Yesterday was my little girl’s 4th birthday. I can’t even believe I’ve been a mama for four years, but October 2 arrived nonetheless. Birthdays are so fun: sprinkle donuts for breakfast, cookies with her classmates, presents, and of course, the cake. But birthdays can also be painful reminders of just how quickly time is moving. They say that the years are short, but the days are long. I guess I didn’t really understand the concept until I became a parent. Some days, it seems to take FOREVER to make it to bedtime, but then you wake up one day with a big grown up four year old. And I. Get. It. We really only have such a short time with our babies and it’s all going too fast. I mean tomorrow she’ll basically be in college and leaving me and I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.
No one really warned me that when I had babies I’d go from my nice little (mostly) emotionally-stable life to a constant state of (varying degrees of) anxiety where my brain literally never shuts off. Sometimes this anxiety is absolutely a good thing. It keeps my kids safe and helps me make some really sound decisions. But other times it feels like a giant mess. Because of this, I’m convinced that parenting is just a series of polarizing emotions- completely confusing, completely consuming, sometimes fleeting, sometimes everlasting.
I see people post all the time on social media or hear them say, “I don’t want them to grow up!” (I do the same-no judgment here). And yes, we would love our kiddos to stay little and cuddly forever, but we also are desperate for them to gain some independence. When my daughter says, “No, I wanna do it MYSELF!” I get a tiny bit sad that the part of my life where I helped her with this particular thing might be over, but I’m also so proud that she has the confidence and ability to do it for herself. So I’m learning to slowly let go of things I used to think I had to do for her (yes, even the choosing of clothes that do not remotely match).
In that same realm, we want to protect our kiddos and make sure they succeed all the time. And it’s SO HARD to let them fail. I am particularly bad at this. I want to swoop in and help her do things “right” when really, I need to trust in her own learning process. When I was a teacher, I really struggled with wait time, because I am a little bit awkward in silences and also have kind of a debilitatingly rigid time-management problem. But, I love watching my daughter look up at the ceiling or scrunch her eyebrows as she’s really trying to figure something out. And when she finally gets it, on her own, even after a couple of failed attempts, she is SO proud of herself. I’m learning to slow down and have patience to wait her out and encourage her to keep trying when she’s not quite there.
Furthermore, I have a very headstrong child. She knows exactly what she wants and when she wants it and she will fight me to the end of the universe. On one hand, I know this headstrong attitude will serve her well as an adult. She already has so much confidence in herself and a surety in her steps that sometimes takes my breath away. But oh man, in this season, the arguing and constant pushing-of-buttons can wear a person down. I’m learning to pick my battles (i.e. is it REALLY important that _____ be done my way this time? Or can she have some autonomy in this?) and also help her talk through and understand what she’s frustrated about so she can use her words to explain what’s going on in her mind.
She is also, as you can imagine, very curious. Everything is a question. And I love her inquisitive nature. But sometimes, my answers to her billions of questions, asked over and over, are just not enough for her and she needs more. (Yes, Uncle Brad, the irony is not lost on me. And when I get stuck, I’ll for sure use “gravity” as an answer to every single WHY question I get.) I’m learning (slowly) how to turn it back on her, “Why do you think that is? What do you think might be the answer to that?” and letting her explore as much as possible to discover her own answers.
So each day begins a new wave of emotions. I wake up with both kids in my bed sometimes and am so grateful that I get to be home with them with no real “have-to-dos” on the schedule, but I fall into that same bed at night exhausted from the day and needing some alone-no-one-touch-me-for-a-minute time. Every day brings intense worry, guilt, fear that I’m messing it all up. But also, in the next second, there’s also an intense joy that I am their mama, making the rest kind of float away. And I’m learning, that in the midst of all this mess, my children are happy and thriving, and these polarizing emotions I experience make me who I am, a good and strong mother to them both.
Currently Reading: The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. The praise on the front cover was enough to suck me in since I LOVED The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See. I love a good novel with three different interweaving stories and compelling characters. I am already hooked, so I’m going to go read now #bye.
Currently Baking: The birthday girl requested a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting (she has great taste!). I’m all about making things easy, so this recipe that starts with a cake mix was perfection. And I made my signature white chocolate cream cheese frosting to go with it. Plus all the sprinkles.
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.