The other day I watched my favorite stay-at-home-mommy (SAHM) blogger, Amber Dusick, interviewed for the Creative Thursday series. Dusick's blog, Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, has been one of my preferred ways to laugh about the trials of parenting tiny ones. Sadly though, the blog is “on pause,” and it doesn't seem like it's coming back anytime soon.
She says on her bio that the blog began as a way of “venting.” In the interview, she went on to say that her boys are older now, and she doesn't have so much to vent about anymore. Now she just wants to garden and be with her family.
And although I'm sad to lose her hilarious stick-figure cartoons, that comment made me feel better. Relieved somehow. By the apparent serenity in her life now that the kids aren't so small. And by her unabashed lack of sentiment about the first years of motherhood, at that moment anyway.
Of course, I assume she misses a ton of things, as I'm sure I will. I will miss all the firsts. The earliest words, phrases, and conversations. The preposterous heights of cuteness to which they so often and so effortlessly attain. The pride with which they present each scribbled drawing and each new trick. How they run to me with every pain, and with absolute trust.
All of this is so inestimably precious. There's no other word. And I know, I know: “The days are long, but the years are short.” But for a person who craves grown-up interaction and (somewhat tangible) creative accomplishment almost as much as she covets unadulterated solitude (not to mention sleep), these past four years have seemed pretty damn long. Not infrequently, I have to remind myself that someday I will fiercely, desperately miss this time. Because that's what everyone seems to tell me. All. The time.
Sure, every age will bring its own unique difficulty, but, like Dusick and many others, I also, in these early years, find a lot to vent about. The simultaneous isolation and lack of alone-time, the messes, the fighting, the micro-management of their every bodily function, the painful loss of sleep, the whining, the perpetual crises… There's a lot of stress, and it's only compounded by the felt pressure to appreciate it all as much and as often as we're apparently supposed to.
Honestly? Sometimes, when mommas talk about their older kids pulling away from them, I feel something akin to envy. And then I feel like a reprobate momma. But, when it feels like the kids are glued to your side, “pulling away” doesn't sound so extremely terrible. But probably, it is. It will be.
There's so much momma guilt wrapped into each layer of awareness and speculation here.
Which is probably why Dusick's comment helps so much. For one public moment, she simply acknowledged the frustrations inherent in parenting the very small, and the relative reprieve she's experiencing now that they're older. And she didn't feel the need to justify or qualify that statement. They didn't even talk about it further.
As I'm thinking about all of this, and washing dishes, our four-year-old daughter walks up to me.
“Momma?” she says. She cocks her head and squints her eyes, deep in thought. “Momma, who… saved… what?”
“Um.” I dry my hands off and look at her. “Well… Mulan saved China.”
She nods. “That was it.”
Now, she's only seen that Disney movie once, months ago, and aside from some imperial army play that day, we actually haven't talked about it since. But still, I can somehow guess the random thought flitting across her mind based on what might be the vaguest question I've ever been asked, first try. Wasn't even hard.
This kind of thing happens a lot.
And there is is. Right in the midst of owning the fact that sometimes I secretly look forward to when they're older, I remember just how sweet it is right now. Because I'm not sure I will ever know my daughter's mind and heart as simply and wholly as I do now, while she willfully (and involuntarily) shares so much of herself with me. While she still grows along that first trajectory I can trace straight back to my own body. While she is just four years old, and I still inhabit the center of her world.
“We haven't watched Mulan in a long, long time,” she says then, all charm.
“Sure,” I say. “You can watch it after lunch.”
“Thank you!” she beams. “But, Momma? Can you watch it with me? It gets scary sometimes.”