I’ve had a couple of big moments lately. You know the ones that hit during this parenting journey that stop you in your tracks? Where time stands still for a split second so you can just let it soak in?
The first came during church a few weeks ago. We sat in the balcony like usual, with our youngest (the two-year-old) playing in the nursery while the older three (ages five, nine, and 11) sat with us in the pew. The balcony is the go-to spot for families of teeny ones because you don’t feel like you’re being disruptive if your baby cries or squeals or needs to eat. There’s lots of moving around and we all just smile at each other knowingly, not the least bit bothered by the activity.
So here we are, about halfway through the service, when it hit me: I was listening to the sermon. Not once had I needed to shush or take someone to the bathroom. I didn’t have a wiggly infant strapped to me. I wasn’t pregnant and miserable, shifting in my seat with all the comfort of a hippo in a hammock. I was just sitting. Listening. Paying attention.
Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve done that?
Twelve years. It’s been twelve years. So I looked at those mamas shushing their babies. I looked into their tired eyes and thought, “You’re gonna make it here, too. Just hang on.”
The second moment also came at church, this time during our women’s bible study. See, in my mind I know I’m 37. But I don’t FEEL 37. I look at a 25-year-old and think “Yeah, we’re basically the same.” Ok, she’s probably still using anti-acne facial cleanser and I’ve moved on to anti-wrinkle and a soothing night cream, but we’re the SAME.
So we’re going around the table, introducing ourselves and telling a little bit about our lives and I’m all “Hey! I have four kids and homeschool and I’m a fitness instructor, blah blah blah” and they’re all “I just got married over the summer” and “I just had my first baby six weeks ago.” Let’s just say the word that popped into my head at that moment was not church appropriate. I was straight up Lightning McQueen when that young Jackson Storm came in and showed the world that Lightning is OLD. Someone pass my drip pan.
YEARS flashed before me.
Images of our first apartment, our first house, finding out we were pregnant, bringing our first baby home from the hospital, then our second, then our third and fourth. The first soccer games, learning to ride bicycles, reading those first words, the last time our oldest slept beside me. I blinked back tears and my breath caught in my throat and those young women suddenly were a lifetime away.
Go ahead. Grab a tissue. Dry your eyes and take a deep breath.
I’m not going to tell you to “cherish every moment.” I definitely did NOT cherish every moment because some of those moments sucked. I’m also not going to wax poetic about those baby and toddler years of yesterday because as much as those squishy babies make me smile, I am OKAY with being done. I also still have a toddler banging on the door right this minute reminding me why toddlers are both awesome and absolutely horrific all at the same time.
What I am going to do is tell you that this stage of life is just fine. These late-30s, done with babies, squarely in the big kid camp years are pretty awesome. I’m going to give you a list of reasons why I am SO COOL with this stage:
- Like I mentioned, while I have my big kids, I still have a chubby toddler running around with his squishy baby hands and sweet-smelling head. He feeds my baby fever and then turns around and reminds me why toddlers are a pain in the you-know-what when he dumps an entire crock pot of chili in the floor.
- SLEEP. Hey mamas…I sleep. Like, eight solid hours most nights. Sure, two-year-old and five-year-old still sometimes come in during the night, but those visits are short and sweet and NO ONE NEEDS MY BOOBIES.
- I only have to buckle one kid into a car seat. Everyone else buckles himself. Shoot, 11-year-old can buckle his baby bro, so sometimes I only have to buckle me!
- These big boys talk to me. We hang out. I can hear them yell “mom!” and know they don’t need me to wipe their rear-ends or get them a snack because they do all that themselves. They want to talk. They have a question. They’re like tiny adult humans and they are awesome.
- We finally get to do cool things! Want to go to a Dave Matthews concert with an infant? NO! But last year my hubs and I took our older two to see The Avett Brothers. And we all slept in the next morning. GLORY!
- I’ve started feeling at least somewhat capable. I may kinda sorta still feel 25, but I’ve got all these years of experience giving me confidence I could only dream of a decade ago. I actually walk into a room and think “I’ve got this” instead of “Help me.”
- They’re not yet teenagers. Moms more seasoned than I have warned me that the teenage years are a whole ‘nother deal, but right now I’ve got these not-quite-men who still love their mama the most. There are no raging hormones and very little eye-rolling or knowing it all.
Just like Lightning McQueen, I’m realizing that I may no longer be the youngest, hottest thing on the track, but I’ve got a little experience under my belt to share with the next gen-racers. I get to look at these young women and say to them the things I wish someone had said to me. Things like, “You will sleep again.” “It really does get easier.” “The whining will stop!” “You’ll get to sit through an entire church service without once having to wipe a nose, bottom, or mouth.” “One day soon, your husband will once again be the only one with access to your boobies.”