do GREAT things". This is the mantra we say to ourselves over and over. We believe it with all of our hearts. I'm just not sure I'll live long enough to see it some days. I call out to God for help, and He has given it....after all, we're both still alive to see another day, right? As tired and often exasperated as I am, there is absolutely NOTHING on Earth or beyond that I would trade for this blond-haired, blue-eyed package of precociousness that we have been given. I am grateful (deep inside) that she does not "perform" for others, because I tend to value performance over substance. I am thankful that her being less than congenial (unless she so chooses) around others most of the time forces me to see that my children are not robots to be programmed, nor are they here to make me look good. They are here because God chose them to be at this point in history and He has a unique adventure for which He wants them to set out on. Their lives have very little to do with me, but I still have an important role. For reasons beyond my personal understanding, He picked ME -impatient, noise intolerant, performance loving me-to be their mama...and somehow He's working to refine the whole lot of us. It is hard and it is relentless when in the trenches. If you are in them with me, I have only these three thoughts to encourage you with:
1. Seek wisdom from ABOVE. The God who created our children, including the especially strong-willed ones, knows him/her better than any best-selling author/program/whatever. Seek without ceasing.
2. Kiss 'em lots in the morning and at night (even if it's after they're asleep and your nervous tick has subsided) and pray that any fallout from the hours in-between when the love fest wasn't happenin' will be forgotten and forgiven with time. Celebrate the little victories and good choices with unabashed enthusiasm. See those flowers at the top of this post? These were given to me on Wednesday from the little girl with the once-blue face, that is now flushed with red from the rush of life on the edge. I cannot tell you how much they meant to me, but I sure did my darnedest to try to convey it to her.
3. Read this by Lysa TerKeurst (of everything I have ever read, including books, this is the piece that stuck with me more than any other, brief though it be). If you ever meet such an admirable woman who describes the situation you are in with one of her own children, BEG her to meet you for coffee and be a shameless sponge in her presence. Whether they themselves are still in the trenches, or far beyond them, absorbing a knowing empathy refreshes and refuels the spirit like nothing else!
You are not alone. If you occasionally (ok, often) cannot find any other words to mentally shout but those reminiscent of a salty sailor when you're lost in the emotional reaction to the whirlwind that you found yourself caught up in, if you've been tempted to Google "Military Academy for Preschool Aged Children" or want to gently slap the next person who admonishes you to "love these years", please know you are part of a sisterhood that is being refined by their precious offspring and it's perfectly normal for it to be a messy, stop-and-go process. It is not easy, but nothing truly worthwhile ever has been. Stand strong! Accept Grace! Give Grace! And remember, Joanie (of Arc)'s mama probably felt the very same way.