Recently, a young homeschool mom was relating to me a day she had earlier in the week. She has several young children, toddlers and babies, and that day was filled with spills, diaper problems, flooded tubs, and other messes of varying degrees of disgusting. Now that was a particularly bad day, and she was able to laugh at it since a few days separated her from the disasters, but she was a little forlorn about the whole thing.
I remember. I really do remember how that was. I tried my best to comfort her and let her know that those days happen to everyone, and I tried especially hard not to say anything annoying, you know like “someday you’ll look back and miss these days.” I remember on several occasions people I was expecting sympathy from saying that to me, and it generally made me want to smack them upside the head.
It’s hard to imagine missing those days when you are currently missing visiting the bathroom alone, or missing hot coffee or a decent night’s sleep. So I laughed with her and offered help and told her what a good job she was doing. As a mom of slightly older children (I do still have a five-year-old so there are plenty of messes here), I feel it’s important to encourage and sympathize with moms who are in the trenches of constant physical care. I remember well the despair that could accompany those days.\
Here’s the thing though: I miss those days.
I know, it’s crazy. Now I can come and go as I please, with two and sometimes three babysitters living here. I can drink my coffee by myself in the mornings because they all like to sleep late; they do a lot of their work independently, and many of them do their own laundry. I’m living the high life here. I should retire to some tropical island and just let them get on with it (I’m kidding).
It’s crazy, but I miss the heaviness of a baby resting in a sling on my chest. I miss toddlers singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. I miss reading Goodnight Moon thirty times a day, and I miss that funny little Frankenstein walk that all babies appropriate when they first begin to toddle. I miss them staying where I put them, people going to bed before I do, knowing where they are at all times, and being in charge of every aspect of their lives.
I miss quiet times in the middle of the night rocking a newborn and smelling the sweet smell of baby close to my heart. I miss milky, sleepy smiles and ruffled tights covering diapered bottoms. I miss matching outfits and blow up kiddie pool adventures. I miss the fascination with snow and rain and the utter unbridled joy when Daddy gets home.
I miss looking like a rock star because I can make bubbles come out of the wand. I miss being the only genius who can tie shoes, braid hair, button buttons and zip zippers.
That irritating cliché is really true—“it will all get better someday”—although I would never say that to you, except in a blog post where you can’t swat me upside the head. It also depends on your definition of better, because it’s also true that “it all goes by so quickly.” I can speak to this because my daughter Katie who was, a minute ago, sporting cute curly pigtails and loving Hanna Andersson dresses is now starting her second semester of college, and while my panic about this has diminished a great deal, I am still having issues with having her stretching her wings and taking flight. It’s a difficult thing to let them go and relinquish control of their daily lives to their own decision making (and she makes very good decisions).
I know it’s tough to homeschool with a few toddlers intent on disrupting and a baby that throws a monkey wrench into your carefully thought out school plans on an hourly basis. It can be really exhausting and frustrating and maddening. I get that, no one better.
It’s also a gift.
You get to be there for all the “aha” moments, when they make connections and learn new things. You see all the firsts. You are bonded to those children in a way you could never be if you sent them out to school for six hours a day. You get all the snuggles, smiles, giggles and cuddles you can handle as well as all the first words, funny faces and upraised arms.
You are the go-to lady for bumps, bruises, broken hearts and bad days. You get to share your passions and eventually share theirs. You share the Faith and bring another child closer to God with every saint story, catechism lesson and gentle correction.
So when it’s one of those diaper exploding, spilled apple juice, broken lamp, I will never be alone again days, take a breath. Clean the mess (or let it wait a few minutes, who will know?) and give that baby a hug. Love that child and then let them go on to the next thing, and be aware that the next thing, very quickly, will take them out into the world. They will go to make their mark, start their lives and eventually love their own families, and you will be the one who has some extra free time and less messes to clean.
And you know what? You will miss those days.
Grinning Boy © cc yuryimaging / Dollar Photo Club