Dear Young Mom,
Right now it probably seems like not a moment goes by without a tug on your sleeve; a nose that needs to be wiped; a fight that needs to be broken up; or a constant chorus of “Look, Mom.” There are also probably those moments when you want to lock yourself in the bathroom, turn on the faucet and the fan (to add a cushion of noise) and just scream at the top of your lungs. Or maybe you want to let loose a tirade of expletives. You just want to release the frustration and exhaustion that can overwhelm you. I know. I’ve been there too…
One of the sagest observations I ever heard about parenting is that the “days are long, but the years are short.”* It’s so true—but I don’t know if I ever fully appreciated that fact when my kids were young, when I was in the trenches, in the middle of it all and so worn down that a quiet house seemed like a miracle, rather than a depressing reality…
Motherhood is a job no one in her right mind would ever apply for, if it was a classified ad (or a LinkedIn post—I’m showing my age)… Long hours (sometimes all night, if there’s a case of croup or an ear infection). No vacation. No training before you’re thrown right into the job. You’ll be expected to fulfill such disparate duties as chef; chauffeur; laundress; therapist; nurse; referee; baker; cleaning lady; the list goes on and on… Your heart will break a million times over big and small things. In fact, if you do your job well, heartbreak is guaranteed—when you say goodbye to your child and send him or her off into the world. Imagine a job where your most important task is to train your best employees to leave and be successful elsewhere. That’s parenting. Those little babies who tugged on your sleeve and wiped their drippy noses on your shirt; jumped on the furniture after being told a gazillion times not to do it; colored on the walls (in non-washable crayons); left sticky fingerprints everywhere will leave the nest in the blink of an eye to meet the future that stretches out before them. And it should be that way, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
When they do go out into that big, brave world, they might seem very far away. They might not need you anymore and then…well then you’ll be left wishing—just wishing—that you could have that commotion back for one more day. You’ll miss that whirl of small children playing way too rough, messing up the couch cushions, tugging on your sleeve… You’ll wish that you could hear that chorus of, “Look, Mom!” just a few more times. You’ll swear that instead of getting frustrated because you have work or laundry or dinner to prepare—if you could have that moment back again, you’d kneel down and look, really look, at that scribbled masterpiece; the tower of blocks; the cool looking rock that must be a piece of the moon that somehow found its way to your backyard. But, as a young mom you don’t have to wish for that—it’s right there. You’re still feeling the tug on your sleeve, the endless loop of, “Look, Mom!” You still have the chance to kneel down and give your full attention to your small child. Do it.
All too soon, that little child will grow up and stop asking you to look. In fact, if your teen catches you glancing over a shoulder, he or she will immediately snatch her phone out of view or snap his laptop closed. Instead of details about school and friends, you’ll hear, “Can I take the car?” You won’t be the center of his or her world anymore and you’ll be relegated to further and further outside orbits, until he or she goes away to college and your house is quiet. (Even if you have younger kids, one leaving changes the dynamics—and believe me, it’s quieter.) And one day, you may send a text asking when you can call to catch up for a few minutes and get back, “I’m busy. I’ll call you when I can.” And then…your phone will stay silent.
So, mothers of young children—especially loud, rambunctious boys who leave your living room looking like a tornado hit it or a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded; who play ball in the house and jump on the sofa; who tug on your sleeve and say, “Look, Mom!” more times than you thought possible—relish it. Revel in the noise, the chaos—the fullness of it—because it is ephemeral. Blink, and it’s oh so quiet…
*I Googled this quote, so I could properly attribute it and came up with Gretchen Rubin. But her book came out in 2009, and I’m fairly certain that I heard it before then.