It’s back to school time. Time for school supplies and math books. Time for meeting new teachers. Time for ordering curriculum. Time for lists and lunch boxes, kleenex boxes and juice boxes. A new season is here.
All those people who told me that it would go by fast—those irritating older people at the grocery store who told me to “enjoy it” while I tried to juggle a fussy toddler and keep my 4 yr old out of the bubble gum, those older moms at the library and in church who looked at my little ones with a longing in their eyes that I could not understand—they were right.
Seventeen years ago, I dropped my oldest off at preschool and bragged to my other mama friends about how I had three hours “to myself.” I saw that time as freedom. My time.
Well, seventeen years went by in a moment. My oldest daughter is grown now. She’s got a family of her own. And somehow, I see things a little differently. Still, it’s hard, isn’t it?
“Embrace it, Heidi,” I tell myself. Even though I know it’s going by fast, I complain. I have a bad attitude. I say things I shouldn’t. I apologize for the millionth time, and I try to do better. I keep hearing all this talk about how “it gets better” once you put your youngest in school. But you know what? I’m realizing something in my middle-age. It doesn’t get better than this.
I read a mom’s back-to-school post the other day about how absolutely beside herself with joy she was because she was “finally” able to drop her youngest off at Kindergarten. The house was all hers. FINALLY. From the sounds of it, she couldn’t wait to be rid of the kids get her freedom back.
Modern thinking tells moms that “it gets better” once all the kids are finally out of your hair. If you can just hang on until your five year old goes to Kindergarten, you’ll have it made. You’ll have your freedom back.
This message of “freedom” from the early years of motherhood troubles me. Why are we trying to rush moms through motherhood? I wonder—what are we searching for? What are we in such a hurry for? What are we trying to be “free” from?
Now, I know I’m going to take some hits for this post, so in an effort to head the mad mamas off at the pass, let me just say: I totally understand wanting and needing a break. I get it. I want a break every day about 10:30 a.m. okay and 4:00 p.m., and 8:30 p.m., too. Go ahead. Vent. Kids can be, (who am I kidding, they ARE) challenging! And time-consuming. And frustrating. Come to think of it, I’ve never met a mom who didn’t want five minutes to herself. (Or five hours. Or five days.)
Just remember, busy mom, that one day, your kids will catch on to you as you rush them out the door. They’ll read your blog or overhear you on the phone complaining about the frustrations of motherhood. (That’s what happens to me.)
After twenty-two years, I’m finally seeing some things differently. I’m trying to appreciate (although not perfectly, I admit) the noise and demands of the children that I am still in the process of shepherding. The Sharpie on the wall. The teaching. The correcting. The exhaustion. The lack of “me” time. The noise.
When I look in the eyes of my grown daughters and then glance at my little ones, I am given a very stark reminder of just how fast the time is going. Sometimes, I wish I could stop time. After all, my knees are starting to hurt. My body is telling me that I’m getting older. But there is no slowing down, is there? There is only appreciating the small window of time we have our children at home.
In all this rush to get our kids out the door and back to school, let’s keep something in mind:
The child-raising years are short. They’re precious. Our children are a large part of the best thing that will ever happen to most of us in this lifetime—a chance to be loved, just because we are a child’s mother. A chance to impart our values to a teen who may or may not appear to be listening. A chance to make an impact on the next generation. An opportunity to learn what it means to love and to share life with precious people who will, by God’s grace, be taking care of us in our old age. Yes, by God’s grace, they will take care of us like we took care of them in their youth. They’ll value us—just like we value them. They’ll value spending their time with us like we valued spending our time with them.
Parenthood is demanding. It’s iron-man-marathon building, this thing we’re doing. This thing that carries with it the weight of eternity and the promise of a new generation is worth every ounce of time we put into it. Raising children is a privilege denied to many. Don’t take it for granted.
If you’ve got a toddler in your house right now, and a baby and a four year old and a seven year old, take a deep breath and try to appreciate it. Don’t wish the time away. It goes by fast, and while good things are certainly ahead, it doesn’t get better than this.
I’m still very much in the trenches. Twenty-two years of being a mom has given me, so far, 8,030 opportunities to tuck a child into bed. It’s a mommy-marathon. And I am learning that it matters, this chance I’ve been given to shepherd our children. In the grand scheme of things these years a blip on the radar, and one day, we’ll ALL miss the noise, the questions and even the constant raids on the food pantry and the refrigerator. Yeah. We’ll miss it.
It’s good to linger as we watch our kids board a school bus or open that new level of math book. I think, if it hurts—even just a little—to acknowledge this passing of time, we’re doing something right.
You’re a mom. It doesn’t get better than that.