I sat in the rocking chair as the day drew to a close. The baby nursed and I let my head fall back against the seat, closing my eyes for a brief moment of rest before moving on to conquer bedtimes # 2, 3, and 4. The soft light of dusk peeked through the edges of the blinds closed against the approaching dark. And then I heard it - the incessant buzzing of a fly trapped between the glass and the blinds, a sound that quickly took me back to one of my 5-year-old’s (many) phases.
It was just last year, I think, probably in the dog days of summer, when we always have three or four flies sneak their way into the house and then refuse to leave. One night Lucy lay alone in her bed after prayers had been prayed and lullabies had been sung and she listened to that buzzing. She said it was “creepy.” She yelled for Mommy and would not relax until the offending fly had been located, smushed, and removed from the premises. In the nights that followed - weeks, months, even - she would not let me leave her room after tucking her in without walking to the window and checking the blinds for flies. A mere glance in that general direction would not do. I was required to wade through the messes of Lucy’s imagined worlds that had been crafted earlier in the day and manually lift the blinds, taking care to sound extremely convincing as I said, “No flies here tonight!” It became a part of the nightly routine so quickly and was adhered to so strictly that it seemed like it would always happen.
Except that now, it doesn’t. I haven’t fly hunted in well over a year.
As I sat in the chair with the baby I pondered when and how we had dropped that from our evening’s choreography. And I remembered how, a few years earlier, we had sung “On Top of Spaghetti” - all SIX verses - every night without fail while putting our twin girls to bed. I remembered how I grew to despise that song and how just sometimes I wished they would choose to sing something different and how I was convinced that I would be singing that song every night for the rest of my life.
And then I wasn’t.
It is equal parts comforting, heartbreaking, and terrifying to be far enough into the parenthood journey to recognize that everything - everything - is a phase. The patter of four little feet down the hall and then two warm, chubby bodies scrambling into bed with me to usher in each new day. Those same little feet crawling out of bed so many times after lights out that I wanted to scream and punch the wall. The days of library storytime and playgrounds and looking around the house, wondering how to fill the afternoon. The 6:30 bedtime (bliss) and the 5:30 wake up (not so much). The tears before Sunday School as preschoolers, and then the tears before regular school as kindergarteners. That time they were afraid of Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street. That time we had three small children and we moved in with my grandparents. The baby grunting all night long. The funny little three-toothed smile. This life is made up of many seasons. Autumn’s glorious arrival always announces the end of summer’s carefree days. Each new beginning, be it wonderful or brutal, requires that there also be an ending.
I work to parent two beautiful, sensitive, strong-willed girls who are just beginning to hear the rumblings of adolescence’s independence. I work to walk along the path of new-school days with my fierce, fiery, glorious 5-year-old. I work to dwell in the days of delight and exhaustion as our infant insists on racing toward toddlerhood. I am working. In the midst of the change and the constant flow of phases new and old I am working to hold it all lightly, knowing how soon things will change, and to recognize the constants.
Because in all the change, perhaps because of all the change, there have been constants.
Gratitude. Gratitude in staggering amounts for my children, for the beating of their hearts and the breath that fills their lungs, for the way that they bring joy and wonder into my world, for their father who walks this journey with me so faithfully.
Fear. Fear for their safety. Fear for my sanity. Fear that their hearts will be broken someday. Fear that I’m just not good enough.
Humility. Motherhood has been the most humbling — and the most humiliating — experience of my life. Every developmentally sound theory that I’ve had to throw out the window in exchange for a quirky solution that actually works. The postpartum moments when even wearing clothes hurt and I sat dripping bodily fluids from multiple places, crying tears of exhaustion, without the emotional capacity for either pride or shame. Afternoons when I’ve apologized to my children for losing my temper or speaking in anger. And nights when I find myself staring at their faces, beautiful and peaceful in sleep, awed and absolutely humbled that I have been given four such incredible gifts.
Love, of the overwhelming, deeply-abiding sort for these people who share my life and my home. It’s a love so much greater — and so much different — than I ever imagined it would be.
These have been my constant companions over much of the past decade. And while there are a few I’d like to kick to the curb, I am realizing that while my children have been growing up and changing, these constants have been growing and changing me, too. There is a stirring in my heart, something akin to an ache but without the pain, as I embrace this time in my life. I know that before I can blink twice we will all have grown up a bit more and moved onto something new. It scares me. It excites me. It makes me want to be so present in this moment, in this phase.
Which happens to be the Pokemon, tears in the morning, snuggles at night, shoes on the living room floor, heads on my shoulders as I read, baby hands on my face, homework hating, friend loving, remembering who I am phase.
I’ll take it.
Guest post written by Amanda Reynolds. Amanda lives in Nashville with her husband and their four amazing daughters. She has a background in education and, as a mama to four girls, is especially invested in what it means to be and raise strong, brave, compassionate women. She blogs very sporadically at TheDaysArePrecious.blogspot.com.
Photo by Emily Gnetz.