Monday, February 11, 2013
The Sweet Spot
Yesterday I took a bath. A big deal, right? A bath! It was lovely, too. I settled into the warm tub and watched the snow fall at the same time. A few minutes in I realized something was missing.
A small child.
It was the first bath I've had in perhaps 10 years where I did not hear "Mama!" from behind the bathroom door, or have a small child barge in, or have one or four children end up in the tub with me.
That's when I knew: I have arrived. I am in the sweet spot. As of tomorrow, The Boy's 4th birthday, the decade reign of having babies or toddlers (or both) is over.
Sure having a belly and armful of babies was a sweet spot in itself.
There is nothing, nothing sweeter than the smell of a newborn, or the weight of a sleeping baby on your chest, or the delicious innocence in the created language of a toddler. But moms... we know there is another side. I'll sum it up in a photo, that came from a day of toddler mutiny:
This is saying nothing of the hours, which surely adds up to days or weeks, of lost sleep. Because whoever says a newborn sleeps most of the day never had real children. Puppies maybe, but not real human babies. This is what real human babies do during the night hours. Truth is, they are only cute when the sun is up.
How about wrestling small bodies into car seats? There's moving at a snails pace when you're 10 minutes late because small children have only one speed. Then the meltdowns in public places... over what? You didn't know then and don't remember now.
The days of diapers are over. The Boy is potty trained enough to make this official in a public claim. Gone are the days of changing twenty or more diapers a day when the twins were little; of having three in diapers (and cribs); of realizing I forgot to pack diapers at inopportune times and places; of changing diapers in the back of the car; of discovering a certain toddler liked to change her own diaper (even the messy ones... on the living room rug); of discovering the dog had a taste for dirty diapers (especially the messy ones... on the living room rug); of changing diapers in the back of the car, using old tissue or napkins I found in the glove compartment because I couldn't find any wipes; of driving around town with a toddler toilet IN MY CAR because I chose that certain convenience while potty training twins over being classy; of carrying around stinky diapers in my bag because I didn't want to leave the smelled up ball in the public bathroom trash; or worse, finding the smelled up ball a day later because I forgot to throw it out when I got home; of having to pack my gym bag as a second diaper bag,
Feeding the children required military-style tactics and strategies. To turn your back to prepare food was a risk. Who knew what mess they would create while you were in the kitchen? You had to be vigilant during meal time, and even so, food was everywhere. Tantrums were the norm at the table. Clean up required the use of a power washer.
It feels as if I have spent the last mostly 10 years trailing behind unsturdy little legs ready to catch a fall at any moment. Trying to be brave enough to let my adventurous children be daring while being close enough to act as a safety net. Of trying to be calm, when say, I find my 2-year-old has climbed to the top of the stairs... on the outside of the stair rail, or when they reach higher heights on trees, or zoom down the hill on their bikes. Alas, I couldn't always be there in time.
And oh the many absurdities of having small children. The things that happen that you're not even sure, as an adult, what to make of and yet, at the same time you're so exhausted and sleep-deprived and resigned to the odd behavior that it doesn't phase you anymore. Like, when you catch your daughter licking a light switch, or the more common: inserting small objects into bodily crevices that seem well matched to the small object. Makes perfect sense when you're two.
So here I am, just one day left with my last toddler. It feels like such a momentous occasion; a milestone in motherhood. I SURVIVED. Maybe I'm so happy because in the end here--this last day--I realized I THRIVED.
I know turbulence will hit again when hormones arrive and I have preteens and teens in the house. But for the next three or four years at least, I am in the sweet spot. Everyone can use the toilet on their own, bathe on their own, get dressed using their own hands, heck even acquire their own snacks and drinks (OK, The Boy still needs a little assistance but it's minimal and he's on his way). My kids fold their laundry, unload the dishwasher, help me vacuum. I don't feel so alone in the ceaseless battle that is housework. I have a team! They play happily on their own; I don't hover. I realized on this last weekend trip to Sedona, I didn't feel like I needed to "get away," in a way I had in the days when children clung to me like barnacles. In fact, more often I find myself seeking them out, enjoying our conversations and their company. What's more, they sleep through the night. I sleep through the night! (Unless I drink too much red wine, but that's my own fault, and the point even here is that I have the luxury to drink the wine.)
Sure, the chaos of motherhood isn't completely gone (I think back to the day last week when I was supposed to pick up two different kids in two different locations at the same time). There are a few new challenges, like trying to remember how to compute the area of a scalene triangle. But I do feel as if I've jumped off the crazy train. I am on a passenger car, that serves meals and has a berth for sleeping and moves at a pace where I can enjoy what I see and experience along the way. That I have to use a train analogy suggests that this sweet spot is still cluttered with a lot of toy trains. It is. They can stay.
That was then. Sweet.
This is now. Sweet spot.