In one week, we will have exited the first five with all four of our children. We are in a completely novel and challenging stage of parenting.
I almost don’t have words for how different this stage is.
I used to have a triple stroller. It was fantastic and exhausting all in one. I would push our little girls to parks and picnics and library readings and coffee shops.
They were always surrounding me. I had my posse. And they had me.
Now, I feel most of the time like a real live tracking system. “When is this one getting home?” “Where does this one need to be?” “What is due for this child in school and when?” “What is upcoming for this one and what resources do we need?” “How do I best deal with this one’s ….the list goes on and on.
My heart feels splintered somehow.
I toggle between, “Have I done enough for our girls? or have I done too much for them?!” …all the time. My endearing husband who is always encouraging shares, “Lower your expectations, our kids are thriving.” And he is right. They seem to be fine. Except the throw downs, the occasional lies, the behaviors that show up as greedy or spoiled and the meals they sometimes refuse to eat. I think they are doing just fine. This is life with kids.
But I’m not fine. They are going all different directions all the time. And I’m just deeply sad and proud all in one. This is what we wanted for them. Independence, strong friendships, enriching interests, positive school experiences, a community of support. We dreamt of all of this for our children when they still napped in our arms.
And yet, my heart can’t hold up.
Their independence means I am pulled in thousand of ways, without flow time, most of the time. I am trying to be happy that our four radiant daughters are at these new stages, but my God, I miss the wagon walks, the triple stroller adventures, the parks, the morning walks, and just the four of them being in one place, at one time.
I know I’m not the only one who has kids who make slime. Slime. The bane of my existence. It’s everywhere in our home. Plastic bags, containers, jars, under beds, in desks.. and even when confiscated, it finds its way, oozing onto my closet floor. I do not like it one bit. I know that’s very “Sam I am,” of me to emote, but…”I do not like slime, for my kids, nor for me, not in a house not on a boat! I do not like slime, MOM I am!”
Today, in between gymnastics drop offs and meal prep and homework time, I saw slime in the hands of one of our daughter. “I want to be like slime,” I thought. Flexible, able to mold and take different shape and then, to bounce right back. This whole time I despised slime because maybe, I was jealous of it?! Ha! Sad, but true.
Early parenting was layered with bubbles and rainbow seeking and novel moments that made my heart leap with joy. The fairy house making, the garden planting, the painting and rock collecting and simple joys that just seemed abundant in all places all the time.
This middle parenting is a hell of a lot harder. It’s full of boundary setting, homework I can’t figure out at 9:30 at night, expectations that are new, monitoring of independence and tracking of progress in fancy school platforms named things like, “NEO” and “Dream Box”. Middle parenting is laden with sibling quarrels as each daughter finds her way to her own self. It’s packed with plans and play dates and drop offs and letting go. Middle parenting is learning to let go, just a bit more.
There in lies this terrible aching part of my very being because the first five, for all four was so full of magic and light and challenge and sleep deprivity too.
Like slime, I am working to mold into a middle- parent, parent.
These treasures, our four daughters, have taught me so much in all their first fives. Above all, that my heart is stronger than I ever thought it was. So, I too will find a way to make sense of this new stage of parenting.
Our daughters add activator to their slime when it is looking less than lustrous. Then, they pile books up and place their concoction near a heater. I may have to add some activator of some sort to re-engage my motivation to parent strong in this stage. Then, perhaps, sit in a warm room to bring some lustre back to myself. If you have some activator to spare, just drop it off for me. Mine is the house with the oversized beach wagon and well-loved stroller in the driveway.
The first five aren’t so easy to let go of.