Alright, so it hit me a little this morning.
I'm going back to work soon.
In 6 weeks. Not soon, but soon.
I've known this of course, planned for it, expected it. Anticipated it actually. The thought of having two minutes to myself, to think about 'grander' things than laundry and hungry bellies, that excites me. Gallery organizing thoughts are creeping in more and more when I'm washing dishes, when I'm folding laundry, mowing the lawn. In the best of neuron firing ways.
I'm comforted that I feel happy with this arrangement, this position, that I'm fairly certain I have found that blissful place of balance, where the kids days with their caregiver are scheduled to be short in hours and few in days, that I believe they will be happy in a home environment away from home, balanced by what will still be lots of time at home with Mommy and/or Daddy. If all goes to plan, the big boys will only need afterschool care one day a week. I'm pretty stoked about this schedule. I'm so thankful to have been so well supported in our efforts to be there to raise our own children.
But this morning I held my littlest man, his eleven months little snuggly body, giving him kisses as he watched, patting my mouth with his chubby hand, trying to make his mouth do that, making airy noises.
Our time together will still be less.
In a talk I once attended, the speaker said something that shaped my parenting. He said, "The special moments happen in the midst of the mundane moments. And you have to log those mundane moments, the get them up, get them dressed, get them fed, get them clean drudgery, to be there when the special moments happen." That can sound negative, but it really made me realize how important time is in raising kids. You can't say, alright, I'm home and we have an hour, let's pack in an hour of quality time. You have to be there to witness their lives, the good in between the drudgery.
I thought about Maxwell's success last week, his hour spent at the sitters, his start in getting used to the new place, the idea of a new mama for a day. He went happily, older and more confident than I had realized before, the lucky younger sibling with his big sister there as the most effective security blanket in the world. Claire is always happy to return to her familiar home away from home, where her and Seth were cared for, loved, and doted on last year while I was at work before this maternity leave. With Mommy not there for once Max drank happily from a bottle of water, something I hadn't yet been able to get him to do. When I returned he was still happily playing, using his new crawling skills to shove in on his sister's play.
Tomorrow we're moving forwards in having him nap there, staying a half day soon, and then before long getting him used to staying the full time, until mid-afternoon. While I was so excited yesterday about this development, perhaps giving me a little break and the opportunity to catch up a bit at home before returning to work, today it makes me a little teary.
This year is almost gone, never to return again. This time with my little baby. He's almost a whole year old. Have I appreciated it as much as I could have? Have I used this extra time with each of them as well as I could have? We always have so much on our plates it's difficult to feel we've slowed down enough to be there and appreciate our time with the kids.
And I have never taken one of my babies to childcare this young before. All of them, until this point, have really been at least a year and a half before this transition. For it to be my little Maxwell too, the one who's health I've worried over the most, the baby I very much baby and admittedly treat as a delicate little flower.
Albeit a delicate little flower who now pulls hair, headbutts, and lately tends to bite. Even Claire knows to treat Max hugs gingerly now. You need to watch out for that laughing little teething mouth.
As far as flowers go, he may be more of the carnivorious flytrap variety.
He can do it, I know. And I can do it, I know. I've been watching him bloom even just this week since learning to crawl. All of the sudden he's pulling up to stand on everything, toppling sideways and righting himself quickly, determined to go again. He's changing before my eyes from his quiet, still little baby self, to the fast little toddler we'll know soon.
They slowly, gradually move further away, staying away longer. At first leaving my arms for only a minute while someone holds them, but always back to Mommy. Mommy and baby are a duo, a single unit. From my lap they feel safe to return someone's smile. Then they play by my feet, reaching out every few minutes to make sure I'm still there. Then they crawl away, at first slowly, coming back to touch base with Mommy every few minutes, soon though deviously looking over their shoulder from across the room. Next it's on the playground, waving from the top of the slide for me to watch their new feat, and then waving from the bus with their new bookbag, too big, as they go to spend their day away, their lives gradually getting more separate from mine, a little more their own. It's torturous, this raising them to optimally leave us.
Time goes so quickly. It's so slippery.
I read something recently, a passage from Sarah Napthali's Buddhism for Mothers (a book I think I've quoted more than any before), that describes so well why watching them grow is this bittersweet. It has stuck with me as I watch the kids, each constantly evolving into their new, older selves.
With the arrival of each new stage you have to mourn the loss of their previous self. While you welcome the new stage, each child of the stage before is gone, never to return again.
And it can be sad.