And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and he bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.
Even though logically I know better, I’ve been worrying about my toddler.
Her second birthday is fast approaching and she still seems wholly uninterested in the monumental task of language acquisition.
My oldest was speaking clearly in complete sentences by this point. I know every kid is different. I know first-borns often speak sooner. I know that kids develop differently. I know better than to compare two children. I know all that.
I picked up a few interesting “tidbits” from the book, but one in particular stuck with me. I can’t remember exactly how they worded it, but the main idea was this:
When children are learning how to talk, use the opportunities they give you to talk about what THEY are interested in.
(Translation: stop trying so hard to engage her in “educational activities” that she isn’t interested in just because you are afraid that she isn’t being “socialized” enough because she isn’t in daycare like your oldest was. Sit down on the floor with her and play princess dolls for the entire day because that’s what she loves. Don’t worry so much about trying to convince her to say the words she is “supposed” to be saying and instead be excited with her that she knows all of the princess’s names.
Talk to her about what she wants to talk about so she knows she can talk to you about what matters to her and you will listen. Listen so that she will want to talk to you.)
Insert parenting face-palm.
My child isn’t struggling with comprehension. She isn’t struggling with learning social cues. She is just going at her own pace when it comes to speaking. She is doing just fine. It is me that is impatient.
Why did I need her to talk? Is it because it had come so easy for my oldest and I didn’t want to think about it not being easy for my toddler? Maybe. As a parent it’s never easy to watch our kids struggle.
Still, I had gotten so caught up worrying about doing the “right” thing to help encourage her to talk that I missed the “duh” logic of just letting her talk.
I was busy trying to pull her over to where I thought she should be, when what I needed to do was to meet her where she was at.
So I did.
And truthfully it was probably just ironic timing. Or maybe I was just finally noticing. But after a week of repeating all the princess names (plus Olaf) and chattering about whatever she happened to be focusing on, she seems to have decided talking isn’t so bad.
Today she repeated what I said significantly more than she had before, with less prompting. Last night she announced “apple” clear as day at the dinner table (where before it was only the first syllable).
And if her sudden interest in chattering didn’t ease my worry enough, she has suddenly made it clear that she recognizes her numbers (1-10) and many of the letters and colors. While walking past the front of my car the other day, she stopped, pointed at my license plate and announced, “TWO.” Curious, I quizzed her using some blocks with numbers on them. Sure enough, she recognized the numbers. So we pulled out the new set of fridge magnets, including both letters and numbers. Now she walks past and announces the numbers and letters as she is flinging them off of the fridge. (She hasn’t shown quite as much interest in putting them back on the fridge.)
Bottom line: this girl has always marched to her own drum. She’s bright and intelligent and curious and she doesn’t do a single thing until she is good and ready. And that’s okay.
Someday when she won’t stop talking I’ll look back on this memory and laugh. For now, it was a good reminder for this mama to slow down, stop trying to pull her over to where I think she should be, and just appreciate where she is at.
Since the day my oldest was born, my children are the last thing I think about before I go to bed (Yes, I still go make sure they are all breathing. Yes, every night.) and the first thing that pops into my mind when I wake up.
I worry when they climb the slide. I check for signs of a concussion every time they bump their head. I worry when they straight up refuse to eat their vegetables. I worry every time they get a runny nose. I worry when they eat. (I straight up cut up my oldest’s grapes until she was five because I read about grapes being a choking hazard. Same with hot dogs.)
It sounds exhausting, and in some ways it is, but it’s also mostly just my natural state when it comes to parenting so I don’t really notice it anymore.
Except now there are three. And because math, when you have three, your worry doesn’t just triple. It octuples. (Confession: I had to look up that word.)
Now not only do I have three of them to worry about–if they are healthy, growing, learning–I worry if they are all getting the attention they need. I worry about how they’re interacting with each other.
And what has become most obvious to me lately, I worry if I’m doing this mom thing right.
Am I getting enough quality time with the six year old in between her activities and homework? Is she losing teeth on schedule? Is she being kind at school?
Am I socializing the toddler enough? Is her stranger anxiety normal? What about the fact that her older sister was speaking sentences by now and she barely puts together a word? Is she watching too much t.v.? Is it good for her to spend time playing by herself or should I be engaging with her more?
Is the baby gaining weight like she should? Does she still need to be on reflux medicine? Are the big kids covering her in germs every time they walk through the room? Is she sleeping like she should for this age? Am I bathing her often enough? Is the lotion I picked out for her safe or full of chemicals?
Am I spending too much time holding the baby and not enough time with the toddler? Am I not holding the baby enough? Should I be looking for ways to prepare the toddler to be without me so that when preschool comes she’s more ready or should I let her be clingy and enjoy the bonding time?
Are we reading enough? Am I feeding them too much pizza? Did I get them too much for Christmas? Did I get the right things? Did I teach them that presents aren’t the point? Did I teach them to be grateful no matter what?
Perhaps, most importantly of all: Did I remember to move the damn elf?
Okay so you probably get the point.
I could go on and on (and on) listing all the things to worry about and all the different opportunities to doubt my own parenting. How can I ever know if I’m doing things “right”? It’s like building a life sized puzzle without knowing what the end picture will look like.
But even after hearing the long list of stress-inducing questions, it may come as a surprise that my goal isn’t to stop worrying or even to worry less. I’m fine with worry being a part of this gig for me.
Because raising these humans is the most important work I’ve ever done, and probably will ever do. When it comes to the legacy I will leave on this earth, they are it. So this mama gig isn’t something I take lightly. We all care in different ways. Part of mine is worrying.
So I’ll keep asking all these hard questions and wondering about answers I can’t possibly know. And I’ll make sure I take breaks from worrying long enough to enjoy the process of building the puzzle. And I’ll do my best to trust my gut when I need to.
And I’m sure, as they get older and parenting changes, so will my worrying.
I’m not always great at keeping my feelings to myself. Even if I try, my face usually gives me away. That, in combination with me sharing pretty openly on this little corner of the Internet, means that it’s not really a secret to anyone that baby #3 was a surprise.
I nursed my oldest for a year. It was a great experience, but needless to say after pregnancy and nursing I was ready to have my body back.
Two weeks after I quit nursing, I found out I was pregnant.
I’m a compulsive planner, so this unexpected news threw me for a loop. I couldn’t wrap my head around having two kids under two. It’s not how I would have planned it. I couldn’t adjust to the idea of how room sharing with three kids in two bedrooms would work. I couldn’t wrap my head around my body not being mine for another two years of my life. I couldn’t wrap my head around starting over with sleepless nights. I couldn’t wrap my head around three carseats, three dressers full of clothes, three kids to shop for at Christmas, three birthday parties to plan each year, three social security numbers to remember.
Okay so you get the idea. I sort of went into a tailspin.
But, somewhat counterintuitive to my control-freak nature, is my belief that things happen for a reason. So here we are.
I love kids and I love being a mom. I may have had a teeny weeny panic moment when the stick turned blue (and for a few months after), but I never doubted that we were exactly where we were meant to be. I loved this little human who turned my world upside down before I even met her. And to be honest, I admired her. She overcame a lot of odds to make her way into this world. You can’t help but respect that kind of determination, especially in such a small package.
September 16, 2016 at 7:13 a.m. we became parents of three, a family of five. And suddenly it was like the piece we hadn’t even realized was missing was finally in place.
In the last twelve weeks since she was born, I’ve wondered more than once if I would regret being open about the fact that she was an “oops”. I never want her to look back on her story and think that she wasn’t wanted. That she wasn’t needed. Sometimes even the most meticulous planners don’t know what they need until they are watching it sleeping peacefully in their arms.
I also hope that when she looks back on the legacy of her life that she knows that, even though she blew up our whole carefully planned little world, I loved her all the more for it.
Maybe it’s because with each child my heart stretches a little further or maybe because the longer I’m a mother the wider my heart opens. Or maybe it’s because this little baby is sweeter than sugar on a sugar cookie.
But every time I look at her sweet little sleeping face, my heart swells so big that I can feel it pushing on the insides of my chest. And every time she looks up at me with her bright little eyes and her face lights up and she smiles, I feel how much I love her rise up in my throat and I literally tear up because it’s more love than can fit in my body.
I literally tear up, y’all. Every time.
My heart was so full of love before she came along that I didn’t know I needed anything else.
And then she appeared and now my heart overflows every day.
Just think what I would have missed out on if I had stopped when my heart was only full.
The Fedex man had the audacity to ring the doorbell. The toddler, who usually ignores the doorbell, did not ignore the doorbell. Instead, she melted into a crying mess of temper tantrum.
That set the trend for the rest of the morning. She cried until I picked her up. And then she cried when I held her. Occasionally she took a short break to go check in with her toys. In fact, we even played cheerfully for a short spell with “Cinella” (Cinderella) and some of the other little people who were going for a “swim” in a cup.
But as soon as I got up to walk away, more meltdown.
For lunch she ate only crackers and refused everything else.
She napped (THANK GOD) and then clung to my leg while I got everyone loaded for gymnastics. While we waited for sister to finish class, she semi-contentedly threw her toys all over the floor. But as soon as we were back in the car, the whining began again. And by the time we got home it had progressed to a full blown fit once again.
At dinner, she refused all her food while cry-yelling for crackers. Which I refused to give her because it was basically all she had eaten all day.
She is persistent so this continued until she was a blotchy blubbering mess. At which point I handed her off to her dad and said, “HANDLE THIS I’M DONE.” In exactly the kind of exhausted exasperated tone that you would expect.
Even when she kept crying and reached for me, I walked away and let him take her.
I fed the fussing baby while listening to the toddler crying in the bath and crying through getting her pajamas on.
And the image of her sad cry for “crackers” and her tear soaked cheeks as she reached her little arms for me kept tugging at me.
I’ve been a parent long enough to know how much it sucks to end a day like this. Especially a rough day. I battle through and get them to bed and then as soon as they are sleeping peacefully my heart starts to break over the time I “lost” with them (for lack of a better way to describe it). I’ve spent many a night crying into a glass of wine after bedtime for this exact reason. The phrase “Never go to bed angry,” always seemed a little cliche to me when it came to relationship advice. But when it comes to parenting? It’s a necessary law.
Which is why, even though I spent a good part of the day with the F-word flashing through my brain because of this child, I couldn’t stand the idea of ending our day like that. So I passed off the baby to her dad, took a sippy cup of milk and a tube of crackers, and scooped her up into the rocking chair. I snuggled her and ran my fingers through her hair and kissed her sweet toddler cheeks while she happily munched her crackers and drank her milk.
And then I held her for just a little longer than usual before I tucked her in to bed.
And then I came downstairs and snuggled with the six year old while her post-bath hair left a wet spot on my shoulder. And after she was tucked in, I held a fussy, gassy baby on my lap until she fell sound asleep.
And when it was all said and done, it was still everything I could do not to burst into tears.
These days are hard on a mama’s soul.
It’s hard to see our kids struggle. It’s hard to wonder what the right way to handle it is. Do I snuggle her all day because she so obviously needs me? Or is there a better way to handle her temper tantrums? Do I send her to bed with no supper when she refuses to eat or do I feed her crackers for the third meal in a row?
I don’t know the answers. I just know that I’m grateful they have no idea how many times I said the f-word in my head today.
And more importantly, I’m grateful that even on the days when I feel like I’m failing hard at this parenting thing, at least I know that the last thing they felt before they fell asleep was my arms around them.
I think about parenting a lot. Probably because it’s what I do all day.
Mostly what I’ve learned is this: thinking about it too much can be overwhelming. There is no more monumental task than raising a child. There’s nothing that makes you feel more deeply, nothing that challenges you more, nothing that changes you as profoundly.
Every time I “start over” at the newborn phase of raising a child, I’m blown away by how much there is to teach them. The things you would expect, like using the bathroom, tying their shoes, using a fork, fastening a seatbelt. And the things you forget about. Not looking directly at the sun. Blowing a bubble with bubble gum. How to check an Internet site’s credibility.
The simple things, like how to replace the toilet paper role. And the complicated things, like how to be a good friend.
As parents, the responsibility for most of these lessons falls to us. Can you see how I keep coming back to “overwhelming”?
But in all my self-proclaimed overthinking and subsequent overwhelm, something else has come to my attention.
It started with my one year old.
For some reason, every time I open the garage door, my one year old yells, “WOW!” Like the garage door going up is the coolest thing she has ever seen.
At first it just made me laugh one of those warm-and-fuzzy-heart parenting laughs. And then I got to thinking how amazing children are for reminding us to see the amazing in the ordinary. My kids constantly remind me to be in awe. I remember the first time I took my oldest to the laundromat. She was mesmerized watching the wash cycle through the glass on the machine.
Being curious. Being enthralled. Being enthusiastic. Being in awe. These are things we don’t have to teach them. Kids come pre-programmed for this, to varying degrees.
We as parents just have to avoid squishing their awe for as long as we can. And if we are really lucky, they can remind us how fun it is to be blown away every time the garage door magically opens.
However, as profound as it feels to be reminded of the magic in this world by our littles, it’s actually not the point I’m getting to.
You see, my children can see the magic in the world in so many places that I forget to look. But there is one place that I naturally see it that they don’t.
Of all the amazing things in this world, both ordinary and profound, nothing inspires more awe in me than my children.
I think that my most important job as a parent might be to teach them to see it too.
If my children learn nothing else but this, then I will have succeeded. To know that they are amazing. Beautiful. Unique. Capable. Strong. To know that they truly can accomplish anything they set their mind to. To know that they are worthy of respect. Of love.
To know that they are worthy of awe.
There are many lessons that the world will teach them if I fail to, even if it means they will learn the hard way. But if they can see the magic in themselves that I see in them, then I can set them free knowing that they won’t lose themselves in the journey. Because they will become their own compass.
I can think of no greater job as a parent than to give them that gift, to arm them with their own power.
I really didn’t have that much newborn stuff. My oldest came out 9 lbs and never even wore newborns. Number two was slightly smaller at 8 lbs 1 oz, so she wore a few newborn outfits but not for long.
My sweet little number three, however, at 5 lbs 8 oz, was swimming in them from the beginning. We had to roll the sleeves, sometimes more than once in the early days. Only now, nearly twelve weeks later, is she finally filling them out.
Packing away outgrown clothes is bittersweet. I’m so unbelievably grateful that she is growing right on schedule. And honestly, I can’t wait until she starts to sit up and laugh and play.
But I’m already aware of how differently she fits in my arms. I’m already noticing her losing that sweet curled up newborn posture. I look at my toddler, who just yesterday was curled up in the rocking chair with me after a nighttime feeding as an infant, and I see how much she has changed and how fast the time has gone. And don’t get me started on my oldest.
This part is hard with every child, but it is harder this time because she is the last. This is it. I’m not just packing away the newborn clothes after this baby.
I’m packing away the newborn clothes after all the babies.
I’ll never again pull out the labeled totes, wash and fold tiny sleepers in anticipation for meeting a new little one. I’ll never again pack them gently in a diaper bag in preparation for the hospital stay. It feels weird to be “done”. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt my heart just a little. I’d be lying if it didn’t hurt just a little in anticipation of how much it’s going to hurt down the road.
I’m all for honoring one’s feelings. So I’m not usually inclined to dismiss or negate this hurt. But suddenly as I’m writing this post I can also hear a little voice of logic in my head saying,
“SUCK IT UP.”
Yeah, it’s wonderful and beautiful and profound that they grow and it’s an unbelievable blessing when they are healthy enough to do so. And it also sucks that they stop being little and that these sweet moments won’t last and that there won’t be any more newborn phases.
Because here’s the thing: I don’t have time to dwell on either one of those things.
This weekend I sat on the floor in my six year old’s room and played legos with her. The baby and the toddler were downstairs with their dad, so I didn’t have to divide my attention at all. I could just sit and play with her. We goofed around and made up songs while we built houses and cars and airplanes.
And at one point, without looking up from her building, she said, “I miss doing this with you. I wish we could do this more often.”
And my heart broke a little.
This was the main reason I made the final decision to be done. Because I don’t want to divide my attention any further than it already is. I want to be able to savor these moments with each of my children. I want to cherish every phase, not just the little ones and not just the last ones. And I want to be able to be my best self while doing so. Which means budgeting time for self-care and individual time with each kiddo. And time to write and read and SLEEP. (Sleep, LOL!)
So here we are. The beginning of the end of “little” in our house. There is now a definitive timeline that will lead to a stage in which we will be done raising little people. It’s impossible to imagine. And yet the inevitability still breaks my heart a little.
But that’s okay. Because the heartbreak is just one color in a rainbow of feelings that go along with parenting. Feelings I’m blessed to have because they are proof that I’m paying attention. Feelings I’m blessed to have because I’m blessed to have the little people who inspire them.