In my mind, I was a calm, centered, creative mother when our five kids were young. I kept a pristine home. The children were always clean and polite. Our dog never shed or licked himself. I made healthy meals and the kids loved vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts. I was a phenomenal cook. Mounds of toys were stowed in cartons every night at the end of playtime. There were healthy snacks at mid-afternoon and a light snack before bedtime. The children were fanatics at brushing their teeth. Our babies slept through the night and I sprawled out on a down comforter looking like a model from a magazine. And then I woke up!!
The house was always a mess. Bats, balls, fishing rods, Lego blocks, dolls, stuffed animals, army men, dollhouses, and furniture were everywhere. The dog shed all over and he did indeed like his private parts too much. The only veggie kids would eat was corn. The storage cartons for toys were used as climbing blocks to steal candy from the kitchen counter. Brush their teeth? Yeah! I was dreaming! It was a spitting contest. Our bed had a minimum of three small bodies sprawled out every blessed night. I used to sleep at the bottom of the bed with the dog.
As they got older and I got wider, (I meant wiser, but I am definitely wider) I realized that not every hiccup in a kid’s life is cause for alarm, worry, or novenas. We survived those tornado years of parenting. Now I realize what’s important in life. Less drama in our lives has given me time to reflect on the joy of children.
Enter my four grandchildren: Kaylee 3, Arlo almost 1, and Riley Mae 10 months. If you could see me… I am smiling really big right now. You can see in the photos that they have grown before my eyes.
I just spent a week with my daughter Erika’s family in North Carolina. We were celebrating Kaylee’s 3rd birthday. My other daughter, Jamie flew in with Arlo for the party. I had three grandkids under one roof. Pinch me!! It was time to enjoy the sweetness of childhood through new glasses, bifocals if need be.
I was told that I had a guest of honor request. “Can you sleep in my bed, Gigi?” the birthday girl asked. My heart fluttered. At four a.m. she rolled over, plucked my eyes open, and said, “Mommy always lets me have crackers and juice in bed.” She looked so sweet, I believed her. I went out and got juice and peanut butter crackers. We propped ourselves up in bed and for the next half hour, we discussed her life. “My birthday party was so fun. (crunch crunch) I might not go on the potty tomorrow. Maggie is a good puppy. (crunch crunch). I love Baby Riley. Pop gave me a pretty necklace. I love Pop.” (more crunching)
She suggested I go on the potty in the morning so I could get a special present from the potty box. “Pick The Donald Duck Pez. You will love it!” she said seriously. “I’m not going on the potty, so you can have the presents,” she stated matter of fact. Potty training had become a battle of the wills.
She snuggled in and put her hand to my face. “I love you. You are my best friend, Gigi,” she told me over her fifth cracker. I fought back tears and told her she is mine too. We shared the last cracker.
When I mention this to my daughter the next morning, she looked at me wide-eyed and said, “You believed her??? She is not allowed snacks during the night!”
“Hey, I’m her best friend. She can have anything she wants.”
“Mom, she’s not allowed to eat crackers in bed at four a.m.” my daughter insisted.
“You weren’t allowed to do it either,” I shot back, not realizing that did not help my innocent plea.
When I visited my grandson, my heart continued to explode. He was ten months old and started his day at 5 a.m. Naturally, I sprang from my bed at the first little voice I heard. We peered out the window at the sunlight as I sang, “Birdies where are you?” Arlo loves to watch the birds. I sang and sang, hoping one would fly by to amuse him. He sang along, “Are you?” in a sing-song tune. Eventually, I changed it to kitty when a cat walked by. “Kitty, where are you?” The damn birds were all sleeping.
We danced to Michael Buble’s Summer Wind and he did his little jazzy head shake. Sometimes he rocks out so hard he falls over. He has piercing blue eyes and blond curls. Of course, he needs to be held!
Riley Mae is ten months old and she is a hoot. She is the loudest baby I have ever known. She sings, squawks, and babbles all day long, in between fits of laughter. She is almost bald and has a huge dimple. She also has hazel eyes and a face that is so expressive, she can intimidate grown men. You know exactly where you stand with Riley Mae. Lucky for me, she is a snuggle bug and we are best buds.
When my kids were young, five…remember now, five of them…I was a zombie. I was pregnant / nursing/ pregnant/ nursing for years. Once my husband came home from work and I was so excited to tell him detergent was now in liquid form.” It’s not just a powder anymore!” I shrieked. He immediately took me out for a long ride. I wept with joy. I was a shell of my old self. I thought those days would never end.
Now when I see a young mom in the store with a screaming kid, I miss those days. They can’t believe I’m saying that.
I miss the girls pushing our kittens in their baby strollers. They were dressed in Cabbage Patch clothes, strapped in, wiggling and meowing the entire stroll around the block.
I miss the excitement of Christmas Eve.
I miss the pile of teddy bears and dolls that had to be carried to bed every night.
I miss the little tidbits they’d wrap up as gifts: coins, paper clips, and rocks.
I miss the beautiful hand-drawn art on the refrigerator.
I miss the nights when only mom’s hug would calm them down. I am very blessed that I get to have these moments again. I just love the little people in my life. Each one brings such light and joy.
For all the moms going through those crazy years, my mom always told me, “These are the best days of your life. You’re going to miss them one day.” I thought she was crazy. I’d call her to complain about the kids fighting, broken curfews, the dog got loose again, a damn male cat is female and pregnant. It seemed cruel to tell me these were the best days of my life! And now when I hear Trace Adkins sing the lyrics below…. I realize she was right all along.
You’re going to miss this. You’re going to want this back
You’re going to wish this time hadn’t gone by so fast.
These are some good times so take a good look around
You may not know it now but you’re going to miss this.
And then I cry. Don’t blink! Hug your babies and save some energy for your grandbabies. They’ll arrive before you know it. And remember, these are the best days of your life!
p.s. I now have five grandchildren. River and Amiley have joined the family. This post was written three years ago. Time is going way too fast for me.