Soon after high school I learned an amazing truth. All that drama and need to fit it....wouldn't matter at all after graduation. Who cares who was in the popular group or who drove the right car? No one cares. The amazing thing was I heard that over and over again. I heard it from my parents, from older friends, from books and strangers in the mall. Over and over I heard "Don't stress about all this stuff. In a few years it won't matter to anyone."
But I didn't listen. I thought, they don't know anything about it. The 5 journals that span my high school life would indicate I was worried about the drama.
When the truth of it all hit me, somewhere in my freshman year of college, I realized something much more important. "They" knew this. Had I just listened to my parents and teachers and strangers, I could have saved myself (and my parents) so much mental exertion and drama. Had I just known in high school what I learned very quickly in college, I would have been happier.
It was that day I decided to listen to "them". I decided I would pay attention to the advice that seems universally given. I would not let my eyes glaze over in the mere repetition of it all, but try to see the reason behind the counsel.
When Shane and I got married, the advice I held to closest was "Experience everything you can before you have kids, because afterwards, you'll have to wait years before you have the chance again." So we did. We did everything! For the five years before Lydia was born we experienced everything we could. We traveled as often as possible. "Hey, it's a three day weekend, let's drive to Washington DC!" ...."Hey, it's a beautiful night, let's travel into the country and sleep in the back of the jeep and call it camping". "Hey, let's go to Guatemala for a couple weeks!"..."Hey, we get to sleep in tomorrow, let's stay up all night talking and watch the sunrise." We went on dates, whether fancy or simple, a few times a week. We enjoyed each other.
Thank you to all those who urgently admonished this. You were right. Oh you were right.
There are so many of these universal pieces of advice I want to adhere to.
"Don't go into needless debt! It can destroy your life" - So we try not to.
"Keep your body healthy, you won't always be young" - So I need to.
There is one piece of advice I hold closest now. I clutch at it in near desperation. "They" have told me to "Enjoy them". Enjoy my little ones. Enjoy them while they are so young. Take advantage of this sweet time with my children.
This is the advice I have heard more than any other. I have heard it from almost every parent whose children are older than 10.
I know, I know "they" are right. I look at my sweet children and I already ache that they are growing so fast. I watch with fascination as Lydia starts to read. She articulates her emotion with such clarity and I wonder where my baby went. Her sweet innocence still shins on her face and I want to whisper, hold on to that. Don't grow up too fast. My little Collin is moving swiftly out of babyhood to become a toddler and I want to scream for him to stay little. I'm not ready not to have a baby. It went too fast!
The problem with this advice is that you can't see around the haze of motherhood with enough clarity. I know I need to enjoy my children. Everyday I should plop down on the floor and color and play for hours. But that is the exact problem. It is EVERYDAY. ALL DAY LONG. I try to explain to Shane that he leaves his job at the end of the day and comes home. But my home is my job. I never leave. My freedom is relativity non existent. It is difficult to constantly embrace what you can never get away from.
The more I learn about myself as a mother, the more I understand that the routine I am living with is not conducive to my personality. I love staying at home with my children. More than I thought I ever could. But I do not like staying home with them all day, every day. It just isn't conducive to "me". I NEED time for myself. I need to step away from my children for a few hours a few times a week. I need that time away so I can return to them refreshed and ready to enjoy them.
But I can't have a few hours. I have no family here. My husband works more hours than a surgeon. All my friends have very young children as well. In this economy, it wouldn't be prudent to hire even a very part time nanny. It makes me desperate at times. I don't want to miss these amazing moments with my children, just because I am drowning in them. I need to step away so I can see them with clarity.
I'm coming to terms with the fact that "this just isn't the time" for many things in my life. My life is truly not my own. Right now I am so ensconced in motherhood, the other parts of me are on standby.
What I dream of is 2 hours of daylight. 2 hours for myself with no one crying or calling for me. Oh what I could accomplish in two hours. I could practice my photography. I could go running. I could play my guitar. I could bake bread in a blissful moment of domestic zen. Yoga, shopping, reading. I would buy Photoshop and learn to use it. I could plant a garden. I could be a better friend.
But I don't have that. What I cannot do is stop "enjoying them", just because I am overwhelmed. I know it is only a few years away that I will be telling a new mother to enjoy every moment with her little children. I just hope I tell her that with the knowledge that I enjoyed my children as much as I could before their childhood slipped through my fingers and they were grown.