I was ready for sleepless nights. I was ready for chaos and nonstop talking and peeing with an audience. I’ve been around kids since I was one myself, so there wasn’t very much that surprised me when I started birthing my own. Honestly, though, the things I was warned about were not the hardest parts.
All of those seasons come to an end. No, I don’t love that my 18-month-old changes her own diaper. I don’t love that my 4-year-old sneaks into bed every night and kicks us for hours on end. I don’t love that they are tiny tornados with limited capacity to clean up after themselves. Parenting is gross and hard and messy and wild. I know, though, that there is an end to this. They learn to sleep in their beds and use a toilet and eat like civilized creatures.
What seems to continue in perpetuity is the exposed, raw, aching part of me that never stops feeling things. All of the things.
Emotions I didn’t even know existed and haven’t been able to find words for. Good things, bad things, confusing things. Every. Single. Thing.
Today I sent my kids to school, together, for the first time. They are young. They will only be gone half days, a couple of days a week. And still, after we dropped them off, I couldn’t stop feeling.
I was proud of my son for walking his sister to her classroom on her first day. Guilty that I was not staying with her. Excited for a few precious hours to myself. Anxious that my daughter wouldn’t be able to deal with the separation. Paralyzed by the idea of making schooling decisions for the next 16 years. Sad that they are growing faster than I want them to. Thrilled that they are becoming little humans I’m proud of.
The thing is, this emotional roller coaster will not stop when the kids hit a certain stage. It just looks different as the years pass.
Maybe someday the sleep deprivation subsides, and we’re more equipped to handle certain things. Maybe we figure out better ways to cope. Or maybe we’re just rock stars who use this constant turmoil to grow.
I’m not sure what the answer is.
As I sit here in my quiet house and my husband asks me what I’m going to do with my time this morning, I tell him I’m going to “get stuff done.” And I will. I will put toys away and wash clothes and write. I will also sit with their photos and wait for pickup time, when they’ll yell, “Mommy!” and crash into me and let me squeeze them.
This season will end. The potty training and messes and exhaustion will end. But so will the tiny hands in mine. Soon, their faces won’t light up when they see me in a sea of parents collecting their kids from the car line.
And that will bring with it another flood of emotions that I will struggle to put words to.
I will learn to feel the feelings instead of fighting them—the good ones and the bad ones. The bad days make us grateful for the good ones. The hard seasons prepare us to let go when we need to, releasing our tiny humans into the world, one step at a time.
I’ll never be ready, and I will learn to be OK with that.