I have spent some time looking through old photos during this Christmas break. I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone by! This picture was taken nine years ago. My children are 6 years old, 4 years old, 2 years old and three months old in this picture. That was a crazy season of life! Going anywhere was a major production! It involved packing a super sized diaper bag, snacks, toys and buckling three little kids in carseats. Taking all four kids to the grocery store was a necessary act of insanity. There were always stares and comments. “Are they all yours?” “You know how that happens, right?” Once two ladies actually stood behind me in the checkout line and had an intentionally loud conversation about birth control. They were quite rude, but I smiled because I knew something that they did not. None of my babies were “oops” babies. They were all longed for, prayed for and loved.
Back then, I was tired all the time! At that point in my life, I had not slept through the night in almost seven years. My life was given to caring for little people. We went from having two children to four in ten months time. When one kid got sick, they all got sick. One of the kids had significant developmental delays, so we had a slew of therapists in and out of the house everyday. There were social workers, pending adoptions, birth family visits, doctor’s appointments, and the rest of life, which included planting a new church and house hunting. My husband worked long hours and was on call every other weekend. He was also part owner of the clinic where he worked and there was a lot of stress involved. He was stressed, I was stressed. Marriage wasn’t turning out like the fairy tale that I thought it was going to be. It was one more thing that I had to give myself too, and it was hard. I was overwhelmed with the keeping of my home and laundry and homeschooling. It was just a crazy, crazy time!
I am a little older now, and possibly a little wiser. (Although this raising teenagers thing comes with it’s own challenges and sets of wisdom that I haven’t quite acquired yet.) I was thinking about what I wish I knew back then. My daughter tells me that the trendy thing right now is to write letters to the past you or future you. (Having teenagers keeps me in the know!) So, here it is; A letter to that frazzled young mom, from slightly less frazzled me at present.
Dear mom of littles,
You love your babies. This is what you have always wanted, and while these days are wild, you wouldn’t trade them for anything. But, you are realizing that this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Changing diapers, making bottles, teething, potty training, cleaning up messes and sleep deprivation are getting to you! You thought that you were going to flow through these days with grace and poise, but it’s not turning out quite like that.
I know these days are difficult, but please, please, please remember that they are also precious. Do not wish a single moment away, because they will be gone before you know it. Hold your babies longer. Sing to them even if you are out of key. Read to them and play with them far more than you do. Don’t be so consumed with doing things perfectly, that you don’t do them at all. Trace their hands and feet! Do more artwork and crafts! Write down the adorable things that they say and do. Someday you will wish you could remember how tiny their hands were, You will wrack your brain trying to remember which kid said that cute thing, and when.
Keep life simple! You are overwhelmed with “stuff”. You don’t need that many toys or clothes. Your life will be simpler, your house will be cleaner and you will be much calmer if you just eliminate the clutter. I know that you want your kids to have the latest and greatest toys, but they really just want to do what you are doing. Let them dig in the garden with you. I know that they make a mess when they are “helping”, but don’t get frustrated. Let them be with you.
Love your husband! I know that you are exhausted. I know that you feel completely spent at the end the end of the day. But, he is exhausted too. He has been taking care of sick people all day long. He is building a business. He works hard so that you and your children can have a beautiful home and everything that you need. Appreciate him! Clean up the house he works hard to provide. Change out of your frumpy clothes, brush your hair and kiss him when he walks in the door. If he is tired and grumpy, don’t take it personally. He has a lot on his plate! Be gracious and kind. Don’t make things more difficult for him by being moody and defensive. Your love for one another is what brought this family into existence. Don’t neglect it!
And, while we are on the topic of relationships, let me remind you that you can be honest with the Lord. He knows you, He loves you and knows exactly where you are at in life. You may not get many opportunities to sit in a quiet room and pray. (Quiet is dangerous unless they are all in bed!) Pray while you wash dishes or pick up toys. Pray as you drive. Go ahead and kneel by the couch while your children play. It’s good for them to see you pray. Read the Bible aloud to your kids. Listen to it in the car. I know you are busy, but make time for these things. This is the foundation and crust of your life. You need to spend time with your Heavenly Father.
Also, don’t worry so much about what people think of you! Aim to know God and please Him. Sometimes people simply won’t agree with the way that you do things. Sometimes you do need to adjust, but sometimes you also just have to stop worrying about how people perceive you or what they think of you.
Just so you know, your child is not the first to scream at the grocery store, and they certainly won’t be the last. You know that you are training your children. It’s a work in progress. Be persistent. Choose your battles. You can’t conquer every issue all at once. Teach your children to obey you the first time. Teach them to have a happy heart. Teach them to be respectful. These lessons will make the teenage years easier. But, don’t get discouraged when they don’t learn the things you are teaching them in a day, or a month, or a year. It takes time and persistence. Don’t give up.
You will be amazed at the things these kids will remember. Their sweetest memories are going to be the ones that you didn’t try to create. You may try to do fancy and extravagant things which leave you exhausted and stressed out, but that isn’t necessary. They love simple things. They love time spent together as a family and with their friends. Don’t focus on big productions. Focus on being together and loving one another.
I know that you have hopes and dreams that have been moved to the back burner. There will be time for those things! For now, you are giving yourself to your babies, and just like all the sweet little ladies at the store tell you, enjoy these days. They will be gone before you know it. You won’t believe how quickly the time will pass.
You (in nine years)