A reflection on parenting The Littles

My daughter Sharon Joy Schulte wrote the following. I thought it needed sharing.

I went to the Social Security office today. I had a list of tasks to take care of on my phone while I waited. Into the room came a sweet mom with three preschoolers. She wore a baby, pushed toddler in a stroller, and had a talkative 3 year old asking 1,473,925 questions every minute. She chatted with her kids and led them through the monotony of being at the SS office. She arrived armed with books, toys, and sippy cups for her littles.

For the few moments that our lives intersected, I watched that mother with fondness, recalling the days when I went everywhere with my three preschoolers. Has it already been more than a decade since my “bigs” were “littles”?!

When I was a new mom, I took my kids with me everywhere. Oh, sometimes I stole a few moments of quiet by going to the grocery store at 10 pm, Usually though, if I went to Sam’s, they piled into the cart. If I was sick, they climbed on me while I convalesced. If I had an appointment, they hid behind the curtain. If one kid was sick, we all ambled into the doctor’s office together.

I couldn’t imagine anything different, honestly. I didn’t want help. I prided myself on being fiercely independent. I guess I wore my exhaustion as a badge of honor.

I don’t miss the constant questions and point by point instructions.

“Throw your trash away.”

“No, we don’t have snacks….because snacks aren’t allowed here…. because they make a mess.”

“Wash your hands.”

“Use soap.”

“Turn left. No, turn around. Left, honey. This way. Follow me. Yes. Come this way. This is left.”

I view the preschool years with increasing nostalgia, but I vividly remember…

– the intense emotional and physical exhaustion.

– chanting, “His mercies are new every morning.”

– that I didn’t know how to ask my husband for support because I didn’t even know what I needed.

– feeling frustrated that my husband couldn’t anticipate my needs.

– wanting to be alone but never wanting to be away from my babies because I didn’t want to miss anything.

– being broke meant stretching every single penny, clipping coupons, stalking sales, and doing without extras.

I so desperately wanted to be the one who answered every question, kissed every boo-boo, read every book, witnessed every first.

But at the same time, I was worn out from feeling like I was the only one who could meet my children’s needs. From being the favorite one. From pouring out all the energy I had to be “the best.” From thinking that I would never be able to measure up, that I had to try harder. From hating myself for losing my temper (again). From reading every parenting book, trying to unlock the most effective parenting algorithm.

Daisy’s first year of life is a complete blur. I have very few memories of that year as I merely put one foot in front of the other. We made it through it all by God’s grace.

No, I don’t miss that season with tiny children, but I see clearly how faithfully God carried us through, and I am brought to tears.

Right here in the middle of a day running errands alone, I tear up because no one touches anything they shouldn’t. No one whines for more snacks. No one asks awkward questions about anatomy. No one has to potty. I can think without any interruption. And I cry alone.

No, I don’t miss those days of towing around three preschoolers, but I cherish them. I wouldn’t change how motherhood has shaped me and taught me about the great love our Heavenly Father has for us. I can’t adequately describe how it feels to watch someone who grew inside of me now growing taller than me and will one day leave us to live separately.

While I watched that mother at the Social Security Office answer all the questions and anticipate all the needs, I wanted to give her a trophy and tell her what a good job she’s doing. That it all matters. Maybe she already knows that, but there was a time when I felt so vulnerable and anxious because I had no clue what I was doing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I am more confident in my God who is able. So, instead of blathering on to a very busy mom with her hands full of blessings, I watched, admired, and remembered.