I remember when I had one kiddo, way back when. People said it(I assume they meant motherhood?) got easier. I would've rather heard the truth. I'm settling in and praying for wisdom as the pre-teen/teen years gear up. I know it's only going to get harder. I listen intently when mothers with those older than mine speak. I crave advice. I soak up wisdom. I hear their regrets and heed their warnings.
The truth is, I'd take a screaming infant over a pre-teen male any day. I'll do the diaper rashes and sleepless nights. It doesn't get easier. Every single day it gets harder. Tired is nothing compared to heart ache. Sleeplessness can be fixed with coffee. Gone are the days of doing puzzles and hurrying up the clock in the race for bedtime. It's no longer enough just to keep them fed and alive and marginally happy.
My heart breaks frequently these days. I have moments of sheer panic as I see the young man Simon is becoming. He's a great, great kid, but it's happening too fast. The hormones are kicking. The attitudes are swinging to extremes. His are, too...
The big two are going off to camp next week. Away. For four whole days. I don't remember what it's like to have just two kids all day. I am trying to figure out how to make it special for Titus. He deserves it. I'm curious to see how he handles being the oldest for a few days.
A few nights ago I had a little breakdown. It was one of those days where I failed at everything. I failed as a wife, as a mother. I failed as a Christian. I failed as a friend. I was tripping all over my failures. The kids had all been tucked away for hours. Jude opted for one more mid-night snuggle. I had a good weep as I settled him in, lamenting over all the ways I'd failed that day. I headed upstairs to empty bladders that aren't my own. Sweet tea had been consumed at dinner and that always leads to laundry for me the next day. As I tucked more kids back into their beds, one gave me a hug he wouldn't remember the next morning and another smiled in his sleep as I kissed his forehead.
It was just what I needed. I'm not a failure. I fail a lot, but I'm not a failure.
I choose them over me.
There are days I really need to go somewhere alone. The grocery store, the gas station, around the block, anywhere. And then I realize it would be a good chance to get some one on one time with any of my four. Now, while they'll still talk to me and even perhaps listen to what I'm saying. I hope one day, years and years from now, that they'll remember the little things. Like how I always got them a treat during our one on one time. How I chose to take them to the grocery store with me when I could've gone alone. How I played games with just them when they woke up before the others. How I came upstairs for another hug goodnight even after I said NO MORE.
I'm trying to invest in them now, hoping to see the return later. When I look at the teenagers in my life and realize how quickly they got there I know that this time is valuable. What's scarier is that I can't get it back. There are no do overs. I don't want to look back on this time in our lives and feel like we barely made it. I don't want to have regrets. The last few years with Sean in school have been hard. It would be easy to just live in transition and scrape by, but I don't want to just survive. I don't want my decisions to affect their future negatively. We only get one shot at parenthood, I don't want it to be wasted on me.
The other morning Simon got up before the rest and Sean and I got to have a good, long talk with him. We were able to use real life examples about how decisions made now will affect his future. As Sean spoke, I couldn't help but smile. I see God's design all up in this place. I'm so glad my kids have a mom and a dad. I'm so very thankful that Sean is their role model. I see that my kids will have a firm understanding of a male role in the family structure.
I think about what I've learned from having four kids and my kids add to the list daily. Things like: All mothers of four are freaking hilarious. Fathers of four can speak with their hands while holding a baby on their hip. By the time you reach four, there is no more comparing. You stop giving a crap about other people's kids and their abilities. You don't justify decisions anymore. I don't try to convince others to do what I do. I breastfeed because I can. My boys don't play sports because I'm cheap and I've seen them throw. I homeschool because it works for us. Healthcare decisions? I ask my husband. I don't care about other people's opinions like I did when I only had one.
I did what I did and I do what I do and somehow we've cranked out four very awesome boys. They are polite and they are brilliant and they are talented and they have empathy and they share and they have goals and dreams that are their very own. They are observant and they are compassionate and they are respectful and they are clean(most of the time). They ask intelligent questions and offer incredible insight. They are amazing little human beings that humble me every single day.
When I think about what I know, I wonder what mothers of five or six or seven would be able to tell me. I know I don't have this gig figured out. I do know that it's so much more than what we make of it. It's simple, but so stinking hard. I do wish we, as mothers, would help instead of compare. I wish mothers would be real and humble, instead of arrogant. I do know that parenting a one year old is completely different from parenting a two and three and ten and eleven year old. It's a roller coaster. I do know that discipline and consistency are a must. I do know that it's okay to have high expectations of kids. And I know that it's needed and okay to change those expectations. I do know that kids need to hear the word "NO." I do know that a mom and a dad are necessary EVERY SINGLE DAY. I do know that contradicting one another will be noticed by the small ones. I do know that I couldn't do this without Sean. He is my anchor. He is my confidante. He answers the questions I can't. He loves them in a way I am not able. He relates to them on a different level. He reminds me that they're going to be men. Sometimes I still see them as babies. He calms me down, he keeps me in check, he tells me when I'm being too hard on them.
I've learned that nothing is more important than our family unit. No job, no goal, no friends, no outside influences. This cluster of six is where it's at. When one of us is out of the loop, we are not at our best.
I don't really know what the goal of this post was. I've just got some people that are heavy on my heart. There are a lot of new moms in my circle and I've been nostalgic. There are so many things I wish I could do over, do better. There are issues that are arising as the boys get older that I feel completely incapable of handling. I'm coming to grips with the fact that my boys are their own people. Soon they will be making decisions on their own and will have to be responsible for things over which I have no control. The only thing I can do now is teach and lead and invest time and PRAY.
This started out as a one liner on Facebook and turned into many, many more words. Who knows? Maybe some of the people on my heart, the intended audience, are actually reading and it will help in some way.