I am 95 to 99 percent sure that Juliette, my nearly 19 month old, will be my last baby. Most days I’m thanking my lucky stars that this will be the case, but some days I think about how we should really have one more. These are the days that I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep (which is close to never).When I get sleep I apparently entertain some pretty crazy thoughts. But, also when I get sleep I seem to appreciate this crazy life with three littles much more. Which leads me to think three is good. But…I digress…I wanted to write about toddlers, not about family planning.
I recently posted this picture on Instagram of Juliette and I reading in bed together before 6am. I was tired and wanted the world to know! My mom (my most loyal follower obviously) wrote something along the lines of hold on to these days. HOLD ON TO THESE DAYS? The days of no sleep? The days of whining and tantrums and non-verbal commands that come a close second to nails on a chalkboard for irritating the crap out of you? The days where food is always being thrown on the floor, messes abound, and there’s this small human constantly at your heels or on your hip, limiting any time to yourself until she finally passes out for a nap? This fearless navigator who is a constant danger to herself…tripping, climbing, falling. No thanks, not holding on to this. No way. I can’t wait to be done. DONE.
But then, wait, I get some sleep, some perspective, and BAM. I’VE GOT TO HOLD ON TO THESE DAYS! She’s going to grow up and then…then what? No more cute little kid saying “up, up” wanting to be held. No more blowing kisses dozens of times, over and over to everyone before she goes to bed. No more humming the entire song of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star because she knows the melody but still can’t say the words. And honestly, what am I going to do when none of my kids want to talk into a pretend phone or feed a baby doll a toy bottle? Seriously, what?!?
Today I couldn’t find my little tornado. I looked for messes in her wake, but the trail was spotless. She had found her room and shut the door to play by herself, just like her older brother and sister do. She had her baby doll, it’s stroller, a blanket and was “singing” to her baby. I peaked in and smiled from the inside out. I was holding on to this moment for sure. I didn’t stay long in fear that I would cause her to stop, but I did walk by again. And again. My baby. Already becoming a big girl. Ackk!
A few days earlier the same thing happened where I started to wonder why I wasn’t tripping over my little one as I cleaned up the house. Where could she be? Oh, just coloring at the big kids’ project table. Not on the table, or on her body, just right there on her own paper like we’ve told her so many times. So big, I tell you.
I’ve read other homeschoolers who write about homeschooling with a baby or toddler and how “the baby is the lesson”. I get it. The baby’s needs are put first, the older kids learn so much from being around the younger sibling. Helping, waiting, watching. The thing is I like my lessons to be a little more concrete. When Daddy comes home at night I like to share how the kids practiced multiplication, created some really great art or read all about this and that. It feels so much less productive to say the kids practiced being patient while I attempted to put the baby to sleep. Truth be told they usually do both, but still.
The other day someone said to me how hard it’s going to be to homeschool Eliana for kindergarten with the other two kids around. I smiled and said, yes, it can be hard but we’re doing pretty good so far. Of course on the inside I got all panicky and defensive, but I was able to stop my internal dialogue before I caused myself too much of a blood pressure rise. This season of toddlerhood may be messy and noisy and fear inducing and sticky and exhausting, but it’s slipping through my fingers quickly. I can’t quite hold on tight enough. If math or art or reading are interrupted by the ring of a banana phone, then so be it. This season will be over before I know it.