I wrote this article some time ago (back when I only had 4 kids) I thought it would be good to share since Mother's Day is coming up, hope you enjoy:
As the mother of four I have learned much about parenting but I think it can all be summed up in one sentence. “Just when you think you know what you are doing, you have realized that you have no idea!” My children are pretty close together in age (at one time I had three kids under the age of 3) and so we have done our parenting in nice, neat (???) chunks. Pregnancy came first. Oh, I remember waiting impatiently for that beautiful baby to come so I could hold him or rock her! Do you know how long a pregnancy lasts??? Nine very l-o-n-g months. Nine! When I was feeling weary of being pregnant and eager to hold my precious baby I would seek the counsel of an older, wiser friend. “They are a whole lot easier to take care of now than when they arrive,” she would counsel.
“You call puking at the very thought of food, not sleeping on your stomach for as long as you can remember, and going to the bathroom a million times a day easy!” I would think to myself.
Inevitably the day would arrive for the glorious birth of this precious bundle. With his/her arrival came the beginning of the “Diaper Years.” What fun these years were. Just when you had them all dressed and presentable they would surprise you with a little present! Also during these years they would eat everything they weren’t suppose to and nothing they were. Pulling hair, biting, and spitting-up were favorite past times. When I had reached the end of my rope I would call for the counsel of one of my older, wiser friends. She would listen awhile, laugh a lot and always end with this advice, “Enjoy this time, it gets harder as they get older.”
“Harder then messy diapers, piles of laundry, and no sleep? I doubt it!” I would think to myself.
Then we moved to the “Toddler Years,” which just so happens to overlap the Diaper Years. You have probably heard the Toddler’s Creed before but it does so well to sum up what these years are like. It goes like this:
If I want it – it’s mine!
If I give it to you and change my mind later – it’s mine!
If I can take it away from you – it’s mine!
If I had it a little while ago – it’s mine!
If it’s mine it will never belong to anyone else- no matter what!
If we are building something together, all of the pieces are mine!
If it looks just like mine – It is mine!
Problem is I had three toddlers at one time so everything, everywhere, was everyone’s…ugh! Now when we were struggling through these years I again sought the counsel of older, wiser friends who would offer advice and insight like, “Enjoy this time, they are only little once.”
“Yeah but that once is never ending,” I would mutter under my breath. They would smile and laugh when I would tell them that one of my kids got a drink all by themselves- out of the toilet! Now to me there is nothing funny about having to brush a two year old's teeth twelve times to be sure you have removed every germ he could have possibly gotten from half a swallow of toilet water. (Okay so maybe my sense of humor was dulled by not sleeping for the past three years??)
From the Toddler Years we moved to the “Preschool Years.” Now we were having fun! Playdough, finger painting and oh, the brutal honesty of preschoolers. None of my older, wiser friends had cautioned me about this. Nowhere in any of the parenting books or magazines had there been a warning label: “WARNING: Do not listen to or seek advice from preschool children, especially your own!!!” I wish someone had told me before I learned the hard way. “How do you like Mommy’s new dress?”
“You look like grandma,” was the joyful reply. Now don’t get me wrong, I love grandma. I am just in no hurry to look like her!
One of my favorite stories from this chunk of time is when I was pregnant with my fourth child. I was in the bathroom doing my hair when my oldest preschooler came in to watch. “Mommy you are so pretty,” he said.
“Thank you Bubba!” I replied with great enthusiasm, mixed with a small amount of surprise at getting a compliment.
“Well, I know you want me to say you’re pretty…..” came his hesitant retort. Oh how I wish he had stopped there! “but you have a boy’s haircut so I guess you are handsome!” Of course by this time I had already begun to learn all about the words of a preschool child and as any mother would I treasured this as a compliment….after all I am handsome!
When I would cry to one of my older, wiser friends about the joys and trials of raising a houseful of preschoolers she would smile and laugh. Then she would say, “Enjoy this time, you will miss it someday.”
“Miss being told you look like grandma and have bad hair?” I would question doubtfully.
Admittedly I have only made it to the “School Years” at this point in our journey. Though I have homeschooled up until this year, all but one of my precious bundles entered the public school this September. I thought the “Empty Nest” was something parents of college age kids suffered through but it seems to have hit here this fall. Not one of my older, wiser friends warned me about how much I would miss their giggles during the day. Not one of them told me that I really wouldn’t enjoy going to the bathroom all by myself as much as I thought I would. No one mentioned that macaroni and cheese with a roomful of children tastes ten times better than a nice lunch to yourself. Not one of them told me that I would miss being pregnant, or that diaper changing was easier than making them go to school when they want to stay home with mommy. Or that sibling rivalry was easy compared to dealing with school bullies. I know if my younger friends come to me for advice I’ll be sure to tell them how much easier babies are to take care of when they are in the womb. That they should enjoy the time they have with their children when they are little. I will remind them that it only gets harder as their children get older and that they will miss them someday. Then I will hug them, offer to take their kids for the afternoon and smile knowing that in reality they will have to figure it out for themselves.
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
January 4, 2002