Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Long Days, Short Years

"Parenting consists of long days and short years." I don't know who said that, but I remembered it because I recognized it as a profound statement, worthy of contemplation. The upcoming New Year and my grown son's Christmas visit have combined to once again remind me to make the most of every day, every hour, every minute.

As the mother of six children, people sometimes assume I either don't experience the typical parenting woes or have been somehow immune to them. How else to explain giving birth to my youngest the same year my firstborn graduated from college . . . and the other four children scattered along the intervening 21 years?

I may have unintentionally promoted this fallacy by always trying to present a cheerful attitude. Mothers of one or two are "allowed" to give voice to the frustrations that are a natural part of parenthood. In our culture, mothers of many are less likely to encounter empathy. "You should have thought of that before you had so many kids!" is a typical reaction . . . as if only moms with a brood experience parenting-related stress.

No, I haven't been immune to any of it. I simply learned the truth of the above quote well and early, although I never worded it quite as eloquently. The night seems interminably long when you're sitting up with a baby who can't sleep, when you're up every hour emptying a child's sick basin, or when you're lying awake in the dark, pondering a teen's poor decisions. But, before you know it, the baby or child or teen is grown and you're left wondering how it all happened so quickly.

I once remained tired for two whole years! Two of my children were only 13 months apart, and I also had an eight-year-old son. Waking my toddlers from their naps to take their older brother to soccer practice, piano lessons, or a birthday party was almost a daily occurence. Finding time to shower was a challenge. My own meals were eaten one-handed and usually shared with another little mouth. When I fell into bed, exhausted, there was always at least one other little body sharing the space, and it was usually leaking!

Then, it was over. In the blink of an eye, my babies were practically grown. I'm grateful for the lessons learned with my first three children. It has allowed me to enjoy the second three so much more! Events surrounding a lost night of sleep or a missed appointment that seem so important today are often remembered with fondness in years to come. It was probably that realization that led me to take the above picture of my youngest child. He's only four, and I already treasure that photo. I'll never hear his newborn cries again.

It seems like only yesterday that I was adjusting to new motherhood with my now-25-year-old. I admire who he has become but, during his Christmas visit, I kept looking at him and wondering where the little boy had gone.

Long days, short years. Resolve this year to treasure even the stressful moments that make up what will become the too-brief years of childhood.

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