Confession: I am a recovering crier. I used to shed tears pretty much over anything, from someone hurting my feelings, to forgetting the pasta boiling on the stove and it turning to mush, someone hurting my feelings, a Jim Cogdill Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Ram commercial, looking at wedding photos of my grandfather sitting in the front row (he passed away four months after we married), an empty mailbox, and someone hurting my feelings. Basically, a tad sensitive. Which, if YOU had called me a tad sensitive, I would have cried.
However, motherhood, which normally turns otherwise even tempered women into total basket cases every time they spot a monogrammed onesie or a stray kitten on their porch, cast the exact opposite spell on me: I became a robot. The tears were gone, and the stress set in. Instead of weeping over their first steps, I stressed that they were walking too late for their age. I micromanaged every moment of the first few years of motherhood, overwhelmed with “doing it right” or “being enough” or “holding every moment precious to my soul.”
That’s when well meaning ladies at the grocery store would take a look at my buggy, with a five year old hanging off the side singing about Minnie Mouse panties, a two year old screaming in the front seat of the cart because he had skipped a nap/didn’t like Mondays/was a two year old, and a one year old with a giant head strapped to me in a baby sling, with a steady stream of drool rolling down my arm, and my postpartum bulge poking out where my shirt and jeans SHOULD meet, and dare to grab me, look me stone cold in the eye, and say: “YOU’D BETTER ENJOY THIS TIME. THEY GROW UP SO QUICK! ENJOY THIS! ENJOY YOUR BABIES!” and then trot off with their Coach purses and carts full of groceries they can actually afford.
I am privy to the fact that this is well meaning advice. That women want to encourage young mothers to soak in all the time they can with their small children, because they will never be tiny again. This is not news. But the element that is forgotten is you have not slept in about four months, your husband works very long hours, and the van needs new tires that the budget will not allow.
Young motherhood is not just “motherhood.” It is a season of hardship, making ends meet, postpartum depression, losing family members, moving states away, making friends with total strangers, getting phone calls about loved ones with cancer, and eating leftover lasagna three nights in a row.
My father once told me that you “never forget your humble beginnings.” And he is absolutely correct.
My youngest turned four last week. And my robot self burst into tears after I tucked them all into bed that night. My husband, shocked at my tear-filled regression, listened as I gurgled on about how I miss them being babies, that there will most likely never be another four year old in our house, and how I basically did not fully embrace those humble beginnings. How I did not just love every single moment.
But, wise as he is, (and slightly scared of me, I am certain), he gently reminded me that we are coming into a new era of parenting. That we are in the age of “making memories” with our kids. Our eight, five and four year old are going to enjoy campfires after their bedtime, curling up with a quilt and reading the Chronicles of Narnia, and throwing rocks in the pond by the barn. These are events that they will actually remember.
Do I wish I had nurtured the capacity to love every single moment of infancy as if the clock was watching all the moments? That I had breathed in birthing three kids in four years like the crisp fresh air rolling off of Mount LeConte in my stretched out clothing and unwashed hair? Maybe.
But time moves the same for all of us. Try to enjoy those babies, yes. But I am also going to enjoy my preschoolers, my third graders, my middle schoolers, my high school graduates, my son- and daughters-in-law, and my precious future grand babies.
And I may shed a few tears, one Jim Cogdill Dodge commercial at a time.