In 1987 on their debut album, the group Exposé had a song called “Seasons Change.” It was a pop culture lament over lost love and time. Thirty years later that song still occasionally gets stuck in my head.
“Change” gets a bad rap, especially in the song. But recently I’ve been really thankful for change. For instance, we’re done with elementary school. We have three–almost 4–drivers in the family. Everyone sleeps. It’s a world away from where I was 12 years ago.
In the fall of 2005 I was tending to ear infections, fevers, snotty noses and all the tell-tale signs of teething. I’d like to send that zombie-mom a letter, although I’m not sure she would have believed a word of it.
Writing letters to your former self seems a bit like an internet fad. But it wouldn’t be the first fad I’ve been on board with. When Exposé was singing “Seasons change…” I was rolling my jeans, scrunching my socks, and arriving at school with a force field of Aqua Net hovering ’round my bangs.
Clearly, I’m not above fads. So in light of changing seasons, I’ve written a letter to my 30 year-old-self. (Or to any young, struggling mamma.)
Hey there 30-year-old Mamma. It’s your 42 year-old self.
I know you’re shocked you’ve lived this long because right now, you feel like you’re about to die. Death by toddler. Death by diaper. Death by sleep deprivation. I’m not going to tell you this doesn’t stink, because 12 years later, I’m still a little traumatized by three boys in three years. It’s rough. Don’t beat yourself up.
You’re 30 years old, and right now you’re berating yourself for not having your stuff together. You’re trying to psyche yourself up by saying “Millions of mothers around the world for millennia have raised 3 kids and more!” That’s true, but you falsely believe that “millions of mothers” did it all, did it better, and did it without tears. But they didn’t. It’s possible God keeps the oceans full by gathering the tears of moms throughout history.
In a few years, the worn-out, worried moms like you are going to discover something called a “blog”–it involves the “internet thing” that ties up the phone line–and moms all over the world are going to discover that no one is mothering without tears…and some yelling. In fact, they’re going to start sharing tips and candid stories that will make the sad-tears and yelling less frequent. Some of them are even going to become friends without ever meeting in person. It sounds creepy, but you’ll get used to it.
I know you saw every hour of the night last night as the the boys took turns waking up all night long. You’re not the world’s worst mom. You’re just tired. Taking care of little people ages 0, 1 and 2 is tiring.
Here’s something that’s going to blow your mind. In less than a year, your oldest is going to learn how to turn on the VCR by himself. So when he wakes up his little brother at 5:03, they can watch Clifford until 5:45 and you can “sleep in.” He’s a smart kid, so just show him where the “eject” button is, and you’re golden until all the tapes need to be rewound.
I know you’re shedding happy tears about that. Brace yourself, there’s more good news ahead. In less than 10 years none of them will even want to get out of bed!!
And cut yourself some slack on the baby weight. Do not even try to start that running program you printed out. You’re too tired, and it will only make you angry and irritable when you can’t get it done. Shoot for sane, not skinny.
You can save yourself some much-needed cash by not buying the Spanish Barney video. They only word the boys will remember is “elefante” which won’t be very useful on the plains of the Midwest. Besides, they’ll be taking Spanish in 8th grade and will learn actual sentences. So check off “bi-lingual exposure” from your parenting to-do list.
Speaking of videos, you’re all nerved up about the fact that they’re watching TV for hours while you brown burger, load the dishwasher, and disinfect door knobs. I know you’ve asked the doctor if their (your) addiction to TV will cause seizures. She was right. It doesn’t. You’re starting to wonder, though, if screen time makes them act up more. Follow your instinct there, because it does. They have energy to burn, so use the cash you saved by not buying Spanish Barney and save up for an indoor trampoline.
They’ll always love screens, but someday they’ll create a drawings, motorized boats, and learn to solve a Rubik’s cube from the screens. Monitor, but relax a little. Their brains aren’t rotting…much.
You’re wondering if they are getting anything at all out of going to church and your night time Bible story books. To be honest, they won’t remember many specifics. But don’t be discouraged. Keep doing it. You’re leaving an invisible fingerprint on their hearts. They won’t remember the exact words, but they’ll know you loved Jesus.
In 12 years, you’ll roll out of bed at 6:15 and feel relatively rested. You’ll hear clattering in the kitchen and find the boys getting their own breakfast. Everyone will dress themselves, pack their own backpacks and leave for school without you. Sit down for this . . . your oldest will drive them to school.
And you know what you’re going to feel?
Some people are going to tell you “You’ll miss this ‘little’ stage” and in a way you will. Pictures of chubby-cheeked smiles and pudgy legs bulging out of diapers will make you cry because you’ll remember the war between sweetness and stress. But when they pull out of the driveway and you sit in your dark, quiet, kind of picked-up house with coffee and your Bible, you’re going to feel exceedingly thankful.
I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk, but the rugged, sleep-deprived, stressful years your’re smack-dab in the middle of are the foundation for your future gratitude. When you get a few years of distance between now and later you’ll be so grateful because you’ll see how God walked with you–even carried you–through the rugged years.
When funds are low and tempers are hot and the only thing getting you to church is the promise of a church nursery worker, God is carrying you. When you roll the van, and bawl your eyes out in the dentist’s chair, and get dismissed from jury duty, He is with you.
And when you remember it all, you won’t even feel mad at him. You’ll just feel grateful for a tender Savior who promised his constant presence, and has faithfully delivered.
Hang in there, Mamma. He’s holding on to you.