Monday, November 5, 2018

I Never Thought My Children Getting Older Would Make Me Sad, But It Does

The night before our annual camping trip in August, my husband was working late. The kids had gone to bed and I was all business, getting everything packed and ready to go.

I was piling gear on the bed, racing through a mental checklist of everything we could need for every just-in-case scenario, when I looked over at the wall.

Six bags, one for each child's clothing for the next two days, were neatly lined up beside the dresser.

I'd double-checked each one for the requisite pairs of underwear and moved on, and only now did I notice Dolly (a 3-foot-tall stuffed doll that has been with us for a long time) perched atop my 6-year-old's bag.

My daughter must have decided she didn't want to be without Dolly for two nights and sneaked out of bed to put her with the camping bags when I wasn't looking.

Feeling a stab of nostalgia mixed with pride, I smiled at remembering how when we first got Dolly she was about the same height as my daughter. Now Dolly seemed so small, and my daughter was getting so big.

The smile faded as the next thought followed, like the second shoe I hoped would never drop: And someday she won't want to bring Dolly along at all.

All the littleness is gradually leaving my house, and I'm not ready.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

These days, it's almost physically painful to acknowledge that someday there will be no more dolls going camping with us.

The stick figure drawings I'm currently finding all over the house will disappear.

There won't be any more cute word mispronunciations, and Mother's Day gifts made from handprints will stop coming home from school.

I'm not ready.

When the kids were little, I was so smug. When someone mentioned feeling sad over their kids growing up I thought "Oh, come on. That's what children do: they grow! That should make you happy, not sad."

Easy for me to say, when I still had the privilege of so much time. My kids were all still young and every day stretched on forever, punctuated only by naptime in the afternoon.

I had jumped enthusiastically into the role of mom at age 21 and loved it. I loved it so much I did it 5 more times in the next twelve years.

Yes, there was physical exhaustion, stress, and frustration, but to be honest it paled in comparison to how much I loved the rhythm of everyday life with a gaggle of little kids underfoot.

Some women have an identity crisis after having their first child. Who am I? They wonder after their lives are turned upside-down to cater to a newborn's demands. What is my purpose? And how do I find the joy in this?

The irony is that I never asked myself those darkly existential questions when I first became a mom, but now that my oldest is 14 and my youngest is no longer a baby, I find them keeping me awake at night.

On good days, I try to focus on the positive. Now that the kids are older, we can have actual conversations about current events, politics, and religion. I love watching them pursue their passions and make their own choices. We can even play board games without worrying about someone eating the pieces.

But on the bad days, I wonder if the rest of motherhood is going to be this bittersweet. I look into the future and see the slow and painful end to the best time of my life.

That sweet period of time when all the kids were happily playing under the same roof, instead of running from school to play practice to a part-time job in preparation to leave it, was magical.

Even at the time, I knew it. I took nothing for granted. I don't think I would've done it any differently if I could go back.

But that's just it: I can't go back.

Time marches on, and my tiny people becoming big people means the conclusion to life as I've known it for a decade.

Of course, I'll always be their mother. I know there are great things to come. But right now, I struggle to see how anything could ever replace the magic of a toddler's little hand in mine.

No one prepared me for the hardest part of motherhood: my kids growing up. I never thought my kids getting older would make me sad, but it's breaking my heart. #motherhood #sad

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Unknown said...

I can relate! Baby #5 is 5 mo, but due to some major postpartum health complications, she is most likely our last. Knowing that these days with a little baby are most likely my last, the future is exciting, sad and terrifying at the same time (because now comes the truly hard part, guiding these little people into decent and whole adults!) It is ok to grieve the end of this stage of motherhood. May God grant you peace and acceptance in the days ahead. I love your blog, the reflective posts are just as beneficial and validating as your funny ones!

Anonymous said...

I totally get it. My oldest of six became an adult as my baby left baby hood. It is bittersweet to see them get older. I so love watching them grow into beautiful caring people, but I will always miss the little hugs, and climbers on my lap, and little hands wrapped around my own. I'm cherishing the years I still have of this!

Anonymous said...

The obvious answer is to cook up some triplets. Twins would be nice as well. If you are feeling particularly under-achieving I suppose one might do the trick. Tick-tock honey (or, as I might remind you, "5 to 7 years")!!

Jenny Evans said...

It took me a while to realize it, but that's exactly what it is: grief. I never expected that. Go figure.

Jenny Evans said...

I don't wish any of them would stay little because I love seeing each of them grow up, but it's sad for ME to have none of those sweet baby things I've gotten spoiled by having around for the last decade.