I love babies. I love toddlers. But last weekend, when I went away with my mom and sisters and got a chance to spend time with my siblings' cute kids, I remembered how much you just have to accept when you've got babies and toddlers to care for!
My sister-in-law Aja brought her beautiful little 1-month-old daughter along for MFME and we all passed her around and got our "baby fix." She's so smiley and such a mellow, sweet baby. She's a dream of a newborn and probably gave the pre-moms in our group the wrong idea about how easy newborns are. But even so, spending the weekend with a mom and newborn reminded me of some things you just have to accept about newborns. They need to eat right when the mom's dinner arrives at the restaurant. They have unexpected diaper leaks when you've already used all the extra diapers and clothing you brought along just in case. They can't come to the ballet so you have to figure out elaborate schemes to have them cared for while you're gone - and then when you get back, you're about to burst with milk but they're not hungry because they ate formula while you were gone. There are SO many wonderful things about newborns. But there are a lot of things you cannot control with newborns and you have to keep your expectations in check.
Then, at the close of our weekend, my brother Noah and his wife headed off to India (they're helping install the great educational software Noah's company provides at a school for Leper children there), leaving their 3 preschoolers with me and my sisters and mom for the day (then my sister Charity was taking over as the stand-in mom for the rest of the week). When we took these three little sweethearts to church, I realized I'd forgotten a little too much about how it goes with babies and toddlers at church. We forgot the diaper bag. We forgot toys and snacks. We forgot a binkie and bottle for the baby. We quickly realized that church wasn't going to go very well. I forgot how much work church is with babies and toddlers - especially if you haven't come fully armed!
Ten minutes into church, I headed out to the car with a very fussy baby to try to find a diaper, some wipes and something for him to eat. I did find some wipes. With spit up and snot all over him - and me (the wipes could only do so much), I walked the halls for a while until my mom rescued me and took the little guy home for a nap. Then the 2-year-old did NOT want to go into nursery and ended up on my lap through Sunday School (thankfully, she snuggled up to me and fell asleep - cutest little thing! But she wasn't so cute earlier when she was having a tantrum over what shoes to wear to church or when she wouldn't go to nursery...).
As I spent time with some truly darling nieces and nephews this past weekend, I had flashbacks to the many years I spent getting up with babies in the night, dealing with diaper blow-outs and major spit up at inopportune moments, struggling to keep kids quiet in public places when even a carefully stocked diaper and toy bag wasn't cutting it, and trying to cajole 2-year-olds into doing what they don't want to do. I also had flashbacks to my own children's beautiful first smiles, cute voices, funny remarks, and sweet snuggles and missed my own babies big time.
I came away so grateful that I have these wonderful nieces and nephews that I get to hang out with and who keep me connected to the earlier stages of my mothering life. I also came away so grateful for the stage I'm in right now where I'm pretty much done dealing with my kids' bodily fluids. Diaper bags, binkies and most tantrums are a thing of the past. But in my current stage of life as a mom, there are other hard things I need to accept.
Every stage of motherhood offers different facts that we need to accept. When we have newborns, we have to accept interrupted sleep. When we have babies who spit up a lot, we can't expect to have pristine clothes. When we have stubborn 2-year-olds, we must accept that there will be tantrums as they learn to accept that they can't always have their way. We need to accept that grocery shopping with our kids will likely be quite chaotic. When we have grade-schoolers, we need to accept that homework time will be crazy when everyone needs help at once.
As we accept the facts of our own stage of motherhood and our own individual children, we don't have to add surprise and frustration to the already difficult situations we encounter each day. We can go into situations prepared. When we wake up to a newborn's wails, we can think "yep, time for her to eat - a little early, but hey, newborns are unpredictable." When we pick out clothes for ourselves and our kids, we can keep the spit-up in mind and buy things with patterns that will hide some of that. When we head into the grocery store, we can have our route mapped out in our mind (hitting the most important things first), remind our kids of the rules before we get out the car to go inside, and be fully prepared to leave if things get bad, even if we only got to a few things on our list - the rest can wait. And each day, we can expect that there will be a time when everyone needs something at once and tensions escalate. When that time arrives, we can think "yep, here it is, I knew we'd have a crisis sometime today but things will die down in a few minutes - they always do."
Every stage of motherhood has its ups and downs. Accept it. Expect the hard stuff. Plan for it. Move on.