Every once in a while I will get a wild hair and venture out in the evening with my two boys, ages 3 and 8 months. It’s never a good idea because it is the fussy time of day for both of them. Yesterday, we were on our way home from the mall during rush hour. Almost immediately upon entering the car, both boys were having fits. The way they were screaming from the backseat was truly remarkable, almost laughable. In fact, I did laugh, and in that moment I felt like a different mom.
Something in me shifted. Usually I would anxiously be saying things like, “Oh, we will be home soon!” while also reaching back into my little guy’s car seat to stroke his hand. Often I start singing at the top of my lungs while trying to somehow push traffic faster. But I guess I realized my attempts at comforting in these situations really just makes the noise level higher and the chaos more intense. While they were both freaking out, I just remained silent (aside from my little laugh). I felt genuinely detached, and just kept going onward but without the anxiety that I’ve become accustomed to.
I wondered if I was experiencing a transformation. Was I transitioning from a new mom to a more seasoned one? The thought struck me as I was merging onto the highway, and the fact that I could even ponder this while my children screamed their heads off seemed like answer enough. I thought about all the ways my demeanor and attitudes regarding motherhood have changed since having my second child.
I thought about how I react with less panic. When my youngest wakes up from a nap, I no longer run up to the crib like I am about to save him from falling out. I calmly finish up what I am doing, and then go.
I thought about how I am so much more comfortable with crying. I now know it is a normal and necessary part of life with children, and not nearly as traumatic as it used to be. I even let my 8-month-old cry a little (sometimes more than a little) to go to sleep. I never even thought of doing this with my first.
I thought about how I have accepted conflict as a normal part of life. I used to have a hard time saying no when my firstborn got to the age of needing clear boundaries. I didn’t want to squash his curiosity or break his little spirit. Now I know that limits aren’t only necessary for safety, but for everyone’s sanity and well-being. Regular conflict is a sign I am actually doing my job.
I thought about how I don’t stress over everything being perfect anymore. I used to want my little one to eat a diet free of processed foods and preservatives. I used to put the pressure on myself to do the same way while breastfeeding. Now, I just want to live normally, mostly healthy of course, but I’m not going for extremes. Same with sunblock and bug spray, it all used to freak me out. Now I just apply the necessities and relax.
I thought about how I give my children more space. I used to dutifully sing, play and narrate to my baby all day long. Now, I also give my children an opportunity to develop their own little worlds and the ability to entertain themselves.
I thought about how I developed more trust in others, and invite more help. With my first, I never wanted anyone to hold him. I was afraid of germs and sufficient neck support (seriously). Now I will gladly hand over my baby to just about any welcoming arms with a sincere “thank you.” I seize any opportunity to take a little break, even utilizing child care at gyms. I kiss my little boo and wave goodbye with an ease I couldn’t have imagined the first time around.
Now I value not only the well-being of my children, but my own as well. My love is no longer measured in worries.
Yesterday, just as I was reaching my exit and concluding that, yes, I am now a seasoned mom, we hit stopped traffic. The screaming still didn’t stop. My feathers were starting to ruffle, and I was doubting everything I was just thinking about myself.
But then I remembered something important: crackers in the center console! With those crackers, faith in my transformation was restored. I certainly would not keep crackers in the car if I wasn’t a seasoned mom. And now I’m not even afraid to toss them to my baby.
The crackers worked their magic, and we made it home with minimal tension. In the face of noise and chaos, I could laugh rather than panic. I knew everything would be OK, even if they sounded like they needed an exorcism.