Once upon a time, we had a baby, and another, and another, until we had three children under the age of four. And I was tired, and often felt isolated, and lonely for adult conversation, and perpetually overwhelmed, and my house was always messy because every task I endeavored to do was promptly interupted by a child needing affection, attention, or correction. Or juice in their sippy cup. And it was loud. All the time. From the time they woke up until they were tucked in at night, there was constant noise. I felt "stuck" at home, like the walls of my small home were closing in around me, and that if I didn't get "out" of the house I was going to suffocate. Or scream and throw things. But getting "out" was even more overwhelming than staying home because I had three kids under the age of four, it was 20 degrees below zero outside, and our home did not have a back yard in which they could play. No matter how often I heard that this stage would "fly by" so quickly, and I should enjoy every moment, I felt that this stage was never going to end- that I would be in the stage of diapers, lost pacifiers, crayon on the walls, cutting up grapes, and temper tantrums forever.
Some time went by and another baby was had, so now there were four children under age six. The house was now bigger, the yard provided space to run, and (after a few years of practice) I could now bundle all four of them in head-to-toe winter gear in less than 15 minutes. The children slowly began to be able to do things for themselves, work out some conflicts without mediation, and be left on the couch watching "Dora" for fifteen minutes while I took a shower without too much fear of needing to call 911 upon completion. I began to make trips to the grocery store that did not end in frustrated tears, and my world began to feel a little bit bigger.
One day, the oldest went off kindergarten, then another, and another, until I had just the baby at home with me during the day. Somehow, toddler antics did not seem as overwhelming when there was only one of them. And some time went by, and the baby went off to kindergarten, too. And just like that, the stage of babies and toddlers is over. The years of strollers, potty training, and play dates that are really more for the moms than the kids have been replaced with backpacks, science projects, football cleats, and music lessons. And I'm still usually tired, it's still a little bit chaotic, and my house is still usually messy because the pace of life is faster now, with schedules and activities and homework. I no longer feel "stuck" at home or isolated from adult interaction, but I do feel a different kind of loneliness without the constant presence of my children. And it's quiet. For seven hours a day, there is no noise except what I create. That kind of quiet is its own kind of loud.
I still can't say that the stage of babies and toddlers "flew by," but I can say I can't believe it's gone already. And I can't say that I enjoyed every moment, but I can say that I look back on those early days and smile at the memories, and feel thankfulness that I was at home with my children, and encouragement from the things I learned and the ways I grew. So, here's to embracing this next stage... to all the lessons to be learned, the growth to be had, the memories to be made... for it will surely pass as quickly as the first one did...
"The days are long, but the years are short."