Note: This was written when my 2nd child started preschool, now I'm doing it all over again, with a new baby in the house. I am now reminding myself "you'll get there".
Earlier this week I sat in a coffee shop with a medium low fat, one pump, hazelnut latte. The type of drink is significant because I was actually able to gather my thoughts enough to decide what I really wanted to drink and had the time to get out the entire descriptive order before one of my kids ran out of the coffee shop into the street.
The moment was also significant because it was the first time I had sat down alone for a coffee in years. As I took the first sip, my first thought was, "I can't believe I got to this point."
Fifteen minutes earlier I had dropped both of my girls at school. They are two-and-a-half and almost four. Starting this month they go to preschool on the same day, twice a week for two hours. To some parents, that might not sound like much time. But to those of you who are thinking, "Oh my gosh, what would I even do for four hours alone a week?"— this article is for you.
That morning I peeked in on Maggie (my oldest) as she was giggling in line with a friend while they waited to wash their hands. Then I peaked in on my younger daughter, Alex and saw her happily playing with play dough. Instead of rushing off to run as many errands as I could pack into two hours, I stopped for a coffee, to relax.
My girls are 18 months apart. The first six months were really tough, and to be honest, the six months after that weren't much easier. There were many times I honestly didn't know how I was going to survive. But, with each new milestone for each of the girls, things got easier.
Now, they are at an age where they play together for hours. Then they sit down for meals at the same time, go to bed at the same time, and even get into the car, climb into their car seats and wait for me to buckle them. Two years ago, I couldn't even imagine a time like this. But, I got here.
I remember the first time I tried to take my girls to dinner at my parents' house. Alex was just a few weeks old, but I felt like I had been stuck in the house for months. It took about two hours to get out of the house, but we got there. We had dinner and then turned around to go home. A few minutes into drive home, Alex started screaming; five minutes later Maggie started screaming along with her. I pulled off the highway into a hotel parking lot. I walked back and forth from baby number one to baby number two (Maggie was only 18 months), trying to console them, trying to calm them both in a dark, hotel parking lot.
I calmed them both enough to get back on the road. As I drove, I choked back tears as I sung Maggie's favorite songs, trying to keep them from crying. We eventually made it home. I was exhausted, and even more exhausted thinking about how many times I would get up that night. I just kept thinking: Am I ever going to be able to get out of the house again?
A mere two-and-a-half years later, the girls packed their own overnight bags when we headed to my parents house. Maggie gets herself ready and then helps her little sister get ready too (shoes and all). Somehow, even though it was once difficult to imagine, I got here.
Nothing drives me crazy quite like being told in a tough moment with your kids, "They grow too fast, enjoy this." I know someday I will look back and long for the days that they were tiny and cuddled in my arms. But there are some moments these days that are really impossible to "relax and enjoy."
A few months ago, I was in a check out line with the kids. The line was going slower than usual. Alex was in the front part of the cart screaming to get out. She had already eaten her way through about $20 in groceries and was now trying to take her shirt off. Maggie was in the back of the cart. She had just opened up a bag of goldfish and spilled the entire thing all over the cart full of groceries; she started crying when I asked her to stop throwing the fish out of the cart all over the floor.
Through the loud screams of my children, I am not sure how I even heard the woman behind me, but she said, "They grow up so fast. You'll miss this someday." While I understand she had good intentions, that's not what I needed to hear. I wish she told me, "Grocery shopping will get easier. You'll get there."
In our house, the terrible twos started at 18 months when baby number two arrived. The terrible twos were nothing compared to the tantrums of the threes. I would often dread the 3 p.m. hour, as that's when the worst tantrums always happened. It was hard to imagine a time that my child might make it a whole day without throwing herself on the ground over something like "getting a blue fork instead of a pink one." But, with her fourth birthday just a few weeks away, I've noticed it's been about a month since we've had a tantrum. I'm starting to see a glimpse of a rational child. You'll get there.
It does goes by fast, way too fast. During the tough days, it's good to remind yourself,"You'll get there." Whether "getting there" is surviving until bedtime or making it through potty training, each stage ends and a new one begins. Often, during the hardest stages, it seems like it will last forever. But you'll get there.
Someday we'd love to have more kids. At that time, I'm sure the chaos will start over again. But during those 2 a.m. feedings, I will try my best to remind myself, "You'll get there".
Now, as much as I need to give myself these little pep talks on the tough days, it's those same few words that remind me to cherish each stage. Sometimes, when I see a clan of tweens at the mall, staring at their cell phones and wearing too much makeup, I also think to myself: "You'll get there." It's in those moments, I stare down at my little girls, who still hold my hand while we shop and squeeze a little tighter. I know that while we will escape the tough parts of the infant and toddler days, there are plenty more challenging times as parents ahead of us.
Watching your children grow, day by day, is a wonderful, amazing site. But it's not easy. It's accepting there are challenging times, but also not getting frustrated with yourself for not savoring every one of the kicking, screaming moments. In the tough moments, it's about knowing there's another sweet moment around the corner and knowing that you'll get there.