Do

The very best advice ever given to me was given by my mother-in-law.

When I had just one little boy, life was fun. Oh, I thought it was hard because he didn’t sleep very well, but, all in all, it was fun. I had plenty of hands and plenty of help.

My mom, Philip, and me

My mom, Philip, and me

When I went from one to two, life just got funner.

Two artists

Two artists

Going from two to three, though, meant that I ran out of hands, but that was okay. Backpacks and front carriers worked well.

Feeding seagulls

Feeding seagulls

From three to four presented a problem. I had no where else to put a child.

Myrtle Beach - 1993

Myrtle Beach – 1993

Somewhere in that two-three-four child range, I realized I was really struggling to do this job. My mother-in-law raised thirteen children. Well, actually, fourteen, because a cousin came to live with them when her mother died. I asked my mother-in-law one day how she did it.

“You just do,” she said. That’s all there is to it.

D is for Do.

“Fred” asked me a riddle the other day, “How do you eat an elephant?”

I think he was hoping I would say, “With an elephant fork,” but I knew the answer — one bite at a time.

You just do.

You take one step forward. Then another. Then another.

That advice helped me through child-rearing, and later, in the midst of adult caregiving. Caring for someone with dementia is not unlike caring for small children.

When life is overwhelming, look around for something you can do — some small thing, a baby step you can take forward or even sideways, a tiny bite you can take of the elephant.

Do.

Family Reunion

My mother-in-law (center) surrounded by the fruits of her “do”-ing — 2011

 

Other Duties As Assigned

Last night (and the night before) Laurel said to me as she went to bed, “I’m sorry if I come in.”  Sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad dream and comes in our room.

“It’s okay,”  I told her.  “It’s in my job description.”

I probably should have looked the job description over a little more carefully before I signed on.  Not that I ever really looked over any job description;  I was usually just glad to have a job.

Like when I worked at the Baseball Hall of Fame, I think my job title was “Souvenir Girl” and that pretty much summed it up.  I sold souvenirs and tickets.  Maybe it specified that I wasn’t supposed to try to charge VIPs, like the time I was going to charge Bowie Kuhn admission, but I honestly never read through it.

But a Mom Job Description — whew!  There’s a good one that I’ve seen:  The Mom Job Description. (Click to see it.)

I actually think I could do it in five words.

and other duties as assigned

No matter how complete the list, it would still be incredibly incomplete.

I knew I would have sleepless nights.  I imagined they would end when my children slept through the night.  Not so.  It’s not always Laurel waking me up.  Sometimes I wake with a particular child on my mind and just pray for them.

Prayer is definitely somewhere in the job description.  Under communication — with doctors, teachers, waitresses, and God.  Yep.

Jacob getting a haircut a few years ago.

No one told me that when I became a mom, I would have to cut hair.  But I have cut the boys’ hair for years.  All my boys are now teenagers and beyond.  I tell them to get their haircut by somebody who knows what they’re doing.  And yet, what did I do the other day?  Cut Jacob’s hair.  And I still don’t know what I’m doing.

I knew when I became a mom that I would have to prepare meals.  I was okay with that because I know how to read recipes.  My creativity in the kitchen is pretty limited.  But did I ever imagine that I would have to triple or quadruple every recipe every written?  And kids think math skills aren’t that important…

And all those years of raising children are really just a warm-up for caring for parents, a job I’m now cowering from.  Other duties as assigned.

It doesn’t seem to get any easier.

And I just seem to get tireder.

But Laurel can still wake me up any night of the week.

It’s in my job description.