This weekend, my daughters were finishing the movie "Frozen" while I took care of a few things in the kitchen. I saw the credits rolling and started to turn it off, but my 4 year-old stopped me and said there was more after that. So I let it go (← see what I did there). After a catchy little number about how Frozen was made, a music video of Demi Lovato singing the radio version of "Let it Go" came on. That ended, and another version started. I was only half-paying attention as I took the baby up to put her in bed. When I came down, I realized the girl was singing in Spanish this time and laughed when I saw that my girls were sitting on the couch, totally enthralled anyway.
"Hey girls, do you know that she's singing in Spanish?"
The 4 year-old looked over at me and said, "Yeah. We speak wegulaw (regular), right mom?"
Our Friday night viewing of the movie kicked off a weekend without my husband (gone on a guys' trip) that also included a random fever for me and a cough/cold for the 2 year-old that kept us from hanging with anyone else. It also had her speaking less "regular" and more "meltdown and tantrum" all. weekend. long.
Sunday afternoon, Eliza, the tantrumy 2 year-old, had gone from "pretty okay" to "a complete wreck" and I was losing my cool. After putting her down for a nap, and getting Liv, the 4 year-old, set for her rest time, I took the baby, Piper, into her room to put her down for her nap. I rocked her a little and then started to nurse her, not because she was hungry or even squirmy, but because I felt like Eliza had demanded all of the attention almost all weekend, and breastfeeding this baby was a way I could give her some extra love. She'd been really easy-going, as usual, but I'd lost track of her schedule in the wake of Hurricane Liza. I knew she'd eaten enough, but how much had she slept? I wasn't really sure. So while The Storm was asleep in her bed, I rocked and fed Piper, as an apology of sorts.
My thoughts turned to Liv. Earlier, as both the younger girls cried, I looked at her in the chaos and said, "this is hard, isn't it? We should try to go get ice cream tomorrow, just us." Her eyes brightened and she nodded. She'd gotten the shaft in terms of attention; she'd had an impatient mom who'd scolded her out of frustration caused by someone else, and basically, because Eliza was being extra needy, she was getting less.
I felt sad for her. I got creative with ways I wanted to make it up to her. My instinct was to throw treats and time and special things at her the minute I could.
And then I stopped.
I realized this is how families work. It's sometimes easy and even, but sometimes it's not, and that's not only okay, it's the beauty of family. We're bound together by our genes and experiences and by the covenant of the parents, in what's meant to be a safe enclosure. This weekend, we were stuck inside our walls, working it all out. Eliza demanded a lot of attention. At 2 months old, Piper requires a certain amount of care even when she's being laid- back. And Liv? Liv didn't get what she was used to. Mostly because of what her 2 year-old sister demanded. It wasn't fun, but it was okay.
I started thinking about what happens when one kid requires all the attention. The balance is thrown off. Resources are shifted. And I realized this design is actually good for us. It's built into our very bodies! You get a papercut while trying to figure out how to hold a ballet book with daughters piled high on your lap, for example, and in order to heal and protect that spot, extra resources are sent there. In a healthy person, this doesn't usually throw things off too much, and they return to normal when they can. That's what happens in a healthy family too.
Sometimes one member needs more attention. Sometimes you have to give it, even when it's exasperating. It isn't always fair, but fair is overrated, isn't it?
And guess where else we see this? Where else metaphors of the body and family are used? Where else do we lovingly and willingly shift our resources when someone has a need that is more immediate, more pressing, more demanding? A healthy church. And what a privilege it is to serve each other and be served that way, within not only our family units but our church families as well. Sometimes these phases, where one requires more, are short, like this weekend. But sometimes they last longer - during periods of adjustment, heartbreak, addiction, grief.
I didn't end up taking Liv out for ice cream yesterday. She was fine. It was a new day, with new mercies all around. The balance is returning (along with the Dad, thankfully) and we're all okay. While I prefer an even distribution, I feel like this weekend left me with a better understanding of what to expect when parenting multiple kids. I wish I could care for them all perfectly, in their own little love compartments. But those compartments don't exist. Our love overlaps and flows in and out and all around and we can't help but impact each other. We are vitally connected, and it's good for us.