Welcome to The Parenting Dare BLOG! My name is Lori Doerneman and this post was written with great love for mothers of little people.
Eric asked me to share a favorite parent hack with you. He thought I had some clever way of doing life with 8 kids.
I thought about that and laughed. I have no good parent hacks or ways that I have made life easier unless you call letting my kids sleep in their clothes so they won’t have to change in the morning a “parent hack.”
I am more of a roll-with-the-punches type of mom and I will figure it out on the run.
I don’t have a Pinterest area of solid shortcuts to raising children.
Of course, after he posed the question, I spent some time in reflection mode.
And I do have something to share with you young moms, something that helped me immensely when I had head-bangers and screamers and breast feeders all clinging to various parts of my mind and body.
I am actually so excited to share this with young mommies…..let me start at the beginning.
I am from a large family; I am the third of eleven children. My mom and dad had SEVEN DAUGHTERS in a row before the first son was born! I know the beauty, the drama and chaos of family life.
Yet even that did not prepare me for the intensity and constancy of motherhood.
Eric was born in 1993. Rachel in 1995. Mitch in 1996. Three kids in 3 ½ years.
I was shocked at how demanding it was. I was shocked at how impatient I was.
There were days when I just felt overwhelmed and 100% inadequate.
That alarmed me. I did not become a mother to suck at it but I wasn’t sure how to turn the tide.
To be honest, I think the whole problem had to do with my expectations. For some reason I thought my kids would be perfect little angels. I discovered very quickly that babies cry. A lot. For no apparent reason.
And even as they grow and mature and become fun little people, there is also this fact: toddlers are irrational and well, crazy.
They scream pretty much all of the time.
As toddlers run around the house, they fall INTO things. It seemed like I spent the majority of my days preventing head trauma as I followed my kids around their day.
I also had the added joy of child number one being anal retentive, which is actually a thing. So my Eric, presumably because of adding a baby into the mix, or maybe it was because we moved, started holding his bowels.
Except you cannot hold bowels forever. And so the poop would come out for my four-year old son in underwear….when we were at the park.
Rachel had a lot of food allergies and ear infections and had speech delays. I called her my Helen Keller because she had a hard time communicating as a 2 and 3-year old. It was frustrating for both of us.
Baby Mitchell was a puker; his flapper thing wasn’t fully developed so he would yack (a little or a lot, you never knew) every time I nursed him. There were days that he went through 7 or 8 sets of clothes. If his regurgitated milk spilled on me, I had to change, too.
It was hard, yes. But I wanted to find a way to enjoy motherhood, even though I was so sleep-deprived that it felt like I was the walking dead on some days.
I knew I had strength. I knew I had vision. I knew that I could live without having a pity party for myself every second of my day. My kids deserved more than that. Heck, I deserved more than that.
Then an idea began to form.
I knew that death was a good teacher. When someone is faced with clear sense of their own mortality, they really begin to live. Priorities shift. Relationships become stronger. Perspective is gained.
I thought of my friend, Brenda Florian. When we were in high school, she was given four months to live. At the tender age of 17, she lived every moment in appreciation.
We would drive all over small town Nebraska and she would say things like, “Lori, look at that sunset. Just look at the colors.”
Her eyes saw it differently than mine.
Yet it was not always easy, because her body was full of cancer. She was also wracked with fear of the unknown.
Cancer and my own impending death were not consuming me. But could I extract the good out of that situation and create the mindset that gave Brenda such peace?
Could I rig my life to PRETEND that I had a set number of months left?
I loved the idea. And I knew I would have to make it real to my brain. So I sat down with my calendar and plotted out six months.
I actually wrote down the date of my “death.”
I imagined everything; I thought of my actual passing as well as the funeral.
And. I cried. I allowed myself to feel how I would feel if I was given the death sentence of six months left to live.
The beauty of it: I still had all of my strength. Radiation and chemotherapy were not ravaging my body. I had my health.
I just needed my heart and mind to get to a better place and the strategy of planning my death.did.the.trick.
As you can imagine, I fell back in love with life. I would wake up with just as few hours of sleep but I would be grateful for another day.
I remember taking my children to Sedgwick County Park and Eric asked if they could jump in the mud at the lake’s edge.
MUD. I don't do mud.
My first thought, "NO!"
My second thought was, "NO!"
But then I thought, "Lori, you are dying. Your kids need good, strong, fun memories."
I looked at my beautiful, ornery children and nodded and smiled. Their surprised faces were the best gift to my soul. And yes, the mud washed off.
Having a set number of months to live made me see. I would actually look at my kids. I would study them, mesmerized by their skin and their eyes and their little lips and their small fingernails.
I would cry sometimes, just thinking of NOT being with them, which of course, made me hug them tighter and snuggle them closer.
When my death date rolled around, I thanked God that I didn’t actually die that day. I thanked Him for the gifts given.
When my patience was super short and my days were long, I would do it again but I would give myself a month to live.
30 days is not a lot of time. That amplified everything.
Now, I know this sounds slightly morbid, but the truth? You and I only have so many days on this earth. It is a grace to be able to live in that knowledge.
And it’s Scriptural. In Psalm 90, verses 10 and 12: the prayer of Moses: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong, and most of them are fruitless toil, for they pass quickly and we drift away.”
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”
That became my mantra. “Teach me to number my days aright, that I might gain wisdom of heart…” It was exactly what I needed.
That little parent hack changed everything for me.
Now, I have not thought about this strategy for many, many years. But yesterday, as I pondered this post, I decided to see if it would create greater clarity for me now as a mom of middles and bigs.
I set my death date for three months from now: May 1, 2019. I really thought about it. I let the fact of it weigh me down a bit. I thought of my husband Russ. I thought of each of my children. My heart ached. I cried a bit.
And just like that, all of the incredibly intense crazy thoughts that fill my mommy brain on a daily basis just softened.
And I bought thin Oreo coconut cookies. And I put five of them in a stack on a plate for each of my kids coming home from school.
So when 10-year old David, 14-year old Thomas and my two 16-year old daughters, Bridget and Malaysia, walked in the door, they were greeted with cookies.
They grinned and cheered. I told them, “I think these would taste great with some ice cream, don’t you?” and I gave them each a scoop of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. I usually greet them with a healthy snack so they about fell over.
The evening was extremely relaxed. I was totally in tune with THEM. I looked. I saw. I smiled. I asked good questions and really listened to their answers.
And yes, they did the same behaviors that always irritate me but I kept thinking: You have just three months left….May 1st. These kids will be speaking at your funeral...what do you want them to say? That you were always busy? That you always corrected their behaviors? Or that you really enjoyed them….and they each felt like the favorite….
I was almost shocked at the difference. Who knew, right?
As mothers, we have many concerns. We have much to do. It is achingly easy to lose perspective of What Matters Most.
Then try this little mommy hack.
Live Like You Are Dying.
P.S. Another way to be intentional: Join our free mini course, The Daughter Dare. If your daughter is between the ages of 6 and 16, it’s for you!
A comment from one of our mommies: “I love this program that you have put together. Thank you for being so transparent and open. I have been listening to this off and on at work and am very excited to implement these things! My daughters are also adopted and with one in particular, we are overcoming her hurdles right now! Again, thank you! I am moving on to the next age brackets :)”