Many, many times, I thought I was horrible. I was doing the worst job ever as a parent. I could see it all in my mind, the kids twenty years from now, unprepared totally not winning at life and me being to blame. It took me four years to get to a point where I realized all I could do was my best and cross my fingers. There was no manual.
I thought it was going to be easy, this parenting thing. Babies are so easy. Feed, burp. Wash, clothe. Playtime, tummy time, nap time. Keep and ear out, keep an eye out. Sleep when they sleep. Laundry/bathe/cook when they nap. Go to bed and do it all again. As soon as you get used to that routine, a small thing happens. A little hand reaches up and wobbly legs become sturdy. A first step occurs and an era comes to an end.
Toddlerhood bitch slapped me in the face. This was not easy and everything anyone ever told me, did not prepare me for life with three toddlers. Strangers called me a saint, have asked me for advice and wanted to hire me. All they saw was three well-behaved little ones in Target. They didn’t see all the times I pulled my hair out. The days I doubted my worthiness to raise a child. The nights I cried myself to sleep or the mornings that started with a hot toddy to keep the noise down to a dull roar. I was a wreck, wanting perfection and failing to achieve it at every turn.
The toddler years felt like they would never end. I loved their little chubby faces and their wide-eyed discovery of the world. But, I loathed their temper tantrums, constant fighting, food finickiness and defiance at every turn. “It’s just a phase”, was a saying I heard often and I always agreed. Deep down, I knew it was just a phase, eventually every kid goes from a constant diet of chicken nuggets to asking for lasagna. While they eat that lasagna, I remember when that same child was two and they sobbed like I was feeding them worms (They actually would have eaten the worms back then before they touched the lasagna). Just as quickly as the toddler years started they came to an end. Those little babies that snuggled at my chest reeking of baby powder are now turning five and I wonder where all the time went.
I remember being tired of changing diapers and hoping against hope that I could start potty training sooner rather than later. At every stage, I was looking for the next one, making sure milestones were reached. I never relaxed and just enjoyed it all. As I look back now, I find myself wishing that I could get one more little handful of mac and cheese to the face. That time has passed, now they walk over to me and ask, “Are you going to finish that”?
In two months, I’m going to say goodbye. Goodbye to the toddler years for good and all. My babies will turn five and embark on their next adventure, once again the game has changed. They will start school and begin the journey to becoming whatever they are meant to be. This is the point where I have to let go and just hope. I hope that I’ve done my best and that I’ve taught them everything that they need to know. That I’ve built up their self-esteem enough to deal with bullies. I hope that I’ve taught them to be compassionate so they aren’t the bully. Mostly, I want be there for them as they navigate this unfamiliar territory and cross my fingers that I’ll be everything the need..
Between now and May, I’m taking my time, enjoying every day. I’m enjoying every little armed hug with its little handed back pat and wet snotty kiss. It won’t be long before those little arms become strong enough to lift me up when they hug me. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not and one day, not so very soon but soon enough for me, those little boys will graduate and the game will change one last time.