BABY

There has never been a longer walk than the one I just made from my baby’s kindergarten class to our minivan in the back of the parking lot.  Michael has asked me to please stop calling him a baby, and I cannot.  My mom still calls me her baby, and so I have resolved that my babies are my babies forever.

Last night Zachary said he wasn’t ready to go to kindergarten.  I almost told him he didn’t have to.  I almost quit my job.  I almost decided to have another baby.  The boys suggested it the other day, and I thought about what it feels like to pick up a new born and watch them squirm and stretch and then nestle back into my chest and stomach and then look up at me with reassured eyes and how that is the most exhilarating feeling in all the world and how I cherished every snuggle I was afforded in those early days.

And then I thought about how those early days were eternal days that never ever ended and how I thought everyone who said ‘they are growing so fast!’ was a lunatic because no they weren’t.  They were growing so slowly, and I was feeling every single millisecond of their growth because I was with them always and they were so needy and so dependent and so loud and so messy.  All I ever did was wipe things.  Ever.

The night we brought Zachary home from the hospital was the longest night.  He cried all night long.  We couldn’t figure each other out, and so I woke up my husband.  I almost made him take us back to the hospital because I thought something cannot be okay with a baby that cries this much.  A baby’s cry unsettles me to my innermost being and there is no other focus until the baby is pacified. It was the longest night in the history of the world.

That was five seconds ago.

It was a blink.  You were right and you are not lunatics.

And that is the reason I felt compelled to help a mama in Wal-Mart last week.  I was picking something up for work.  In my work clothes.  With no children.  She had a baby strapped to her chest, a toddler licking things from the ‘please touch me’ section of the checkout aisle, and an older child who was attempting to help, but making more work for the mom in the meantime.  I had been her.  And I sensed she had been me, once in the professional world but taking a moment to embrace this other parallel universe.  I walked over and asked if I could please load the bags in her cart, as she was struggling to work around the baby carrier and give commands to the licking toddler. She looked relieved and grateful and almost in tears.  And I said it before I thought about it.

‘It goes by so fast.’

And she probably thought, ‘No it doesn’t you crazy working mom who got a shower and peaceful drive to work this morning.’

But it does.  It is a blink.  The early years of motherhood are quick and painful.  They are joy and sorrow and struggle and fun and long and fulfilling and exhilarating and endless and so so so so so very fast.  

When I woke Zachary up this morning (he was on the floor because he occasionally insists that it is more comfortable than his bed), he asked me to hold him for a minute.  As I cradled his long heavy body in my overwhelmed arms, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of his sweet childhood.  Of his innocence. Of his babyhood. Of his potential and possibility. Of his soft skin and his blue eyes and his telling smile. 

And I whispered in my mind, because the words wouldn’t come:

‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’

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(Quote taken from: Munsch, R. N., & McGraw, S. (n.d.). Love you forever.)

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HARD

I sat at the intersection in front of the school, with the 8:33 a.m. sun glaring in my window, head throbbing, tears streaming, trying to think which way to turn. Why can’t I think which way to turn? I need to get Zachary.  Why is this so hard?

I suddenly remembered sitting in the floor of my van, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, nursing Zachary.  Josiah was needing to go potty, Nolan was wanting to be unstrapped, my head was head throbbing, and I was dreading having to go into the monstrosity of a superstore with all three boys, ages 3 and under, and purchase a week’s worth of groceries. That was a hard day.

But not as hard as this day.  Today, I dropped an uneasy 6-year-old Josiah off at his kindergarten classroom.

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Are you dying with me right now about how uneasy he looks?

He didn’t want to go.  He said all morning long that he wasn’t going to go and I made him anyway.  I calmly and simply told him that it would be exciting, and he would enjoy his friends, and he would get to learn to read and how if he did that, he could do anything in the whole wide world that he wanted.  I smiled all morning long and fixed him his favorite breakfast and talked up school like it was as awesome as the Lego shirt he was wearing.

I’m now going to confess to you that my telling Josiah I liked his Lego shirt was a bold-faced lie.  I’ve already confessed to Jesus.  And you should read this next line as dramatically as you possibly can.

I let my children pick out their school clothes this year.

I’m embarrassed to tell you the strength that it took for me to do that.  I like to choose my kids’ clothes.  So, I make school shopping a big deal.  I take each child individually and we make a day of it.  But finally, last year, they really got tired of my making them wear sweater vests.

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How cute are they?

In an effort to make morning easier, this year I told them they were going to get to pick out their own clothes. By the second clothing item I tried to persuade them otherwise.  I almost had convinced Nolan to get the shoes I liked, but Michael’s wise little voice kept popping in my head saying, ‘Let the boy pick out his shoes’.  I argued with the voice, ‘they have gold on them, Michael.  Gold!’  

Ultimately, I let him choose.  My friend (and now the mother of teenagers), Mendy, once allowed her 5 year-old-daughter to get one of those dog collar necklaces with spikes, and she turned out just fine.  I’m holding onto that.

Nolan has jumped out of bed to get dressed every day, thrilled about wearing his new clothes.  But Josiah’s shirt could have been laced with suckers and he wouldn’t have been ready to go to school today.  Which is why I couldn’t process how I felt about it until the intersection in front of the school.

After I figured out which way to go, I turned to head down the road and I could not. stop. the. crying.  Why can’t I stop this?  This is ridiculous.  He will be fine.  It’s kindergarten.  This is classic Josiah.  He says he doesn’t want to do something unfamiliar, and then loves it so much he doesn’t want to leave. Camp, preschool, Vacation Bible School – same story every time.

I was grateful when the phone rang, jolting me out of memory lane.  After a needed conversation with Mendy (whose 15 year-old-daughter looked adorable for school today), I had composed myself.  When I got to Michael’s workplace to pick up Zachary (who was relishing in the fact that he got to ‘help’ daddy at work), his co-worker looked at me with a knowing voice and said, “how’s mama doing this morning?”

And I flat out lost it again.

And that big burly mechanic, with tears in his eyes said, “I’m right there with you.  My baby drove herself to school today.”

And I thought how much harder his day was than mine.  I scooped up Zachary and buckled him in his seat (even though he can do it by himself) and took him to that same stupid Wal-Mart and got groceries.  Which is why when the 9-month-old baby in the buggy in the checkout line smiled at me, I cried again.  His poor mother stood decidedly between us after that, since I had turned into a weepy mess and was unable to explain myself.

Zachary unloaded all the groceries for me, and when we got home, he packed his bag for preschool.  He looked at me with that sweet precious little 4-year-old smile and said, “I go to school next.  Right, mom?”

And I looked at him with all the seriousness and determination I could muster and said,

“Over my dead body.” 

This is so much harder than getting up every two hours to feed them in the night.  This is so much harder than potty training.  This is so much harder than grocery shopping by myself with three boys, ages 3 and under.  This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be.  But it is not as hard as it will be when they drive themselves to school.  Or make a choice that I know they will later regret.  Or stray.

Motherhood is stretching my ability to trust in God to the absolute limits.  And it is so bloody hard.  The harder it gets, the more I learn to trust Him.  Appropriately, school’s in session, because I learned a whole stinking lot today.

**UPDATE**:

Coats Quotes:
Me: Josiah, tell me about your day.
Josiah: It was the opposite.
Me: What do you mean?
Josiah: Remember how I said I hated that place and I never wanted to go back?
Me: Yes.
Josiah: It was the opposite of that.

#cryingagain