March is a big month in the life of our family. With our two oldest boys being born 5 days shy of 2 years apart, there is one week each March where a whole lot of growing up is done in not a lot of time. On March 12th, I had a 3, 4 and 6 year old. By March 18th, I had a 3, 5 and 7 year old. For a lady who’s perhaps just a weeeee bit sentimental about the idea of her babies growing up, this is a lot to take in. (If I’m sentimental at the mere idea of my children growing, then I’m a flat out mess in face of the reality of it.) I’m still breathing deeply to help cope with the situation.
I know what you’re thinking and I get it, alright? Children grow. It’s an inevitable and obvious part of life. I knew when I got them that they would grow bigger with each passing day, so is it really all that life-altering that they are doing what I knew they were going to do in the first place?
Actually, yes. It most definitely is.
Sure, I knew in some vague, hypothetical way when that first baby was placed in my arms that eventually that baby would turn into a full-grown man. But to actually see it happening right before my eyes? I mean who, as a parent to a newborn baby, is able to see themselves -at that point in time- as a parent to that baby when he is a full-grown adult? WHO HAS THAT POWER?! So while, yes, I knew they would grow, I had no inkling of what that entailed. No clue that they would grow in such massive leaps and bounds. I could not have fathomed how having a child would so deeply affect the way I experience the passing of a lifetime; How having a child would so intensely alter my perception of each imaginable increment of time. Seconds have felt like days and years have seemed nothing more than a few short moments strung together.
Quite frankly, the notion of time has long since eluded me (I mostly blame The Wrinkle in Time series for this), but I don’t even know how I’m supposed to deal with this incessant passing of time now that I’m a mother. I have a 7 year old. How did that happen? I’m not a 7 year old’s mom. I’m the mom of tiny babies and toddlers. The mom who manages the mass chaos of having 3 boys in less than 4 years. The master mom who nurses the baby, opens the 2 year old’s juice box, and puts the 4 year old’s tennis shoes on as he returns from being
sufficiently perfectly supervised (by me) at the Chick-fil-a playground. I can do all these things simultaneously and with ease. That’s me. I’m that mom.
But this little scene right here? I can barely stand it.
Why is my tiny baby son riding a bike with only two wheels?! What neglectful parent bought him a bike ramp for his birthday? Thank God someone at least had the sense to put him in a helmet (I bet that was his mother). Yes, my tiny baby son is now 7 entire years old now, and I’m afraid the mommy-era may be coming to an end. I have this image in my head of my mommy-self being left in a trail of dust barely visible in the rear-view mirror of a car traveling onward at break-neck speed.
All this growing begs me to consider, who am I going to be in this new stage of life? What happens to the baby-mama me? I was so dang good at the baby-mama part! I don’t mean to boast or anything, but I kinda rocked the infant stage. Babies don’t scare me. (Ok, the first baby scared me maybe just a little but not for long.) I had stellar advice on the infant stage from moms who went before me – such gems as “As long as he’s crying you know he’s breathing which means he’s obviously still alive”, and “Don’t worry, he won’t remember any of this”. Those 2 pieces of advice alone got me through most every baby-to-toddler situation my three little men threw at me. Yeah, I pretty much had that stage down. That was a stage of life in which I thrived – as if I were somehow built for it. So as that stage comes barreling to a close, I sometimes find myself not recognizing who I am.
Who is this woman without a baby on her hip? This strange woman who has time to do things like bathe, paint her nails, wear jewelry and make new friends? I barely recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror. Wait…Are those skinny jeans? WHO ARE YOU?! We swore with all our might that we would never wear those things! The other day I wore a patterned head scarf and big, hoopy earrings (gypsy-chic, if you will) and a friend of mine told me that I looked so cute she almost didn’t recognize me. She emphasized this by saying it twice. “Seriously. So cute. I didn’t even recognize you.” (Umm, thanks?)
But I get it, I barely recognize myself. Wasn’t it just last month (year?) that my daily uniform was confined to maternity jeans, black t-shirts and spit rags? (breast-feeding chic, if you will.) I’m obviously experiencing some sort of identity crisis at this junction in my life. Too late to be a quarter-life crisis (thanks for nothing, John Meyer)…it couldn’t possibly be a mid-life crisis quite yet…So, what? I’m looking at maybe a three-eighths life crisis? Do life crises even come at the three-eighths interval? Is this even possible?
Or maybe it’s not a life crisis at all. Maybe it’s just a mama crisis. A dear-lord-what-do-I-do-at-this-new-stage-of-motherhood crisis. So once again, it’s time for me to re-learn some of the truest truths. It’s time for me to focus intently in on the only one who never changes.
My identity as a mama of littles may be in crisis, but my identity as a follower of Christ holds strong. The sands of time may be shifting predictably beneath my feet, but there is a rock just below the surface that stands firm.
As our family evolves, my role in it will morph and adjust to meet the changing needs of my guys. It has to. But my main purpose as a mama will always remain the same: I will continually point my children to Jesus. The methods will no doubt change, but the message will not. When they were infants, I pointed them toward Jesus by holding them tight. As their physical, mental and emotional abilities grow, much of pointing them to Jesus will involve my letting them go. (Thus the bike ramp, people).
I may have to wrestle a bit with my ever-changing identity as their mama, but I suspect that as time marches on I’ll somehow adapt. I’ve seen evidence of this in my friends whose children are now preteens and young teens. I see no indication that they hole themselves up in the house all day, sobbing over the lost infant and toddler years of their young while their practically adult children are in school all day every day. Surely, I will not be as strong as they. Surely, my heart will crack into a zillion pieces when all my babies leave me and I will die.
Or maybe not.
Maybe I’ll just keep on keepin’ on, looking back in gratitude for the good gift of time that God has given me, and forward in eager expectation of the stage that comes next. All the while, totally rocking that gypsy-chic look.
Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children…Lamentations 2:19
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