Friday, February 5, 2010

Meeting Needs

Even before the boys were born, one question kept me up at night. How am I going to meet everyone's needs?

The boys are 8 months old this week and I still wrestle with this question. Not so much at night because I'm dog-tired. But in the day to day grind - when structure and order unravel. When entropy works its predictable destruction and I dash about the house with little ones toddling after me, needing me. All at the same time.

Usually, they're asking for small things like tying a bow, putting their baby doll's dress on, a drink of water. Those kind of needs I can squeeze in quickly (usually). But minutes later I can sense they need my time. I see it in the book they are handing me to read, the blanket they are thrusting up to me, wanting to be snuggled.


Often I have to put them off. Not by choice. But necessity. "In a minute. In a minute" I say. And I tend to the boys' more urgent needs, I prepare food, or clean up something that has spilled.

Over time, all this putting off plugs a big neon sign into my mind that flashes "NEGLECT! NEGLECT!"

In my heart I know I'm not neglecting my children. They're fed, clothed (most of the time), warm, and on the whole - happy. But I worry about their individual needs. Like I'm not reading enough with Eliza, not working on her numbers and letters like I should, that Ali and Sami are lost in the middle of this marvelous but maniacal mix, getting the least amount of attention. And Spencer and Gordon end up chilling a lot in various stations like bumbos and exer-saucers. Instead of being held. One on one time is so miniscule.


I guess weeks like this one tend to magnify the whole need/neglect dilemma.

Just as we folded the last load of stomach flu laundry, a nasty cold settled in. First Ali, then Sami, and now the boys.


These two cutie pies have had some rough days. RSV the doc thinks - but not sure without the uncomfortable nasal swab. Gordy is through the worst of it, although not eating well. Spence is still laboring to breathe, crying much of the night, and not eating. Thankfully, both are sleeping right now. Poor buddies.

I've been sitting with them three times a day for nebulizer treatments, following their busy heads with a mask, hoping they'll inhale enough albuterol to calm their troubled bronchiole pathways.

Twice a day I squirt prednisone down their soar throats while they gag, sputter, cry, choke. After that comes Tylenol and Motrin for fever control, Amoxicillin for Gordy's ears (his outer ear was caked in orange crusty gunk yesterday morning from an eardrum perforation), and Prevacid for acid reflux. We're running our own mini-pharmacy here!

Not to mention a hospital! Geesh! My Dad doesn't need to drive 30 minutes to work anymore. He just shows up here and has plenty of patients to keep him busy!

I've poured bottle after bottle of wasted formula down the drain, hoping the boys will drink something extra to stay hydrated, but they don't want it. They need holding, sometimes at the same time. So I reach for the one that's most distressed. You know, the squeaky wheel...

Meanwhile, the girls have free reign of the house. I can't supervise like I'd like. So this morning I let them get out whatever craft they wanted while I cleaned up from breakfast. The kitchen table and floor were a disaster in minutes. But I chose not to care. No one was at risk for amputation, the mess would clean up with some work. So I kept rinsing dishes.

While cutting and pasting, Eliza said to me, "Mom. You can't do everything, huh?"

Translation: She's heard me blurt out with curbed frustration a few too many times, "I only have two hands. I can't do everything for everybody at the same time. I'll help you when I've finished such and such."

I feel sad at the reality when I respond. "Yeah. I can't do everything. You have to take turns waiting until I can get to you. That's part of being in a family."

She seems okay with this. But I wonder at my inadequacies, the stretchings that wear me thin. I know they are getting less from me. How is it affecting them? How much is it going to matter in the long run?

Thankfully, when the logistics of need-meeting are so obviously beyond my ability, we've had wonderful family and friends who have helped. Like my parents who spent hours here the other night. They ran to the pharmacy, brought dinner in, held children. My mother-in-law did our grocery shopping yesterday and took the girls out of the house for a few hours. I would be miserable without their help.

But I also realize the brunt of the work is a Mother's work. My work. With intangibles my children need that I am sure only I can give them. Am I wrong?

I'm hoping God will make up the difference where I fall so glaringly short. I'm hoping my children will meet each other's needs when I can't. I'm hoping they will become strong self-reliant individuals because they have to do more for themselves.


An hour later, the girls were still crafting away when I heard the boys coughing. I knew I would need to feed them again. So I pulled out the bread to make lunches. As if reading my heart, Eliza began to rally Ali and Sami in an effort to clean up. "Come on guys! Let's clean this mess up. Sami you hold the bag and I'll put the cards in it."

To my astonishment, I watched the kitchen table reappear. I said nothing except, "Who wants cheese on their sandwich?"

They worked together, without my prodding. Each one did her part. Then Eliza graciously moved to another chair after sitting in the one Ali wanted. She looked at me and smiled for my approval. I melted. She was trying so hard.

I praised them for cleaning up. Sami said the prayer. She blessed our food, prayed for the people in Haiti, for Spencer and Gordon to feel better, and for Mommy. Just the mention of my name undid me. Her sweet little voice. The fact that she thought of me - even if only because we exchanged glances during her wide-eyed prayer. With a huge bubble in my throat I told them how much I loved them. That I was the luckiest Mommy in the world.

Minutes later they bounded into the bedroom to show me their cheeks. Stuffed with grapes, their faces aglow in stretched out smiles. I laughed. Finished with the boys. And took their picture.


I'll probably continue to wrangle this idea of needs. Pick it to death. Worry that I'm never enough for them.

I'm not meeting everyone's needs. And I guess that's okay. They have each other. And they are learning to love others who do things for them when I can't.

I guess I just have to let the love flow deep and easy, walk a peaceable walk, instead of a stressed out one and remember, everything comes to pass, not to stay.

These days will be gone too soon. To my relief. And my dismay.

What about you? Do you meet everyone's needs? What do you do to make the day matter? How do you encircle your little ones with what's really important? My ears are open.


  1. repeat after me...I AM AN OUTSTANDING MOTHER...because you are.

    i cannot convince you of this fact, but our Father will whisper this to you day in and day out as you TRY.

    that's right. trying is enough. in fact it is plenty and then He will pick up the slack.

    trust me on this. xox

  2. Thanks Cristie... sniffle...sniffle.. I believe you. Trying IS enough.

  3. Cath, besides being an incredibly amazing mother, because you are, you have given your children one of the absolute greatest gifts... siblings. end of story.
    i wrestle with this same dilemma (on a much smaller scale of course) but more than anything i can give my boys is the relationship they will have with each other. at least that's what gets me through it.

  4. I often find myself just trying to get through the day, and being grateful when I do. Hilde was really sad the other day and when I talked to her about it I could tell that she just missed me. I really felt like I was spending quality time with her, but it clearly wasn't enough. At least not right at that moment. I am grateful that the older two can help each other and play with each other, and I know that will serve them well later in life. But I do wish I had more time with them each individually. And I always make sure to hug and kiss them several times in the day, I need it just as much as they do.

  5. you are an amazing mother. i love your posts and feel i can do much better myself.

    it is so good for your kids to be able to learn to help themselves from time to time. they learn from this, they can feel independent and self reliant. that's what we want. those sweet little people came to you for a reason. lucky and blessed they are!

    i am so sorry for all the sickness in your home. i remember doing nebulizer treatments for one child!! i can't imagine the time you must spend with that machine going for multiples.

    you are a great example to me . . . i love the kids artwork hanging on your walls. what a happy place to be:)

  6. Cath, you are doing awesome!And don't worry! Children learn patience and they are not the center of the universe if they have to wait a minute for help. That is a GOOD thing! Something that is missing in many children I meet. The most important thing is that your children know you love them. That's all they need! Believe me, Elize will be fine entering kindergarten without you having taught her everything beforehand. They start at the basics. She probably knows more than enough now. She'll be bored! Worry about helping her with alphabet letters, numbers and name-writing in 8 months. You don't have to do everything now. One of the best lessons my Dad ever taught me was that 'to every thing there is a season.' Wish we lived closer and could help! I'll just pray for you. How's that?

  7. Corinne - thanks for your perspective. I agree - to have siblings is a wonderful gift! Funny how - that very gift is what creates the conundrum! I'm glad to know you wrestle with this too. I don't know how you balance it all! I think you're amazing! And so glad you have someone you trust to help you out!

    Michelle - you need it just as much as they do (!) That changed my life. Thanks.

  8. Alison - Baby Einstein and the Nebulizer - great combo. We've been doing both a significant chunk of the day. Thanks so much for your thoughts. You're right - we want our children to be strong and independent. You're a great example to me of a committed mother who loves what she is doing for her family. Glad we are connected this way.

    Jill - Ecclesiastes. To everything there is a season. How good to remember. I'm definitely flawed in seeing everything that needs to be done and trying to do it NOW! Thanks for the chill pill. We wish you were closer too!!

  9. Even though I am half way around the world, I still KNOW you. You are an amazing mother. In fact, I feel rejuvinated to be a better mom myself after reading your posts. Seriously! We do what we can and then HE makes up for the difference. I am counting on that in my own house! Yeah, yeah so the laundry doesnt quite get done or the dishes are sitting in the sink (right now at my house.) But your kids will know mom was the best and cared for us like no one else could. Love you and miss you! ps: love the women of the old testament book. it is wonderful!

  10. Marti - so glad to hear from you! We do what we can right, and turn the rest over. I must say I know we're being helped, in divine ways, often. How else would I have made it this far? Thanks for your wisdom - far flung from Ethiopia. And so glad you enjoyed Olsen's book. It's fantastic, isn't it?

    Miss you Marti! Give Glori Sue a hug from Eliza. We love you!

    Man. Didn't mean for this to be an "I need a pat on the back" blog post. But I sure do appreciate everyone's comments. You all inspire me.

  11. Everybody's said it better than me, so, just know you are loved by your children and your Father in Heaven.

    You're doing great. I have the same worries, and I only have two, so you are asking yourself the universal conundrum of Every Mother.

    The universe answers: yes, it is enough.

  12. Brod - thank you. I value your encouragement. And thanks for speaking on behalf of the universe. It seems to listen when you talk.


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