Motherhood is hard. We joke about it, we moan about it, we (I) write about it, we sometimes can’t get over it. The fact that motherhood is messier, stickier, and smellier than you ever imagined is no hidden secret. We have all heard or told stories about spit-up on clothes, boogers wiped on walls, trips to the ER, milkshakes dumped in laps, diapers removed during nap time, carpooling to activities, chaperoning field trips, and so much more. Those moments are tough. They can beat us down until we are searching the house for a clean white rag to wave in surrender. But maybe those aren’t really the hardest moments of motherhood. Maybe the hardest moments are camouflaged as our most triumphant; the moments we eagerly anticipate and countdown the days for, until at the last moment we realize the chapter is closing and we can not – will not – be able to open it again.
I spent so many moments throughout the night feeding my little ones. The house was quiet, my body was exhausted, but my little one and me awake and sharing a quiet moment. I knew I would be tired in the morning and maybe begrudge this little alarm clock that I snuggle in my arms for the missed moments of sleep. I would complain and tell my husband how many times I was up throughout the night. I would wish for a full night’s sleep and wonder if I would ever feel well-rested again. And then… after months of waiting, I woke up a full 8 hours after I fell asleep. My little one no longer needed to eat in the middle of the night and no longer needed to snuggle into my arms while we both drifted between sleep and wakefulness. Just a few weeks later I realized that the little one not only had grown past our night feedings but also my body had grown past nourishing my little one. The secret quiet moments we had shared came to a quick end. My little one had tickled me under my arm during a nursing session, he had cooed me to sleep, he had smiled the sweetest smile for my eyes only in the middle of the night. We spent so much time so closely wrapped into each other that distinguishing where one of us ended and the other began was nearly impossible. The moment came when I realized that this chapter was finished for us. The moment was a triumph for my sleepy self but so hard for my mommy-self.
Then the little ones grew and became “slightly-bigger” little ones. We would play together and work together. I would sing the ABC’s under my breath while I cleaned up magnetic letters off the kitchen floor only to realize there were no “slightly-bigger” little ones around to hear this lesson of literacy. I would count in English and count in Spanish. I would sing songs about cleaning up and not biting our friends. I would make sticker charts to encourage good behavior choices and try to use my kind words at all times. I would be in full teacher mode and many times feel like I was more in I-want-to-poke-my-eyeballs-out-if-I-have-to-repeat-myself-one-more-time mode. Life as mommy to a pre-schooler is hard. My patience stretched and my nerves frayed. I worked hard to teach the little ones smart things and kind things, but all the while I wondered if my brain would ever function in grown-up mode again. And then… after weeks of registrations, doctor check-ups, and school supply shopping, I walked out of his Kindergarten classroom and knew while my days of teaching him will never truly end, the days of me being his teacher were finished. Another adult will help shape him, his mind and his character. He would not look only to me for answers to his many questions, for encouragement when he doubts himself, for guidance on how to handle a difficult situation with his friends. His world was expanding and my role in it was shrinking. The moment came when I realized yet another chapter was finished for us. The moment was a triumph for my college-educated self, but it was oh-so-hard for my mommy self.
Motherhood is hard. The beginnings and the middles of each phase and each chapter have their challenges. My “slightly-bigger” little ones have only grown into “quite-bigger” little ones… but still, they are little ones… so I haven’t had too many chapters to close behind us and for that I am grateful. During the messy, sticky, and smelly days that seem to be one long chapter with a very dry, rather pointless, and completely redundant storyline that I would prefer to skim through and get it over with… I will know deep down that the end of the chapter won’t be easy either. Maybe, just maybe, if I remind myself that the triumphant end of each chapter will most likely come before I am truly ready for it, I will be able to slow down and appreciate each chapter for what it is…. another piece of my little ones’ great and unique stories.