“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of sweet snuggles, it was the age of sleep deprivation, it was the epoch of incredible story times and imaginative play, it was the epoch of diaper blowouts and baby barf, it was the season of unbeatable Halloween nights and Christmas Days, it was the season of epic public temper tantrums…”
-Charles Dickens (and Jeanette)
My feisty three-year old was laying in the Nerf gun toy aisle at Target the other day having a standard, irrational epic meltdown. Tears streamed down his face, he kicked wildly, arms possessed by a demonic puppeteer, as he pleaded for a Nerf gun I was unwilling to purchase. As a seasoned mother, I’ve been here, done this so many times, I hardly bat an eyelash. I decide to wait out the storm patiently. Feeling especially generous and patient that day, I even tried responding to the situation with some empathy and kindness: “I’m so sorry you aren’t getting a Nerf gun today buddy (you spoiled little first world problem ridden child).” “That’s so disappointing little man…maybe for Christmas (in 360 days)…”
Five minutes later, my patience is running thin and my blood pressure is spiking. My seven month old was ready to nurse ten minutes ago, my five-year old is running rampant through the aisles doing goodness knows what, and I’m ready form this Nerf Gun Gate fiasco to be shut down. Then a sweet, slight in stature, elderly lady walks into the aisle. I brace myself for some outdated parenting advice from a well-meaning stranger (with a side of judgment) when the sweetest, most life changing words come from her mouth, “I know this stage of life can be so hard, but I ache and wish for these days…even the bad ones, this stage goes so fast and is such a GIFT.”
She proceeded to sweetly talk my red-faced, infuriated three-year old down and got him off the floor. With a few Fairy Godmother like words, she even had him smiling and securely buckled in the shopping cart as if Nerf Guns suddenly went out of style. This lovely Grandma not only resolved a manic tantrum within seconds for me, but she immediately and permanently shifted my mind-set of how I viewed the babies, toddlers and small children stage of motherhood I’ve been immersed in and battling on the front lines in for the last five years.
Being a mother to infants, babies, toddlers and small children can be difficult. The sleepless nights have at times, transformed me into a barely functioning zombie shell of myself. Lack of sleep has weighed heavily on my brain, my soul, and my body for years. If I were to be offered a steady flow of caffeine via IV drip, I would firmly accept that offer in a matter of nano seconds. However, there is a lovely flip side to this lack of sleep: The snuggles of a freshly bathed baby nuzzled up against my chest. Those sweet sounds only an infant can make as they peacefully doze off to their dreamy dream land. My toddlers begging for ‘just one more’ kiss, ‘just one more’ story, ‘just one more’ hug before I tuck them in for the night.
On occasion, as I’m doing nightly chores once the babes are tucked into bed, I’ve noticed my oldest boy awake. I sneak under his blanket with a flash light to talk to him about his five-year old world. His favorite colors, animals, activities, Star Wars, Nerf guns and all the important things five-year old boys have on their minds.
One day, when I’m the Target Fairy Godmother’s age, I know I’ll ache for the late nights where I tip toe into their bedrooms to tuck them into bed and watch them sleep. I should technically be asleep myself, but I linger, just a little longer to watch them peacefully dream. I SHOULD be sleep training my baby, but I want ‘just one more night’ of snuggling her. I SHOULD be more strict with my children’s bed time on the weekends, but I want MORE time with them while they are young. Because this stage of motherhood is so fleeting, I can’t help but savor and guiltlessly enjoy the beauty and peace in the simplest (sleep deprived) moments.
Being a mom to small children is MESSY. My house can go from a HGTV staged home to condemned Frat house status within minutes. This ‘situation’ used to shake me to my core. Not so much now that the Target Fairy Godmother sprinkled me with her words of wisdom. A messy house in my stage of life is a sign of small children. Babies, toddlers and kids learning to explore, to use their imaginations, developing fine and gross motor skills. There is plato stuck in the crevices of my table, Nerf arrows literally every place from the toilet to the garbage disposal, and a never-ending Mt. Everest pile of laundry. Gold Fish crackers are permanently smashed under my couch and books are scattered disorderly about from being read all day. For so long, I was too short-sighted to see how beautiful and MEANINGFUL this mess is.
In the not too distant future, my house will be polished, perfectly dust free, organized to perfection, and quiet. In that lonely silence, I will miss the chaos, the circus that is my current state of mothering. I know I’ll even miss the Nerf Gun arrows and Hungry Hungry Hippo balls clogging up my toilet.
I will never be more loved and NEEDED by my children than I am now. That constant need and desire for adoration and attention can be overwhelming, daunting and down right frustrating, but it’s SO AMAZING to be LOVED, ADORED, and NEEDED so fiercely. Since my run in with my Target Fairy Godmother, I have found I am less flustered and more flattered by this demanding love and support my small children require. The constant need of assistance, emotional, and physical support is no longer a burden, but an honor to me.
For a few days I caught myself annoyed with my three-year old’s obsession with only wearing a Storm Trooper costume. I had to spot clean and wash it several times a week. It was a hassle to get him in and out of it several times a day to use the restroom. The outfit was worn so often I had to mend it frequently. I was contemplating hiding the costume he had worn for months, but I quickly reconsidered. He needed my help to do some AMAZING things. He needed me to work a little harder so he could develop his imagination, his sense of confidence, and his individuality. What a special calling in this life to be apart of his growth and development. One day, in the not so distant future, he won’t fit into that Storm Trooper costume. He will wear a school uniform, a work uniform, a suit to work. I quickly banished my annoyance, it was a privilege to wash and mend that costume. I’ll wash it a million more times if I have to.
Little Children frequently drain their mothers emotional, physics and mental capacities. I feel ALL of the spectrum of emotions day-to-day and even from moment to moment. One minute we are smooth sailing on a sailboat, the next minute we are on a shady carnival roller coaster that might spontaneously combust. On occasion, I am so physically exhausted at night, I can’t make it up the stairs to my bedroom, so I just stay on the couch to get what few hours of sleep I can squeeze in. The running around in literal and figurative circles with toddlers, the playing at the park, the light saber fights, the rocking teething babies for hours, the battling of kids in and out of car seats a billion times a day… it’s physically draining! I’m waiting for the day my body will just crumble like those Gold Fish crackers in between my couch cushions. Mentally, I oftentimes am so spaced out by nine a.m from all the questions and demands of my five-year old, (who thinks I am his personal Google search engine) that I’m certain my skull no longer contains a brain, but soup.
In exchange for this drain, I have a beautiful, hilarious, strong spirited, irreplaceable tiny human tribe. An irreplaceable gift. Together, we have created the most beautiful bond and memories: We’ve had Nerf gun battles so fun and exciting we laugh and run past bedtime because I don’t have the personal discipline to end the fun. Together we’ve snuggled in sickness and in health for hours. We’ve learned to read, ride bikes, and play new games. What an exhausting, chaotic, LOVELY GIFT parenthood is. Just like the Target Fairy Godmother said.