Moving on with Little Movers

All of my musings here have come from a very personal place as I don't know how to write but from my experiences and scars. But, no confessions have felt as personal as this: barring an act of God or medical miracle, I am done having babies.

Now, I don't mean to imply that this decision is one that has been made for me. No, after spending the last seven plus years conceiving, carrying, and birthing our three precious babies, we have chosen to close the door to more children and are moving into the next season of parenthood. Granted, I do have a newborn at home right now, so it's not like I'm out of the baby phase yet. I am still deeply entrenched in diapers, nighttime feedings, and that knowing look I get from other 'new' Mamas that says, "Yeah, these newborn days are so hard and so sweet." But with two older kids at home as well, life didn’t stop moving and there was no ‘6-week bubble’ this time around. Kindergarten school work, potty training, sleep training and fall colds; well, it just all kept on truckin.’

New journeys and parenting experiences are now filling my days as I straddle the worlds between having my babies to raising my babies. I quickly realized that the struggle with making the jump from two to three children, for me, was not the newborn in my arms, but in having two children who still need parenting, not just babysitting. And it is very difficult to live in both of these worlds. How do we move gracefully from nourishing their bodies to nourishing their minds, their hearts, and their souls?

So, as unqualified as I know I am compared to many, I'm going to list a few ways I've found to be essential in connecting with my children, as they grow bigger and braver ever so quickly.

1. Our children have instinctual love languages and we should know them.

This is something I realized when our son was three and we brought our daughter home from the hospital. All of a sudden much of what I thought was normal for all babies became only normal for my son when I had someone to compare him to. While my son is the greatest snuggle bug to ever be born on this earth, my daughter has a love/hate relationship with physical contact from the moment she was born. And from very early on my daughter shined when words of affirmation were heaped upon her head, even asking directly for our attention and approval. My son on the other hand lives in a world where the only opinion that matters is generally his own and he has no extraordinary need for affirmation.

Now obviously, these are generalized examples, and there are always exceptions. (I still hug on my daughter and I still praise my son.) But, even the basic knowledge of how my babes feel loved has been a light to us on this parenting journey. As my littles grow, this knowledge allows me to connect with them throughout our days in intentional ways. I know if I stop to sit and hug on my son for just 5 minutes, his love tank will be full and we have connected in a special way. And if I sit and watch intently with no distractions whatever song and dance my daughter may be performing at the time, and heap mounds of praise upon her at the close, well, you just can’t beat that beaming smile of hers.

If you haven’t heard of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly encourage you to check out the original book and/or edition about children. You may even learn a little something about yourself in the process.

2. Honesty is the best policy as your kids get older.

The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try and make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not try to pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they’ve grown, they will pollute the shadows.
— Nate Wilson

For me, this is the best outcome of always being honest with our children. It’s not a rejection of being their shelter and keeping them safe. It is also not a full embrace of sharing every little detail of life with them, with little regard of their ability to comprehend it. For me, it is a balance of being honest with their questions to the degree with which I believe they can process, but still letting there be some magic in the world. It’s letting them believe in Santa for a little while longer, but answering honestly their silly and serious questions about what different body parts are called, why they, a brother and sister can’t get married when they grow up, and when they ask at 5 years old, ‘Mommy, what is a racist?”

This is where parenting really gets gritty, Mamas. This is where their little characters are formed, and to my mind, there are few greater gifts to offer them for their futures than open communication and honesty. The conversations are not always easy, and always fraught with my mistakes and misgivings, but the bonds that are forged in these talks and questions answered, even at such young ages, are the bonds that will last straight on through adulthood. They will not remember the long nights you nursed them back to sleep, but they will remember your undivided attention to their quarries and curiosities, and your honesty about the world around them. I’m slowly learning that perhaps I even prefer these emotional and intellectual bonds to the first solely physical connections from carrying and nourishing them I had in the beginning. It is a revelation I never expected.

3. Taking care of myself is taking care of them.

Those who know me will likely laugh that this point even made my list for I am well known as being notoriously bad at getting away for some ‘me’ time. Nonetheless, with every passing day/week/month/year, I realize the great importance of time to myself. Introvert or extrovert, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that as Mothers, we know ourselves and take the time to get away to do the things that fill up our own love tanks. Motherhood is both fulfilling and draining, and I have yet to meet a mother who didn’t need at least a little rejuvenation from time to time. For some rejuvenation comes from pampering or for some it is a simple and quiet space. Maybe it’s working or maybe it’s taking a bath. For me, it is creating and learning a new artistic skill that really helps me feel centered. When my daughter was born I took up calligraphy and hand lettering. This time around, I’m throwing myself into learning pottery.

No matter what it is for you, take care of yourself, Mama. You deserve it, and you need it. Few season in motherhood leave us an abundance of time or resources, and many seasons pass with us running on empty all the time. But it is only when we are filled up as mothers that we have anything to give away to our children, to continually being all that they need us to be, in each stage of their lives.

So, if you're reading this and you're still in the thick of your childbearing years, I see you friend. My heart abides with you through the months of trying, crying, pregnancy, and delivery you are living through. I wish I could text you during all those middle of the night feedings and tell you to trust yourself, you’re doing just fine. I wish I could sit next to you, look you in the eye and tell you to trust your instinct more than the stranger on that Facebook forum, and I wish I could make you understand how fleeting this precious time is.

When I imagined becoming a Mother, I never pictured more than having a baby in my arms. That was the whole of motherhood that I could imagine for most of my life. Now, that season is almost over for me, but the journey of motherhood has just begun. I’m only 7 years into a journey that will last many decades to come. The babies are weaning now, and each needs me in their own way. They need me to know how to love them, how to listen to them, and how to be their Mama. They look at me like I hold the whole world in my hands, not knowing that most days I’m scared of doing anything that might accidentally ruin them. But I pray all my striving will continue to strengthen our bonds, that they might last long after they think they need their Mommy any more. I don’t know many mothers ahead of me in this journey, but from what I can tell, it only gets better

JOURNALIST: Rachael MacPhee (@havenblog)