I haven't written about this in awhile. Motherhood. And my little guy. He's about to turn three. Oh. My. Goodness. We've turned the corner, the baby period is solidly over, the little boy period is fully underway.
Gone are the worries of early days - breastfeeding, slings, swings, blow outs, sleep problems. All of that seems so far away. My heart still aches at the preciousness of those cuddly baby days, but I'm glad to be moving forward. In the past year we've had overnight dates, we were able to travel and take real vacations. He's in Mother's Day Out now and these little breaks mean the world for me.
But it's still hard in totally new ways. He doesn't cry all the time - but he whines, oh, how he whines. He's very melodramatic - about everything. When he wants something, he WANTS it, and stays on it until he gets it or just wears out. Sometimes he gets worked up, sassy, defiant, aggressive. Sometimes he brims over with little boy energy. The toddler emotions can be intense. I do my best to stay calm in the midst of the storm, but at the end of the day I often feel spent.
There are beautiful parts of this phase too. It's so fun to watch him grow - to watch his vocabulary expand, to listen to him talk about his world with growing sophistication. He's becoming more independent in his play and can spend long stretches of time just playing with his cars and trucks. Speaking of which, he is OBSESSED with Cars, Lightnin McQueen, Mater, etc. It's kind of adorable.
He has grown so big and tall - he's still big for his age. But he has those cute round cheeks, and he loves to snuggle, especially in the morning and at night, and he still demands to be picked up, and he says "I wuv you, mommy," and melts my heart. I look at him sleeping and hold my breath, seeing the relaxed expression on his face, his pale, almost translucent skin, the long light brown fringe of eyelashes. I can't resist taking pictures of him when I find him asleep. He's so beautiful. I love him so much sometimes that it hurts.
I don't know what the future holds, what the next few years will be like as the mother of a preschooler and then a first grader. I do know, that each new phase has new joys and new challenges. I do know, that whatever it is, it won't last forever. It will change, again.
So what have I learned in three years of motherhood? A LOT. Here's a random list:
- Everything will change, so don't get too attached to anything. Don't ever think I have it totally figured out now. Don't think I ever will figure it out, or reach some stable point where it's not challenging anymore.
- It is so important to ask for help, to ask for what I need and what I want. Yeah, I'm still working on this one. I don't know why, but it's hard for me.
- I gotta take care of myself the best I can and not feel guilty about it. I've had to figure out what makes me feel good, what works for me, what my minimum requirements are. What is it that keeps me ticking, what is it that is worth investing in, that will pay me back with energy and endurance? In my case it is sleep, exercise, reading, journaling, date nights and time with friends.
- The days of long stretches of time to myself are OVER, but I can still fit in little things that I love like audiobooks, a quick visit to a coffee shop or to the library.
- It's worth the effort to pull myself together and spend the time styling my hair, putting on makeup, and dress up more. For the first two years I got pretty frumpy. I've figured out that it's worth it to spend a little time on appearances. It's not a waste of time. I feel the difference.
- Motherhood of small children is a season. It will not last forever. But while I'm in it, I have to accept it for what it is, with all of the limitations. This is not a season of aggressive goals. This is not a season of being superwoman. This is a season of long hours, long hauls, and what's needed is patience, flexibility, and most often letting go of unreasonable goals and expectations.
- Don't compare myself to other moms. I've had to come to grips with who I am as a person - that my capacity, my gifts, my skills, my needs are not the same as someone else's. I have spent so long feeling inferior because some other mom can have five kids and homeschool them and keep a blog and make homemade bread and handmade gifts for Christmas and who knows what else. I've realized I am not that mom. Not even close. I am in awe of those moms. But I am not one of them. I'm just not built that way. That's not my gift.
- Watch my sleep. I've come to realize that sleep has a huge effect on me. For me sleep deprivation can show up as almost depression, a heaviness, an inability to cope. I will wonder why I'm feeling that way until I remember "Oh yeah, Will was up twice last night and I'm missing a few hours of sleep". I've struggled with "tired and wired" syndrome - where I need sleep, but can't relax. The more sleep deprived I am, the more pressure I feel, and thus the more anxious and frustrated that I can't just flip the switch and make it happen. I've had to learn how to wind myself down, just like a baby, with dim lights and a bedtime story! I can't always control how much sleep I get, but to just be aware helps. It also helps to regulate my caffeine. I'm super caffeine sensitive and while I love the jolt of energy it can make me edgy and bring on insomnia.
- Loosen up the reigns. Don't try to control everything. In the early days of motherhood I wanted to figure everything out. I wanted everything to be controlled and systematic and predictable. I was always googling something on sleep, feeding, development, etc. Since I've figured out that figuring everything out and controlling everything is impossible I've relaxed into flowing with life with a small child instead of trying to systematize it.
- Make some "mom friends" - for me a first time moms playgroup, and now MOPS have been lifesavers - just to know I'm not alone, just to know that so much of what I experience is straight up normal. But I try to have some deeper friendships too, too connect on things that aren't just about sleep schedules and ear infections and potty training, to talk about hobbies and books I love and heart stuff too.
- Get out of the house. On a regular basis. Find parks, pools, kid friendly restaurants, libraries, story times, whatever. Just get out.
- Be grateful for the little things. On a daily basis. Whatever I can be grateful for - my child, my house, my supportive husband, my favorite tv show (haha), chocolate. Yeah. Hang on to the good stuff instead of focusing on all the little annoyances. It's easy to get focused on all the things going wrong (the pancake mix on the floor, the play dough in my coffee beans, the whining, the infinite to do list) and just think life is horrible. It isn't. Remembering how much good there is brings me back to center.
- Let go of the dream. Whatever kind of mom I thought I would be, whatever perfectionistic standards I've had for myself (the "development" activities I would do, the DIYs, the holidays, the nutritionally perfect diet for my child, etc) - I've had to let all that crap go. Just let it go.
- Live the dream. Love my kiddo. And be grateful. This is it. This is the golden moment. Right here. Right now. This is the golden moment I will someday look back on with joy and sorrow that it's gone. I don't want to miss it.