So, a mom walks into a store with her two young kids. A nice older lady tells her to quit stressing and enjoy her life. The mom, deep in the throes of hands-on child rearing and all of its many joys (the lack of sleep! the loss of privacy! and oh, my baby just pulled down the front of my shirt and flashed the cashier-maternal bliss!) failed to see the wonder. Long story short, the mom blogs it (here) and moms in her life-stage rejoiced and shared it far and wide (including us on our Hands-On Mom Facebook page). Someone is finally telling it like it is, and it is Hard Work in capital letters.
Are you familiar with the concept of the “Boo Hoo Breakfast”? Hosted by kindergartens, this is where you go after you drop your offspring into the hands of school for at least the next 13 years. Know what? I skipped mine. Yes, my one and only was off to school and I couldn’t be happier. No boo-hoo-hoo for me. That child rearing thing was Very Hard Work and I was ready for a break from 7:45am-2:35 pm Monday through Friday. I reasoned that I had it harder than most—our one-pound wonder was a non-napper, world-class refluxer, and a notoriously unwilling eater. Cute as a bug’s ear (because she looks just like her mama, wink), genuinely tender hearted and sweet (unlike her mama), but let’s be honest here--kids change everything. Everything. And I didn’t always like it.
The weeks passed. She loved school and her teacher. I tried to settle into a nice part-time working-mom routine with a dose of tennis here and lunch dates there. But then the sadness began to creep in. It started as the casual realization that she was really tired when she got home in the afternoon and not really interested in going out to the zoo, or a museum, or even the mall during the week. It increased whenever I heard about a great story time or special event for kids during the day and remembered that those things were for preschoolers, which I no longer had, and that she was in the hands of someone else during her most productive hours. It peaked when I began to realize that I could have done a little more to get her ready. She had the basics down, for sure, but I still feel like I didn’t do enough math stuff with her, and wish that “math tutor” wasn’t a line on our monthly budget now that she’s in second grade.
Truth is, she is amazing, and I am just now fully realizing it. After all, that’s easier to see when you’ve lost all the baby weight and been rested, showered, and wearing clean clothes for a few years. Eleven and a half inches long at birth and yet not the shortest kid in her class. Hardly ever sick, bright eyed and ready to learn, she is nothing short of a miracle. She restored my faith. I confess to keeping her healthy self home a few days here and there because I felt like the teachers were getting the good part of her while I got the cranky late afternoon leftovers.
Though it might surprise the newer friends in my life, there was a time (before child) when my husband and I would backpack for days at a time, taking us through forests and up mountains with breathtaking views and no plumbing. It’s hard to appreciate a mountain when you are on it—all you can see are the faraway places, and they can look really appealing. But when you make it to the next peak and look back on where you have been, you appreciate the journey and the mountain itself even more. She is my mountain—challenging me in ways I never imagined, pushing me to become the mother she needed, showing me just how strong she was and how much stronger I needed to be. Now that I can see her more clearly, I am in awe of her wonder and where we have been, and feel overwhelmingly thankful to have realized this as soon as I did. I won’t tell you to enjoy the early years (true confession: I have been “that lady”--but never again, I promise!). But from where I’m standing, I see those tough early years from a whole new perspective. So go easy on those old ladies at the store and hang in there--it’s all downhill from here.