An article caught my eye the other day. It was posted on a friend’s Facebook feed and it had to do with a mom of young kids touring the home of a relative whose own children were grown and out of the house. It has gone viral so maybe you have seen it already. http://www.godupdates.com/moms-post-about-vacuum-lines/ It’s about this idea of straight vacuum lines being lonely. So I have to ask, am I the only one who is not crying about the craziness of life with infants and toddlers being over and done? Follow up question: Am I the only one who doesn’t have straight lines when I vacuum?
Don’t get me wrong. I love babies. I love to hold them and rock them to sleep. I love their sweet little smiles and how wonderful they smell. And toddlers? Oh, those cute little sprites, trying out their walking legs for the first time, talking, seeing the world through their eyes of wonder. Preschoolers? Delightful! So curious and their little personalities are coming out full force. All wonderful memories, just like looking back forlornly on this idea of a houseful of cherubic preschoolers, toddlers and infants. It’s a nostalgic memory, one where you’re busy making pancakes for those delightful tykes and you spend mornings doing crafts and afternoons at the park. Everyone gets along and it’s just busy, busy, busy but so fun, fun, fun. No one ever screams. You’re never exhausted. No one dumps shampoo on the carpet or paint all over the sink.
Wrong! Raising little kids is tough! They’re exhausting. And into everything. Or maybe I just had really special kids. 😉 You have to watch them constantly and you never have a moment to yourself. At least I didn’t. I remember those days as one long nightmare. Perhaps that is too harsh. It definitely wasn’t fun. My first child was extremely demanding. I spent the first six months of her life crying everyday under the stress and pressure of trying to work full time from home with no childcare, plus take care of a house and pets while Zack traveled. I got pretty much no help from him. It got a little bit better after I quit that job and we moved but she was still a demanding baby. She was a grabby little thing and would just as soon pull your nose right off your face as look at you. Wearing jewelry was offering up your body as a battleground. She hated traveling by car so she would scream bloody murder anytime she was in one. She was an escape artist, too. I remember chasing after her constantly once she was able to walk. Then I got pregnant a second time. He was wonderful until he became mobile. Then he was his sister’s clone. They both loved throwing stuff into the toilet- books, entire rolls of toilet paper. I remember one day seeing those chunky little Tonka trunks in the toilet. I began pulling them out of it and as I took two and then three and then four of them out they just kept coming, like little clowns climbing out of a clown car. I think I ended up pulling about fourteen of those suckers out of the toilet. And that paint story? Yeah, that totally happened to me. Paint all over the dining room chairs and running down the kitchen sink.
Anyway, my point is not to belabor how tiring those early years were. I think it’s enough to say it was exhausting. I loved waking up with my babies, both of them all smiles, Rock Star telling me, “Wake up, Mommy; the sun is on!” I loved snuggling with them and napping with them. But I don’t miss the times I was woken up in the middle of the night by a child that couldn’t be comforted, or the time when we were out of milk and Picasso was screaming for chocolate milk in the morning.
“I WANT CHOCOLATE MILK!”
Me, hiding under the comforter, “We don’t have any!”
I loved being able to dress my babies in cute little outfits but that was over for me by the age of 3 for Rock Star. She looked at the clothes I had laid out for her one day and she said, “I don’t think that’s something I would wear.” She. Was. Three. Picasso was probably two when I put a cute little sweater vest on him. He pulled it off and threw it on the floor. I picked it up and put it back on him. He took it off again. Threw it down again. I picked it back up and put it back on again. Picasso was not messing around the third time. He took it off, walked it over to the trash can and threw that vest in it. Problem solved.
I loved rocking them to sleep and taking them to see Santa and all that fun stuff. But it was hard. I didn’t sleep through the night for four years! I definitely don’t miss the notorious Underwear Wars, or the lesser known but very vocal battle, Operation Bang My Head Against a Freaking Brick Wall, to get my daughter to wear anything that actually fit her instead of making her look like an orphan. Lest you think I’m exaggerating I timed it one morning and she spent just over an hour screaming about getting dressed. I don’t miss the times I wished I lived in a warmer climate because my daughter hated wearing shoes and it would have been a dream come true to let her wear sandals and flip flops all year long. I could never understand that. The kid hated having anything touching her heels but she would wear sandals and flip flops that had something between her toes. Her kindergarten teacher pulled me aside one day to tell me the gym teacher was very concerned because Rock Star’s tennis shoes were about two sizes too big. “Yes, I know, but they are the only ones she’ll wear. If the gym teacher would like to give it a shot then she has my permission to go for it,” was my reply. I don’t miss the time my son, who always wore underwear, didn’t wear underwear and got diarrhea in the Sears’ toy aisle. And then proceeded to wander around said toy aisle despite my orders to stay put while I grabbed paper towels to try to clean it up. Fun times, I tell ya. Fun times. CF was not a great help and I was mostly on my own. I read a woman comment one time that going to the grocery store by herself was a vacation. Another remarked that it was a good day when she got to shave both legs at the same time. I thought that was so depressing and was determined to not let that be me but that pretty much summed up my life during the early years of parenthood. There was a time in my life that I sincerely believed I would never again take a shower by myself. Like, seriously, I would have placed money on that bet. I thought I would see every single toilet in every single restaurant because my kids were like wild dogs that needed to mark their territory. I thought I’d never have a free moment to myself. I never wished any stage away. I never spent time thinking, “Oh, I can hardly wait until…” The only thing I ever said that about was hearing my kids say, “I love you.” That was a moment I looked forward to.
I don’t, however, wax nostalgic about those days. They were tough and I have come to enjoy my kids at every stage. My kids as teens are so amazing. There are still plenty of messes but now they sometimes clean up those messes. There is still plenty to do- places to take them, sleepovers to oversee, competitions and meets to attend, breakfasts to make, lunches to pack, stories and ideas to listen to, friends to chauffeur.
I like the fact that I can clean the house and it will stay relatively clean for a while. Sometimes I even come home and find Rock Star has cleaned it for me. They’re still fighting; they’re just older and use bigger words. I don’t miss the chaos or all the Polly Pockets. Or the damn Tonka trucks down the toilet. Now I’ve got video games and iPhones and chargers to contend with and I get to listen to YouTube videos of “hauls”, makeup tutorials, and gamers playing video games. Nothing stuck in the toilet, although that boy of mine sure can clog one up! Fortunately, I taught him the art of plunging so that’s no longer my problem.
My unsolicited anonymous advice? Enjoy it. Enjoy every stage while realizing that some parts might really really suck. And then move on. Don’t lament that which is gone or you might miss out on the wonderfulness that is the next stage. Hey, I was that person that turned up my nose when people would talk about hating the baby stage. I was the person who felt sorry for those people who had “big” kids because they no longer had those cute little babies and toddlers. Now? I LOVE having older kids. Mine are amazing; they’re smart and funny. Some days they even help me out. I love talking to them and hearing their thoughts and ideas; I love that they are willing to share their interests and dreams with me. There were lots of wonderful parts of having small children; there were also many stressful, exhausting moments and I’m sure that raising them without much help from their father likely played a huge part in that. That person that used to turn her nose up at the people who admitted they didn’t enjoy the infant stage and those poor unfortunate people with only “big” kids? She grew up and realized what those parents undoubtedly already knew. There’s nothing to miss about those days of old because I’m too busy enjoying today.