Don't Worry, It Won't Always Be This Way

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Five years old: I'm really not ready for this, you guys. Lying. Premeditated deception. This five-year-old child, with arms and hands covered in green marker, has the nerve to look me straight in the eye and blame the latest wall art on her younger brother. Seriously? As my husband scrubs marker off the wall, I overhear him muttering to himself—something about our house, also a crack house. Hmm, graffiti, trash everywhere, questionable odor—he may have a point. I put my hand on his shoulder, and once again find myself reaching for those same familiar words in an attempt to preserve our sanity, "Don't worry babe, it won't always be this way."

Six years old: Emotions are at an all-time high around here. If this is a preview of the teen years, we may be in serious trouble. It's the end of another especially trying day when our oldest crawls up next to me on the couch with her favorite book. I instinctively reach for it, but this time she stops me. "No mom, I want to read," she says. And she does; my 6-year-old daughter reads to me. Afterward, she hops down and gets herself a glass of water. No spills. She uses the bathroom, washes her hands, and brushes her teeth before gathering her things for bed. She gives me a kiss goodnight and climbs the stairs to her room.

These aren't new occurrences, but for some reason, in this particular moment, the enormity washes over me. This was the same girl whose constant screaming as an infant caused my husband and me to lose countless hours of sleep. The same girl who drove me practically insane with her stubborn refusal to potty train at a reasonable age. The same girl who instigated the infamous "doll-gate," the beheading and dismemberment of an entire box of my collectible antique dolls. All those stages of her childhood—gone forever; replaced instead with a capable and confident six-year-old complete with her own unique set of challenges.

Could it be that I've squandered precious time waiting for things to get “better”—always looking forward to the next year, the next milestone, the next step on her journey towards independence, instead of fully enjoying right now?

When the next set of challenges arrive, will they be any easier to handle than the last? At 27, I might find myself up in the middle of the night with sick kids. At 40, I'll probably still be up, in bed with one eye open, wanting to sleep but unable to—not until I hear the sound of the garage door creeping up and know that my kids are home safe. Which one of those is easier? I've been behaving like there's a concrete answer to that question—as if everything gets universally better with age, but I think I've been mistaken.

All I'm certain of is that things will change. In many ways, my role as a parent will become less pronounced, but my emotional investment in these crazy kids will remain the same. I'm a mom; I can’t help it. I'm not ready for them to stop needing me. I doubt I'll ever be, which really begs the question: Why do I catch myself looking forward to a time when my kids won’t be exactly how they are right now? What’s the big hurry?

So this is my resolve, one which I make in full awareness of the fact that there will be plenty of rough days ahead. In fact, some days will be downright awful, and I know I'll want to quit this motherhood thing altogether. Be that as it may, I resolve to look for the things in each day that make it all worthwhile.

I'm going to enjoy this special time with my kids—the good and the not so good—the poopy diapers, the ridiculous messes, and the temper tantrums; because once those things are gone, they're gone. So I'm going to love all of it. Every second of it. I'm going to hold on to these kids while they're still young—while they'll still let me. And you know why? Because my doctor, my friends, my husband, and even those strangers on the Internet—they were all right. It won't always be this way.

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