Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Phases of Motherhood

The other night, my son and I brought dinner to a friend who recently had her first baby.  She was very grateful to receive a meal and a visit among one of the most hectic, challenging, joyful times in life.  As we talked, she mentioned trying to figure out what was best among the various approaches to parenting a newborn she heard from others.  I could tell she was a little overwhelmed.  I wanted to give her some advice, but I know she has to figure it out on her own.  A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t apply to child rearing.  

Plus, just because I am well beyond the newbie stage doesn’t mean I have all the answers either.  I’m really just a few steps ahead in this journey called motherhood.  The crushed Cheerios in the carpet, toys taking over every room in the house, holding my breath instead of completely losing it on my kids phase.  One in which I am trying in vain at mealtimes to get one kid to sit down and the other to eat a vegetable.  Where I am simultaneously holding a conversation with another mom at the play ground while I watch two kids who are off in different directions, doing mental gymnastics to keep track of when they each last had a sip of water, went to the bathroom/had a diaper changed and how many donut holes they consumed. 

It’s crazy, but crazy enough I'm pretty comfortable here.  In fact, it can be somewhat of a stretch now to go back and remember what it was like to have a newborn and be in completely unfamiliar territory, feeling desperate and isolated as a new mom.  I’m in the thick over-growth of a new forest.

Instead of counters littered with baby bottles and cans of formula, every square inch of our fridge is adorned with crayon scribbled and water color painted pictures.  Instead of infant cries and coos, there are toddler and preschooler shrieks in conjunction with the music from kids’ tv shows.  My kids now play by themselves together, but fights over toys inevitably ensue, interrupting a single household chore at least 10 times.  When I put Rory in her crib at night, I can be 99% sure that she will sleep straight through the next 12 hours, and it won't be all that long before she trades in the crib for a toddler bed and diapers for Disney Princess panties.  Colton is now one of the oldest kids in my moms’ group, and I am the one passing down his old clothes and toys instead of being on the receiving end.

There are new worries and challenges here, and while they aren’t helpless newborns anymore, some days I still feel unequal to the task of mothering two little ones.  Their needs have actually seemed to increase as time has gone on.  Now they need discipline as well as their physical needs taken care of.  It gets discouraging and frustrating when my four-year-old doesn’t obey, and nothing I do seems to help him change his unpleasant attitude.  It’s draining when my toddler constantly disregards my “no”, bent on doing what she wants. 

Yes, this phase often means banging my head against the wall when my daughter is super clingy and I can’t figure out what’s wrong because she only says 10 words, which put together make no sense.  It means exasperated sighs when I’m downstairs in the basement doing laundry, and my preschooler yells from the top of the stairs and I come running, only to find out that he just wanted a different television show on.  It also means wanting to hide in the bathroom for five minutes of alone time, if I can just get the door shut before Rory rushes in there to “help” me.  It most definitely means thinking I will go crazy if I hear the word “MO-MMY!!” one. more. time.     

This stage in between feeding, rocking and changing non-stop and teen rebellion is a lot of stinkin’ work.  But it’s also exhilarating.  And, for me, ultimately better than the newborn phase.  It’s fun to watch both of them learn new things and play together.  I still have so much influence over what they watch, do and eat.  Their disobedience is small right now, and their faith is big.  Their hearts are soft and innocent, making them a perfect place for Jesus to live.

I love having them press in close while I read them stories, see them dance and "sing" to songs, and experience life through their eyes.  I know one day I will look back on these days in which the pages of "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" play out repeatedly, and my heart will ache for when they were that little.  Then I will be "that older lady" telling another mom to try to treasure these moments, even though you feel like you're going to be swallowed up in them.

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