There’s an image that I keep in my mind for the rough days of motherhood.
My kids and I were with our friend Tiffany and her kids, and we stopped at a nursing home to visit her elderly mother-in-law. Alex was less than a year old and one of those babies who was generally happy as long as he was in my arms every second of the day. Sometimes he’d even be happy in someone else’s arms. You just couldn’t go about thinking he’d be okay with being put down for any length of time.
My Jack was four and he took off down a hallway with Tiffany’s son (age 5 and also named Jack). I handed Alex to Tiffany and took off after the Jacks.
As I raced after the happy, loud boys, I passed several elderly women in wheelchairs. They were all parked in a row outside their rooms. They each held a baby doll.
I had never heard of doll therapy for Alzheimer’s patients and I had never seen elderly women with baby dolls. I have since learned that they’re very helpful for these patients and there are even charities that help provide dolls. At the time, though, the sight of these women cradling these small plastic babies nearly knocked me over with an instant wave of empathy and emotion.
I felt for those women, and it broke my heart to see them cradling those dolls.
Motherhood is exhausting. It’s a feast or famine enterprise where we work tirelessly with no breaks for years at a time. At some point, though, if we do our jobs right, it’s done. This is going to end, and while they will always love us and need us, this job we’re doing now is temporary.
I know towards the end of my life (should I get lucky enough to get old), the thing I will miss more than traveling, more than gardening, more than painting or writing or shooting pool or walking on a sand beach will be this. I will miss rocking a baby, comforting a child, knowing all the answers, being someone’s superhero, making it better… Mothering.
Hopefully I will get a chance to be a grandmother, godmother, mentor, foster mother… there are many ways to keep on loving children after my own have left the nest. This time, though, is unique. This is the only year that Alex will be two, that Jack will be six, that Anna will be nine and that Victoria will be eleven. One time only, never to be seen again.
I’m all done with babies, unless a really unforeseen accident occurs. I’m keenly aware that I’m almost out of little girls. I feel lucky that Anna relishes her youth, since I am in no hurry to put away the ballerina gowns and Barbie dolls. I know that Jack is leaving his little boy years and I need to relish this goofy, creative, funny, loving boy that he is right now, as trying as he can also be at six years old. I am in no hurry for Alex to potty train or start speaking in sentences. He can dawdle in toddler time. He can cling to me and need his mama. And Victoria, my first baby — she’ll always be my baby but she’s turning into a young woman before my eyes. Talk about bittersweet.
Lately my boys have been driving me up the wall and back on a 10 minute loop pretty much from dawn to dusk (and after). My girls have been fighting with each other, and there have been plenty of days when I am tired of putting on my Mary Poppins hat and have yelled at the whole lot of them.
When that happens, I take a breath, take a break, and start over.
It’s a crazy life, but I’ll miss it when it’s over. Even with the crying, even with the fighting, even with the mayhem, I savor it anyway. These are my babies. This is my one and only wild and wonderful time of motherhood.
Babies can be clingy. Toddlers can be maddening. Kids can make you crazy. Savor it anyway.
Someday the house will be quiet and clean. What fun will that be? Who needs quiet and clean? ;) Well, maybe lots of people! I know I crave it. But at the end of the day, I have my whole life to have a clean and quiet house. The clock is ticking much faster for how long I have to make mud pies, have tea parties, read picture books, make puppets, give piggyback rides, have girl talk, build block towers, race cars, cuddle and all of those other wonderful duties of parenthood.
I think if my 90 year old self could come back and talk sense into my present day self, that’s the message she’d give me. Life is short. Get over the small stuff and love the heck out of your little ones while you have them, whether they make you crazy or not.
Savor it anyway.
(photo by Tamika Moore)