I was kind of hoping I could get this post up by Mother's Day but, well - obviously that didn't happen. This post has taken me a ridiculously long time to write!
I started babysitting this adorable little guy. I watch him all day two or three days a week, depending on his parent's work schedule and I'll be watching him just for the next couple of weeks. He is pretty much the happiest baby I've ever watched, but after the first week I had a revelation: babies are a lot of HARD work.
I said to my husband the other day and followed it up with "how did I survive this stage?!" He sweetly reminded me that not only had I survived the baby + toddler stage before I've done this FIVE TIMES. I suddenly have a lot more respect for my young-mom-self and everything I have been through on this journey of motherhood.
Behind all that cuteness is a little guy who can not be left alone, even if he's safely tucked into a car seat or high chair because he will scream if he does not see anyone nearby. Who needs to be watched constantly and carefully because it only takes him a split-second to go from sitting there smiling to speed-crawling for the TV cables.
So I've been doing a lot of sitting on the floor lately - doing nothing but play with the baby and Eli and I've been doing a lot of pacing the floor trying to get him to settle to take a nap.
I'm having flashbacks to when wearing the same shirt (and keeping it clean!!) all day was a big deal. Basic things like eating and using the bathroom feel like a luxury. And then I get to pass him off at the end of the day and take a deep breath and go about life as usual.
It's been heartwarming to see Eli interacting with someone smaller than himself and the added gentleness and self-control that this requires of him. For that reason alone I'm thankful for this experience. It's been fun to get out the baby toys and bask in the glory of baby smiles.
But it's also been tough. Every day he fights sleep and he fights it hard. Today was tough. Eli needed to be kept busy too, if I turned my back on him while busy with the baby he invariably got into mischief. The baby did not want to settle and I was getting frustrated, not at the baby, because it's not like he's doing this on purpose, but with the situation in general. I found myself feeling like something deep inside was exploding. I held the baby and walked him around the Living Room, he starts screaming and trying to climb me, kneeing me in my belly over and over. The explosion inside of me expands... The clothes in the dryer need attention, Eli is asking for lunch. The pressure intensifies.
I do something that I don't remember doing a lot of when my own kids were babies - I lay this sweet sleep-fighting guy down in the crib he sleeps in when he's here, even though I know he'll cry. I shut the door and turn on some soothing music and I make Eli some lunch and put the laundry into the dryer and then go back to the nap-battle. I'm ready now. I'm calm again. I kinda wish I'd done this more with my own kids.
We return to pacing the floor. (I act casual, like I don't care if he sleeps or not, because if I try to make him be still he just screams.) He rubs his eyes. I give Eli some jello. The baby starts to close his eyes. I keep pacing the floor. Finally he is asleep. I lay him down in bed.
I clean up Eli and his lunch mess, and then we sit on the couch. I read to him, cuddle him and he falls asleep in my arms.
When I start to think about laying Eli down I hear a familiar sound coming from the boys' room. He's awake - just as Eli has fallen asleep. The first day that this happened I was frustrated, but today I accept it. I was pretty much expecting this anyway.
We do a post-nap bottle and he spits up all over both of us. I remember the days when this was my everyday. I change both of us and then we sit in the kitchen and watch the rain.
When it is your "normal" I guess you adapt, you adjust, you cope. You forget a little bit what it's like to not plan meals around naptimes and how it feels to wear the same shirt all day...
When it is not your normal - when you jump into it in the middle, when it interrupts your normal, it's jarring - yet somehow - in the very best of ways.
For all the mess and the stress and everything in between I love this.
I love seeing my kids love on him after school. I love the simplicity that having a baby in the house again enforces. I love that this puts pressure on me in all the right places, like a workout boot-camp for my soul.
I'm writing this to you - mom in the middle of it. This season is hard. If you sometimes feel yourself struggling, don't be so hard on yourself - you struggle not because you are weak but because this is so hard. When you feel yourself crumbling, remember what rises from that rubble can be beautiful. That while the days feel long the years fly by - they really, really do. This stage doesn't last forever - the next one will be easier in some ways, a lot harder in others. You'll reap what you sow. While these little seeds of smiles and love and gentleness and patience in the middle of spit-up and diapers might seem insignificant in the moment they reap a harvest bigger than you might even be able to imagine right now.