*raises right hand*
I, Heather King, do solemnly swear to,
Never say any version of the following to you, ever:
- “OH you think it’s hard now? Just you wait!” (terribly invalidating and unproductive)
- “You just need a break!” (HOW? HOW DO YOU GET A BREAK? And then HOW, HOW IS IT EVER GOING TO BE LONG ENOUGH?)
- “Oh I remember those days!” (No. No I won’t. No matter how clear I think it is, it is not clear.)
- “Well, you’re going to miss this! Mark my words.” (Sure, fine. But that’s not NOW, so…)
- “It goes so fast!” (Yes, in some ways, it does. But no, NOT today.)
- “Those were the best years!” (Yes, they were. And also, NO they were not.)
I will not say these things at the grocery store, the big box store, the gas station, a parking lot or the medical clinic. I will not say them at my home or your home or at church or at the park or a party. I will not say them anywhere. Heather I am.
I, Heather King, upon seeing your sleepy eyes and slumped shoulders, do solemnly swear to,
Always say (and do) the following, always:
- “OOOF, you’re in the trenches. It’ll get better, Mama. I promise.” (Even if it doesn’t get easier, only different, every new mother needs to hear this.)
- “Can I return that cart for you?”
- “It’s okay. When mine were toddlers, they did some crazy stuff too.”
- I will give you a big smile if I see you feeding your baby in public. I don’t care if you will be using your bottle or your breast.
- If your hands (and brain) are full and your toddler is doing all sorts of things while you try to change a diaper/feed the baby/attach the car seat to a cart/etc., I will entertain said toddler with my hilarity.
- “HI! I’ll see you tomorrow, cause that’s when I’m bringing you guys dinner!”
- I will not offer you advice unless you seem to want it/ask for it.
- When you talk about this being hard, I’ll simply listen. Maybe I’ll nod a lot. If I say anything, it will only be to validate you. “YES. It is SO hard.”
Honestly, I won’t remember exactly how hard the earliest years are either. But I will remember that it was such a different kind of hard. That answering to every physical need/want of tiny new people is exhausting in ways that leave you a bathroom break only if you schedule one. I’ll remember that this is the real deal, an initiation into parenting like none of us dreamed. I’ll remember that the me time people told me to keep was elusive not because of martyring, but because life today is one big blur of rapid fire technology, a rat race of to-do lists and a mostly solo venture into the unknown. I’ll try hard to create community for you because of just that.
I’ll pull out an old email that I sent to my friend Ann and I’ll suddenly remember what it was like on the night I wrote it–every detail of the witching hours, the way I ran from one end of the house to the other back and forth, keeping Elsie from harm and wiping a butt and then another, stirring the dinner and repeating and repeating and picking up and putting down. I was answering and answering and breaking up the fight and carrying the tantruming toddler to her crib for a minute out of my hair. I was asking the boys, again, to pick up all the things and I was noticing that everyone’s fingernails were soooo long and then I put it off again because there was homework and a climbing toddler and everyone was saying MAMA at once. I hadn’t slept but three hours the night before and Ryan was out of town. I hardly ever looked in the mirror for the fright of the darkness under my eyes. When I encountered silence, it was so unknown that it felt eerie rather than peaceful.
I’ll remember that at one time, when I could finally go grocery shopping on my own, leaving the baby and older brothers at home with Daddy, I walked around the store and everything seemed so bright, so colorful, heavenly. I felt like I had a secret. A secret like the one I had about which floor boards would creak and maybe wake the baby.
The later years will prove harder in some ways, yes. We’ll probably really wish we could go back to handling a blow-out diaper in a minivan instead of fighting with a snotty teen. But for now, you better believe you have it hard. You are only one you and there is too much to do and you have no control a lot of the time. Not over time or yourself and especially not bodily functions. It’s gross and so tiring and kind of thankless a lot.
And yet, these really are some of the best years and yes, we will look back on them and think them totally lovely. They are. We can be totally in love with these demanding little creatures and be totally tired and DONE at the same time.
Hang in there, Mama. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for all of the thousands of things you do in just one day. All those babies and toddlers really want is YOU. Sit down, take a deep breath, ignore the mess and focus in on chubby cheeks and wrinkly little pudgy fingers. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.
Mostly, I wish you extra hours of sleep tonight.