On March 14, 2007, ready or not, I became a mother. I had spent the nine months before that in an alternating state of excitement, dreaminess and absolute terror. The changes that took place in my body, the tumultous dips and dives of my hormones and the realization that my life was about to forever be changed, in ways that were completely foreign to me, were bewildering to say the least.
But then Gideon Michael Gore left the secret and quiet chambers of my womb and found his place in my arms. And my terror multiplied!
This was not your typical firstborn. I was expecting a quiet, serious and studious little lad. What I got was a little man who, from day one, seemingly felt shackled and imprisoned by his infancy and spent the first year of his life trying to bust out of prison. I so distinctly remember trying to get a picture of my 3-month old son and his 3-month old cousin, Anna. Anna was laying quietly as an infant should, looking at the camera, while Gideon was somehow suspended beside her, straining, trying with all his might to sit up, face bright red with exertion and frustration. It looked as though his head was about to pop right off and steam was about to come billowing out of his ears.
I threw the parenting books out the window pretty quickly as it soon became apparent that Gideon was not a “by-the-book” kind of kid. I couldn’t let him “cry it out” at naptime or bedtime, because he would never stop. I couldn’t take him to a restaurant because he loudly protested the noise and the crowds and made himself and everyone at the table…and in the room…miserable until we left. I couldn’t sit with him in church because he would never go to sleep or stay asleep or allow himself to be quietly held during one single service. Not one! And he offended nearly every person who tried to hold him or coo at him or make him laugh by humbugging them away. It wasn’t long before the folks at church stopped asking to hold him. He was an unsociable, claustrophobic hermit of a baby, the likes of which I had never seen. Or even heard of!
And so here’s what I did. I wrote my own parenting book, specifically for me and for Gideon, breaking every rule, I am sure, but somehow making that first year work for a new and unsure Mother and for a child with a personality too big for his little shoulders to bear.
Chapter One: I held him at every naptime and bedtime until he fell asleep…for an entire year.
Chapter Two: I held him through the course of every nap, sometimes two or three hours at a time, two times a day, because it was impossible to lay him down without him waking up….for a year.
Chapter Three: I developed the habit of eating at one restaurant, a great little cafe that has outdoor seating, where he would happily sit and watch the birds hop about…for two years.
Chapter Four: I holed up with him during every Sunday and Wednesday night service in the nursery and listened to the sermon on a speaker. (A sweet couple kept him on Sunday mornings, but as he was the only baby or toddler in our church at the time, I felt it was up to me to keep him occupied during the other services.) I don’t remember how long this went on…
Chapter Five: We avoided eye contact with passersby who might try to be friendly to the little baby, and kept to ourselves in order to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. But mostly we stayed home, which is where Gideon was happy, spending time with Mama and Papa, Granddaddy and Grandmother, Mother Nature and Homer the dog.
Chapter Six: In all seriousness, this one was a doozy to write. His temper was overwhelming to a young and wet-behind-the-ears Mother like myself. There were times when he would go into what I called “the red zone.” When he was a toddler, I finally figured out that when he got to that level of frustration, the only thing I could do was put him in his crib and shut the door, because he was absolutely oblivious that I was even there. Talking him through it, holding and soothing him, swatting him, or trying to raise my voice to get his attention was completely lost on him…he was in some distant land of anger, eyes unfocused, drooling, flailing, and leaving me terrified that something was wrong with him…was he sick? A murderer-to-be? Would I have to send him to a psychiatric baby village for someone wiser than me to raise? But when I would put him in his crib and walk away, even though the noises emitting from his room left me sick and in tears as he literally threw himself against the bars of his crib like it was a wrestling ring, shaking it and banging it into the wall (I’m not kidding OR exaggerating!), he would finally wind down. And then he needed me. His little body would just be shaking as the sobs subsided and he would cling to me and finally let me do what I had come to realize I was born to do: be Gideon’s Mama. This was by far the hardest chapter of my book to write, because I had to learn to rely solely on God to get us through it. My cavalier attitude about what a tight ship I was going to run when I had kids had been quickly deflated. The only formula was to be consistent in my discipline and to offer him enough love and forgiveness to know that I would still be there when he decided to stop acting like an out-of-control monster baby from a planet of wrath in outer space.
And he did.
Gideon is now 3 years old, soon to be 4, and although he is still quite reactive and dramatic, he takes a daily two- to three-hour nap every day, all by himself. He goes to bed every night, all by himself. He enjoys eating out at restaurants and can sit somewhat quietly through entire church services. And his temper? Its something he pulls out of his pocket from time to time, but in far less violent and much more comical measures.
He is a jewel of a child, and I will be sharing much more about him in the future, as his stories have become beloved by my friends and family members.
But I’ll leave you with this for now: a few weeks ago, Gideon and I were taking an afternoon walk with our new walking sticks and I asked him a question. “Gideon, do you love God?”
“He’s my favorite.” Gid replied. I went on to tell him that it would make me so happy if he would obey God forever.
“I will.” he said. “Sometimes I’m grouchy…but someday I’m going to be a nice guy.”
And then he said something that astounded me and made me feel that, by the grace of God, that book I started writing back in 2007 may turn out to be a bestseller.
“I’m sorry I’ve been throwing fits at you for 3 years.”
I didn’t know he had even noticed. But the apology is accepted!