Posts Tagged ‘only child’

On Loneliness and FOMO

How is it that you can feel so alone when surrounded by people who dearly love you? I don’t know this feeling well, because even when I DO feel disconnected from community, I can still enjoy time alone. I am content enough to entertain myself. Steven loves quiet time, and he socializes best with a small group of people.

 
(Recent photos for good measure. Indiana Pacers did well this season!)

Before Wesley was born, we would happily spend our evenings doing two different things in proximity to each other, hardly saying a word, and it was lovely. It works for us. But this child of ours, he’s right smack in the middle of our personalities.

As I write this, the lyrics to One is the Loneliest Number are popping into my head.

I took a brief online personality test for Wesley, and it claims that he’s an extroverted intuitive perceiver. Steven is skeptical about all the Myers-Briggs stuff, but I eat it up. This makes sense because I love to know about people and hone in on their skills (ENFJ, a “Giver”), and Steven believes it’s all bologna (INTP, a “Thinker”). What can I say? We are truly the ying to each others’ yang!

The test claims he’s too young to have a fully developed personality, so he could be more of a feeler (ENFP, an “Inspirer”), like me, or thinker (ENTP, a “Visionary”), like Steven. It’s so weird because he truly is a blend of the two of us. At any rate, I have to believe it’s a combination of these traits that causes him to bend over in near pain at the thought of being separated by people. This child has a serious case of fear-of-missing-out, or FOMO.

ENFPs and ENTPs are ruled by dominant extroverted intuition – a function that picks up on a seemingly endless slew of possibilities in the user’s external environment. While this is a wonderful skill at the best of times, it’s a stunting one at worst. ENFPs and ENTPs can easily become quickly paralyzed by their own rampant perceptions – wanting to experience everything and consequently following through on nothing.

These types needs to let go of their fear that there is constantly a better idea, situation, opportunity, person or chance out there for them to pursue. When they learn to focus in on what they’ve chosen, ENFPs and ENTPs are capable of incredible feats. But first they have to learn to say goodbye to FOMO.

-Heidi Priebe

I mentioned quiet times spent in the same room. We still do this most evenings, and Wes is so used to it, that he enjoys drawing or playing quietly when we’re both within his eyesight. Pulling him away is near impossible. Forget playing outside by himself (although he will if I’m also outside, a few feet away). Heaven forbid he get a cup of water without one of us assisting him.

Bedtime is the worst time of day for our 6-year-old son. Getting him upstairs is a battle of argument and manipulation, but I realize most kids are in this boat. Once upstairs and resigned, he stops fighting back and (usually) happily gets ready for bed and thoroughly enjoys our nighttime reading tradition. But once we reach the last page, he starts to protest, whine/beg and sometimes cry for me to stay with him until he falls asleep.

“It’s not fair that you and Daddy get to be together all the time.”
“I just want someone to be with me.”
“Why CAN’T you sleep with me?!”
“I hate nighttime. It’s not fair that I have to go to bed now.”
“What are you going to do while I sleep?”

He calls it “loneliness” or “being afraid of the dark.” I don’t discredit those possibilities, but he didn’t start complaining about bedtime or dark until a year or so ago. It’s gotten progressively worse, and based on his complaints, I think instead he’s irritated at being apart from (what he assumes is) the “action.”

It used to frustrate me to no end because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I refused to give in and appease him, but I felt terrible that he felt so scared. Eventually I started to ask him about his fears so we could talk through them, and it helped him relax. I stayed until he was almost asleep. It’s been routine ever since.

Yes, he’s only six, but I do worry about how to help him cope as he enters adolescence, especially with an increasingly online and social existence. We purposely don’t have tablets in our house, and while we do play a lot of video games as a family activity, we limit other screen time as much as possible. However, I don’t think I can blame social media alone for the world’s FOMO problem. Instead, I think it’s up to us to teach and instill gratitude.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:12-13

There’s actually a lot of science about happiness, and much of it stems on gratefulness. Wes appreciates problem-solving and tackling an issue. He doesn’t always have confidence in the process, but if you can show him or demonstrate evidence, he is less defensive. I like this article about how to become happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label negative emotions and feelings. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Make decisions. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Give hugs and personal contact.

It seems a daunting task to teach gratitude. Wesley already has a soft spot for loving others, so I think, with time and practice, some of these tips and guidelines (some of which we already incorporate) and these Biblical reminders can assist in adopting gratitude and happiness to combat loneliness and fear.

Wes is probably the happiest sibling-to-be on the face of the planet. Gone are the crying fits, convinced that his lack of sibling must be a punishment from God for his actions. (Sometimes I think it’s these tears that defied our contraception methods!) He carcasses and whispers “I love you, Maisie,” to my growing belly, and he believes/hopes she will be the savior to overcome his loneliness.

Disappointment is inevitable, we all know, but he doesn’t – yet. I pray we can help him learn skills to address deep fears and teach him how to be grateful in all circumstances. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. Proverbs 15:30

Posted: April 15th, 2018
Categories: Leah
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2015: A real, raw Resolution

IMG_7933 - Edited

Christmas Eve 2014

Another year has gone by, and I’m reflecting on the year of 2014 while my son naps on this New Year’s Eve afternoon. It was a good year – many rejoices with friends and family over accomplishments, new life celebrations and new jobs. And it was a good year for our family, too – Wes’ continual learning has been evident, we have less debt and more savings, etc.

I’m not very good at typical New Year resolutions. I’m terrible at keeping a planned commitment together, so weight loss and reading schedules are out the window by week 2. It’s discouraging to set a resolution like that because I get irritated with my “lazy” self and inability to follow through.

Last year, I resolved to be a more attentive mother. I can proudly say that 2014 has been a year of many romps around the house, read-aloud book time, kitchen experiments, day-trips and excursions. We have had a truly fun and fulfilling year with our preschooler. Making that resolution wasn’t just for Wes, it was for all of us. Paying more attention to our family has brought us closer than ever, and there is a sense of joy felt when we’re all 3 together.

So, for 2015, I want to piggyback off that joyful feeling and apply it to the rest of my life, our lives. I know I blog about this topic often, but I so, so desire to be content, and it is a daily struggle that seems to only have gotten more difficult.

A few days ago, a local mother posted in our neighborhood’s “baby mamas” Facebook page. She was desperately looking for other women who were mothers of only children. I commented on this post, offering to talk, and we ended up sharing via Facebook message for the next two days.

Her experiences are very different than mine – after her third miscarriage on Christmas Eve, she was ready to stop trying for a second child completely and wanted to know (and confirm her decision) about the benefits of a 1-child family.

Over the summer I blogged about our trio family, and I still receive comments and questions about that post, even today. What might have been hidden between the lines was my despair. I have worked very hard over the last year to be at peace with our decision, and it has been most difficult. Granted, I haven’t been very consistent with praying about my contentment; many times my prayers have been only to take the pain away or distract me somehow.

I reached out to this mother because I have felt alone. It’s been a very difficult journey because it’s tough to know how and who to open up to. As much as I love Steven, he cannot understand my mourning for a child that doesn’t exist. And I hate to bring it up (as much as it’s on my mind) because it stirs up emotions that could eventually turn into fights disagreements. I don’t want him to feel like he’s “wrong” and I’m “right,” because that’s simply not true. It’s what we have decided, though it was a much more painful pill for me to swallow than for him. My yearning doesn’t do an ounce of good for our relationship.

My mom is sad for me and shares tears, and sometimes that’s helpful, but it’s draining and I can’t see that it will help for healing if it continues forever. My sister is a great listening ear and also shares my sorrow, but again, I feel the need to limit my open vomiting of sadness. My friends are great, but many are expecting or have had new babies, and it just makes for sometimes awkward conversation with a very large elephant residing in the room. And those that ask about our family planning open up a very raw conversation that is very strange – no, I will not sacrifice my marriage for another child. (I will not have an “accidental” pregnancy.)

I wanted her to know that when she feels lonely, there are other women like her and they can mourn with her. I was also truthful: that days can be tough – especially after wonderful, quiet moments with your existing child. While you’re loving that present moment, it’s bittersweet in that it’s the only child with whom you’ll be able to experience it. Every laugh with Wes, every sporadic ice cream trip – nearly all great things about this year have been shadowed with a dreadful black thought – this is it.

All that aside, yes, I’m grateful. I adore my little family and am truly blessed with my boys and dogs. Our life is full of silliness and experiences, and it’s better than anything I ever imagined. This Facebook mother was also grateful to hear these things, even though she very well understood black days…possibly even more than I will ever know. To know a life within you, and then lose it – I don’t know that I could fully recover on this earth.

I’m thankful that she publicly sought help. I guess that’s kinda what I’m doing now, by being real on this silly little family blog. Keeping it bottled inside isn’t allowing for contentment. Life is full of disappointments and sadness. But it’s also what makes JOY so amazing and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think joy = happiness. But joy is a different sort of peace. It exists in my heart, but it needs to be more present.

I don’t ever want Steven or Wesley to think that they aren’t enough – they make my heart beat and burst to fulfilling levels. Heck, all we TRULY NEED is Jesus, and I already have him in my life and heart, so honestly, I am complete. Yet, we are fallible humans and my lack of trust in the Lord is a constant struggle.

So, 2015. Here we come. I realize I will fail some days, but overall, I am doing my best to be content with everything I have and need. These verses from Paul will be my yearly reminder:

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)

Posted: December 31st, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Only You

photo (18)Most people think of families as 2 kids + parents. I do. But we’re a trio family, and that’s how we’ll likely stay.

Social media are beautiful ways for me to keep tabs on my friends’ growing families, see photos of new babies and glowing parents and reignite that unique, hard-to-describe feeling of joy when a new life is brought into the world. It is a feeling I used to be afraid of, but motherhood has changed me for the better. I feel like I can see the world through the Creator’s eyes better – He views us as children discovering new, exciting things around us every day. And imagine how great it feels to him to have little hands grasp him for strength, for comfort and out of love.

Who wouldn’t want to invite MORE of that into the world through new life?

A friend recently sent me this article about how it’s become “trendy” to have large families. Family size is becoming a status symbol. I guess I do see some of that, too – that others see large families as wealth. Even the Bible states that those with many children are blessed. But I don’t think that’s what the Bible means about “blessed.” It’s a different sort of blessing – one kinda like what I just heart-vomited above.

The article goes on to take the other standpoint – that those with families of 3, a one and only child, are making those decisions on purpose. Sometimes because of finances. Sometimes because of inability to conceive or age. And sometimes, because they just want a comfortable life.

I’ve thought about this piece for several days now. I agree with it one day, and another day, I don’t. I don’t want to be a mom who doesn’t invite additional children into the world “because we got it right the first time,” and I don’t want to be a mom who quietly condemns large families, either. But it IS nice to have a little piece of validation; that “onlies” are not uncommon these days. That Wes won’t be the only kid in school without a sibling.

Here’s the thing: people talk about infertility, people talk about the case for no children, and people certainly talk about (or ask about) additional children. But no one really talks about the desire to have more children, but deciding not to – for any reason. I’m tired of keeping it to myself. It breaks me up inside. I’m tired of mourning for a child and I’m tired of grieving for Wesley’s “lonely household.”

It’s been a long year for me to reconcile my thoughts about expanding our family. My heart has room for one more child, but I think we’re complete. At least, in terms of  blood relation. Who knows what the future holds – I don’t think I’m done being a parent, whatever that means. Will we be foster parents some day? Maybe?

I’m learning to turn my mourning into joy. (I’m no good as a mopey mother!) I’ll think of all the blessings I do have: We’ve had a blast these summer weeks as a small family. We’ve grown close. We’re able to be flexible and splurge and be together. I’m determined to be the best mom to Wes that I can be. Sure, it’s going to be tough some days, but I’ve got a great little family to back me up. And as long as my friends keep reproducing, I’ll be able to hold and snuggle little children, and perhaps even be a part of that village it takes to raise them, for many years yet.

Posted: July 10th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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