I guess because my girls are now in high school and college, other moms come to me, almost out of breath, pleading with me, “Tell me it gets easier.” If we are face to face (rare these days, but still), I smile at her with her toddlers running circles around her and her baby strapped to her body for safekeeping, I take a deep breath and think, “I want to tell you it gets easier, but girl, you have no idea.” And then I think again and form words that I hope are not only honest but encouraging.
Those baby/toddler years were rough for me. I do not do well when I’m off my rhythm, much less trying to nurse an infant in the middle of the night and get life done between feedings. Multiply that times five in six years and that season of life for me was, needless to say, exhausting. Don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful that I was entrusted with five baby girls, but that season of constant demand was rough. So, mommas of tiny littles, I see you. Take lots of pictures. It doesn’t last long. They are so precious, and while they may drive you to the edge with tantrums, “Why?”, potty training, and sleepless nights, it’s a fairly repetitive, manageable season of life.
Then my youngest started kindergarten, and I thought I could see the heavens open up and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Some moms were crying as they dropped their kids off at kindergarten. Me? I couldn’t book a manicure and a coffee date, join a tennis league and get a part-time job quickly enough. I just needed a few hours a day to myself to recharge, remember who I was before becoming a mom and get on top of the housework without littles un-doing it. Sounds blissful to you preschool mommies, I know. But then they brought home dioramas and the stomach flu (times five), needed costumes and braces, and got bullied on the playground. There were swimming lessons and oboe lessons and soccer games and birthday parties and a never-ending list of places to go and things to do. For me, that season was easier than diapers and nursing and sleepless nights, but it required more mental engagement, coordination, and creativity. It was hard, but it was fun.
And then the pre-teen years hit, and I expected the independence they were experimenting with to make my life a little easier.
After all, they could get their own snack, make their own lunch, do their own laundry–thank you, Jesus. These were also the years we would see their personalities, skills, and friendships begin to take shape. But there were hormones and attitudes and discipline issues that required more than a quick fix or a time out. We ran into some serious health issues with one of our girls, and our marriage wasn’t getting enough attention, and it showed. But we hung on. Surely it would get easier.
Right now, we have three in college and two in high school, and if it doesn’t bankrupt us with car insurance, beauty products, travel softball, auto repairs, prom dresses, wisdom teeth, and school expenses, we will have lived to tell about it. We realize that it’s date night when all the girls are out of the house at work or practice or something, and we jump in the car and go. And honestly, it is the sweetest season of them all. Each season of parenting has its challenges and its blessings, but as I catch glimpses of each of them as grown women, I can only whisper another, “Thank you, Jesus.” They may argue with us about politics and religion, but they are thoughtful and passionate young women of conviction. They may wreck the car, then wreck another one, but they are hard-working and responsible. They may come home crying about the last conversation they had with a roommate or a boyfriend, but they are loving and tenderhearted. This is what makes the hard years worth it.