August 9, 2017

The silent “I love you” | Personal Post

Now that I have a little break during wedding season, I wanted to write a few personal posts. I think it is important to use my blog to showcase my weddings and sessions, but I want to start showing a different side of Brittany Sidwell Photography.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a wife of four years (tomorrow it will be four years! Crazy!) and a mother to a sweet, energetic toddler. When I jumped into full time entrepreneurship in January, I was so excited to have more time for my business, but also more time to spend with Wyatt Lee. We go to the park together during the day, have lunch outside, and play with puzzles after nap time. I can’t even describe how blessed I feel when I take a step back and have the opportunity to spend so much time with my sweet son.

However, I will be the first person to raise my hand and jump up and down when someone asks if motherhood is difficult. I was not the little girl who played with baby dolls or pretended what I would name my 15 children at the age of 8. I never fantasied about pushing my baby in a stroller or what it would be like to be a mother. It just wasn’t me. From the age of 9, I knew I wanted to be a photographer, travel the world, and be a free spirit. Being a mother just wasn’t ever a thought.

When we found out we were pregnant with Wyatt, I started immediately having doubts of if I would be a good mom. I think everyone has this fear– it’s normal, accepted, and people are pretty quick to encourage you that everyone has fears of inadequacy. I would pray for God to help me work on my selfishness. I am someone who craves my sleep. I was always the first to fall asleep at slumber parties, take naps during hangouts, or get sick if I didn’t get enough of it. This was my number one concern as I was thinking about raising a child, because let’s be honest– sleep and children just do not coincide. 😉

Wyatt was born and I was smitten. I mean, y’all. He was perfect. I sobbed from the moment he was placed on my chest, to the moment everyone left the room and it was just Aaron, Wyatt and me. I couldn’t believe he was here and I was ready to embrace every challenge, fear, and struggle he would bring because I just loved him that much. Wyatt was such an easy baby, too. He cried when he was hungry or tired, but he would just lay and smile at the world.

When Wyatt turned about 18 months old, toddlerhood hit him and it hit him hard. I joke that he is my clone and it’s a scary thought. I put my poor, poor parents through H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICK. (Sorry, Mom and Dad haha!)

I don’t think I really need to go into a lot of detail about the difficulty of maintaining patience through tantrum after tantrum, endless screaming, and constant stages of regression. Feeling like the day will never end, but somehow in a week you look back and it flew by. Sometimes I feel like I don’t stop until he goes down for a nap or when bedtime comes. By that time, I am so exhausted and I don’t know if I should take a nap or fold the mountain of laundry on my couch.

I am stuck between a motto of Grace, Not Perfection (Emily Ley is incredible, go  read her book now. ) and running around like a chicken with my head cut off or else we won’t have clean clothes, dishes, or be able to see the floor ever again.

I have named this stage of my life: the silent “I love you”. I have served as Wyatt’s mom for almost two years and he has never said thank you. He has never looked me in the eyes and said, “I love you”. He has never reciprocated in any way what I have done for him. He doesn’t even acknowledge it. Obviously, I don’t expect any of that because he is no where near being able to even connect it. I also think the silent “I love you” extends beyond the inability to speak it. It can extend to the weird 8 year old who is trying to figure out their independence or the teenager who just could care less.
But there is something about working all day for a child who is not saying anything in return. There is no dialog with him throughout the day. There is no conversation. If I didn’t play worship music in the background during the day, you would only hear my voice. Constantly. “Wyatt get down”, “Are you hungry?”, “Holy crap dude, you need a diaper change!”, “Wyatt, don’t scream”, “Sit in timeout. You do NOT hit”, “Sorry bud, you can’t eat cardboard”. It feels like it never, ever ends. Anyone else feel me?

This week was just really hard for me for some reason. I never had a super hard time adjusting to the newborn stage. It felt like it came pretty naturally, even throughout the struggles. There were hard times, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t feel hopeless or like I was going to come out of my skin. I felt like I had such a peace in parenting even throughout sleep deprivation.  There are so many women who do struggle at the beginning and I am 120% empathetic. My struggle has been this stage. I have cried more in the last month than I ever had since he has been born. I have questioned every parenting method. I am re-reading the parenting books and articles. I am probably annoying the crap out of my friends with older children with all of my texts and questions. I want to lock myself in my bedroom most of the time and never come out. If I am being honest, this stage is what makes me want hide in the bathroom with a bag of twizzlers and pretend I disappeared. 😉
I feel like a drained zombie mom. I feel like I am failing. 
I was so confident in my abilities as a mother when he was younger. I almost became cocky. However, it had hardly anything to do with me. It was Wyatt’s personality. Now he is stubborn, headstrong, and persistent and I am realizing I am not super awesome. I am just like everyone else.

I posted a status on Facebook last week about a little bit of my struggle but I also wrote about how I try to take a step back and remember that this phase is fleeting and there will be things I miss– the fingerprints, the snuggles on the couch, and his little toddler babbles. I will blink and it will all be over. It makes the hard days so worth it, but friends, they are still hard. And I am learning that it is a-okay to acknowledge that they are hard.

A friend messaged me shortly after I posted my status and said this: “This isn’t one of those ‘enjoy the crap of toddlerhood’ responses, but more a reminder that parenting is so very full of complex emotions. Don’t try to soak in every moment; enjoy the good ones and navigate the hard ones. Being a parent is about having our rough edges smoothed out, too, and some days, that feels like being a piece of furniture distressed by chains and hammers. And the process is good.”

I sometimes feel guilty about not enjoying every moment. Because, to be honest, I don’t. I don’t think I have to, either. There are days I really really can’t wait for them to be over. I can’t wait until bedtime. I am going to be honest. I will never lie and say that I enjoy every day because I don’t. I think that is okay, too. I am not a bad mom because of it– because even on the worst days, I am being sharpened. I am growing as a mother and a person. My patience is being stretched and exercised. I get up the next morning and ask God for strength and move on. I help Wyatt get up in the morning and we try again.

So during one of my hard days last week, I pulled out my camera. I was crying while taking each of these photos. Wyatt woke up at 6am that morning and threw probably 30 fits before nap time. But these are the things I will miss. I didn’t pick up my house. I didn’t rearrange things for these photos. Our boxes for recycling are still beside his highchair.
I wanted to capture my life right now. I know in 10 years it will look completely different. I will miss the smudgy fingers and the baby spoons. I will miss the toddler plates. I will miss reading books in his teepee that takes up half of our small apartment living room. I have dishes in my sink because I tried all morning to read to Wyatt so he would calm down. The only thing he would eat that week was PB&J and apple sauce.

Honestly, I am sitting with tears streaming down my face as I write this. I feel raw and vulnerable. Motherhood is hard, y’all. It strips you to the core and shows you a very true side of yourself that you may have been successfully hiding for years. I am being peeled back like an onion and shown that I am a disgustingly selfish human. I like my comfort. A lot. 

If you’re a parent and you’ve made it this far down, I encourage you to read this blog. My friend Katie sent it to me last week and it has really made me think. It has encouraged me that I am not alone during my days with Wyatt. I am parenting alongside of Aaron, yes. But God is also walking me through the difficulties. I can take a deep breath and know this is beyond just me.

“So when you’re in that standoff with your toddler at bedtime and you want to scream because all you want is your couch, a bowl of ice cream, and Netflix, God is there to parent you through that. He’s there to show you your selfishness, your idolatry, and then to draw you back to Him with His grace. He doesn’t leave you alone in the yuck. He’s right beside you, coaching you, loving you, and instructing you. You have a perfect, loving Father who doesn’t tire of you when you mess up, again. When you run to broken cisterns, again. He draws you back with His grace, and He changes you, little by little, to be more like Him. He parents you with grace so that you can parent your children with grace.” –Jennifer Phillips

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