The Best Days

Sitting amongst all the women in my husband’s family one holiday evening,  we discussed life with little children.  “It’s hard to see past that time in your life when you are living it” said Ben’s aunt.  I nodded in agreement.

Ben’s maternal grandmother sat on the couch, her little body comically perched atop the leather cushions.  Her eyes peered out through the thick lenses of her glasses. “Those are the best days of your life” she said wistfully, a small sad smile on her face.

It’s a sentiment I’ve heard echoed time and time again.

“Enjoy this time in your life.”

“They go so fast, don’t they?”

“I miss those days.”

And I get it, I really do.  I love this time in my life, with all the little frustrations and stresses it brings.  I am fully aware how fleeting this time is, how every moment spent cuddling my babies is a moment straight from Heaven.  I try very hard to cherish every small thing and enjoy the times just spent laughing with Ada, or kissing Mymy’s chubby little cheeks.  I get that it is a precious time.

But for some reason, whenever I hear people tell me that these are the best days of my life…I feel a twinge of something…If I’m honest, there is a slight twinge of annoyance, in the implication that I am somehow not aware of my blessings, along with the sheer amount of times I hear it.  As I said, however, I get it, so that part of it is just a brief moment, nothing that really bothers me.  Most people are just trying to help.

What I think really bothers me is fear.  Hearing people wax on and on about this being the best time in my life, and how much I’m going to miss it, and aren’t these babies precious makes me fear what is to come.  Will my life be meaningless without children?  Do I have anything to look forward to once they are grown?

My post-baby body clearly leaves a modeling career out the picture, so what’s next?  I get so panicked thinking about it sometimes. I will literally be playing with my children and start thinking of all those friendly reminders to cherish this time and I will start to see the moments vanishing before my eyes.  Mya laughing at Ada’s in the bathtub–gone.  Ada twirling on the top of the stairs in her princess dress she donned after naptime–gone.  Like beads on a broken necklace, I see the moments lost forever.

It’s such a balancing act every day.  Do I do the laundry or read the kids a book? Do I unload the dishwasher or play Chutes & Ladders with Ada? Should I put Mya in her crib or hold her right through her nap, breathing in her sweet baby smell? It’s enough to make a person crazy.  Especially in light of the all the recent losses of babies and young people I have seen, it becomes harder and harder to know where to draw the line. Yes, I want to enjoy my kids, but I also want clean dishes.  And yet, even cleaning my house is tainted with guilt as echoes of “best time of your life” sound in my head.  And then throw the fact there is work and husbands and your own personal time to deal with..it’s amazing we can even function through the day!  Sometimes, I almost wish I was back in those pioneering woman days, when there was so much work to be done to merely survive the day that feeling guilty for not enjoying your children enough was just not an option.

I think especially for mothers who choose to be home with their kids, there is a level of guilt attached to it.  As in, if I’m choosing to be here instead of productively making money, I better really choose it.  I sure as heck better cuddle, snuggle, read, play, and cherish this time–because I chose it.  At least, it’s that way for me.  My job at the hospital especially is a job that is always there, always needing people to come in and help.  So every day that I don’t go in, I am consciously choosing to be home–so I better make it count.

This post feels a bit rambly, but hey I’ve been up since 1, 4, and 5 am with both children and especially child #2, who inherited child #1’s horrible poop bug (actually a real thing–rotavirus).  Poor baby.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I hope we can all enjoy our children, yes, but not take it to the extreme I sometimes border on, in trying too hard to cherish it all that I am not living the moment.  Writing down every cute thing, snapping pictures everywhere, capturing all the memories without really living them.  I hope I can learn to balance it all, to let go of my guilt in unloading the dishwasher, to not have an internal battle when the time comes to lay May down for her nap.  I want to look forward to the future, seeing my children grow, even spending time with them as (gulp) adults.  (I know this will happen in theory, but I can’t fathom it.  It is mind-boggling to me that my husband is his mother’s baby!!)  I want to know that there is life after children.  But hopefully, never without children in it.

I do believe the munchkins are awakening.  So, in the meantime, I leave you with this, a little reminder of just one of the best days in my life…

Ada swinging free

Mya's turn!

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8 responses to “The Best Days

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    Years ago, when my children were something like 2, 4, 6, and 8, they spent a night up with a stomach bug. That is, they alternated spending the night up. One woke up at 11 vomiting all over the bedclothes and pajamas, and my husband and I got up, changed the bed, hosed the kid down, put the kid in fresh pjs, consoled the kid, put the bed in fresh sheets, put in a load of laundry, and went back to sleep. The next got up at 1 am with the same thing. Of course it happened again at 3 am and 5 am.

    That was on a Wednesday. The kids were fine by Friday, of course, and they went back to school. I went to work on Thursday as usual, 8 am to 4:30 pm, because I was chronically short on sick leave. My husband stayed home with the kids and so got very little rest.

    On Sunday, there we all were at Mass. The children looked like bright sparkling new pennies. The parents looked like tired old dollar bills. A blue-haired old lady stopped me after Mass and said in her creaky little voice, “Oh, my dear, treasure these days. They are the best days of your life.”

    I wanted to say, “Shoot me now!” My manners are a little better than that even when I’m sleep-deprived, though. So I just smiled and went on. I figured that she was a former stay-at-home mom, the kind who made pies and served a gorgeous spread. That definitely wasn’t me. It still isn’t.

    Now that my kids are mostly grown and gone, I see what she meant. I’m glad I’m not in those days still. The exhaustion was not to be believed except by one who has also been there. Still, the sweetness of those darling little faces — the unstudied innocence of being asked to “unbutton my unbuttons” — the warmth of our cuddle times . . .

    Grandchildren are not quite the same, especially when one doesn’t see the kids daily or even weekly. It’s a taste of it, a bittersweet remembrance, but those children are somebody else’s children. I don’t have the freedom to do with them what I want; I am bound by trying to do what their parents want. And of course I just don’t see them enough to know them well.

    Still, there is definitely something to be said for them, of course. Especially that I can hand them back to their parents when they get cranky!

    • Two Tiny Blue Lines

      LOVED this Melissa! I had to laugh at the “shoot me now” comment, you are too funny. It’s crazy though, I do get it and I do realize it..but that certainly doesn’t stop them from growing up! I want to soak it all in, but I struggle with still being “me”….

      • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

        Glad you loved it! Look, I see what you’re saying. There is an inherent struggle at this time of life for those who don’t find their total identity and fulfillment in raising kids. Still, I’d rather have interests outside my kids, because my kids have mostly left, and where would that leave me if I lived only for my kids?

        It seems to me that if you can find the time, writing about this time will help you in the long run. You may think you will remember everything, but you won’t — trust me! Reading your blog in twenty years will bring you back to the time of the blog, and it will be worth it. But don’t just write about the good stuff! Some of the best stories come from terrible times. Look at mine!

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    Here’s a piece that our oldest wrote about something that happened in 1986, when he was 4 1/3, as he says in the piece: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/05/645531/-But-Daddy,-I-wanna-hear-about-the-sperm!

    I think you’ll enjoy it!

  • tumbledweeds

    Yes! I really resonate with the fear bit — of the future, I guess. It like when I was in college, I remember people saying the same thing — “this is the best time of your life!” and it leaves me feeling empty. I always want to yearn for the future — not because I’m not content in where I am now, but because I want to see what God has in store for me. I can’t wait to see His blessing unfold. And I try my best to be mindful and present with my sweet little ones, but I don’t want to look back with sad remembrance. Sigh. Thanks for writing.

    • Two Tiny Blue Lines

      To this I say “here, here!” I completely get this–even the college bit. I remember thinking “Really? If this is the best time of my life, I’m in trouble.” I didn’t care too terribly much for high school or college. It sounds like were a lot alike, some of us just have that forward looking personality, and it makes it hard to balance setting goals and striving to improve ourselves with time with enjoying the here and now. It definitely brings me hope to know I am not alone in this!

  • renmckay

    This is so true. It seems impossible to not feel guilty about doing chores around the house, yet if those things aren’t done, then it drives me nuts!

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