Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gone, Baby, Gone

My mother and I are very different people. She cries in sappy movies. She actually LIKES sappy movies. I sometimes WATCH sappy movies, but they rarely bring tears to my eyes. Maybe I'm just cold-hearted. Or maybe it's because I grew up with three brothers. Who knows. Who cares.

My mother is also a baby FANATIC. Seriously. As a kid she was sort of obsessed with baby dolls. As an adult she's always been sort of obsessed with babies. And not just the ones that she's related to. She will usually go out of her way to strike up a conversation with any random person if they happen to be accompanied by a baby. She adores them. Their smiles, their sounds, their sleepiness, everything. She volunteers to change diapers and to put them to sleep. Then she holds them the entire time they STAY asleep, even when she has lost feeling in one or both hands. Like I said, fanatic.

So when she comes to visit me, she loves to get her baby fix. And she likes to tell me that I'll miss it when my babies are gone. Her way of cheering me on, I suppose. Or making me realize that the light I THINK is at the end of the tunnel, isn't really so bright after all.

On occasion, my mother complains that she has nothing to do, that she's lonely, that some days she doesn't have much energy and just feels like napping. She likes to feel needed.

I admit that I am not quite the properly sympathetic daughter. Cold-hearted? Maybe. But it's difficult to be very sympathetic when she has the three things that I crave most desperately. Sleep. Time. Solitude. How can I be properly sympathetic when her complaints sound rather heavenly to me? When the idea that I might not be needed fills me with elation?

Even in the face of her predictions, I will cling to my bright hope that the frustrating and overwhelming nature of caring for little ones will someday come to an end.

When I think about the fact that both Shaggy and I feel that our family is now complete, I feel nothing but relief. I am happy to know that I will never be pregnant again. I am overjoyed that Baby B's newborn days are over. I don't want them back. Ever.

I look forward to the day (195, to be exact) that I can get rid of the back-breaking, shoulder-straining, elbow-hurting car carrier. I will be so excited to leave potty-training behind forever. I can't wait until the day comes when I don't have to tell J to focus on his homework every 17.4 seconds, monday through friday.

I look forward to the end of nursing. And packing a diaper bag. And whole-house shoe hunts. I long for the time when I can sleep through the night. When I can use both hands to wash counters and clear tables and make lunch. When I won't have a baby who wants to be in them all day and night. The arms, that is. Not the lunches.

I love being able to leave the house with just K & S who can get themselves together without me doing anything. I love that they don't need a bedtime routine, that we can read the Hunger Games together, or play a game, or watch a show and then send them off to bed with nothing more than a hug and a few whispered words of love.

I look forward to not having to brush anyone's teeth or wipe anyone's bum or remember to wash anyone's face before leaving home.

Don't get me wrong. I love my life. I love being able to stay home with my kids. Wouldn't trade it for anything. But, let's face it. Taking care of the small kid set is tough. It's full of frustration and repetition . . . and sprinkled with moments of joy. One of life's great ironies is that the endless hours of drudgery are what fades from our memories. While the simple moments of joy continue to shine brightly for us as we progress through life.

My mother has forgotten so much of what it was like to raise kids. I can see that every time she comes to visit us. She spends her first day or two in a complete daze at the noise and frantic pace of our lives. Not frantic because we are rushing to soccer and music and drama and art. We try not to over schedule like that. The frantic pace comes from changing diapers, calming meltdowns, helping with science projects, regulating nintendo time, mediating sibling conflicts, preparing dinner, doing laundry, and putting kids to sleep. The list goes on and on.  It doesn't help that there are 5 little voices all clamoring to be heard at the same time when we congregate in one room.

But to my mother's credit, she always snaps out of her daze and jumps in to help where she can. Yeah, it's nice when she comes to visit. Even when she tries to convince me how much I'll miss it, when my babies are gone.

Except I don't think I'll miss it, really. Remember? Yes, I hope so. It's fine by me if the memories of the frustration and exhaustion fade some. But I hope I will always remember how tough it is, to raise little ones. Because that's the stuff that's molding me into a better person. The sacrifice, the endurance, the patience that family life takes. It's the hard stuff that hones my good qualities.

I know I will cherish the memories of my babies, especially those shining, joyful ones that will outlast all the others. The first laugh, the unsteady steps, the little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. The look of wonder at experiencing something for the first time, the humor, the togetherness.

But those memories won't make me want these days back. I look forward to moving through the different phases of my life. Even if it does mean leaving some beautiful and wonderful things behind me forever.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Okay, okay, I confess - - - I DO LOVE BABIES – even holding a sleeping baby until my arms ache. But I do remember and definitely DON'T miss sleepless nights, potty training, the nightly homework battle, the never ending piles of laundry, the chaos of getting everyone out the door to church or school or wherever, trying to fix dinner with a baby on one hip and a toddler under my feet, separating siblings who seem bent on killing one another, and the almost constant feeling of being overwhelmed, outnumbered, frustrated and exhausted. Yes, those memories have faded with time. Maybe it all boils down to the "grass is always greener . . ." I can remember as a young mother having people tell me, "Enjoy them while they're young" and thinking, "Are you crazy? I can't wait until they're older." And now they are older – much older and not nearly so adorable – and I miss the hugs and the wet baby kisses, the magical ability to kiss their hurts away, and the wonder of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I get my “fix” when I can and between fixes, I have more than enough sleep and time and solitude.