Motherhood did not come naturally to me. Babysitting, on the rare occasions I consented to do it, was a rough job, one that wasn’t worth nearly the small pay I got to do it. So once I gave birth for the first time and was presented with a tiny little stranger, I was absolutely flummoxed about what to do with her. Even looking at pictures of me with that first child, I can see the confusion and nervousness in my eyes: “What now?” I was thinking.
And that first child gave me fits. She was a very demanding baby. She didn’t eat for half an hour and then settle down quietly for the next four hours. She snacked for ten minutes and then needed to eat again two hours later. She did NOT like to be put down. I had to hold her constantly. For someone who was pretty independent and used to going about my business, having the little seven-pound interloper in my arms nonstop made it pretty difficult to get anything done.
So that darling child did not ease me gently into motherhood. It was a bumpy ride, and I did not enjoy it. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and overloaded. I remember many times that first year thinking, “I can’t wait til I’m done having children and they grow up a bit.”
Time slowly went by, and I gave birth two more times and adopted once. I knew what I was doing the second and third times, and the second baby was just the most easygoing child ever. She would eat and then sit in her bouncy seat or car seat and smile beatifically up at me, doing whatever I needed to do. Third child was somewhere in between. But by then I had help: two older sisters to distract her (and one time push her off the couch…). Fourth baby was a breeze in many ways because I didn’t breast-feed her, so everyone else could take turns feeding her a bottle. And changing diapers. And holding and playing with her. It was so much more fun that time around to have a little baby. I enjoyed her.
They all went through the terrible twos and their early stages of independence and potty training. Those days are now behind me. My oldest is now 16, and the youngest 5. They’re now all in school. They can feed and dress themselves and read to themselves, except for the kindergartener. Yes, I am finally getting to that magic place I imagined when I had that first demanding baby. And it’s struck me that this time is finite. The oldest is now not a squalling infant; she’s a high school junior. And she is amazing. She’s delightful and smart and talented and beautiful and makes me laugh. She can talk my ear off about her day. We can share jokes together. She’s one of my dearest friends, and I am loving life with her in it. Now the day of her leaving the nest is actually in sight (less than two years!), and it’s paining my heart to even think about. I DON’T WANT HER TO LEAVE!
Ah, what a difference 15 or 16 years can make.
So I have realized that, despite the absolutely crazy, hectic pace of my daily life with four children in school and all the needs they have, these are the best of times. In a few years, one daughter will be gone, and the others will be making their way towards that direction as well. The clock is ticking. And at this stage of my life, it’s not a biological clock. It’s the clock reminding me with every tock and tick that while motherhood is permanent, having children at home is not. I bemoan the lack of peace and quiet and sufficient time to myself now, but even in the midst of this busy-ness, I can’t imagine my house being quiet all the time. I love knowing that I can cuddle and squeeze all of my girls any time, that I can talk to them, listen to them, just study their faces. That we can laugh together.
I’m going to keep reminding myself during the tough days or moments that these really are the best of times. It might take a loud reminder during those moments, but I hope I can somehow still remember and appreciate what I have now.