Back when we had a lot of Littles and no Bigs, daily life looked very different. Sometimes it felt a little dark and hopeless. How could I do everything that I need to do? How could I be a good wife, a good mother, a good Christian, while battling morning sickness and creeping chaos of a house with so many little ones?
I struggled to do all the things that I thought I needed to do, often failing. On a good day, I got everyone’s hair done before the mats moved in. Laundry was always a struggle, but somehow I kept up. Children and bedding got washed as needed because I refused to add another thing to The Schedule.
I often stayed up too late, either because the kids needed me or because I was savoring those few quiet hours of the day in which they didn’t need me. Many nights, I was wakened once by a nursing baby, again by a crying 2yo and/or a wet 3yo and/or a sleepwalking 4yo and/or a 5yo who just threw up on the 3yo’s hair. If the days seemed too short, the nights stretched on forever. Neither afforded much time for sleep or rest.
At that time in our life, we had no family within 1,000 miles. The church Perry had attended since he was 15 had dissolved in a mess ugly beyond belief. He was unhappy at his primary job, and working 2 more jobs on the side. We had personal problems and marriage problems. In spite of a few local friends, we felt very alone in our world.
That was the bad side. Sometimes, that’s what I remember about those early days. When people told me to enjoy them because they would pass too quickly, I just hoped they were right.
But I also remember walking to the library on a crisp day with a double stroller packed full of shining faces. I remember the friendly librarians who smiled when we walked in and knew us all by name. We spent a lot of time there!
I remember our friends at the cheese factory who always greeted us with bright smiles, free tours, and sample bags for each child packed full of all the best kinds of cheese in the world. Every visit turned into a picnic.
I remember building the Great Wall of China in the living room with wooden blocks, and a 4 foot Eiffel Tower made entirely of marshmallows.
I remember using Five in a Row for school. We read endless picture books, and every single one was a favorite.
I remember snow forts and hide-and-seek and a giant wooden playset given to us for free by an acquaintance I barely knew. Her husband worked at a local lumber store and was able to borrow a big flatbed truck to deliver it for us, fully assembled and ready for use.
I remember grocery trips that began and ended with laughter, packed full of smiles and compliments from every passer-by.
I remember the hot air balloon festival at the county fairgrounds, just a few blocks away.
I remember long family bike rides all over our little town with 2 little ones in a bike trailer behind each of us, and a fifth child on a baby seat, 8yo Deanna trailing behind on a bike of her own. She seemed so big to us back then, and now she’s nearly 18.
I remember trips to the zoo, to used book stores, to Chuck E. Cheese, to our friends in the country with the huge country house, to Texas and Tennessee and Oregon. We may not have gone to Disneyland every year, but we made memories – good memories!
Why do I sometimes think of those days as dark and full of chaos? They were also some of our happiest, most carefree times.
I think attitude plays a huge part in what we remember, how we remember it, and which memories we call to mind.
You can’t change your attitude in the past, but you can pray for a good attitude today and in the future. You can choose which memories to review and relive, and which to let go. You can look back with a good attitude and call to mind the good times, forgetting the bad ones – or seeing how God used those bad times to bless you in ways you didn’t understand at the time.
Now I’m the mom with older children, speaking to the tired young mother. Now I’m telling you to enjoy those days, because they will pass quickly. It’s true. I nodded and smiled when they said it to me, but I didn’t really believe their words.
Now I see the end of my baby days coming soon, the end of a season approaching. Yesterday, I was you. Today, I am my mom. Tomorrow, I’ll be my grandmother. They were right. It does happen quickly. I’m sorry I ever doubted them.
Yes, your days are long and busy, and you never seem to get enough sleep. You don’t think you spend enough one-on-one time with your children, and you feel guilty or stressed or worried. I’m not discounting that. This a busy season in life, and a hard one.
But still enjoy it. Remind yourself to remember the good times, and let the bad times fade out of time and mind. Ask God to help you do better tomorrow, and let the day’s failures disappear when you crawl into bed.