Let me start off by saying definitively…this is neither an attack, nor a defensive. It is merely an attempt to describe something that I truly believe is done with good intentions.
Recently I’ve read a couple of perspective pieces by you young, harried, stressed-out and overtired mommies, that specifically spoke about having older mothers, whose children are grown, seeing you in public, and offering you some variation of, “Enjoy it. Someday you will miss all of this.”
Of course, this often occurs, let’s say, just as you’re attempting to pay for the groceries. When suddenly you have a cartload of activity: one kid begins to launch their escape, meanwhile someone’s crying, and yet another is grabbing items off the rack, the one at the perfect height and nearness to grab stuff.
Times when you’re either on the verge of tears…or thinking about turning to drinking [tongue-in-cheek folks]…
Now, please let me start by saying that I understand how it might come across to you, when you’re in your first few years of being a strung-out, exhausted mom. The thing is, every mother who is making “those comments”, has been the other…the mother of young children.
And now we’re not.
But we know just how tired you are. We remember all about colic and dirty diapers. Those fun temper tantrums…in public. We’ve done the changings that took a bath, not a baby wipe, to come back from.
We’ve sought out and purchased the products that get crayon off walls and gum out of hair. We’ve sat and cried our eyes dry after a particularly long, rough day.
We’ve read and re-read the endless tips and hints for completely baby proofing our houses…and our lives.
As I said, it’s true, we’re all past that now.
I’m sorry if some mothers come off as smug about that.
You’re there struggling; spit-up on your shirt, un-showered and you’d just like five minutes of peace and quiet to hear yourself think. Every time your phone rings the kids suddenly need your attention, likewise with going to the bathroom.
I so get that. I’ve done it, like I said…I was a young, harried, stressed-out and overtired mother, too.
You don’t get enough sleep, ever. You don’t even know what you’re doing half of the time, and you’re thinking, “Schedule? What’s that?”
And then when you do get to the toddler stage, they’re into everything, and seem to just go, go, go, all the time. Little Energizer Bunnies and you’re always there nearby, vigilantly watching over it all. It never…seems…to end.
We remember that sometimes the kids are still awake when you would so much rather they were asleep, and by rather I mean NEED. Times when you would gladly give them all the money in your bank account (if there’s actually any left with all the baby “necessities” available to you these days) if they would just close their little eyes and give you a few hours of uninterrupted of quiet.
I’m a fairly young mom, though the creeks, pops and snaps when I move around might suggest otherwise. Regardless though…a mother is a mother; twenty-four hours of the day. It never ends, it only morphs and changes.
But here’s the thing…throughout motherhood there are always going to be a challenges. At this time in my own journey my older son is going to school 2000 miles away. And right now my younger son, who’s going into his final year, is a long way away on a high school trip.
And where am I? I’m at home, very far from, and missing, both of them. You think it’s hard to leave your babies with a babysitter? Wait till they move across the country, or get a chance to go explore out in the world without their mama!
Ultimately, they will make their own choices, but along the way you will still need to have a say, and you won’t know if what you’re saying is the correct thing at any given time.
These “choices” will often take them far away from you, and you will be left knowing that if anything does happen, you cannot be there immediately. You will then determinedly attempt to put those thoughts far out of your mind.
So yes, it’s hard being a mom of a young child, let alone multiple. It’s an absolute ton of work every day and night. I mean that sincerely, with every molecule of my being.
For me though, I have found being a mom to a 16…17…18…19…20-year-old is more difficult…the most difficult! There are so many things that you have to either okay, or put the kibosh on, and there are no guidelines.
Everyone will tell you what to do when your kids are small. Everyone and their dog, have advice for you as a young mom. There are some great books, magazines and blogs right at your fingertips!
And you will have days when you just won’t want them to grow up. Before my second born became a teen I begged him to get younger instead of older. That one definitely thinks I’m a little crazy.
When one of my teenage sons wanted to drop out of a program he’d worked hard to get into at school, ultimately I was the one who had to make the decision. The program was designed to be beneficial for getting into college. How could I possibly know what was the best thing to do? What if my choice was detrimental to his future?
Then you have dating, studying, class and sports schedules to figure out. And don’t even get me started about driving! As a former teenager, I remember the independence that came with having my license. It was so exciting and freeing.
However…once you have to hand over your car keys to your child and let him or her drive off and out into the world with all its perils, plus the other drivers; let alone the bad drivers, the distracted drivers or even worse, you will feel an entire new dimension to being a parent. It hits you like a punch in the gut.
Talk about keep you up at night! You will long for the safety of car seats and play pens and baby-locks…
But just like in childhood, as they get older you do get used to these new stages they’re in. They move out, some will go away, but usually they come home to you…at least to visit.
Every time that you get to look at your grown child, you will get to feel that sense of absolute pride and accomplishment…and that love completely flooding you. It is by far one of the most wonderful things to ever experience.
Just let me say that the getting them there in those last few years is typically full of trials and tribulations. It’s an exhausting time of second guessing yourself. Of losing any control you might have (thought you) had, and letting go of the reins.
So yes, we may zone out while reminiscing about the days when our children were young. At times we can almost get a waft of their baby scents…the sweet ones, or the feel of our fingers running through their hair. Then the pangs will come as we remember hearing their little voices call out, “Mommy!”
We will sometimes get that far-off look as we remember and yearn for those days when our babies looked at us with pure, unadulterated love.
And we might likely be a little heartbroken that we aren’t able to remember every little detail about those fleeting years, and romanticize your life as we watch you with your cuties.
Then, yeah, we will try to remind you that someday you will miss all of it. We will say things that you find inappropriate in the madness of what you’re dealing with.
We really aren’t patronizing you.
Look, to each his own, right?
Try to take us in stride if you must.
But if possible, maybe you can take something positive away from it? Maybe refocusing your perspective might actually alter the course of your next five minutes, the next hour, or even the entire rest of the day.
I hope I never seem smug about it.
In my experience you can trust that behind “those comments” is compassion, encouragement and solidarity…
…and just possibly a flicker or two of wistfulness, because we genuinely miss it.
― Raina K Morton, June 24 2014