Dear young moms: Encouragement for when your children are splashing in the toilet

AliaGrace2003

I’ve been thinking about you lately, you moms with little children. Maybe you’re young or maybe you’re not-so young, but I think having little ones keeps you youthful, right?

I want to say something to you while I’m close enough to that stage to remember what your life is like but far enough outside to have a bit of perspective to offer.

My youngest child is 5 right now and my oldest is 13.  Life is busy and sweet, and we have lots of messes and mayhem (and frustrating nights where I totally vent into my journal and record all the details that bother me, so I can see them in black and white and realize that things will always get better), but life is not chaotic — like it used to be.

When my husband was going to graduate school, we lived in a modest apartment on campus with our three preschoolers.

I love this photo Eric took one evening as I was nursing Ethan and reading nursery rhymes to Alia.  Grace couldn’t find any available “lap space,” so she grabbed her bottle of milk and just leaned against my legs.

That was my life.

One afternoon, I thought it would be fun to get everyone out of the apartment for a few hours and go to a special store in Boston called The Christmas Tree Shop.  They had all kinds of toys, home supplies and decor items (year round), and I was feeling up for an adventure.

So I bundled everyone up in their coats, hats and mittens, got all three strapped into their car seats and drove for 30 minutes to the shop.

Ethan was being fussy, so I put him in the front pack, draped a blanket over us and let him nurse while I pushed the cart.  (In hindsight, that seems incredibly awkward, but desperate times … )

After shopping for 20 minutes, my cart was about half full, and I was feeling pretty excited about my purchases: a Dora tent for the girls, some curtains for our windows, a night-light for Alia’s bedroom and a few little knick knacks for decor.

“Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom right now,”  Alia said.

“Just a few more minutes, honey. I’m almost done shopping.”

She started dancing. “Now, Mommy, now! I can’t wait!”

More dancing. More panic in her voice. (Turns out she had contracted a strange virus, and her tummy was totally unsettled.)

I rolled the cart over to the restrooms at the back corner of the store, parked it to the right of the ladies’ room door, lifted 1-year-old Grace out of the cart and proceeded to walk my two girls into a large stall in the restroom (still nursing Ethan).

Alia needed some extra time to take care of things — more than Grace could handle — so Grace slipped under the door and started running around the empty restroom.

Splash . . . Splash . . . SPLASH!

Suddenly I realized that little Grace was running into each of the other stalls and sticking her hands into the toilets (having a grand old time).

I opened the door to Alia’s stall so I could reign Grace back in, and Alia started screaming that someone was going to SEE her.  Fortunately, no one else had come in, so I was able to grab Grace and direct her back into the stall, help Alia get cleaned up, get everyone’s hands washed (especially Grace’s), and then calmly exit the restroom (though inside my head I wanted to scream).

I’d spent so long in the restroom, however, that by the time I was ready to head to the checkout, the dutiful employees of The Christmas Tree Shop had re-shelved everything in my cart.

Isn’t that a fun story?

It makes me laugh now. (Didn’t then.)

Motherhood is utterly ridiculous at times, don’t you think?

But here is one idea that I wish I had known back then. (You’ve probably already mastered this.)

Several times, when I was in the midst of the mundane (sweeping, mixing formula, wiping spit-up, picking up toys), I wondered why the young, healthy, vibrant years of a woman’s life are also the prime years for childbearing.

Doesn’t it make sense (I reasoned) for women to have a chance to LIVE before settling down to raise children? (I wasn’t talking about waiting until our 30s or 40s. I was thinking it would be perfect to start around 60.)

I felt like I was spending the “best years” of my life changing diapers and trying to sleep while toddlers were piling My Little Ponies on top of me.

But now I don’t see it that way.

Now I think, “How lucky am I to get to spend the healthiest, strongest, most energetic years of my life as a mother!”

I can bounce on the trampoline — holding their hands in mine — boogie board with them and jump up in a flash to provide kisses when they bang their foreheads on the edge of the table.

I can hold my babies on my hips (yes, I still hold Spencer sometimes), chase them up the stairs when it’s time for bed and talk about boys with my teenage daughter because it wasn’t really that long ago that I was going through her exact same time of life.

The more time I have to move forward on professional projects and travel the world, the more I realize that time spent with children is living. (What on earth had I been thinking?)

I still have lots of years to pursue other adventures, but this adventure of young motherhood, which is too quickly shifting to empty-nest-hood, is a beautiful, beautiful time.

AliaGraceApril2002

Just something to think about when your children are splashing in the toilet.

QUESTION:  Have you ever had a crazy moment like the one described above?  How do you maintain a healthy perspective when your life feels chaotic?

CHALLENGE: If you ever begin to feel like your time with young children is more exhausting than it’s worth, take a moment to step back and acknowledge the wonderful role you are playing in raising your little ones.

7 comments

  1. Cat

    I have 6 kids 21 to 5. My whole life has been one crazy rollercoaster ride. I totally relate with the crazyness of small childeren in the bathroom. I was there once. I also had babies and teenagers at the same time. That too was crazy. However, going through it at the time, I learned so many things that I’m sure would have been harder to learn otherwise. Had I been planning my family I certainly would have put some of them closer together. Others further apart. But here I am now slowly watching my kids go out into the big world and I sill have little ones to be with. I don’t know how people manage life who have thier house empty very quickly. I’m glad it’s taking a long time for me.

    As for the crazy stories – I spent two years visiting the after hours clinic or ER every couple of weeks with one kid or another. Sometimes multiple. We got to the point that the doctors and nurses would recognize us. We also started having favorite ER doctors as we had been there so many times. I hadn’t realized that we had passed out of that phase when I had to run a kid up to the ER at 2am and found out they had remodeled and things were totally different. I was actually glad that we were passing out of that phase.

  2. Alexandra

    That’s exactly what I am trying to explain to my girl friends who are older than me and don’t have children. I’m 26 and have just a 3 year old cutie and I feel very old and failed as a human being for not having more kids by this age, while they are still scared to have their first. I was pumped up at 18 and wanted to be a career woman but at 23 I realised I should have had babies at 21! What was I thinking puting it off for so long?! I can’t imagine now me feeling happier anywhere else than with my daugther, with all the crazy moments, sweeping, wiping, picking up toys, back pains and so forth! Women should be braver, or else they miss the only thing that will make them complete.

    • Cat

      You’re not a failure. I had my first kid at 24 and my last at 40. 23 isn’t old for starting to have kids. My sister-in- law is approaching 30 is currently trying to have her first. At 26 – you have plenty of time for life to give you all the craziness it has to offer.

      If you want to feel old, try walking the halls at church with a baby and some cute young mother asks me if he’s my first. Imagine the look on her face when I tell her he’s my 6th and my oldest is 17.

  3. Sumera Farooq

    HI, I am 30 now n an a mother of 3 adorable little kittens, my first borns were twins, a boy n a girl, n six months later, I concieved another girl. I can not agree more with April, n do not have words to praise you enough for sharing your thoughts on this forum; the best job in the world as it may be, is also the hardest, n now that my twins are approaching their terrible 2sss (20 months, n Anaum has started weaning, life has never been crazier, but whenI remember the fun n excitement n strength of the limitless and unconditional love I see when I look into those eyes, I know its all worth it :) every single day is tougher then the last one, but it ends with three peaceful, healthy satisfied kids lying around me, I give credit to myself for every single day that passes by fine, n its really very thoughtful of you to share these views as more people are generally only there to judge my parenting skills n suggest improvements, so its good to read.

  4. momina

    I m a single parent of two kids 3 yrs daughter n 1yr old son..i ve been through much ups n down but still when i look at my kids i want to make my home heaven for them. …want to do so much for them
    I do agree with u that they give u new energy every passing day..such an unexpressive feeling of being a mum

  5. SJK

    I loved my young children Mommy years. My husband and I just entered our empty nester time. Sometimes it is great and other times we miss the craziness that was our children years. We are looking forward to having grandchildren. I do miss holding my little ones and have to steal a baby from a mother at church for a few minutes once in a while. I do miss the nights we I had a warm cuddly child to rock or read to. It has been said a lot, but enjoy the time you have now. It goes SO incredibly fast and then they are gone doing their own thing. I am very proud of where my children are now.

  6. Cathie

    I’m 35, Mum to 8, (3 in Heaven) 5 living at home…….. 18, 15, 8, 5 and 2. I was 16 when I fell pregnant, I’ve been raising kids all my life it feels, I don’t know if I’m teaching them or they’re teaching me! I enjoy all the different challenges and struggles we go through together on a daily basis, I’m glad I had my children in my teens, twenties and thirties. Im hoping I wont have grandchildren until my sixties, because I would like some time to myself in my fifties for a rest and recharge, before I start helping to rear my childrens babies, Im planning to still have lots of energy then lol

    My first is a daughter and we are more like sisters cos we kind of grew up together, I made all my mistakes with her lol, theres 3 boys in between her and her sister and i thoroughly enjoy raising strong, sensitive, caring, handsome men, their wives are gonna be very blessed ladies someday! The baby of the family , people sometimes assume my eldest is her Mother. My eldest daughter likes to joke with me that she’s smarter than me cos shes not pregnant yet lol, I think having her as a labour partner helped ha ha (my plan worked) ;)

    With my baby daughter feels like I’ve been given a second chance to be girlie with my daughter again, playing dolls, watchin cinderella/Snow white films all over again, just like I did with my eldest before she hit the independant assertive teenager stage, when I was her idol lol I think I appreciate these special times and cherish them so much more than when I was a teen because I now realise how quickly time passes. I’ve only got 16 more years of parental responsibility left.

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