My daughter is talking about her birthday. She’ll be 4 years old next month. I’m supposed to say that it all went by so fast and I can’t believe she’s not a baby anymore. It’s partly true, but kind of not. While it does feel sometimes that she was just born, mostly it’s totally believable that the time has passed and here we are. Because the truth is, it didn’t go by so fast. And it hasn’t only been 4 years. I’ve been a stay at home parent for 10.5 years now to 4 kids one right after the other. Fast? No. A decade doesn’t go by quickly. I am glad for that. Why would I want this time to speed away from me? Kids are small one time. Childhood is fleeting. Let them be little and let me enjoy it, please and thank you. No. I don’t need time to speed up. One day at a time is perfectly alright with me.
I’m supposed to be registering that baby for kindergarten today. She makes the cutoff date here, and would be 4.5 years old like her older brother Olivier was when he went. If I send her at all. I’ve got the birth certificate. I’ve got the registration form. I don’t have the will today.
There’s this mom. I see her going to and from the school with her gaggle of small children, as I do the very same with my crew of not-as-small-anymore children. Her oldest is in grade 1 like Olivier. Unless she has unseen older children, this must be her first year with a kid in school full time. I was that mom, only 4 years ago when Mateo was in grade 1 and I had 3 little ones at home. 3 little ones to suit up, loading the smaller two into a double stroller, going to and from the school, exhausted and wondering if a 15 minute walk was really supposed to take an hour to prepare for. Having a kid in school is a lot of freaking work for a mom with a house full still at home. Everything we did was all-consuming. There was nothing as simple as putting on shoes and walking out the door for many, many years. 1 in school and 3 at home. That was only 4 years ago. It felt like we would never, ever get past that stage of life which can only be described as pandemonium.
To be honest, the following year – when Andreas was in half time kindergarten and Mateo was in grade 2, while Olivier was still a 2.5 year old in diapers and Rosalie was still a baby – that year was the HARDEST year of parenting ever. I swear to God if parenting was going to kill me or get me locked up in a padded room, that would have been the year to have done me in. Because I had a hernia and an uncontrolled thyroid problem, so I was utterly exhausted and in pain. My daily ventures to the school increased to include an extra mid-day pick up thanks to kindergarten being half time here. 2 year olds still nap and babies need to eat, sleep, and be changed regularly. Everything my little ones did was scheduled around the school bell times. If they hadn’t woken from afternoon naps by the time we had to go back to school to collect Mateo, well, too bad for them. Wake up time it was. Our walks to pick up Mateo often included a lot of grumpiness and crying. In that year we had Andreas assessed for and later diagnosed with autism. We toilet trained Olivier. I got on meds for my thyroid. I had a hernia repair surgery. I weaned Rosalie. Olivier stopped napping. Rosalie started walking. And then at the end of that school year, to cap it all off, we moved. Pandemonium.
It slowed down after that. The summer we moved, we gained a backyard. I could send my kids out to play in a safe, enclosed place. Deep breath in. Andreas and Mateo began grades 1 and 3 that fall – two in school full time. Olivier wasn’t a toddler anymore. Only Rosalie in a stroller and diapers. Deep breath in. That year went nicely by. Another summer came. Olivier went to kindergarten. The older two were in grades 2 and 4, and well settled into a school life routine. Yeah, I was doing the back and forth from school all day thing again – but it’s way different with just one kid at home. It was okay. I was sick again though. Tonsillitis from hell finally put me on the list for a tonsillectomy. Gallbladder attacks put me on the list for that to come out as well. But, by the end of that school year, the gallbladder was gone. Another summer. Deep breath in. Then it happened. This past fall Olivier was in school full time too. Finally, and just like that.
That’s when I noticed her. This mom with the 1 kid in school and 3 little ones at home. I want to tell her it gets better. But I don’t because I know it’s going to take a while. And I’m not sure how to say that in an encouraging way. A year is a long time when you have a house full of very small children. “Just wait til next year!” sounds like, “you only have an eternity ahead of you!” to a wiped out mom. From her vantage point, there’s no end in sight. And she’s not wrong. So I smile at her. I’m not even sure if she sees me. Her kids are fighting. Someone is trailing behind. Baby is crying. It’s cold outside. But I smile anyway. It gets better, I’m silently nodding in her direction, knowing she can’t hear that right now.
When we get home from school, my kids take off their own shoes. They get their own snacks. The front closet looks like a bomb filled with hats, mittens, snow pants, boots, and heavy jackets, just went off. There’s salt from the sidewalk all over the floor, and little puddles of snow and mud pooling under the boots. Backpacks have paper, books, and leftovers from lunch spilling out onto the floor. My boys have 153 things each to tell me about their day. Rosalie is running around hugging them all, telling them she loves them and forcing them to pay attention to her. I can’t hear anything anyone is saying. My previously clean kitchen is a mess of after school snack making. Pandemonium.
I think of that mom at her house. She’s taking her baby out of the carrier. Stripping snow suits and boots off of little kids. Checking who needs to potty or be changed. Making everyone a snack. Cleaning it all up. Is there anything in her son’s backpack that needs to be signed or read or cleaned? Someone is probably crying. The baby needs to be held. “Mommmmm come wipe my butt!” is not an unfamiliar sound emanating from her bathroom. Toys? Everywhere. Laundry? I promise you don’t even want to know. Pandemonium.
I take a deep breath in and yell at my little twerps to clean the mess they made in the kitchen. Put their boots on the mat and wipe up the snow. Get me whatever I need to see from their backpacks. Put away their hats and mitts and jackets for goodness sakes! Yes you can have screen time after you read. Someone turn on a show for Rosie while you play your games. I’m sitting at the table drinking a coffee. They don’t need me for everything anymore. They just need me. It’s a welcome change. The pandemonium is actually kind of nice these days. I can take a deep breath in and not feel like a loon in the midst of it all. Usually.
I’m supposed to be registering Rosalie for kindergarten today. But she’s the last bit of little one I have in this house. She reminds me of the long, long days and years of mothering very small children. Those were some hard years. But they were our years, mine and these kids. Years of reading just one more story. Singing another song. More milk please. Pushing on the swing. Endless cuddles. Walks to the park. Sneaking cookies. Trains on the floor. Finding lost bears and kissing away tears. She’s here still, for now, reminding me of all those years that almost broke me, but also built me up into someone I never would have been otherwise. So. It’s about to be pandemonium around here as the boys get home from school. I’m going to take a deep breath in. I made the lucky ducks some brownies. Signing Rosalie up for kindergarten is going to have to wait until tomorrow. I’m ready for it if she’s ready. Maybe tomorrow we’ll finally say hello to that mom with all her little kids if we happen to pass them by.
copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved