Helene Hirsch Wingens looks back on the good, the bad, and – mostly – the ugly of raising three small children. Read more from Helene on her blog.
I’m a huge fan of Anna Quindlen’s writing. I recently stumbled upon an excerpt from her book, Loud and Clear, which was published in 2004. I was in the “thick” of child rearing back when I read it the first time and it made me feel guilty for not “treasuring” my children’s youth more. In the excerpt, Quindlen talks about how much she’s enjoying her adult children, but then she waxes nostalgic about her children’s babyhood regretfully saying,
“But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
Well, I’m of a different mind than Quindlen. I’m just thrilled that that moment has passed. Does that make me a bad mother? Maybe it does, or maybe it just makes me an honest mother. I’m a better mother to older kids than I was to younger ones. I found those early years to be physically grueling and endlessly challenging.
And, as for all the things Quindlen doesn’t remember, well, maybe that’s my problem, because even with my pathetically poor memory I remember all of those things in living color and with laser sharpness. Let’s break it down:
I remember what we ate. How could I not? Although, it was barely recognizable as food, I scraped those food-like substances off the floor, the ceiling, the high chair, myself, and my children for years.
I remember what we talked about, the same things over and over and over and over. Did the kids once in a while say the most penetrating, insightful, adorable stuff? Of course. But, in the meantime did they prattle endlessly until I wanted to pull my hair out? You got that straight.
Most of all, I remember how they looked as they slept at night because those little bed hogs would often wake us up as they crawled into our bed. If memory serves, they looked like fully prone starfish as we, their parents perched precariously on the small sliver of bed left to us. And just as an aside, their body temperature was usually upwards of 120 degrees, making the bed more of a steam bath than a bed.
Is it ok to admit that looking at colleges blows away looking at cribs by about a thousand miles? Or that I would choose to grip the sides of the car in abject terror while sitting next to my sixteen year old novice driver rather than watch a two year old take his fiftieth spill from his Big Wheel as he goes up and down the driveway for the millionth time? The former may be hive-inducing but the latter is so excruciatingly mind numbing, as to be physically painful.
Was I in a hurry for them to grow up? Yup. I’ve just never been one of those mothers who wanted to keep her kids young or who wanted to keep them in the moment. And, if I wanted to freeze a moment in time, that moment would be now. Would, I go back to 10, 5 and 1? Not to be young again. Not to be svelte again. Not to be wrinkle-free again. In other words, not for nothing.
Forgive me if I’m just trying to look back without the rose-colored glasses. I can’t remember the good of it (and there was plenty good) without remembering the overwhelming difficulty of it.
I just don’t have a nostalgic bone in my body. Yet, as I look through old photos searching for a picture to insert with this post, I’m gobsmacked. Those babies of mine. Oh. My. Stars. They were so darn cute!!!!!