I first became a mother in 2004. I was very prepared for labor, delivery and breastfeeding (took intensive classes!) but not so much for taking home a baby. I knew the basics as the eldest child of seven and I had my fair share of playing mama and babysitting through the years but it is different when it is your very own baby.
Within a few days of being home, a package arrived from The Publix Baby Club. It was a book about the first five years. Voila! A bible for the ages and stages of raising this baby girl up. I read it all the time and even peeked ahead at the stuff to look forward to. We had an easy transition to parenthood and she was a fairly easy baby, aside from the fact we did not sleep for the first fourteen months. Oy vey.
By the time our baby girl turned five, she had two little brothers and one on the way! Spoiler alert: no one sent me a book about that stage.
Those years are a little foggy now and I’m honestly not sure how I survived taking three kids to the grocery store with my big round belly. I do remember looks of pity and lots of “wow, you’ve got your hands full” *insert eye roll*. That stage was challenging and a bit chaotic but at least they all still took naps so I had a little break to look forward to each day.
I will be honest and say I could never see past the early years, it seemed never ending. I could not even begin to envision preteens and teenage years; it was just SO far off. And really, I did not want to wish it all away. Even on the darkest days of drowning in littles, I wanted to hang on to their precious innocence and childhood for as long as we could. I always went to bed with a little regret about not being patient enough or having reacted badly, but I would always be reminded of tomorrow being a brand new day with new mercies. I’m big on grace and I would say that is how we survived the years of so many little humans. I loved those little years so much that I had some more babies over the next eight years.
When my oldest daughter was thirteen years old, we welcomed our last little one, a baby girl whom she had prayed for so hard after having five brothers in a row! That year and the ones that have followed have brought some wild and intense stages of my parenting journey. One second I was nursing a tiny, helpless newborn, then the next answering questions about puberty and periods. Buying newborn diapers for one daughter and feminine products for another is not something I was prepared for AT ALL. Add in five wild brothers who try to injure themselves and each other on the daily was intense, to say the least and still is today.
I never found a book to help me navigate, so I have just let it organically happen and rolled with it.
It has it’s moments of frustration and I struggle being pulled in many directions, but it is also a beautiful thing to have little ones who just want to snuggle and be read to and big ones who want to go grab lunch to talk about their dreams and goals.
I am lucky enough to be mothering quite a few stages of childhood still. My beautiful baby girl turns 17 this week, my boys are now 14, 13, 10, 8, 5 and our youngest is 3. I am constantly shifting gears to mother each one differently to meet their needs. One minute I am wiping a booty then the next scheduling a practice SAT test. Just typing that makes me weepy. The saying “the days are long but the years are short” has never been more true in my own life. I look back over the last seventeen years and cannot believe we have come so far (or made it this far!).
The biggest lesson I have learned is to accept the ages and stages.
Give yourself and your babies grace. You are learning together and you need each other. There will be hard seasons and you are allowed to be frustrated. Ask for help and accept help during those seasons.
They won’t always be so little and needy. One day they will learn to use the potty and tie their shoes without you. One day you will have a teenager who can babysit so you can grocery shop alone. One day you will have a young adult who drives to the store to grab things for you! *insert praise hands*
They will grow and we will grow too.