My kids are 2 and 4. They haven’t yet had the chance to go to school, not that I plan to send them to public school anyway, but it hasn’t even been something I’ve had to go through yet. Both kids have stayed with sitters, either my dad or a good family friend, while I work, so they’ve never been to day care. It was such a blessing to know that my kids were in the hands of someone I knew well and loved while I worked. Don’t get me wrong – there is NOTHING wrong with day care or preschool at all! In fact I have several friends who work in day care and my best friend since elementary school directs a preschool that I wish I could duplicate in my town. But God blessed our family with the opportunity to have our kiddos spend all day with their
second favorite person, Papa, or with our friend who has three children about the same age as our kiddos. The closest I’ve come to the “going to school” experience is sending them to the nursery for an hour while I go to worship on Sunday since they are not ready to sit in the sanctuary. We’ve even had our share of tears at drop-off, especially the first couple of weeks or if they were meeting a new teacher.
Tonight, though, I took my kids to Vacation Bible School. It is not Punky’s first time at VBS, but the last time she went was 2 years ago and it was a real struggle for her. I was expecting at least a little melt-down when I left because of our prior experiences. Would y’all believe that neither one of them even whined when I left?! They did need an extra hug, but they sat right down and let me walk away. I held my breath the whole way down the hallway expecting to hear Bay start sobbing any minute or Punky to run up behind me to ask for another kiss or to stay “for just a few minutes”. But….nothing. I wasn’t sure whether to cry, or to cry! It’s not like I wanted them to be sad or to cry, but I can’t believe how ready they were for me to leave. And such is the blessing and the curse of motherhood. It is our hope, dream, and ultimate goal that our children grow to become independent, self-sufficient, and successful. It is also our burden to bear that if we are successful, they will no longer need us.
It is such a bittersweet moment each time a child reaches a milestone. You have worked with them for days, weeks, sometimes longer on reaching this new goal, and they have finally gotten it!! But now they won’t need your help with that anymore. We get frustrated when our littles constantly ask for our help – turn on the light, change the diaper, cup of milk, a snack, turn off the light, brush their hair, open this, close this, another snack – but eventually they figure out how to do it themselves and we wonder, “When was the last time she asked me to wash her hair for her?” “When was the last time he cried when I dropped him off?” And then the dreaded mom-guilt sets in. We wonder why we’re so impatient; why did we brush them off when they asked to play earlier – the dishes could have waited. It’s a catch-22 of the worst kind. If we treat them like kids ALL of the time, we worry they won’t grow and achieve the next developmental goal. If we don’t, then they’ll miss out on their childhood. WE will miss out on their childhood.
Surely there is a balance in there somewhere with just the right amount of silliness and forgiveness of messes and help with the same thing over and over, but also the right amount of accountability and learning. If you’ve found it though, please write a book and mail it to me immediately! I struggle with this daily! I feel the pull of housework gone undone too long, the need to make appointments, desire to have time to myself and with my husband. If I give in to these I deal with the disappointment in myself for not seizing the moments when Bay says, “Mommy, play me!” or Punky asks, “Mom, do you want to play a game with me?” Inside I know that if I wrote down all the times I said yes or no, my yes list would be at least a little longer on most days. Some days are just bogged down with chores and responsibilities or a particularly heck-acious litany of ridiculous requests from the kiddos that no sane or only slightly insane mom would say yes to. But most of the time, I do listen when the kiddos ask me to play. I may only stop for a few minutes. I might have to say, “okay, but just until this load of laundry finishes in the dryer.” It might be that they have to wait 5 minutes so I can finish loading the dishwasher. But those few minutes here and there add up to a lot of fun times I get to enjoy with my babies while they are still little. While they do still need me. While I am still the most important person in their lives.
I hope that I always cherish these moments, and I pray that I will be able to treat every time they ask me for help or to play like it might be the last time they ever ask. I want my kids to grow up knowing how much I love them, not in spite of, but because of all their quirks and differences. I want them to remember all the fun and good times they had with their Mommy. I also want them to know that, unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around them, so they have to learn to be patient. They have to learn to do things by themselves. They have to learn to enjoy the company of people other than their immediate family. These things take time thankfully, so I get a little bit longer to
endure enjoy how much they need me.
By the way, they had a great time at VBS. I went to pick them up a little early so I could see them in action. I did a weird mom thing where I stood outside the door watching them through a window where they couldn’t see me. I was amazed at how they were interacting with the other kids and adults, and so grateful that we have an awesome church family that made learning about God and the Bible fun for them tonight. Turns out I didn’t need to hide. Of course, they ran to me when they saw me to start with, but went right back to their group when the leader got their attention and asked everyone to sit down. My babies walked away from me. No tears. It was awful. It was amazing. It was a blessing and a curse.