We sat around the dinner table tonight and I tried to explain to my kids just how hard and yet just how amazing motherhood can be.
It is frustrating on multiple levels and there’s nobody quite like kids to tell you just how bad you are at something (although my kids are great at telling me in the bathroom what a great wiper I am!). And yet when Briggs is calling my name after he’s woken up from his nap (thank you blessed child for still taking a nap) my heart swells 5 times seeing him sitting there holding his stuffed bear with bed head and face creases.
Motherhood is everything good and unfulfilling in my life – quite the paradox! I read once that motherhood is taking time for yourself while still giving all of yourself to your children (and I like to add making sure your spouse’s needs are also met). And of course, mothers are never sure if they’re doing it right so it easy to second guess and doubt yourself as a mother…and then as person… and when it’s really bad you may even question your existence. I’ve been everywhere on that spectrum. And yet, at the end of the day my kid’s think I’m great (I’ve got a stack of homemade cards today that would confirm that) and they forget, or just don’t see where I fall short. I think it’s God’s grace in motherhood which I’m eternally grateful for.
I’m not sure what I pictured motherhood would look like on me – but it’s nothing I ever imagined it would be or even anything I could’ve dreamed of. Each year gets better – hopefully I can still say that after sending kids off to high school!
As a young mother, living in Wisconsin with two young children, I loved bath time. It was more than making sure my kids’ hair was washed – bath time was an event. It was something we looked forward to, it stretched to an hour or two. There were toys, and bubbles and games. My kids loved this time to splash around in the tub and I loved that we had an indoor activity that didn’t require bundling up and shoveling snow off the car.
And then we moved to Arizona and I didn’t feel so cooped up in the house. And we had another kid. And another. And even one more.
I’m not entirely sure when it happened but somewhere along the way, bath time was no longer an event. It became a sprint to see how fast we could get those dirty feed scrubbed so their sheets didn’t end up filthy.
My younger kids have very little experience with bath toys and bubbles and I’m not even sure how that happened!
I was talking with a friend about this last week so its been on my mind. But there was one night last week where Briggs had an hour before bed time and he was kind of roaming the house not really playing with anything. I asked if he wanted a bubble bath with toys and his eyes lit up as if he was given a bonus scoop of ice cream.
He sat in that tub for almost 45 minutes and just played. He sang, he splashed, he talked to himself. By the time he realized the water was cold, he was done.
The younger kids in our family may go to bed later than any of my other kids did at that age (which my older kids think is a serious injustice) but they’ve also been deprived of the simpleness my older kids had. The days of bubble baths, children’s museum memberships and roaming around the zoo.
You do your best to raise your kids the same and yet even at this stage I see just how hard that can be. Bottom line – everyone needs more bubble baths in their lives.
The end of a 14 year era…it was time to take the crib down.
This crib has had a lot of love (and shockingly still in great condition!). It has held my most precious possessions since the day we brought them home from the hospital. It has held my crying babies and angry toddlers. It has held the rambunctious jumping child and the most sleepy of heads. It has held special blankies and random toys. It has held so many memories.
I have laid next to this crib with my arm tight against the rails as I rub a back or head. I’ve fallen asleep next to this crib as I anxiously wait for a child to fall asleep. Kids have squeezed under the crib in many games of hide and seek. I can’t even count how many times this crib has been wiped down from sticky and germ-y fingers. The kids have climbed in and the kids have climbed out.
It has been a central point in our home for a long time now. And then the kids grew. They grew and grew and the crib couldn’t seem to hold their big bodies and blossoming personalities much longer. Briggs was in the crib the longest and that’s because no one came after him to kick him out, but he looked like a giant climbing in and out of that thing.
So it was time to say goodbye. One last sleepy head, one last bedtime song, one last leg flung over the side of the rail and one grateful heart for so much love for a some pieces wood. It has served its purpose well.
I often joke that my kids are going to look back at all their documented childhood memories and wonder why their mom was never around! They went and did all these fun things and I was never there. But I was – there may be very little photographic proof – but I was there.
You see – if there are photos being taken in the family, it’s most likely me behind the lens. I really love taking photos and I always see an opportunity to capture something. But it does result in a photographic past with a very absent mother.
Yes, I suppose I could ask others to take more photos of me, but it always feels weird asking. Like a little self-centered – which its not. So instead, I stay behind the camera and wish I had more photos with my kids or on vacation or just candids.
Our last time in Mexico, the only photo I was in the whole trip was a family shot the last day. I’ve got hundreds of photos from the trip – and I’m only in one. Mom problems, right? So recently on that same trip, I mentioned this to Steve and asked him to be a little more conscious of it. (It’s not something he even thinks about, but he did great!)
I also handed the camera over to Hallie for an hour one afternoon when she was looking for something to do. You should see the shots she came up with as she walked around the beach and observed everyone playing and hanging out. As I scanned through the photos, I came across this picture:
I’m not sure when she captured it and I wish Steve was in the frame just a little bit more – but there I am with an ocean in the background – proof that I was there. I’ve got to hand the camera to Hallie just a little bit more!
I went to see neighbor’s brand new baby. As Steve and I sat on the couch with the newborn, the other three kids were wild and energetic. Obviously, there were a lot of changes in their house and they were each coping with the changes in their own way. I could see the mother was tired from the newborn and probably even more so from the others that also required so much attention.
The new mom then made an observation, “People say to soak this up because one day I’m going to miss it. I can’t even have two seconds to myself, I can’t imagine missing it. Your kids are starting to get a little older, do you miss this?” I looked around at her kids jumping off the furniture, one throwing a soft toy around the house and the tissue paper from our gift littering the floor. I couldn’t lie. I did not miss those moments. The moments where I was so tired I could cry at any moment. Yes, you might miss the newborn snuggles. But newborns are really like puppies and they grow up way too quick and then the newborn snuggles are gone and you’re left with a cranky teething baby. We commiserated. And then joked that the women who keep telling us that we’ll miss this stage are never the ones willing to take your kids for the afternoon to give you a break so you can think about missing this stage!
I felt for that new mom (and made note as to how I could help without telling her to soak this in because she’s going to miss it – because that is really not helpful at all). And then I came home and found this little Lego guy on the handle of my cabinet.
I’m not sure how long it had been there but he caught my eye and I had the realization that it’s these little things I suppose I’ll miss. Not the fighting. Or the whining. Or the up-all-night children. But the little quiet moments that remind me that there’s a little human in the house that leaves unexpected toys in places where I find them. It’s walking upstairs and seeing books lined up in a row making the perfect car path.
It’s hard to even recognize these little moments as something to remember when there’s so much going on so I’m grateful when they catch me by surprise and it sinks in just for a second.
It may not be a glamorous job – but it’s definitely important.