Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Turning Point

Well, it's official. I no longer have any "babies" in my house. My youngest, my baby, turned 4 this morning at 2:35am, and now she is a little girl, not a toddler, and definitely not a baby. And what a little girl she is. Confident, loving, bossy, vivacious and full of energy. Creative, funny, and very clear on what she wants.

She, of course, is thrilled to be four years old. It's about time, she says. But oh, my, as I sit here, watching the garbage truck coming to haul away the toddler bed we put at the curb this weekend, my heart is aching. No more cribs, no toddler beds. No little things. No high chairs, no potty chairs. There are no children in this house that use little things any more. She has a big bed (I'll download photos of the big bed later, along with others from her big day). She is an independent pottier. She dressed herself, and buckles herself in her car seat.

I remember longing for the day that I could say, "Everyone get in the car", and they did. When I could say, "Get on your shoes and coats", and they did. And that day is here. And I am more sad that I could have imagined.

Since the end of March, 4 of my seven children have had birthdays. I haven't had time to adjust to any of these new ages, but you will find them reflected in the sidebar now, in the "about me" section. When I began this blog, my baby was seven months old. I look back at the archives and am amazed at how my life has changed since then. I had been having babies regularly for 10 years at that point. While I was adding more children, my life was the same. While I had new people to love and care for, the tasks and activities were very recognizable and familiar to me.

Now, not so much. No babies. 3 teens (okay, one of the top three is 12, but you know, close enough). Not a chubby leg to be seen (except mine *snort*). Thank God there are still small enough children around here that I get a good supply of genuine hugs and kisses. But I see the writing on the wall. Even my second youngest isn't an enthusiastic kisser any more. There aren't even that many baby teeth left in this house.

I hate feeling this morose on a joyous birthday. I can't help it though. It's all going so quickly, and so much of my time is spent doing needed activities that distract me and exhaust me, and make my time with my family less in quantity, and quality. I mourn all the times I said "no" to my children when they asked me to read a book, because I had laundry to do, or dinner to cook, or the house to pick up, or weeds to pull. And yet, if I didn't do these things, we would be living in a hovel. I know I show my family love by caring for them and our home. It's just that the memories of all the laundry and shopping I have done do not warm my heart nearly as much as the memories of being with my babies.

I can still remember my oldest son, at three years old, sitting on my lap, and giving my spontaneous hugs, his little arms wrapping all the way around my neck, his cheek right next to mine. He still gives my hugs, but he is much taller than me now, and he stoops down to hug me, and he is careful with his hugs. The exuberant tight hugs are long gone with him. And my next daughter is 13, and she now gives delicate little hugs. Her sweet silly ways are settling down into more mature and adult behaviors. But I sure remember her 3 year old self, silly, uninhibited and so very gleeful. I won't go on through the list of all seven children and the things I remember about them, as that could get pretty dull to a non-parent, but I will share one common memory of all of them.

With the first baby I was completely caught off guard, and then with each successive baby I eagerly anticipated this moment. It usually happened at between two and three months old. I would be up in the wee hours of the morning, nursing the hungry baby. I usually nursed the babies in bed, but occasionally I would get up and sit in a chair while I nursed them. I wear glasses, with a pretty strong corrections, and would not wear my glasses while night nursing. So, there I am, sleepy, in dim light, everything a little fuzzy without my glasses, but looking at my baby, contentedly nursing away. Then the baby's eyes would open, and meet mine, and a look of delight would cross the baby's face, and a smile, almost involuntary, would erupt, a smile so big that milk would drip out of the mouth. That look would melt me and delight me, and literally feed my soul.

That look. That is the thing that I miss in my big children. They have all gone and grown up, and rightly so, but I am the same mom here. Eagerly looking into their faces, and willing them to know how much I love them. It is good, and right that the bigger kids spend more time looking away now. I know this. And I still have plenty of hugs and kisses around here, but it is slipping away. It is the greatest paradox of my life; watching these children grow up, and pull away, and knowing that by doing so, I am doing my job well. And it is breaking my heart.

(photo of my first look at my now four year old)


Blogger owenswain said...

Our youngest turned 16 this month. It seems everything I say these days about time and passing sounds more and more like my parents. I wonder if our heavenly Father, the parent of all parents, feels that way, the way you so beautifully expressed: I am doing my job well and it breaks my heart? I think yes, yes I imagine he feels that way often so, you are in good company.

May 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, birthdays. Of course, we celebrated our 4 yo's yesterday. It seems like just a short while ago when your dh called our parents in the middle of the night to let them know they were grandparents again and they got confused because they thought he was talking about our 4yo but he meant *your* 4 yo! That was funny.

And the look. I LOVE that! That is the sweetest look ever. Just the whole oh, mommy, you mean everything to me. You are my whole world. *sigh* How soon they forget!

May 20, 2008  
Blogger Mimi said...

Happy Birthday to your littlest!

May 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your little 'un!

I love the image of you and your youngest :-)

May 20, 2008  
Blogger bball said...

What a beautiful reflection on the mixed feelings Moms have when they are moving away from baby-time. Something we can all relate to (and remember). If you think that is hard, wait till the "empty nest!" But fortunately, you still have many more years to cherish with chicks in the nest. And you have many gifts, talents and interests to develop and explore as the duties and demands of motherhood wind down. God bless you and your family - thanks for sharing this!

May 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only gotten to experience this once. I feel you. Sigh.

May 21, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer in TX said...

Your post is beautiful! Happy Birthday to your little one!

I don't think it will be too long until my feelings are the same as yours. Life is bittersweet, isn't it?

Love and prayers for you!

May 21, 2008  
Blogger Entropy said...

Thanks for the reminder to enjoy them now. They may seem big to you now but they're still there and still need you!

Happy birthday to the baby!

May 21, 2008  
Blogger Laura said...

I love big families, and I love mom's who head big families.
Thanks for raising all those good people for the world to enjoy.

Lovely post about motherhood.

May 22, 2008  
Blogger Kitchen Madonna said...

Many years!

Lovely post about motherhood.

May 22, 2008  
Blogger Marianne said...

Thank you so much for your perspective! We're expecting #7 and I am desperately overwhelmed. It's good to remember that at some point I will look back and miss these times.

May 23, 2008  
Blogger Renee said...


I remember expecting #7, and being desperately overwhelmed. And while, yes, knowing someday you'll miss this time is slightly helpful, in reality the best help I had at that time was a regular babysitter, that came one afternoon a week, so I could sleep, or go for a walk, or do a child-free errand. Or just go get a coffee and read a book for a while. Saved my sanity, I tell you. I can see this turning into a post. Stay tuned....

May 23, 2008  
Blogger Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I know how you feel. Mine now range from ages 22 down to 6....

I am sending love, hugs and prayers your way, for you and your lovely family.

May 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, you touch so many mommas hearts here...so true! Precious photo! :)
God bless...Suzanne (formerly
Sincerely My Thoughts blog)

May 24, 2008  
Blogger the mother of this lot said...

A heart-rending post! And four i such a lovely age!

May 24, 2008  
Blogger Jenny of Elefantz said...

I'm sending you a hug because I know how you feel. My *baby* turned 14 yesterday and I miss her so much - the baby that was her. She is a beautiful young woman now who hugs fiercely and always wants kisses...so I thank God for my *baby* every day. My eldest is 31 but I still remember his first breath...he took my breath away.
Happy birthday to YOUR baby, and God bless you for having such a soft and genuine heart.

May 27, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone in this vocation.

June 10, 2008  
Blogger Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Wow, this post is *so* beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

June 11, 2008  

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