Having four kids five and under is a like a wild roller coaster ride: there is no time to think about what’s coming next, you are surprised at every turn no matter how many times you’ve been on the ride, and you are grateful for those moments where the ride slows down – and you get to make sure your keys are still in your pocket. When it comes to parenting, I know that change is coming, but it usually happens without me having the luxury (or agony, depending on how you look at it) to anticipate it.
In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that the changes have mostly come as a relief: girl moving out of diapers = no more diaper changing (although you can add another 45 minutes to any shopping trip as you must now visit every public restroom); boys being able to buckle their own car seats = no more assuming the “downward dog” position in order to buckle them in the very back of the van; two year old feeding herself = dinner no longer consumed in an ice cold hardened state. I’m not wishing this panicked lifestyle away, but, at this point, change means help, and I need all the help I can get!
I’ll demonstrate: Time to hit the grocery store. I am faced with the option of taking all four kids with me or passing the responsibility to my husband who takes total advantage of the situation and is unlikely to return until well after dinner. Determined to make it out of the door within the hour, I decide to forego coupons (side story: I have three weeks’ worth to look at and clip. Some have probably even expired by now, but the very sight of scissors whips the kids up into a “craft frenzy”.)
Let’s face it: glue, sparkles and construction paper are not going to help me get the Q-tips that we ran out of two weeks ag, and frankly, I’m beginning to wonder if the wax buildup really is the reason they don’t listen. Plus, the ten-dollar savings just isn’t worth the tears and gut wrenching near misses of vital organs with sharp blades.I shoehorn the baby into her infant carrier – she does every conceivable thing she can to make this an arduous endeavor, including (but not limited to): arching her back, kicking her feet, and turning blueish from severe crying and screaming.
Lately, she’s even tried to bite me. I lug her out to the car and begin union-style negotiations with the 2-year-old over which shoes to wear (she wants her father’s lawn cutting shoes, I am pushing for sensible sneakers…. we settle on rain boots). Now, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but clearly there is some subversive mission in effect here.
Evidence #1: The two year old distracts me with requests for milk, pacifiers, crayons and dolls.
Evidence #2: One boy hops on his bike (helmetless) and takes off down the driveway with peals of maniacal laughter.
Evidence #3: The other boy beelines for the sandbox, glancing over his shoulder as he runs.
This is not an isolated incident; it’s one of many… per day. And I love it. Don’t mistake my enthusiasm for change with exasperation. But getting to compare prices in the grocery store would be preferable to the 15-minute aisle dash (not including a bathroom run and a slight incident with a mint display) like I’m on some crazy game show where the goal is to fill up the cart as fast as I can. Having a shower where my daughter doesn’t bust in (sometimes fully clothed) and pee on my foot is something I secretly look forward to. Personal growth has taken a backseat to the vigilance in wiping, teaching, unteaching, packing, unpacking and repacking.
It’s not that I disagree with Carol’s point about nurturing self-interests, but as the sole provider for almost every single need my four children have, I’m not really in a position to do much soul searching. On the contrary: My kids have redefined me. They’ve given me patience, direction and a sense of humor (it’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you have poop on your hands a few times a day). Frankly, I’m happy being a wife and mother.
Immersing myself in my family and my children gives me a personal completeness that I haven’t found anywhere else. At this stage, I don’t need to seek out happiness or growth because I’m satisfied with my place in this world. The changes that come my way are not sought out – they are more like adaptations out of necessity.
So, yes, I will miss my son when he goes off to kindergarten in the fall. But I don’t have the luxury of dwelling on it because as soon as he steps on the bus, I will be picking the younger toddler out of the poison ivy and making the mad sprint back to the house to put the older toddler on the potty. These big changes are part of letting go. Like my dad always gently reminds me: Letting go is part of the deal.
– Laurie Arias