What has got me all self-reflective? This whole having my firstborn graduate has me coming back to self-reflection and nostalgia something awful! I found myself going through some baby pics this week and literally starting ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the chubby little cheeks, tiny pigtails and the big curious eyes. Trying to remember the exact moment that the kids changed from babies –>toddlers –> little kids–>teenagers is impossible. Each of the stages slowly but stealthily morphed into the next. It didn’t happen overnight…so why does it feel like someone stole the clock from me? Time is a sneaky little thing!
Guys, if you can look past the fact that we both look like we’re 15 years old, (and I look like I was married to someone other than Scott lol) you’ve gotta see the fear in my eyes here. Brand new mom. And kinda freaking out! ps Can I just say how thankful I am that there was no social media in 1999? I think the pressure would have cracked me!
So now, as adulthood is knocking on Lexi’s door, I find myself looking at young moms with their littles a bit more intently. Seeing their exhaustion (cuz I’ve been there before!) and wanting to assure them that they are going to miss these years. Maybe it’s making me remember myself as a new mom and wishing the 42 year old me could have a wee pep talk with that girl. One thing hindsight gives a person is clarity…and there are 5 things that jump out as huge learning points for me. Before I get started, can I just do a little trip down memory lane?
I look at these pics and man, it just reminds me that it’s all in the “moments”. Each and every one of the stages was (and continues to be) full of new milestones reached, tears, laughter, disappointment, reward and a bit of exhaustion too as that last pic depicts haha! But back to the whole point of this post…if I could write myself a note to send back to myself as we were growing our family, there are 5 things I’d wanna share:
1. Never say never. Oh ladies…this one has bitten me in the butt many times. I went into motherhood having some serious opinions. Ones that I was sure to voice and debate with whomever was
willing a fool to take the bait. The topics were many: everything from vaccinations, homeschooling, and discipline to what foods to feed your kids, scheduling and nap times. Yep, I pretty much was Doctor Spock. The only problem is when my very rigid ideas didn’t translate with my kids. And then…well…I had to swallow some pride. Some of my “nevers” indeed happened. A big one was the homeschool thing. A handful of years ago, our middle daughter was struggling in school. We tried different options, but in the end, after her tearful pleading we allowed her to withdraw from school and begin doing Distance Ed at home. Part of our reluctance to allow her to try this alternative method of learning was… pride. How many times had I decried those “poor homeschooled” kids who would grow up to be socially awkward, with no grip on reality? Insert <eat crow> GULP. The truth is that those 2 years that Nina spent at home were incredibly special to me. It was during this time that I went through cancer treatment and this little maternal girl of mine was home with me…my little buddy who kept an eye on me. Timing! After 2 years, she decided to return to school and well….it was me who was so sad to see her leave. That time provided us with an opportunity to grow closer, for her to foster her abilities to self-motivate, be responsible to meet deadlines and become independent in her learning. It was an incredible experience. And one that kinda shattered my homeschooling preconceptions.
2. The days are long but the years are short. I’ve never heard motherhood put in better terms. Some days…wow, they felt like marathons. One of my most vivid memories was the first time I was alone after giving birth to Nina. It was me, Lexi (who was just about 2 years old) and Nina. Scott was at work. My mom had been helping me with the kids but needed to leave so she settled Lexi into her high chair with lunch to keep her busy while I nursed Nina. As I watched my mom’s car leave the driveway, Lexi said “Potty”. Noooo…I just had got Nina latched on…but Lexi was potty training. Arggg… I took Nina off (umm can you say OUCH) and laid her down. Anyone knows what happens when you stop nursing a hungry baby. SCREAMING. I raced Lexi to the toilet, begging her to hurry up and pee. Having just had Nina, my emotions were frayed. I’m crying. Lexi’s crying (and not peeing). Nina’s crying. Those are the moments, right??? When you just don’t feel adequate. While this is a memory that I remember super well, so many of the “stretching” moments we experienced have either faded or have taken on a much more comedic tone. Yes, there are so many days that feel like you don’t get much accomplished, but age has taught me that those days are actually when the most important thing is happening: parenting.
3. Trust your gut. If I could turn back the clock, I would probably read fewer parenting books, tune out the noise of others who were super opinionated (like myself…refer back to me in #1 hah!) and trust myself a bit more. Each and every child is different and requires different parenting. Listen, I thought I had it all figured out after Lexi… until Nina came along…and then Lincoln. Of course we had some standards that applied to all three but the game constantly changed. We would modify, then adjust, then need to come up with something different! What worked with one, fell flat with another. I wish I would have been more fluid with this in the process…more willing to recognize that each of their little personalities would respond differently. We were so determined to follow everything by the book…to a fault. Sometimes, even in our inexperience, we could have learned to trust our instincts quicker.
4. Never let the dad stay alone with the kids….or you might come home to their ears being pierced without your permission. True story. It happened Ok, I just had to get that in there but I don’t think it really counts! Because I actually think its super important for the dads to have to play Mr. Mom… so let’s try another #4:
4. Comparison is a thief of joy. This is a biggie. And one that still rears its ugly little head on occasion. As moms, we are all going to feel that there are times when our kids miss out on an opportunity that we felt they deserved….when we see other kids that seem to have all the good “stuff” come their way…when you feel your child is unfairly passed over. Quite simply it’s hard when it appears other kids pretty much have horseshoes coming out of their…well, you know..and you feel like your kid is having a rough go. Whether it be academic achievements, athletic pursuits or social popularity. It happens. But friends, comparison is an ugly thing. You may think it will be a motivating factor (I’m ashamed to admit that I have been guilty of that) but I see that it fosters feelings of not being enough, lowers self worth and puts terrible pressure on a child. It also puts you as a parent in a really bad place. I’ve been there. And it’s not fun. It is lose-lose.
I have learned that Lincoln not walking until he was 17 months old (while everyone else’s kids had passed that milestone months earlier) has not made a hill of beans of difference. I have also learned that Melina may have a hard time with math, but we could drop her in the middle of an unknown city and she would use her resourcefulness, keen direction skills and her resilience to find her way home. I have learned that Lexi may feel fearful about moving away from home after high school but her loyalty and love for her family is something to be honoured. I guess what I’m saying is that each has different gifts and talents AND weaknesses (kinda like we all do) and our job is to nurture and celebrate those differences. Not try to make it a competition!
5. Keep your mate as your #1. I think both Scott and I have gotten better at this as our kids have grown. But truthfully, it should never have changed in those early days. They say that children crave security and I believe one way to provide that is to keep your devotion to your spouse as your number one here on earth. In those early days, it was quite easy to put all my efforts into Lexi, Nina and Link. Scott could have what was left over. The problem is pretty obvious…many a day there was nothin left by the time he got home. It was Scott who always insisted we get away once a year together…am I ever grateful for that because if it had been up to me, it might not have happened. As our kids are now beginning to move into adulthood, I see the importance to loving my partner and having a relationship with him because in a few short years, the nest is going to be empty. And I want to know the guy I’m sharing the nest with!
Hope you don’t read this and think I’m..well…Dr. Spock!!! That’s not where I’m going with this at all. I’m so full of cliches right now, you might want to hit me but both Scott and I keep saying “No really, it does go by in the blink of an eye!!”. So these are more thoughts that have been running through my head that I finally put down on paper. I’m sure any mom you talk to will have things that they wished they might have done differently, or feel like they have learned some things while being engulfed in motherhood. These are my reflections. And if you read nothing else, just go away knowing that these little humans you have in your care are making your life beautiful and hard and stretching and freaking AMAZING all at once. Promise me you’ll hug your littles and give their cheeks a little squeeze today…for me, ok? Laurel xo
Family pics photographed by Kyla Ewert. Thanks for capturing our fam, Kyla!