Everyone tells you that kids grow quickly. Too quickly. Blink your eyes and they’re different people. What they don’t tell you is how you change right along with them, and how quickly you forget everything that came before.
I don’t mean that you literally forget everything your kids have done up until this point. That obviously isn’t true. But you do forget, mostly, all the little day-to-day realities of life with younger children. Even things that seemed to be life-and-death, and you were tremendously worried about, fade from your mind as they’re replaced with all new life-and-death, tremendous worries. Worries about birth are replaced with worries about breastfeeding. Worries about breastfeeding are replaced with worries about sleep. Worries about sleep are replaced with worries about food. And on and on and on … until (I imagine) the day you die.
I was going to write until the day your kids leave your house, but my guess is that the worries don’t end even then.
I remember this feeling of deja vu when my second child, Jacob, was a baby. He would enter a new stage and I would remember going through it before. Sometimes I would remember exactly how I handled it, sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes the solutions that worked for my daughter worked for my son, sometimes they didn’t. And once again, as soon as one problem was solved or outgrown a new one arose to take its place.
Now my kids are ten and almost seven. They go to school. They swim. They get themselves out of bed in the morning. They even get their own snacks. They still require adult supervision, of course, but I’ve become much more relaxed over time. They are no longer a threat to their own health and safety. If they’re both home and the house is quiet for a moment I don’t panic, I enjoy it, knowing that the peace will end soon.
Sometimes I have flashes of life as it used to be. I hang out with the mother of a two-year-old and we have to constantly move to keep the toddler in our sights. Our conversations are interrupted mid-thought as she sprints off to rescue her little one from imminent danger. At our house she asks if it’s okay to put the diaper in the kitchen garbage. Setting up a time to get together 1:00pm doesn’t work because it’s nap time.
I also have moments where I realize I act clueless around moms of younger kids. Like I offer whole grapes to an 18-month-old. Or markers to a two-year-old. Or I wear white pants to a playdate. Or really, I own white pants at all. I’m no longer in the habit of keeping my mind on high alert for disaster. And I have forgotten a lot of the little pieces of information that used to be at the top of my mind. The rules for keeping small children happy and alive.
I’m just not the same mom I used to be. That doesn’t mean I’m worse. It also doesn’t mean I’m better. It just means I’m different. I’m worried about nurturing a tween girl’s emotional well-being and helping a school-age boy learn to swim and ride a two-wheeler. I’m concerned about questions like at what age you let a boy use a men’s washroom by himself when you’re out in public, whether a two-piece bathing suit is appropriate for a 10-year-old, and how to balance my kids’ needs with mine as I head back to school full time.
Life has changed, and I didn’t even really notice it happening. It just … did.
For a while I was sad to move out of the stage of parenting babies and toddlers. I thought I wanted a third child. I know that if that had happened, I would love and cherish that baby. Now, though? I’m kind of glad it didn’t. I like being the mom of the “big kids” on the playground. I like having a little more freedom to finish my conversation with a friend. And I love not having to wake up when my kids decide it’s time to wake up.
The mom I am right now is a good mom to be.