In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she says “the days are long, but the years are short.” I have been doing this motherhood gig for over 5 years, and I see what she is saying, but I would like to acknowledge right here and now, the days are damn long. I spent 6 years in graduate school, passed a bar exam, and worked 12 hour days. Nothing prepared me for the bone tired ache motherhood would bring.
It has helped me tremendously to remember each stage my boys were going through was just temporary. Early on, I remember being horrified that my oldest, Science Kid, who had been breastfed would not give up his bottle. I would sit in his doctor’s office with my head down, feeling like I was being scolded by the principal and given after-school detention. I tried all the suggestions given by the doctor and friends; none of them worked.
You know what? At age 5, the days of bottles are long past me. True to helpful friends’ words, he did not go to kindergarten still taking a bottle.
People lie about parenthood and the joys of parenting. I first began to suspect lies when I joined Facebook in 2008, and saw people talking about their 1 year old sleeping 14 hours straight at night and napping for hours a day. The only thing more annoying than their constant posts about how wonderful and perfect their lives were was their instance that my child’s sleep would improve miraculously. *Side note, it didn’t.
We later learned that many kids with autism lack sufficient melatonin which causes sleep problems. Then I got proof when someone wrote an honest piece about the lies we tell on Facebook. When I see someone posting non-stop positive stuff on Facebook, I smirk and remind myself that there is probably a positive spin on their life. When I see someone posting negative stuff all the time, I assume they are probably dealing with a 3 year old.
People tend to remember only the good things from a stage they have past. One of the best ways, I have found to work this to my advantage is to find a mother with children 2-4 years older than mine. They are close enough to remember the hard moments, but can only give me perspective about what to appreciate about various stages.
It also helps to have friends with kids younger than mine, so when they are chasing around a toddler who is sticking remote controls in their mouths and yelling incomprehensible babble, I can appreciate my 4 and 5 year old boys a bit more and forget about how loud, hyperactive, rambunctious, and argumentative they are.
Amidst the Challenges of Parenting, Remember to Open Yourself to Joy
Be open to joy. Have you ever noticed how children find joy in the everyday minutia? Word Boy opens his lunch box every day on the way to school and exclaims in delight about each food item, despite the fact they vary little and he usually does not even eat much from his lunch. I find the more I respect my children and listen to what they share, the more I enjoy my time with them.
Motherhood is hard, and raising two children that have special needs is not what I thought I signed up for. My biggest challenge was letting go of my dream and accepting my reality. I will never be the type of mother who relishes in loud, rough house and shrugs off children who climb on the furniture, but I can appreciate my boys’ problem solving, strength, energy, and refusal to blindly following rules.
I have yet to feel the years are flying by, as I am still changing a 4 year old’s diapers, but I have learned to laugh about it.