Better Than The Last
I never imagined a time that I wouldn’t want to have a baby in the house. I prided myself on being a “baby” mama. I loved everything about the baby stage. The sweet smell of newborn, small wrinkled bodies, content sighs of a baby at the breast, the way they fit perfectly in the crook of my arms, the weight of their bodies as they napped on my chest. Even the midnight feedings, because in those dark, quiet hours, it was just Baby and I. There were no other needs to meet, or distractions, or a mental to-do list in my head. Just Baby, myself, the dark, and quiet. There was very little I didn’t like during the baby stage, and Jon and I often joke that if we could keep them at the baby to 18 month stage, we’d likely have kept going.
I so loved the baby stage, that I just couldn’t fathom life outside of that stage. And yet here I am, on the other side, and I find myself relishing this new stage. I look at my sisters, with babies and toddlers and preschoolers, and I remember it. I remember how hard, how demanding, how… exhausting.
The first eight years of my role as a mother, I was in survival mode. I felt like my day was constantly spent trying to put out small fire after small fire. It was a delicate balance of naptimes and schedules, of timing everything just right so the meltdown during the witching hour wasn’t as epic as the day before. It wasn’t a matter of “IF” there was a meltdown during that 5:00 hour, but of how bad the meltdown would be. And should one child miss a nap, or not get a long enough nap, or not eat a good lunch, there was a domino effect. And the end result would usually lead to Mama on the couch, muttering to herself, while chaos reigned supreme until Daddy arrived home from work.
Deep breaths, Jenn. Deep breaths.
Then something magical happened last summer, and we turned this beautiful corner. It was the call of More. More time, more space, more activities, more fun, just… More. No longer did we seem bound to the nap schedule or the diaper schedule. We no longer had to hover around the house for fear of a missed nap opportunity, or misread temperaments. It was the first taste of freedom.
So we did. We ventured outside of our schedules and our self-proclaimed house arrest. We went hiking and swimming. We went on car rides and picnics. We made so many last-minute plans. We had fun!
It wasn’t that we didn’t do those things before, of course we did. But I always felt like I was holding my breath, waiting to see which one would transform from my loveable baby to demon child in the span of two minutes. Or I’d hover over the one being potty trained, ready to sprint from one end of the playground to the restroom at the first sign of a pants grab. It was fun for the Littles, but never for me. I was never able to let down my guard long enough to actually enjoy any activity we were doing.
But last summer, I fell in love with being a mother all over again.
Now we move along at a pace that’s comfortable for all; we take our time to stop and really see what it is we’re doing. I can actually listen to the child that’s pointing out what’s interesting to them, I no longer have to keep one ear open for crying that could start at any moment. It’s not perfect, heaven knows there’s still plenty to work on. But I see effort and tangible proof that they’re trying their hardest to wait their turns, to be patient, to lend helping hands, to take initiative when I seem busy at that moment. I’m seeing the beginnings of independent thought and action, and I’m loving watching it develop.
I’ve been telling my sisters and friends with babies, give it time. Hang in there. You can do this! Yes, its hard. Yes, its exhausting. Yes, there are times you want to run away. But its worth it. There comes that one moment when you look back and you realize, we made it. We actually made it through that part, and while it was both glorious and demanding, I’m breathing a little easier on this side of it.
This side has new challenges, new heartaches, and a different kind of exhaustion. But the rewards seem so much richer, so much more colorful, they have much more depth and beauty. No one ever said this parenting gig was easy, and there are times that I often wonder what I got myself into. But when I catch a loving moment between siblings… when I see one of the Littles aim for the stars and reach their goal… when I walk away from a conversation knowing that I got more out of those ten minutes than what I contributed… I realize that its those moments that sustain me in the in-between.
Knowing what I know now, I can’t help but imagine that each stage is going to keep getting better. With that said, I especially can’t wait to see what memories we create this summer. Because this year, I’m ready. And I’m actually watching for the loveliness of it.