If there is anything I’ve learned while slowly climbing out of the trenches from those early years of parenthood, it’s that you do start to look at things through rose-colored glasses, even sooner than you might think.
Recently, my daughter got totally freaked out by something she saw in a movie. She couldn’t sleep, and I was up with her until about 3 in the morning before we finally just fell asleep with all the lights on and soft music playing.
I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been hit by more than a bus. I felt like I’d been run over by a tanker. I shuffled around the house grumpy all morning, and I had a terrible headache. There was not enough caffeine in the world to shake my kid hangover, and then it hit me — I had to function like this all the time when my kids were newborns.
How did I ever do it?
Motherhood is incredibly challenging in the early years. Physically, mentally, all of it. But somehow, parents survive it. The colicky babies, or the all-night feedings, or heaven help you if you had twins. The first year of a baby’s life is no joke one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I did it three times.
Yet my youngest is only 5 and I’ve already forgotten what it used to be like to function on no sleep. I’ve almost forgotten how my back used to ache when I walked in circles around our house trying to soothe him, and got up every hour and a half at night for feedings. I’ve almost forgotten how hard it was to still get up the next day and have to parent two little kids, cook and clean and schlep them around on just a fraction of the sleep I get now.
I’m already forgetting the hard stuff, and I am actually grateful for that.
I know babies are a lot of work, and I’m not looking to have anymore, but it’s fun to look at a baby and think that I’m now a “been there, done that” sort of mom. Yes, I still have the tween and teen years ahead of me, but I realize now that no matter what stage you’re in, you get through it. You pull up your bootstraps and suck it up and do incredibly hard things. Then that stage passes and you realize, oh, that kind of sucked, but hey, I did it. And I’m stronger now.
And also, it wasn’t really that bad, was it?
In a few short years, those things that you were sobbing over or worrying about seem like distant memories. The bad stuff fades into the background, and the only thing left to reflect on are the gummy smiles, the sweet sound of your toddler saying mama from their crib after a long nap, and how tiny their sweet little clothes were.
You don’t give as much thought to the diaper blowout that one time in Target when you ran out of wipes and had no change of clothes for baby or you. And suddenly, in a few short years, you forget how hard it was to teach that baby to latch on or get them to take a bottle so you could shower alone.
You forget how terrible the twos really were, and you even forget how furious you were that everyone lied and the threes were actually far worse than the twos. Instead, you watch old home movies and remember how much you loved how they mispronounced words or how cute it was when they’d stomp their little tiny feet at you and try to act like they were in charge.
I promise that you’ll forget the hand-foot-mouth outbreak of 2012 and the lice invasion two times in one year. You’ll forget that time you lost your patience while potty training, and instead you’ll remember the good stuff like the preschool programs and 4-year-old soccer games where no one knew which way to kick the ball.
I used to worry that I’d forget it all. And honestly, I’m already starting to forget a lot in just a few short years. But there is a lot of stuff that I’m thankful I’m forgetting because there were a lot of dark times in my early years of parenting.
Aside from the colicky baby and the blowouts and all those kinds of trials, there were big ones too. There was loneliness, postpartum depression and anxiety, and lots of mistakes I made that I’m not proud of.
But the longer I’m a parent, the more those don’t seem to matter as much anymore, and I’m thankful for that because this stage of parenting I’m in right now isn’t easy either.
I worry about a lot of things, and I stress over meeting the demands of three very busy kids. I think about whether or not I’m doing enough to teach them how to be good humans and wonder more and more often what kind of adults they are going to turn into and if I’m doing enough.
Will it ever feel like I did enough?
The answer is, I think it will. That’s the beauty in the gift of forgetting. My mistakes can be forgiven, and those dark days are behind me, and one day when I’m old and gray, I’ll be one of those little old ladies that remembers vaguely how hard it was, but fiercely misses all the beauty and purpose that those early years of parenting gave me.
And I hope by then, I’ll also be able to say I did enough. And all my rose-colored memories will stay with me forever.