“I just don’t want to look back on this time as the Dark Ages,” I tell my good friend’s wife. A large group of my college classmates and our kids were visiting a traveling farm last fall.
She sighed, “You probably will.”
This was the hardest thing for me to hear. My son was 8 months old at the time, and my daughter was 2 ¾. I was flying solo for that trip because my husband was away for business. I was a mess. Overwhelmed and exhausted, barely speaking coherent sentences. Trying to manage a willful toddler and a cranky baby.
Out with my classmates, I could barely even remember us all doing our MBAs. Only 6 years had passed but it felt like an eternity. Motherhood had changed everything.
As my son now approaches 2, and my daughter 4, things are so much better. She has improved both socially and emotionally, and she is much more willing to follow instructions and get along. My son is finally crying less, and trying to communicate his needs with words. We’ve settled into a workable routine.
But those words are still echoing through my mind. In 5 years or 10 years, am I still going to be plagued by the difficulty of these early years with my son? Am I going to feel like it was the worst time of my life? Am I going to carry the weight of this deep guilt for falling apart at such a precious time?
I think I easily could. But I don’t want to. I don’t want the film of negativity to color what I remember about my babies’ youngest years. Yes, I will probably always know that it was hard for both my husband and I, an early babyhood gauntlet.
But there has been so much more that I have to work to bring to mind.
I am reminded when I go through pictures of all the fun times we’ve had together. Going to the zoo and feeding the giraffes. Going to the beach and building sand castles. My husband and I taking them to swim classes together.
Or painting with water colors outside when it was warm.
Or running around in the rain and jumping in puddles.
Or the times I bundled them up to go play outside in the snow, and they had so much fun that they barely felt the cold.
What about reading to them every single night? And how I slowed down to read at their pace, patiently answered questions, and engaged in endless side stories.
What about all of the conversations we’ve had? About silly things and serious things and everything in between. And poop, lots of poop.
What about the times I chased them around the kitchen island until we were all dizzy and they were squealing with delight? I can still hear their infectious laughter.
What about the late night and early morning snuggles? When I found their perfect tickle spots or blew raspberries on their sweet, soft bellies.
And the nursing? I am fond of the time I spent nursing my babies. Dutifully waking through the night to feed them, or before the dawn when they began to sleep longer.
So no, I will not call it the Dark Ages. That is not the right way to remember this season. I will not add stack upon stack of guilt to weigh down the beauty of my babies’ childhood. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I have cried out of frustration and exhaustion.
But I’ve been a mom, a good mom. With a big heart, and lots of love. For every correction, there has been double the amount of warmth and praise. For every difficult time, there were double the experiences of exploration and wonder.
I will remind myself of the goodness, the sweetness, and the simplest joys. The times where my true self shone through. I will let the sleepless nights and the tantrums slip away. I will engrave the good memories onto my heart to remember for always.
How will you look back on this period of motherhood? What will you choose?