One of the missions of Angels of Santa Barbara is to provide respite care for infants in need. Back when we were waiting for clearance to become certified for foster care, we were fortunate enough to have another family care for Maddie until we were official. It only seemed right that when an opportunity to return the kindness came, we were willing to pitch in.
This past week we were asked to watch a little girl for 7 whole days. Those of you with 3+ kids will mock me for saying this, but I was more than a little intimidated by this prospect. She is only 4 months younger than Maddie. So while that makes it easier for sleeping, eating, and mobility purposes (though she’s not a walker, yet) it felt like having twins for a week.
I’m happy to report that I survived. Just barely. It went exactly as I expected, though. Lots of crying, especially in the beginning. But it wasn’t the increased quantity of children that made it so difficult but the separation anxiety from her parents that she experienced. She didn’t know our family prior to this time. We were complete strangers to her. Parents gone (in her mind, for good) plus total strangers makes for a weepy baby.
The two girls being so close in age made it both fun to see and crazy to handle at the same time. And I didn’t even attempt any outings, so we’re talking just getting through the day! I felt like all I did was prepare food and then clean it up. Over and over and over again. But Warren and Maddie both handled the adjustment to normal life really well. Maddie often reached out to hug her and Warren loved to give her kisses on the cheek. Thankfully, everyone slept beautifully, except for the one night Maddie’s growing teeth got the best of her. Really, the sleeping was my saving grace.
But you’d better believe that there was a LOT of praying on my part. As a family, we continually prayed that this little girl would feel comforted by the spirit and also feel comfortable in our home. I needed help, too. By the 2nd day, after a particularly frazzled afternoon, I knew I was nearing the end of my tether. How was I going to make it until Sunday when I felt like my head was going to explode and my arms would fall off from carrying her around for 3 hours straight? I felt very distinctly that my attitude about caring for her needed changing. I prayed earnestly for compassion and the ability to love who I was serving. During my scripture study, I came across a quote that put things into perspective for me:
“Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. It is by serving that we learn to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!”
(Spencer W. Kimball, “Speaks Out on Service to Others”, New Era, Mar. 1981, 47)
Of course, this wasn’t a true experiment in knowing what having three children is like. There is such a difference in the love you feel for your own child versus what you have for another. Colin said it best: it’s witnessing their progress–seeing how far they’ve come from the beginning– that brings that kind of joy. A short-term care can never provide that depth, but I was able to feel my heart change over the course of this week. I became happier to help her, even if she was crying at length or if I had to hold her the entire day.
I’m not going to lie. I’m glad it’s over. But I’m grateful that I did it. My desire to provide service has been increasing steadily, and is always amplified after General Conference. This was a perfect opportunity to put into practice the principles of charity and service that were so eloquently discussed there.
I did not do this alone. Prayer, Colin’s amazing assistance, and the help of two dear friends (thank you, Lyndsi and Kaitlin!) who each took Warren for a day allowed me to survive this busy, busy, busy week. I witnessed tender mercies from above in the smallest ways. I’m humbled to see that as much as I try and give, blessings are actually given to me tenfold.
And I am definitely ready to permanently take on a third… just not for a few more months.
P.S. All you friends out there who have twins: you are A-MAZ-ING!