Thirteen and a half years ago, on March 4, 2000, I began to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. That was the day that my oldest son was born.
I did not have dreams of motherhood as a young girl. I really never thought I would be a mom, until I met and fell in love with my future husband. Ryan loves kids and when I married him, I figured kids might be a part of a package deal. They were. God has a sense of humor or he likes to teach us lessons, or both. I found out our oldest was on the way just shy of our second anniversary, and about 3 years earlier than I had planned for. To top it off he was a premie by 5 weeks - I was robbed of 5 entire weeks of non-motherhood!
I did mothering by the book. Really, by the book. "What to expect when you are expecting" got replaced on the shelf by "what to expect in the first year..." I read it faithfully, but my heart was rarely in the game. I felt like this little guy had stolen me from myself and replaced me with a milk factory and a nanny-housekeeper. I loved him and cared for him, but deep down and sometimes very openly would talk about the "light at the end of the tunnel." The day I would send him off to school or that he would fly from the nest and let me be..
When boy 2 arrived on the scene two and a half years later, I still had not quite gotten the "mommy" thing down. Boy 2 had cholic. He was intense and sensitive and cried a LOT. If I was merely bored at this point of playing on the playground and pushing cars around with my two year old, the boredom was now quickly replaced by despair and borderline insanity. But this too shall pass, I thought. I received two pieces of advice on a regular basis - one - that this crazy baby-toddler-diaper-food on the ceiling stage would go quickly and before I know it life will be easier! The light at the end of the tunnel... The other advice I received was that it would go quickly, therefore I should slow down and enjoy my kids while they are little and not wish their littleness away...I didn't really believe or take either completely to heart.
Boy 3 (Benny) changed all that for me. It is sad to admit but I think I wasn't 100% mom to all three of our boys until the day Ben was born. Ian was nearly five and Isaac was 7. I held Ben in my arms (he was also premature and lived in NICU for 21 days) and realized that the other two were no longer babies. It donned on me finally, that time keeps moving forward and the boys will never grow younger. I enjoyed every stage that Ben went through. When he was one, Ian started kindergarten, and that began five years of me and Ben at home while the other two were in school. I became very involved in the boy's school that year and took personal interest in each of them. I began praying daily that I would see the passions and talents of each boy and help to cultivate those in them. Even though sometimes exhausted and bored, and occasionally wondering about that elusive "light," I also stopped seeing motherhood as a "time-out" from my real life that would somehow resume once the kids were out of the house. I embraced it as the life that God has given me and the charge I have to nurture and love these boys.
I write today, because tomorrow Benny starts full day kindergarten. This is the day, the one I have been waiting for - 13 1/2 years of waiting! It is supposed to be my light at the end of the tunnel. The pay-off for all that hard mommy work. I joked today that I was heading straight to the store tomorrow to buy bon-bons (if that is outdated then Ben and Jerry's!) and then taking a nap. Okay, I really might do that. But one thing has hit me hard this week. My kids were all born early. And I think my light at the end of the tunnel also came early for me. I think it came 6 years ago, when Benny came into this world. I began to really see my boys. Loud and whiny, rock throwing and dog hugging, wrestling and wall climbing, homework frustration and Christmas morning anticipation, legos on the stairs, and the toilet seat up, the army guy frozen in a cup of water in the freezer..teen angst, slammed doors, RV trips and fishing for hours, kissing boo boos and pulling my hair out in frustration...always something funny to post on facebook...This is the good life - even the annoying and tiring parts of it.
I wish we could all figure that out the day our first child comes home. Some do, but I know I did not. This post isn't about how I am JUST now getting it, because despite my posts about wanting to sell our children, they are in jest (mostly) and I have spent the last 6 years enjoying them. Tomorrow isn't the light, but it also isn't the end. This train just keeps moving and I will hopefully appreciate all the scenery along the way! (Benny good luck tomorrow - I love you sweetie. )