Three Kids, Three Parenting Styles

three parenting styles

I have three children. Two living, one waiting for us in heaven.

All three children occupy my heart to the fullest, yet I respond to each one differently.

Little Miss is my first child, and had her own traumatic entrance into the world, when I nearly died from HELLP syndrome. Six years later, she may be petite in size, but her dreams and goals fill some pretty big shoes.

Harlynn passed away before I had a chance to look into her eyes or hear her baby coos and cries. I still parent her beyond the grave, however. October being Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, her legacy continues to inspire and motivate us to continue helping the broken hearts of bereaved parents who have also had to say goodbye to their precious babies, most before ever having the chance to say hello.

Little Man, the little boy I never thought I’d have, requires attention in  his own style. If we’re not reading, playing with trains or trucks, or chasing one another, I’m able to steal some sweet snuggles from my mini-prince-charming.

This week, my different roles as a mother to these three, made print a couple of times.

First, On The Minds Of Moms ran a wonderful feature piece on Michelle’s and my journey in starting Harlynn’s Heart. You can read the article here.

Second, it was my turn to share in The Forum’s Parenting Perspectives column, and I knew exactly what I needed to share this time around. You can read that article here.

I’m one mother to three very special, very unique children. I don’t always do a perfect job, but I’m so thankful our perfect God chose me to be their Mama.

Turning Pages: Why Moving Forward Is Our Only Choice

Turning Pages-

It was another typical weekday with Little Man. After a diaper change, we walked out of his room and down the hallway. He pointed to the picture in the middle of the wall.

We have three frames in our hallway. One is a collage of family pictures from 2013, after Harlynn had died and when I was barely pregnant with Little Man. The opposite end is a large matte print of our favorite family portrait from 2015. The middle frame houses four wrapped canvas of Harlynn. It was a gift from my sister-in-law on Christmas in 2013, and one of the most meaningful we’ve ever received.

Little Man pointed as we walked by and said, “Hah-winn”.

I stopped.

Wide-eyed, I turned my gaze from his sweet little face, to his pointing finger, to the center frame.

“Yes,” I affirmed, “That’s Harlynn. Your sister in heaven.”

“Yeah.” he quipped knowingly.

As you might expect, my eyes filled with tears and as we continued our walk to the living room, I pressed his forehead against my lips in a grateful kiss. It was the first time he had ever spoken her name. It was the first time he had acknowledged he knew who she was.

He knows. He knows who she is.

We went on about our day, playing with cars and trucks on the living room floor. But oh, how my heart was filled.

It’s been my dream to make sure as many people as possible know who Harlynn is. What she means to us. Why, even after her death, she’s still a very active part of our family. But to have her baby brother speak her name filled my heart with immeasurable joy.

We’re a family of 5 minus 1, but we refuse to let the “minus” carry a negative value. We hold fast to the hope we’ll all be reunited again, and every new day brings us one day closer to that reality.

In an otherwise routine weekday moment, Little Man gave me an incredible gift. I got to hear his sister’s name uttered from his sweet little mouth.

“Hah-winn”

She may be in heaven, but she’s very much a present part of our family.

It’s further proof to me a relationship with Jesus is just as tangible. If Harlynn can be an active member of our family without being on earth, how much more so can Jesus be our active, living Savior, even if we can’t see Him?

He is closer than I realize at times. I lean in further than I thought I could when the weight of the world seems too much to bear. But instead of crumbling beneath it’s burdensome weight, I feel myself standing a little straighter, getting a little stronger, as He takes my suffering as His own.

The other night, I shared with a bereaved family on how it took me so long to be able to trust God heard my prayers. I kept Him at a safe distance, always hoping He heard what I was saying, but not truly believing He did. After all, He was the one person who could have changed our situation, and kept Harlynn alive.

Looking back now, I see it was Him who kept us cared for in every detail and every moment leading up to, and following her death. We were shaken, but we were not forsaken. He not only heard our cries and our pleas, but He responded to them mightily.

I don’t understand why Harlynn had to die. I don’t understand why any parent has to bury their baby. But I understand God loves us intensely through those dark and tumultuous moments. I understand – all these months and months later – He truly was the only one who could change our circumstance….and He did. Harlynn doesn’t get to be here on earth with us, but our lives have been all the more enriched by being her parents.

It will take many more years, I’m sure, before Little Man fully understands who Harlynn is and why her picture takes a prominent place in our hallway. But I’m banking on those several more years to share her story – with him, and others – many more times.

In the children’s book The Monster At The End Of This Book, the entire premise of the story is to prevent the pages from turning, in expectancy of the impending doom at the end. Come to find out – spoiler alert – Grover was the monster the whole time, and was getting in his own way of his story.

That’s how I felt for so long after April 9th, 2013. I didn’t want to turn the pages. I did everything I could to prevent the story from moving forward. There was no point, in my mind, of reading any further into our future.

Harlynn’s story reflects our story, and our story reflects His story. We’re still walking out the next chapters, but I’m finally at a place I feel secure in turning the pages.

The Truth About Being Hot-Headed

It is an hour and eight days past my bedtime. This time-change has messed me up, once again. Guess what, presidential candidates? You can get rid of daylight saving! I’m just saying…

The other night, I made a big decision. It was a hard decision, but it had to be made. As a mother, I always seek what’s best for my children. I had to bite the bullet… and cut Little Man’s hair.

Spoiler alert if you’ve never seen the movie (but seriously, where have you been hiding?). Remember in Napolean Dynamite, when Pedro sweats constantly because he has all that hair on his head? Little Man was having some serious Pedro days. If anyone or anything came within inches of his head, he would start to pour sweat. He was a radiator with those little curls. We also – well, someone, maybe once – clipped his hearing aids in his hair.

As hard a decision as it was to make, we had to cut his hair.

Curls one minute… buzz cut the next.

Actually, that’s a lie. It was curls one minute, flailing arms and screams the next several (several) minutes, a few buzzes here and there in the meantime, and then a final haircut with curls in a pile on the floor.

We tried to ease our way into it. We brought him to the bathroom, promising his favorite thing: bath. But first, we had to take care of hair. We took care of Daddy’s hair first. We let Little Man hold the clippers while they were off, and while they were on. We let him hold the #5 guard. Then, after we thought he was still happy and content with everything, we put the clippers to his head.

And all hell broke loose in our bathroom.

This right here – this is the moment captured when he was swinging open-palmed punches at me, screaming, “No way! No way!” So of course… we had to take a picture.

2016-03-13 17.59.03

I think I got most of the back of his hair done before we had to switch tactics. Hubs took over and Little Man clung to me with an absolute death grip, not letting go of my neck for anything. He went from assaulting me, to begging me in his own 22-month-old fashion, to save his life.

When Little Man’s fits continued as intensely as they had begun, Brent turned to me at one point and asked, “Is this how alien abduction stories come to be? They’re just poor recollections of first haircuts?” It was traumatic. To be sure.

After what took way longer than we ever imagined it would to cut his hair, I swept up my sweet little boy’s curls into a dustpan and threw them in the trash. He had his bath and recovered quickly from what seemed like a life-altering trauma he had experienced only moments before. He’s a tough one, this kid.

After bath and pajamas, I walked around the corner to see Little Miss, her Daddy, and there – standing on his own two feet, looking at his haircut-studly-self in the mirror and brushing his teeth with his people, Little Man. He had aged five years and now he was brushing his teeth with his curl-less head, like we had not just had Wrestlemania on the bathroom floor an hour earlier.

Seeing him there, toothbrush in mouth, and buzzed head, I started crying. My little boy…. my baby…. so grown up.

2016-03-14 09.41.11

A few days after her little brother’s ordeal, in surprising Little Miss for her birthday coming up in a few days I took her to the salon for a haircut she has been begging for, for almost a year. I didn’t dare use the buzz-clippers on her, so was willing to pay our dear stylist to do the dirty work of a bob cut.

Not only was Little Miss exceptionally excited, but she also grew up right before my very eyes. I tried to playfully talk with her on the drive home about who wouldn’t recognize her, how we could surprise Daddy with her new look, and what all her friends would say when she got on the school bus tomorrow, but as I was smiling and playing along with her imaginative possibilities, a few tears rolled down my cheek.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 8.46.37 PM

These kids… they’re growing up. And there are days I pray for bedtime to come hours before it’s due. And there are days I take a really long time going to the bathroom, just so I can have a moment to myself. And there are days I bust out the “hallelujah!”s when Brent walks in the door after work. But there are also these moments when I wonder what happened to my babies, and who these smart, witty, sassy, incredibly genuine little people are who have stolen my heart.

It started out as a mission to get our son to stop sweating every time he turned around, but it ended up as yet another heart-wrenching lesson about the passage of time. Every moment matters…. because sometimes, all you get is that little moment. I don’t love that my son tried to karate chop my head, but in the next instant when he was trusting me with his life and gripping my neck like it was a life raft in the sea of electric clippers, I could have sat there holding his terrified self all night.

Earlier, when Little Miss came and snuggled with me on the sofa, curling up into my lap as tightly as she could, I was content to sit there as long as possible while her bony little buns carved canyons into my femurs.

It was so much more than just a haircut for him, or a haircut for her. These are memories being etched into our life’s journey as parents of some pretty special kids.

What A Difference A Sound Makes!

From the time he was born, our Little Man has had hearing issues. Initially, he was diagnosed with a severe and significant loss. After more tests, evaluations, and examinations, he was officially diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Since I myself have a hearing loss, I can mostly follow and understand not only his charts, but his struggles.

When we were told he would need hearing aids, it was a tough and emotional realization for me. My son, as a result of his hearing loss, is classified as special-needs. He has case-workers. He is recognized by our state as having a disability.

And I, as his mother, can’t do anything to make it better.

This is a profoundly emotional thing for me, especially in dealing as a parent after the loss of one of my children. The fact I still cannot protect my other children, and knowing he most likely got his hearing loss from me, makes me feel about an inch tall. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a spiraling feeling. It’s a trigger.

I had been increasingly frustrated with his audiology appointments. I felt like I wasn’t understanding what was happening, what they were planning, why we weren’t moving forward with aids, but mostly – that we had to go to them at all because I couldn’t keep my son from having a hearing loss.

After his most recent ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) test and confirmation he still struggled in his hearing and would need aids, I broke down in the presence of the audiologist. I couldn’t hold myself together. I tried to dismiss it, saying, “I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning…” but the truth was it was hard news to take.

We got home, he let me snuggle a little extra that day, and we had an appointment for a couple of weeks from then for him to receive his aids.

A few days later I got a card in the mail from the audiologist. In browsing the waiting room looking for magazines to read, she came across an article I had written last fall about losing Harlynn. She had no idea we had lost a child (how do you bring that up at an audiology appointment?) but this discovery gave her far more insight as to why I was frustrated, why I was so emotional, and that I needed a little extra TLC in handling the news about my son.

That card made all the difference for me emotionally.

A week later, we went to have Little Man’s hearing aids put in. I was apprehensive. Will kids make fun of him? Will kids try to take these out of his ears? Will these be fuel for bullying? Will people treat him differently because he has to wear these for the rest of his life? I can’t protect him from any of this. Trigger…

The moment she put his aids in and turned them on, a whole new world opened up for Little Man. He made a few faces like he wasn’t sure what was going on, but within minutes, he was playing and carrying on like he had always worn hearing aids. I was blown away.

Sound

He’s had his aids for a week now, and aside from the occasional attempt to gnaw on them, he has done absolutely fantastic. He has become far more chatty than he was before having them. Hearing him babble and make all kinds of new sounds is thrilling for us. Not only is he super adorable, but he’s showing tremendous progress with regard to his speech development and understanding.

There are a few sounds we can tell he is hearing that we know he didn’t hear before, but really until he can coherently communicate with us, we won’t know the extent of how helpful they are. His behavioral hearing tests, however, have shown stark improvement with his aids and his response to sounds.

This is a good thing. It’s good, and exciting, and a blessing.

Everything that makes me apprehensive about my son having hearing aids is nestled in fear. Fear is a default for me – and for most bereaved parents. So many “what-if”s. So many unknowns. It’s how I measure everything that happens or could happen in my life.

The longer he has his aids, the more comfortable I am with the whole thing. Yes, he has a hearing loss, but he can still hear so much. These aids will transform his life for the better when all is said and done. I have nothing to fear, and there’s nothing Little Man will face as a result of his hearing aids we can’t trust God to get him through.

What a difference a sound makes!

Even If He Does Not

This past November, our senior pastor delivered one of those sermons you have a hard time swallowing. Not because of shady principles, or heresy, but because it’s hard to chew up a truth bomb that big.

He spoke on the passage in Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar was going to toss Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego into the “blazing furnace”. They replied to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Even if he does not.

Gulp.

Even if he

It was many, many months once those initial weeks had passed after we lost Harlynn before I was able to really pray again. I felt like I wasn’t heard. My prayers weren’t answered. God definitely “did not”. In my own hurt and heartache, I had to process a lot of things in a new way. It was painful to think I went around declaring miracles for other people and yet one was overlooked for me.

It still stings sometimes.

I remember several years ago, one of our hometown heroes was in a bad accident and life-flighted to another hospital. I remember getting angry with the people from back home for not believing God would heal him, or save him. Everyone’s report was hopeless. I prayed earnestly God would save him, because I knew He could. I knew He would. Then, the man died.

I was crushed.

Here I had been upset with other people for anticipating death when a miracle was in order, then death overcame. Were my prayers not enough? Did God not hear my pleas? I was rattled, to be sure. Then, when the doctor told us Harlynn’s heart had stopped beating, I gave up on praying prayers of faith. My faith was obviously being overlooked.

When Pastor Glen started in on this passage, I remembered the Bible story I’d heard as a child. These three refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into the furnace of fire to die as a result. They were not only saved, but didn’t even smell like smoke when they emerged from the furnace. Our children’s version skipped over this declaration from the three men. “But even if he does not….

Even if he does not, God is still able.

Even if he does not, God is still sovereign.

Even if he does not, God is still a God of miracles.

Even if he does not…I will still believe. I will still be faithful. I will still devote myself to Him. I started praying in faith again.

This past Monday, an old high school buddy was in a life threatening automobile accident. Driving to work on Monday morning, he was t-boned, suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple other injuries, and was life-flighted to another hospital….to die. The outcome was bleak. Another hometown hero, not going to make it.

When I heard the news, I went to my room and began to pray. The first few verses of Psalm 41 are my go-to when someone needs miraculous healing. I read the verses, I put Joel’s name in and claimed those truths over him. I cried. I prayed. I believed God would heal him. “But even if he does not,” I also believed everything for Joel’s family had already been taken care of.

My best friend, Tiff, called me to tell me the update. It wasn’t good. There on the phone, I began to pray – to beg God – for Joel’s restoration.

Joel, right now, is sitting in his hospital room, talking to loved ones. He recognizes them. He’s speaking. He’s breathing on his own. He came back from the brink of death.

Joel is living testament we still serve a God of miracles. I couldn’t be happier. For Joel, for his family, for his friends – my heart is just full of awe and wonder and amazement at where he is today compared to what we were hearing of him one week ago.

And tomorrow, my own Little Man faces a big appointment. He goes in for one final ABR before his hearing aids. However, at his last appointment, after several prayers for total healing for him, he was (unofficially) downgraded from a moderate-to-severe (implication on the severe) hearing loss to a mild-to-moderate loss. I’m believing that was only a phase in his process to total restoration of his hearing. I’m believing his hearing will be completely and miraculously restored. I’m praying we can forego hearing aids altogether.

But even if he does not….I will still believe God performed a miracle in my son. I will still believe God has many more miracles in store. I will still believe Little Man’s hearing will be completely restored one day.

Even if we do not get the miracle we ask for, in the way we ask for it, I will still believe God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is still a God of miracles. I’ve seen enough of them to know it to be true. I will continue to pray for miracles.

And even if he does not….He already has.

My Son the Philosopher: How My One-Year-Old Schooled Me On Life

In the days leading up to Little Man’s first birthday, I was feeling increasingly like a failure. “Mom fail” after mom fail, as they’re now known, seemed to be the only items on my list of achievements. I had nothing planned until the night before his birthday party, and we didn’t buy a gift until the morning of. (Son, years from now if this website is still around and you find yourself reading this, I hope you can forgive your mama.) 

Sometimes, and this may come as a real surprise (insert_sarcasm_here), I tend to shut down in the face of events I am not mentally prepared to deal with. This last week, I shut down. Little Man is my baby. My last child. I didn’t want him to be having a birthday already. Where has the last year gone? While I’m thankful he’s no longer peeing into the air every time I change his diaper (no seriously – so thankful), I still struggle to believe so much time has passed since those days. In that realization, the weight of time passing by no matter how hard I will against it, was too much for me to carry. I had to set that burden down, but I’ll be daggummed if I wasn’t kicking my toes against it all weekend long.

My Son the Philosopher-

The family arrived from out of town, the guests appeared at our door, and I was so thankful Little Man got to be adored and doted on for several hours. He was absolutely the most charming birthday boy I’ve ever encountered, and I’m especially grateful he got to show his stuff to a larger audience. I’m convinced the kid loves me as his mama, but he’s got to think I’m old hat by now. He was thrilled to entertain new faces and have every eye fixed on him. He didn’t miss any opportunities to show himself off, and he melted my heart moment after moment all weekend long.

We were running constantly – entertaining guests, cooking, doing last minute party-prep – it was a busy weekend. And it wasn’t until this morning that I was able to let everything catch up to me. My baby is one. He sat in the living room, pushing all kinds of buttons on new toys, taking to himself and anyone who would listen, and I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.

I don’t often feel this way, but for that moment, I envied my son and I wanted to be him. I was flooded with a new perspective, and in seeing the world through his eyes, I suddenly became completely schooled in life by my toothless, slobbery son.

He coos and squalls with the most poignant thoughts and declarations, I’m sure – if only I could understand what they meant. In the meantime, though, I like to listen to his incessant babble, as it is a definite response to the unadulterated joy he feels throughout the day. He is entertained by the simplest of objects, and his favorite thing is to take a break from the mundane and have a wrestling match. I’ll admit, those wrestling matches do me as much good as they do him. Sometimes you just have to stop what you’re doing, and roll around on the floor. Find joy in the simple.

His curiosity is insatiable. He touches, prods, and investigates everything. He can’t decipher whether something is interesting to him unless he can put it in his mouth – which is a not something I long to emulate. Nothing seems to escape his attention, however, and he notices absolutely everything. Even now, at the ripe young age of one, he is incredibly in tune with his surroundings, and soaking up every possible morsel of information. Sometimes the best way to figure something out is to take the time to sit and tool with it a while. And by George, take the time to be interested enough in something to figure it out. Focus is a lost art. Don’t ever stop exploring.

The most important lesson my one year old taught me? Even the best things in life are only worthwhile for only a moment. There is no need to cling to anything other than the joy you have in this very moment. Everything should be held with an open hand, to come and go as it may, because when it’s time to move on, you won’t have time to be burdened by the weight of anything else. Surroundings are changing, relationships are changing, and diapers are changing. All the time. Holding on to one thing too tightly means you don’t have the flexibility to take hold of the next opportunity that comes along. Besides that, most of what you cling to is going to be lying around waiting for you later. You just have to trust enough to let it go in the first place. Give yourself freedom to be free.

Of course he’s also taught me that it’s okay to cry when you feel like it, and that’s a truth he also lives by example.  Cry it out. Because…well…sometimes a mama needs to know it’s her son’s party, and she can cry if she wants to.

Son, I’m so blessed to have you in our lives, I’m so honored to be your mama, and I’m so thankful for all you’re teaching me just by being you. Happy birthday, Little Man.