My 4-year-old is absolutely obsessed with books. Mainly books about trucks–especially fire trucks. He wants me to read to him all day long. He also loves Little Bunny Foo Foo.
“Mom, can you just read it four more times before bed? Pullleeeaassse?
It does this mama’s heart proud to see her kids enjoy a book. Even if it is Little Bunny Foo Foo.
My eldest son also loves a good book, but now at 13 years old, the days where he crawls up into my lap and asks for me to read to him are long gone. I no longer pull his head close to me and breath his boyish smell of sweat and dirt and play dough. He doesn’t need my help brushing his teeth, getting dressed, or lacing up his shoes. He hates most of the clothes I pick out for him (even though I’m certain I have better taste than he does). He shrugs and feigns pulling away if I try to give him a hug, even though he has a smile on his face.
He just doesn’t need me like he used to. I’m not his mommy anymore; I’m his mom.
When he was a little baby the days seemed so long, so tiring. The chores unending. How much longer until I can get back to real life, I wondered. Go out with my friends? Get a real job? Grocery shop without someone asking, “Can we buy this, mom? Huh? Can we?” every other aisle. I just wanted a little sense of myself back–something beyond this dirty shirt and yoga pants-wearing, pony-tailed, train wreck of a person who looked me back in the mirror. I wanted to stay out late, ruin my hearing with loud music, and spend my money on anything but diapers.
In the newness of my position as mother, I hadn’t yet realized that this was my new normal. There is no going back.
I also didn’t realize that one day I would look back and realize I’d never want to go back. That I would start to fear the unknown of an empty nest. After 13 years of parenting, I truly have no idea who I would be without them.
We had so many growing pains getting to know one another. I was such a child myself in those early years–always thinking about my feelings and letting peer pressure dictate how I parented my child. I sold him out time and again when I let other moms tell me to go against my gut and discipline in the way they felt was best. I reprimanded him in the park for hitting a child who I knew hit him first, so that I could safe face. Sometimes I even felt resentful of him for making life so much more work for me.
But we both learned. We grew up together, my firstborn and I. I learned to trust my instinct and he learned to trust me. I taught him the ABCs and he taught me what it means to really love.
Parenting doesn’t simply teach you how to become a better person–it drives you out to the dry, hot desert, drops you off in the middle of nowhere with a screaming infant and no map, and expects you not only to survive, but to actually thrive there. It’s a slap in the face to everyone who ever thought of themselves as naturally patient, loving, and giving.
And the tears! There are lots of tears. Tears of inexplicable joy when that newborn baby, still warm and wet from your womb, is laying in your arms. Tears when you first notice that he has your husband’s eyes or your dad’s forehead. Tears when you go days without sleep because your baby has an ear infection. Tears when just as you start to finally lose your postpartum weight, you realize you’re losing your hair, too, in big, soggy clumps swirling around the shower drain. Tears when they first walk. Tears when you can’t find five minutes alone to yourself. Tears when later you have to fight to get them to hang out with you for five whole minutes. Tears when they lose and tears when they win.
Sometimes they cry, too.
One doesn’t need to have children to become a better person. It just so happens to be a one-way ticket on a fast train to self-improvement. We can’t just decide to quit when we find a new interest or cause that motivates us. We’re in this job for the long haul, no matter what griefs or blessings await us. The weight of that responsibility awakens something within us that compels us to become better.
Because I’ve come to the point in my life where I recognize that my world won’t always revolve around nursing babies, kissing boo-boos, and cutting up crust-less peanut butter sandwiches into perfect little triangles, I’m finally starting to appreciate it. One day, just when I’ve finally caught up on all those projects I’ve had to put off and those deadlines I’ve been pushing back, I’m going to realize that I miss the insanity and chaos of this life. One day my arms will ache to rock a baby and this house which now overwhelms me with it’s perpetual busyness and energy, will suddenly seem far too quiet and still.
But, today is definitely not that day. Now excuse me while I go read Little Bunny Foo Foo for the 126 time this week.