“You’re going to miss this” is often said to mothers while they are in the midst of chaos. It’s said as a way to knock some gratitude into the harried mother’s heart; to make women stop complaining and take stock of how hashtag-blessed they are to be in this stage of life when their hair and body go unwashed as they survive on heart-racing amounts of caffeine because they haven’t had a full night’s sleep in lit-er-ally years.
It’s a fun side effect that early motherhood didn’t warn me about. I was warned about the possibility of being tired. But no one warned me about “the hovering.” Even after my kids got on a sleep schedule, gone were the days of sleeping without care. Instead of falling asleep deeply, I hovered just below the surface to be able to hear any crying, grunt, or disturbance signaling that I was needed. Even though I was sleeping, I had to always be available.
At least, that’s how I’ve felt for the past decade.
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My kids are 10 and 6.5 now and I’m just starting to notice the unclenching of my entire body as I am needed less. Please don’t misunderstand: as a mother you’re always needed. That doesn’t go away. But what about the constant stress and anxiety of protecting your child against imminent harm? This is what it looks like Does reduce I’m thrilled to say.
For instance, if I go to a playground, Sit on the bench. It’s a crazy idea for moms of small children, I know. I no longer need to walk along the perimeter of the play structure as my child climbs, my hands held up like I’m playing defense in basketball, ready to cushion a fall. My children were always just a tiny bit of a toddle-wobble away with a broken neck. These play structures are designed by who? Why does the play structure have a huge opening two stories above ground that toddlers could easily fall through? My kids were fast and their impulse control to climb higher would nearly always win over my rational plea for them to stay on a lower, safer, less-likely-to-break-your-neck platform.
I don’t miss the constant feeling of anxiety and hyper-vigilance needed to get through daily life as an early-years parent.
Parking lots are less of a nightmare these days.I would hold my child’s hand and while I stopped to look both ways, they’d wriggle free, shouting “I can do it!” while sprinting ahead. I’d yell with blood-curdling urgency, “Stop!” trying to catch up to them. Then I’d hold their wrist instead of their hand and gently, ever so gently, explain through clenched teeth, that no, trying to outrun the cars in the parking lot will not prevent you from being hit by one. Darting ahead is more likely to result in you being hit by a car. They weren’t buying it.
Related: Here’s the truth: Being a parent to young children is HARD
These days, I can open my cabinets easily. No more fumbling with the sliding lock placed there so that my children wouldn’t accidentally ingest the dishwasher liquid or pull out heavy and breakable casserole dishes onto themselves.
My rugs are now littered with small LEGOs, but they are not choking hazards and cause only foot pain.
Did you leave the toilet seat open? Annoying! But at least I’m no longer worried that my kid will fall head first into the open commode.
I don’t miss the constant feeling of anxiety and hyper-vigilance needed to get through daily life as an early-years parent. As much as people would like for me to think that I should miss those days, I don’t. When I see families chasing their kids away from danger and bouncing their babies to calm them, I don’t think, “I miss that.” Instead, I think, “I’m glad I’m not in that stage anymore.”
There are always new worries and anxiety as they get older. What are their school experiences? How are they managing friendships? What is the best time to talk with them about sex and puberty? Are they too addicted to video games? Are they engaging in too many activities Is it too many activities? While the list is never ending, it feels less overwhelming. Perhaps it is. Or maybe I’m getting better at this. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
Related: This is how we’re defining success this school year
My younger daughter and I spent the morning looking through videos from her early years. We laughed and squealed over their sweet faces, her cheeky cheeks and chipmunk voices. We both got back to our books. She’s recently gotten into the Dog Man series and loves to sit next to me while we read quietly together. Her brother was playing with neighbors and I was just there to help him fall. If he falls, he’s got a watch he can call me from. And I’ll come running.
If you’re in those early parenthood years, wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into, hang on. It’s possible to miss these times. You might find yourself in a place that allows you to not miss these days.
Now, let’s check back in when my kids are teens. While worrying about my kids driving in a car in a parking garage might sound like a nightmare, it is better than worrying about their running in one.
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