Next Year will be Entirely Different

“This year will be tough,” I thought to myself, anticipating the summer beach trips at my mom’s beloved but entirely toddler-unfriendly beach house, “but next year… just wait until next year!” The glass-topped tables, the readily accessible stairs, the breakable lamps attached to tuggable cords, the vulnerable trinkets, the vertical blinds, the unlatched cabinets, the massive canvas painting hung within swatting distance above the sofa, the media console with an array of enticing buttons… so much to safeguard from my bumbling tike. But being at the beach makes it all worthwhile.


Summer 2016

I envisioned my long, memory-filled, sand-dusted, sun-soaked days wrangling my kindergartener and preschooler while simultaneously chasing my toddler on the beach, at the pool, on the playground, and then at the beach house. I recounted the strain of having no childproofed place I can safely place my littlest so that I can cook dinner, pack the beach cooler, make snacks, go to the bathroom, or just sit for a beat. I remembered how I woke up every day at 6AM on vacation and popped him — wailing — into the pack-and-play so that I could wearily pump, set out breakfasts, and pack for the day’s beach excursion before the rest of the house awoke. I remembered the sinking dread I felt at the prediction of a rainstorm that would keep us trapped inside.

This year, I’ll have to wean from pumping before we take our trips and I’ll have to wear him whenever we’re in the house, because a pack-and-play will no longer stand as an impeding obstacle to my athletic tot. I will be on duty from wake-up to bedtime. I will enjoy it. I will treasure it. I will end the season with a multitude of photos and a plethora of cherished memories. I will be exhausted in the best and most depleting way. “Just push through this year,” I reassured myself, “next year will be entirely different.”

Then it struck me: next year will be entirely different. It will be easier, but next year they’ll all be older. My herd will be 7, 5, and 3. 7… 7-years old! The better part of a decade? And my middle son a burgeoning kindergartener?? No more baby? No more toddler? Tears welled. My throat grew tight. They’re growing too fast! Make it stop!

Sure, life will still be loud and chaotic, because that is our familial heartbeat. Vacations will still be life relocated. I will still fight the descent into anarchy by planning and packing, scheduling and routine. My “vacation” will happen each night during the two hours between the kids’ bedtime and my own. I will, no doubt, still referee and soothe, corral and amuse, but I won’t be needed in that primal way. That exhausting, rewarding, wholly taxing manner that both fills the soul and drains all mental capacity.

And with that I stopped coaching myself to “just push through this year” but, instead, to savor it. Because next year will be entirely different.

Packing Away the Pack-and-Play

Slow down, time!! Yesterday I packed away the pack-and-play for perhaps the last time. I washed all of the car seat / stroller toys and burp cloths for perhaps the last time. I stowed away the big highchair for perhaps the last time.

Not cool.

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15-month-old #3

I’m thrilled to greet this fun new stage of brimming independence in our 15-month-old. He’s walking and communicating, climbing and playing, asserting himself and overflowing with personality, mimicking and learning. It is a truly precious stage.

I wouldn’t wish it away. I certainly wouldn’t wish ourselves back to newborn days, but packing away the baby items is a reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood… of parenthood.

These are the golden days of my maternal career. The days crawl by in a haze of snacks, drop-offs, pick-ups, tantrums, story times, cuddles, potty trips, giggles, and timeouts. The years whizz by in a flurry of memories, mental snapshots, growth spurts, new skills, developmental bursts, and increasing independence.

I don’t want to reverse time. I just want to slow it down. Where’s my pause button?

“Last Year” Mom Guilt

Last night just as I drifted towards dreamland a realization startled me into teary wakefulness: this is my last year with a baby at home. Next year, all three children will be in school. I will not have a child constantly in tow. I am not ok with this. Let me repeat, I AM NOT OK WITH THIS.

Nope. Too fast. Too, too fast.

Cue the mom guilt. Guilt that I missed so much time with #1 and #2 because I was working part-time. Guilt that I don’t work part-time with #3 because that means my mom (my childcare provider) hasn’t gotten to bond with him as she did with #1 and #2, guilt that I get frustrated. Guilt that I don’t spend enough individual time with each child. Guilt that sometimes I need a break. Guilt that it all went by so quickly and I must be losing memory capacity because it went by too fast. Guilt that I didn’t babywear with #1 and #2 like I do with #3. Guilt that I have bad days. Guilt that I’m ok with being “mean mom” (because being a passive parent seems much sweeter). Guilt that sometimes I just want to zone out on social media instead of playing princess-rockstar-doctor with the kids. Guilt… so much guilt.

The shoddy mom thoughts started. You know the ones. The nit-picky negative swell of self-defeating insults that sabotage any maternal confidence.

“Stop!” I told myself. This is pointless. I am a human parenting humans; things will not be perfect. I will falter, they will falter, life will move on. I just need to try to learn from mistakes, try to do better, offer love and support as best I can, teach my children to be decent humans, give myself breaks so I can offer the better parts of myself, and be there… just be there.

I took a deep breath and refocused. I allowed my mind to replay the slideshow of “last year before preschool” memories from #1 and #2’s baby years. Tears fell. My heart swelled. I drifted off to sleep.

This will be my last year with a baby at home. I will enjoy it.

The End of an Era

#3's infant car seat and #1's final car seat ready for retirement

#3’s infant car seat and #1’s final car seat ready for retirement

It’s the end of an era. The car seat that all three of my children have used is being retired. It has safely transported each of my babies home from the hospital. It has made countless beach trips, Target runs, and pediatrician visits. It has survived spit-up and tantrums, teething gnaws and bottle spills. It has been washed and disassembled, re-covered and repurposed multiple times.

As the infant car seat is tucked away, so is my eldest’s car seat. With kindergarten approaching, and along with it the requirement that children must be able to unbuckle themselves for morning drop-off, my 5-year-old is transitioning to a booster seat. A simple seat belt restraint instead of a 5-point harness. More independence, more freedom, more responsibility.

They’re growing up so fast. Time is moving so quickly. Yet it feels as if I am standing still. Grasping at memories in the whirlwind, hurriedly collecting shreds of moments as they fly past, unaware of myself or my own station amidst the swirl.

This chapter is closing. A new one is opening. I must not mourn the past but rejoice in what lies ahead.

Smiling through Tears

#1 has completed her final day of preschool. She’s excited for what’s ahead. I’m a wreck.

I know she’ll do great in kindergarten. She’s outgoing, positive, friendly, bright, adaptable, independent, and takes direction well. I have not a single doubt in my mind that she will rock kindergarten. What’s even better: she knows it too. Great, fantastic, perfect, right? Yes! But I’m still a wreck.

My baby — the baby girl I dreamt of, the daughter my husband and I had hoped for, the baby we tried so hard to have, the newborn who fought to make it into and stay in this world, the baby we were told may have cognitive and/or developmental delays, the child who walked late but spoke early and well, the girl who has a tutu in every color and whose favorite colors are “pink, purple, and rainbow”– is growing up way too fast. I feel as if I must be losing vast portions of my memory because there’s no way I could see her every day, spend most of my waking hours in her presence, and yet the time passes so quickly.

My internal mourning is entirely selfish. It’s pointless. It’s silly. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

I smile because I want her to be happy. I want her to crave the growth and change that is life. I want her to feel supported and celebrated in her development and advancement, never held back by my emotions. Never coddled or ensnared.

For me, I want to pause life. To savor it and revel in it. To embed it in my memory. To not feel so lost in the whirlwind. But that isn’t life. Life is fast and ever-changing. I cannot expect it to be any other way, and lamenting that is fruitless.

So, I keep smiling because she needs me to smile. She deserves me to be happy, to cheer her on. Because she is going to do great things and she needs to see that I believe that. And I do. I am proud of her and who she is becoming.

“They’re happy tears,” I’ll tell her. They’re not, but my smile is true.

Too Much Growing

That’s it! I’m losing it. My eldest just graduated kindergarten the day before yesterday, my middle son is moving from a toddler bed to a full size bed today, and my baby has to have his crib mattress moved down because he pulls to standing. Too much growing!!!

Change is wonderful; it’s a necessary  (though often scary) part of life. However, the rate at which my children are developing, maturing, and stretching before me is unnerving.

I am their mother. I want them to grow and learn and flourish. I want them to create their own lives and flower into their own identities. I treasure their achievements, take heart that their failings will aid them later on, and look forward to seeing who they each become. Still, every step they take toward their eventual selves is a step into the big world — a world from which I cannot protect them, a world I cannot control — and a step away from me.

I dreamt of being a mom, pined when I thought it would not happen, and celebrated when each new life folded into my own. I treasure my children. I cherish these early years of long days, broken nights, and bountiful memories. These are my years with my children. These are the prime mothering years.

I can heal the boo-boos. I can right the wrongs. I can make the world a safer, smaller place. I can see what they see. They tell me what’s in their hearts. They share their worries and have no secrets. These times are fleeting. I see it slipping through my fingers… and I cry.

I cry because the selfish part of me wants them to stay little forever. Because I want them to be with me, near me, needing me. But they cannot. They should not. I am raising them and loving them so that they grow strong and beautifully. That is why I do what I do. In my heart, I know that.

But I don’t want to let go.

Sun, Music & Memories

After weeks of rain, the sun peeked through today and allowed us a preview of summer bliss. We attended our much-loved local summer concert series. We danced outside in the evening sun to live music, soaking in the light and memories.

#1 Twirling to the Music

#1 Twirling to the Music

Watching #1 and #2 twirl and run among the other children, I reflected on how last year #1 and #2 were smaller and less coordinated, apple-cheeked 2- and nearly-4-year-olds. How #3 was but a growing expectation in my rounded belly. How at the end of the concert series, #3 was a brand new addition with little infant chicken legs peaking out from the baby carrier.

I recalled how much more challenging things were with a newborn and two preschoolers as I recovered from a c-section, but how much fun we had. I realized how fast the time had spun by, and knew this year would only go faster.

So, I silenced my mind and allowed myself to simply be, to appreciate, to live our present joyful nuttiness. What a beautiful life!

Where’s the Pause Button?

I just looked at the calendar and realized that there are only two months left of preschool this academic year. Two months??

Then my breath caught, my heart dropped, my eyes welled: my baby girl — the baby we weren’t sure would ever come — will be leaving preschool and starting kindergarten. How could this be happening?

Didn’t #2 just start his first year, toddling in with a backpack 3/4 his size? Did #1 just pick out her first day of school dress and insist on “princess hair” for the first day of her last preschool year?

How does this go by so quickly? How can I slow this down? I feel like I’m with them so much but I must be missing things because there’s no way so much time has slid by so quickly. Where’s the pause button?