Do you remember being pregnant? Did you sign up for the newsletter that would email you a weekly estimate of the size of your baby? As the weeks went by, your baby would be a compared to a grape, a fig, an avocado, a spaghetti squash, a pineapple.
Babies are like this. Children are like this. Parenting is like this. Small changes, sometimes visible and tangible and easy to measure, like the length and weight of your baby. You can write them down, tell a friend. They seem real.
But envisioning a carrot or an eggplant never really prepared me for what I actually gave birth to. You can watch the change in your pregnant body. You can anticipate the changes in your baby, in your life. You can even know they are happening and changing, but nothing can prepare you for the reality, the sweetness, the pain of it all.
I’ve been having these “my children are changing” moments lately. I choose the word “children” purposefully and type it with clarity. Notice I didn’t use the word “babies.” Something has changed at my house. I am no longer the mother of babies.
I feel it when I pass the baby section at the grocery store.
I feel it when I see another mother, her belly ripe with child.
I feel it when I hold my six year old in my lap; his long, gangly limbs, even curled up, take up all of me. We fidget a bit, trying to find how we will fit together, where we will place the book or how we will shift the blanket.
I feel it when I marvel at the transformation in my three year old’s body, his slender frame no longer carries that hint of baby fat. He is constantly firing on all cylinders, his legs running, his mouth running, his imagination running, wild, always wild, carrying him to the land of big boy things.
They have been growing up on me, slowly for some time now, the changes protracted and somewhat easy to swallow because they have occurred in between baths and snacks and art projects and stories, unnoticed when I rush to get here or there, to do this or that.
But lately, the changes have accumulated and added up, bubbled up over the surface of my recognition, and I have these CHILDREN staring back at me, asking me questions I can’t or don’t want to answer because I’m not ready to go there yet, to be that mother yet, to live a life without babies.
It’s a slap in the face, tears held back, a punch in the gut.
But more and more, as I accept who they are, who I am, as their mother, I am astonished as what I see. This is the life I always dreamed I would have – it’s the middle.
I made it through the beginning. The sleepless nights, the cracked and bleeding nipples, the endless diaper changes. I even made it through teething and potty training, the true tests of any mother. And I’ve yet to make it to the end (you know, when they leave me for college, for world travel, for children of their own, for their happy ever after).
I’m living my middle.
We leave the house without a perfectly packed diaper bag.
We miss a nap or stay up too late, and the world doesn’t end in a fit of overtired tears.
We share the joy of reading books that I loved as a child.
We do science experiments.
We are dinosaurs, firefighters, and astronauts, always on an adventure.
We are first days of school, notes in the lunch box, lost teeth, imaginary friends.
I’m living my middle. There aren’t any babies here. And that’s okay. There are still more cuddles and kisses than I could have ever imagined, with these BOYS whose love is more than I deserve. When they crack a joke or a tell a story or invite me to go on another adventure, they give me a little hint of all that’s in store for our life outside of the baby aisle.
Brandi Lee is a stay-at-home mother of two boys by day and recently turned working mom and photographer on nights and weekends, or whenever her children are asleep or not looking. Her life B.C. (before children) gave her fulfillment as a high school English teacher, and she finds that photography fills that same place in her heart, one of personal connections with people. Her ultimate goal is to balance work with family time, to be both a provider and nurturer, but she would settle for a trip to the bathroom by herself and an uninterrupted train of thought. Brandi's visual storytelling can be viewed at Balee Images and a monthly guest author at Parenting Without A Parachute.
Image Credit, Brandi Lee of Balee Images
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