Last night, after a birthday brunch for my “baby” girl who turned 3, the kids were settled at the kitchen table happily playing with Play-Dough and Sara’s new toys. Tucked away in my office, I paused at my computer and listened to the sounds of my four children playing and I couldn’t help but smile.
There was no fighting, no whining, no badgering me to let them watch TV, no poopy diaper explosions or meltdowns every 5 seconds. Just little voices lifted up in imaginative play, the intricacy of their games actually quite impressive as I listened in. And in that moment, taking it all in, it hit me that this is the sweet spot of parenting.
This is the moment, however, fleeting, that truly feels like a blissful moment. My children are here, with me, the only place they want to me in the whole world. They aren’t teens texting until their eyes fall off of their face and sear into their phones, they aren’t sighing and darting out of the house without so much as a backwards glance at me, they aren’t flipping the tables and leaving me desperate to be around them, hungry for any scrap of their presence that they’ll throw my way.
They are here, in that beautiful middle ground, in the magic of their childhood but far enough past that babyhood stage where I actually have the time to sit in silence and muse over them. (I mean, let’s be real.)
I love my children and I can say in all seriousness that I say a prayer of thanks every single day that they are here, because I know it is a gift beyond measure and I don’t think that lightly. I am filled with awe when I think of what a gift it is to have my four children with me. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem real.
But I will be honest and say that these past nine years of getting to this point were definitely not easy. I made a lot of mistakes and if I think too much about it, I could spend a lot of time beating myself up in regret. There was just so much I didn’t know back then and now that I’ve made it through ” trenches” I feel even more grateful. I truly don’t know how I survived those years sometimes and as much as I love babies and toddlers and feel so sad that we have no little chubby being in our lives right now, I also feel this enormous sense of relief that my life will never go back to the way it was before.
I’ll never have to work night shift again with babies and a toddler and being pregnant, hoping and praying I would get to at least lay down for an hour that day.
I’ll never be alone trying to deal with four kids six and under who are all vomiting and then feel that tell-tale twist in my own stomach, a sign that I am doomed.
I’ll never feel again totally dread bedtime because it takes 10 hours to get everyone down for the night.
I’ll never again feel that indescribable isolation of life as an at-home parent of very young kids, when it truly feels like that’s all your life will ever be. I honestly was so tired, I couldn’t even think to the other side, so if you’re there, IT GETS BETTER. Seriously.
I don’t think every mom struggles the same way, but for me, the baby and toddler years were so bittersweet. I love, love babies and toddlers and the sweetness of those stages is so magical. But holy crap, they are draining in ways that you may not even understand until you get past them and your life become somewhat normal again and you kind of like shake your head and think “what just happened??” and “how the heck did I make it through that?”
Even if we have another baby (and I so very hope that we are blessed again someday with our rainbow baby!), my life will never look the way it once did. I’ll be the mother of older children too, kids who can crack jokes and push the grocery cart and (gasp) make me coffee in the morning. I feel like instead of it being just me against the world, it will be me leading a team that works together.
And that feels like a beautiful thing.
So if you need me today, I’ll be basking in this sweet spot of parenting, this spot where my children have nothing else in the world to do but play with Play-Dough and build castles out of blocks and pester me to paint outside. All while I get to sit back and sip my coffee, waiting for the next stage of the teen years to kick in and soaking in this very sweet spot while I can.