What I wish I’d known when I had my first child…and second

It is 12:51pm on a Saturday.  Saturdays are extra-chore days, so the house is clean (relatively speaking, that is, for a child-filled home) and supper is in the crock pot.  The 1-year-old is asleep, the olders are reading quietly behind a closed door in the “blue room”.  In approximately 32 minutes, the 4-year-old will get tired of reading and I’ll begin hearing the blue room transformed into a jungle, or desert, or whatever they want it to be today.  They will make-believe, using shoes for bird nests, animals for friends, and trucks for magical spaceships for another 80ish minutes.  Did you do the math?  Almost two hours at my disposal.

Rewind a handful of years.  I had my precious strong daughter who refused to sleep through the night until 17 months old (as in, waking up every 2 hrs to nurse, which it turns out, doesn’t actually allow for REM at all).  When she developed upright mobility at 10 months, I got pregnant again because, you know, I thought it would be a good idea to be throwing up while my toddler was putting forks in outlets and unwinding every roll of toilet paper in the house.  At 7 months pregnant, overwhelmed with not having slept in 547 nights and trying every known “method” for getting a child to sleep through the night, I tried the dreaded cry-it-out method.  That lovely daughter of mine screamed for 5 hours straight.  BUT, by night 4, she slept through.  I did mention that she’s quite strong, didn’t I? (My husband has the great luck of sleeping through all amounts of mayhem, but believe me, those hours of screaming were tortuous).

If you have one child, or two, hear this: your work is totally, all-encompassingly exhausting.  Your body is tired, your soul is fatigued with no oasis in sight, and your mind, well it has atrophied to a minuscule size.  It can seem like drowning in your own life and you may question if this is really what you wanted.  Our society doesn’t help this at all, by the way.  Expectations, comparisons, unhelpful “mom groups” that make you feel like you’re failing, and Facebook with edited pictures to make you feel insecure and insufficient.  How many times have we been talking about a bad day or difficulty with your child and gotten the response, “oh, just wait until your kids ________”.  Not helpful.

So, to you I would repeat, it does get easier.  But maybe not for the reasons we tend to think of.  It gets easier because that sleepless boobie-monster firstborn starts growing up and making her own bed, getting wipes and diapers for you, sets the table, and even gets tall enough to take the baby out of the crib for you (one less trip upstairs while your octopus hands are full!).  It gets easier because your older children begin having natural consequences for their actions that don’t always have to be imposed by you & then you get to shepherd the conversation in their wake.  But mostly, it gets easier because you start tuning out what everyone else does and can tune in to what you do.  You still need and want input and wisdom on so many things that come up, but you have the basics down because they’ve been born through the fire of the first two children.

The other biggie: grace.  Just like starting anything new, there’s a learning curve.  (Unlike many things, the learning curve of motherhood never ends…).  As the children come, with all their anecdotal glories, grace becomes a more practiced necessity.  Grace with oneself, grace with your mate, grace with your children, grace from the creation around you, grace from God.  Remember when you thought you were a pretty great person while single and realized how difficult you were to live with when you were a few years into a solid relationship?  That’s similar in the parenting sphere, only the honing and sharpening comes from these little poopy humans you brought into the world.  Let me tell you, grace is needed from and in every direction.

Now it’s 1:24 and I have at least 45 minutes left to be alone, to meditate, to do whatever it is that refreshes me.  I wish that I’d known that this time would come, it may have helped the long days and longer nights of my firstborn.