Dear Mama of Little Ones,
Today as I stood behind you in the checkout line, I nearly uttered those taboo words. As you took a sucker from your protesting preschooler, it was on the tip of my tongue. When you scooped your toddler off the floor just before he licked it, I almost let it slip. As you struggled to keep the squirming baby from wriggling out of the shopping cart, I nearly said it. Even as I could tell you were about to lose your patience and your manners, it was all I could do not to say, “Enjoy this time! It goes so fast.”
Of course, I know what you would have said (or at least thought). This time? You want me to enjoy this? The whining and wriggling and crying? Right now? When my child is having a meltdown right in the middle of Target? You are telling me to enjoy this?!?
Well, yes. I mean, sort of. But hear me out.
What Enjoy Every Moment Means to Me
I know it’s tempting to see me–an (ahem) older woman with older children and assume I can’t possibly remember how hard all of this is. After all, all of my children can tie their own shoes and blow their own noses. They don’t lick public door handles, spit stuff into my hands, or wipe their mouths on my skirt.
They sleep through the night (and then some). And all but one can actually drive themselves anywhere they need to go. I’m sure my life looks like a cake walk to you. But these moments you are in, these frantic, frustrating, exhausting moments–this is where the magic happens.
Of course there’s nothing like a baby’s belly laugh or a toddler’s first, “I yuv you mommy.” There’s no sweetness like the sweetness of early morning snuggles and no peace like the peace of a sleeping child in your arms.
When you have little children there is so much joy, so much delight that it’s almost easy to take for granted the mundane beauty of everyday moments. But don’t. Because now that all of my children are grown or nearly grown, it isn’t just the sweetness I miss. It’s the boring, tiresome, overwhelming stuff too.
I miss wiping sticky faces and tying tiny shoes. I miss brushing their hair and brushing their teeth. I miss kissing my little boy on the top of the head as I buckle him, squirming and fighting me the whole time, into his carseat. I miss coaxing the baby to eat some peas and bribing the little ones to try the broccoli.
I miss the way my daughter used to stop and quickly wipe her nose across my shirt as she raced by to catch up with her brother. I miss reading the same bedtime story night after night. I miss getting the glass of water, the teddy bear, the night light, giving one last kiss.
I miss so much that was frustrating and exhausting at the time because I realize now that the thing that was so frustrating and exhausting about life with little ones is that I was their everything. I was comfort, and I was safety. I was the person who made everything happen from bathtime to playdates. I was warmth and snuggles. And I was boundaries and limits. I made them feel secure and loved and clean and fed.
When my children were small, I was the sun around which my four little planets made their daily orbit. And even though being the sun can be hard, even though it means getting up too early and staying up too late and shining way more than you feel like it, I knew it was my purpose–at least I know that now.
Now that all of my children are big, I know that being their everything–whether that meant early morning snuggles or late night teething–was a pretty sweet gig. And even though their independence is good and healthy and was always the goal, even though it is kind of nice not being the sun anymore, I still miss my babies sometimes.
So, when an older mom tells you to “Enjoy these times…” She hasn’t forgotten what it’s like, how hard it is. She isn’t minimizing your struggles or telling you it’s not okay to feel tired, to want a break, to wish your children weren’t quite so needy. She isn’t really even telling you to “enjoy every moment.”
Rather, the well-meaning lady in the checkout line who smiles at your fussy children and reminds you how quickly it all goes by, is actually cheering you on! She knows it’s hard. She knows you are so, so tired. And she admires you because she knows that you are everything to those babies–just for a little bit longer.
A Mom of Big Kids
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