I’ve had a little time to read through a lot of excellent mommy blogs lately, and I have stumbled into several by moms with babies or toddlers who just sound swamped. The baby years are cute, but really exhausting. I wasn’t much of a baby person until I had my own, and I loved the newborn phase, and the rolling phase, and the crawling and the new words…. But I’m finally glad to be moving beyond all of that. For awhile I kind of wanted one more, because the kids I have are so amazing I’d be curious who else we could make. Then I remember how much work it is, and I know I don’t want to revisit that.
But it got me thinking that some of these new moms could use some
lights at the ends of various tunnels, and I want them to know that
(barring unusual circumstances which can happen to anyone) it does get
easier. It really does, and here are some things to look forward to:
One day, diapers are over. We still deal with goodnites for
overnight accidents in our house, but I haven’t changed a diaper in a
long time. I didn’t mind it when I was doing it, but not to be chained
to a diaper bag anymore is heaven. It’s hard to remember the tyranny of
diapers once you get past it, but I’m past it and I’m glad. Every time
my son runs off to the bathroom to pee on his own I smile and
appreciate how awesome that is. No matter what stage your kid is in
with this, someday it will be done. And it’s great.
At some point you’ll realize they dress themselves. This one snuck
up on me because I don’t think for most kids this happens all at once.
Some pieces of clothing are easier than others, so maybe they can do
shirts but still need help with socks, etc., but at some point they can
do it all. I remember back when Quinn was only a few months old I got
really frustrated about just how long it was taking the four of us to
get out of the house for a particular event, and then it hit me that it
was the clothes. I had to put every piece of clothing on everyone (and
then take a bunch of it off again to change a diaper or help someone use
the bathroom), plus all the winter clothes on top of those. I realized
that if I simply dressed and redressed myself four times in a row it
would take forever. The time you save by not dressing the kids is
fantastic. That time gets sucked up by something else, but I love that
other than Quinn’s pants and some zippers here and there, I no longer
help with clothes.
(Of course, kids dressing themselves comes with their choosing what
to wear which has its ups and downs. Mona thinks layering means putting
on a pair of shorts over her jeans, and on the coldest day of the year
she is guaranteed to come down to breakfast in a tank top, but I tend to
think of it as a weird added bonus peek into her peronality. I know
some moms for whom coordinating clothes within an outfit on their kids
is important to them, and those kids do look ready for picture day at a
moment’s notice, but I’m not one of those moms. I barely know how to
dress myself so I have no business dictating a sense of style to my
kids. As long as they don’t get frostbite or heatstroke I’m usually
fine with whatever they pick.)
In the car, at least, the bigger the kids are the less room they take
up. I resented having to buy a minivan when we had our third child
simply because we couldn’t fit three car seats in the back of the
regular car. It seems insane to me that when my kids are teenagers we
will all be able to get into the smaller car, but while they are little
we need the van. Aden can already get away with not using a booster
from time to time, and I can’t wait to be free of bulky car seats all
around. In the meantime, kids buckling themselves is worth doing a
happy dance over.
Eventually they can use words to tell you what’s wrong.
One day they offer to help and it’s actually helpful.
I just gave our stroller away. I thought I’d miss it and I was WRONG.
They don’t need me to operate the DVD player anymore.
At some point you get to sleep again. Not as well as you maybe once
did, but enough that you don’t feel like you’re operating in zombie mode
all the time. Sleep makes a huge difference. It will come.
Their needs don’t change on a weekly basis. Part of the reason there
is so much clutter that first year is things like a bouncy seat are
great–for two months. Then it’s just there taking up space. There are
baby things you maybe use once, some things never, but you don’t know
what will work or what they’ll like, so for a long time there is a
brightly colored mess of baby things everywhere. It gets replaced by a
different kind of mess, but at least one that most kids are capable of
picking up themselves if you are willing to nag.
I like that we don’t
have to weigh the kids every month and measure their heads or think so
hard about new foods. Kids still change quickly after the baby stages,
just not at the lightning pace that is all consuming when they’re tiny.
It’s a relief when what they wore and ate today wasn’t any different
from what they wore and ate last month.
And finally, you don’t have to stare at them every minute. This is
huge. My kids were the sweetest, easiest babies, and they slept well
and seldom cried and had no trouble nursing and they were STILL
exhausting. I can’t imagine how people survive babies with colic or
kids with special needs to compound the worry. Just being responsible
for a tiny person all the time is enough to fry your brain some days.
My kids are finally at ages where they don’t need me for everything. I
can tell I’m overdue to make a meal when I hear chairs scraping around
in the kitchen as Aden and Mona get peanut butter from the upper
cabinets themselves. Quinn feeds himself yogurt on his own some
mornings if he’s up before I am, and half the time even remembers to
throw the little container away when he’s finished. I like it when they
are self-sufficient that way instead of running to me for something all
There was a moment a month or so before Ian shipped out when I
realized this deployment was likely going to be easier than the last one
simply because the kids were older. He was away on an extended Army
training weekend and I had the kids to myself and looked at it as a sort
of mini dry run. We went to Target on a Saturday afternoon to pick up
some basic things and wound up eating lunch there. Right after our food
was served Mona announced she had to use the bathroom, and for the
first time I realized Aden was old enough to take her sister there. It
was just around the corner, no big deal. They held hands, happily
walked off to the bathroom, and returned a minute later. It was like a
miracle had happened.
Last deployment, when the girls were smaller and
Quinn was a baby, trying to use the bathroom while eating out was
impossible. If any of us had to go, we all had to go. I never knew if
we should abandon all of our food and hope no one tampered with it while
we were gone, or try to scarf it down and then go to the bathroom or
what. It was one of the many reasons we usually just stayed home. But
now Aden and Mona can go together and I can sit with Quinn by the food,
or if Quinn needs to go the girls can stay at the table and I can take
It’s been life changing. I used to think of small babies as
pretty portable, but walking potty trained young people are even easier
most days, and it vastly expands our options for getting out. When we
go sledding they can drag the sleds back up the hills themselves. Aden
can take a shower and Mona can run her own bath. They still need me for
a million things, which is fine, but to not have to attend to every
little thing every second is a relief.
My most most dramatic example of how their growing up has been
helpful came about a week ago. An hour before I was supposed to leave
for a rehearsal I started getting sick. My head hurt, I was freezing,
and I just needed to crawl into bed. I cancelled the sitter and tried
to figure out what to do. The kids were only about an hour from going
to bed, so I decided to put Aden in charge. I gathered all the kids
around and explained that since Aden could tell time, she was going to
announce when they should all brush teeth and climb in bed. No one was
to argue with her because I was putting her in charge. I asked Mona to
repeat back what I’d said and she answered, “Brush teeth and go to bed
now!” No, no, listen again. I explained it two more times before Mona
finally heard what I was saying. Then she asked if Aden could also read
her a story, and Aden said she’d be happy to.
I took some ibuprofen,
crawled into bed under many many blankets and listened to the sounds in
the house while my head pounded. I fully expected to hear some kind of
fussing or problem that would require my attention but none came. I
assumed at some point someone would open my door, even if it was just
Quinn coming to sleep in my bed, but no one did that either. There was
happy playing and running around, and eventually there was silence.
got up around 8:30 to use the bathroom and have a look around. Plenty
of evidence that they’d brushed their teeth. They’d cleared a path to
the stairs like I’d asked so I wouldn’t trip on any toys in the dark.
They were all tucked into their beds, soundly sleeping. Even Quinn, who
normally sleeps with me, let Aden put him into his own bed so I could
have a break. I was so proud of them I can’t even tell you. Getting
sick the last time Ian was gone was a nightmare because there is no
leaving a baby or a toddler in charge of itself. I just suffered
through it and stayed sicker longer due to the strain.
I woke up the next morning feeling fine, and they brought me a
surprise breakfast in bed. I’d heard Aden tell her sister to keep me
distracted so I wouldn’t hear what was going on, so when Aden and Quinn
went down to the kitchen, Mona came into my room and just started
singing. It was hilarious and sweet and I don’t think I’ve ever loved
my kids more. They made me a bowl of cereal and two toasted pop tarts
and a glass of water. I’ve never tasted anything better.
So yes, the baby and toddler years are tough. Hang in there. Your
reward in the not too distant future will be singing and kind gestures
and maybe even some desperately needed down time. Even at this stage
for me there are still challenges and rough days, but it could be so
much harder. I could be the one in Iraq missing all of this. I do my
best to appreciate it for both of us.