As I sit here this evening, I am listening to the quiet sounds coming from my seven year old's room. She's having a sleepover as there's no school tomorrow for mid-winter break. I remember those days- having a sleepover on what would normally be a school night- so exciting.
With no alarm to set, technically we could all sleep in tomorrow morning, but I know my two year old better than that. She's real good about making sure I don't sleep past six. She seems to have made it her personal mission to see that I'm up long before I need to be seven mornings a week. She also feels the pressing need to check in with me around 2 or 3 or 4 a.m. on most nights. And as I trudge wearily to her room to find the 'pluggy' that's been lost under the covers or under the crib I try to remind myself, this too shall pass.
I read a book last week that was full of all sorts of good reminders for moms of little ones. It was called Loving the Little Years, written by Rachel Jancovic. It was not a long book, but it was packed with many insightful ways of keeping sanity while raising little kids. One of the best things I took from her book was this obvious but helpful reminder: this current little crisis will be over in twenty minutes.
And when I think of it, so much of the difficulties with little ones are short lived. Someone can't find their library books, another one is crying for juice, the other two are fighting because one looked at the other the wrong way... It goes on and on. Or the two year old who should be sleeping through the night and rid of her pluggy is still waking up for a three a.m. reassurance that it's okay to go back to sleep. So much of what mothers of little children deal with daily are relatively little problems. In and over before much time has passed at all. Still, consciously looking at the clock during those crazy moments and making that mental note that in twenty minutes time this little dilemma will pass is such a good reminder for me that this is not going to last forever.
These little years pass so quickly, and the daily problems we deal with right now are so relatively small and easily forgotten. I am reminded all the time to be thankful. Of course, very real problems can develop at any age and none of us really know what anyone else is dealing with, but I'm learning to seek that bright side as much as possible. Life does not come with a guarantee and we all must face our share of trials along the way, but seeking out the good, making a point to remember what we do have is so great.
So many people have told me, the hardest years are those when all your kids are little. Admittedly whenever I would hear those words I would cringe at first because when all of my kids were under the age of five I truly felt like some of the hardest moments would last forever. But even now, with my oldest only seven, I see a difference. The older two can be responsible for helping out with jobs around the house and with the younger ones, which makes things so much easier. I already see that change. Yes, they are still little, but already I catch glimpses of that moment when I'm not as needed anymore. Which, as parents should be our ultimate goal- to raise them into caring, honest, responsible adults that can manage their own lives. It's an interesting process to watch, one that leaves me with a whole host of differing emotions, but important all the same. And the thing is- it happens so fast. One moment you're spooning oatmeal into their baby mouths- cringing as it flies back out all over the everything in a five foot radius- and the next they're hauling their dirty dishes to the sink and asking for a sleepover. It's natural, it's life, but it all happens so fast.
As my kids have grown, it has become easier to see that babies crying in the middle of the night and milk spilled all over the table don't last forever. When I finally realized that children won't always dump everything out of the toy box just to see it crash on the floor, and that at some age painting the bathroom with toothpaste loses it's appeal, it was suddenly easier to deal with the little ones that still find these activities fascinating. Not that it makes cleaning up a box full of cheerios spilled across the kitchen floor a picnic, but it's the realization that these things are just what they are: momentary mishaps. And before long, it will be over and dealt with.
So once again tonight, as I try to do every night when the little one calls out for me at three in the morning, I'll plod down the hallway in my sleepy stupor and tell myself, this too shall pass. Before I know it, she will be the one having a sleepover on her bedroom floor and won't be crying for me in the middle of the night. And by then, my oldest will almost be a teenager. So, I am holding on to these little years with all their little difficulties- and my little kids- and knowing the most important job I can do right now is to just love them and raise them with patience.