Life is made up of clubs and I’m about to be booted out of one club, irrevocably. This club is made up of parents who have many young children and only young children. You can’t REALLY be in this particular club unless you have had 3 babies in 3 (or less) years and your oldest is 5 or younger. You can not have a renegade 10 year old in residence – ALL of your kids needs to be little. I am about to get booted because my oldest just turned six and I am starting to feel a little bit of sanity coming into my days again. I’ve been a member of this club since April of 2009 – when I found out I was pregnant with my 4th child. Since I feel my tenure in this club coming to a close I wanted to write myself a note so that I won’t completely forget this period. I want to remember so that maybe someday I can help some other young mother the same way people have helped me. So Alexis, in case you forget:
*There’s no one to hold the baby. Or the other baby. Not even for a second. Not even if they are crying. Not even if you are crying.
*There’s no one to talk to. You’re constantly trying to understand but are rarely understood.
*You live on the edge balancing an impossible amount of needs. You desperately feel the need for some rhythm to your days, to their days, but there’s too many variables to ever feel comfortable. Someone’s always teething, always got an ear infection, always puking or pooping somewhere unacceptable. Adjustment, adjustment, adjustment becomes the only reliable rhythm.
*There’s no one to carry their dishes to the sink, pick up their shoes, brush their own teeth, wipe their own tush, get their own drink of water. And if they do any of these things it is because you are putting a lot of energy into training them. Energy which you no doubt don’t have.
*Your standards go lower then you thought you’d ever go. Any earnest promises you made to yourself about parenting styles, housekeeping structures, meal preparation, volunteer work – out the window. Just gone. Kiss it goodbye – you’ve got far more urgent needs to be met.
*Time with your spouse? Sure. Time spent parenting. Or trying to get some sleep. Or staring at the TV or computer in an effort to decompress from the intense experience you are sharing. “Fox hole parenting”, I’ve heard it called. Fox holes are neither relaxing or romantic.
*And mostly – no one sleeps. One baby is rough on a person but three in three years…the loss of sleep is exponential, not just multiplied. To the bone exhaustion. All the time.
The most difficult part of all of this for me is that because of all of the above factors it ends up being very difficult to see the good parts of young children. The hilarious things that they say. The comedy of all of their mischief. The tenderness of their affection for their mommy and daddy. The joy of watching them grasp a new concept or conquering a new physical feat. The subtleties of their personalities emerging. You get stretched so thin that you are just surviving. Living day to day – putting out fires (just metaphorical fires if you are one of the lucky ones). The joys of parenthood seems very small and distant.
Then one day you feel life slow down a bit and you notice all of these small people around you again. You start to SEE them again. At first just a little bit - then more often. The chaos goes from a constant drone (usually a sobbing drone) to being exclamation points in your day - and that’s doable. That’s human.
We can all laugh at those crazy things that happen in a house with small children – even the things that involve lipstick and white down comforters. As long as we can step back and SEE it. To quote a good friend on the 1st chapter of Genesis, “First God spoke. Then He SAW.” It’s so good to see. But for those in my club (and you know who you are) – sometimes the creating takes all of your attention and it may be a while before you get a chance to look back at your work and see that it is good.
Anyway, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a very helpful 6-year old and my youngest just turned one. And there is not another baby on the way yet. I’m leaving the club in very capable (and full) hands. Blessed are those who don’t see yet believe. But seeing makes this all so much easier.