I can remember thinking that our baby, toddler, and preschool days were everlasting. Getting our babies to sleep through the night, the first steps of our journey of parenting, seemed like an eternity. Breastfeeding and dealing with spit-up, diaper explosions, and meltdowns were parts of my daily to-do list. I was not just needed, I was coveted. The daily demand for me was off the charts. I remember feeling that weight and some days not knowing how to see the positive in it. Motherhood was different then.
As I am removed from that period in my mothering, I must say I miss it. Call it my biological clock or not, I miss the cradling, neediness and, yes, even the around the clock demand. I can recall the exhaustion. I will never forget the exhaustion. But, in those moments when I felt as though I was my most poured out self, I can recall the deep satisfaction of being a stay-at-home mother and homeschooler.
Just this morning I was in Whole Foods and saw a mother with a baby in a sling, toddler in the front of her cart and busy 4 or 5 year old marching along beside her. I took a quick moment to study this mother’s face. It was an expression I knew well. Her face was serious and focused, a mask for the joy I know was hidden at the time. She was getting through, juggling all needs at hand. She had conquered so much just getting to this place.
I love being a mother. I always have, just not always embraced the nitty-grittiness of the job. I crave my mother/child interactions. I am finding my role with my kids and the interactions we share is ever-changing as they grow up. I am a baby lover. I am one of those that oohs and aahs at children I see out in public that I want to squeeze and snatch for keeps. I somehow felt having babies and toddlers was very natural to me. I was no expert, but I was confident. As Julian, Madelyn, Kalen and Brayden grow and change, I must admit I am not always confident. New parenting curveballs are thrown pretty frequently. I give a swing at my best thought-out responses, but I do not feel as though I know what I am doing. I am learning though. I continue to learn.
As I study our ever-growing children, I am learning that I will still be nurturing and caring, just in different ways. Our Julian needs space, but embracing. He needs firm expectations, but loads of grace to go with it. He is no longer our little 6-year-old homeschooler quietly squirreling away his Legos, drawing sharks and dinosaurs. He is a 13-year-old young man with opinions, likes, and definite dislikes. Madelyn is growing at rapid speed, it seems. She is not the shy little one she used to be. She is pretty outgoing, happy to be with people, and needs quality time with me. She watches me, and I see much of myself coming out in her. I seek to be a good example for my daughter now more than ever. She enjoys being unique and I want to foster that love of self she has. Kalen I am still figuring out. I think I am always trying to figure out the best way to love this guy. Of course, as a fourth grader, he is rather independent and playful. He needs me to be a good listener, present. He is a dreamer, more free-spirited, and will always be the one I need to reign in. Brayden, our youngest, still needs a lot of nurturing. Although funny and the life of the party, he has a tenderness to him that requires careful love. He is a quality time person, too. He needs me to sit with him, over snacks, and play games with him.
All our kids still need to be pursued. You know what I mean? Sought after, relationally. When they were babies, they were in my face all the time. No need to beckon them, they were already right under my nose and attached to my breast. Those baby, toddler, and preschool days were certainly not a cake walk. However, there was no doubt what my job was. Needs were pretty clear-cut. Now as our kids grow, I am choosing the way I am present in their lives. Obviously, I am the washer of their clothes, the person that mediates their sibling conflicts, more often than not… their cook, lunch packer, nurse, chauffeur and such. I am talking about the other mothering stuff, the best stuff… the mothering that pours myself out.
Kalen just approached me and asked if he could use the computer. He told me he has a lot of ideas for a story. I had to ask about what kind of story he was thinking of writing. He spilled out a flood of ideas, feelings and descriptions. He needs me. Just in a different way than before.