“Worst decision I ever made,” she said. She spoke of adopting nine children.
“Hardest time in my life,” she said. She spoke of giving birth to three children in three years.
“Just wait until they’re teenagers.”
“Small kids. Small problems. Big kids? Big problems.”
“I thought age two was hard. But age three was worse!”
Why, oh why, oh why do we do this to each other? At each turn in the path through motherhood, women have stepped out from behind trees to tell others of the horrors ahead. Teething and tantrums. Sassy middle-school sneers. Teenage trials and tribulations.
While I waited to adopt, an adoptive mother of nine told me adopting was her biggest regret. When my boys were terrible toddlers at two, moms warned me that age three was much worse. When they were in elementary school, trying my patience, the warnings were of adolescence. Just wait, they say. Just wait! I had a daughter, after three muddy, loud, video-game-playing boys. If I should mention how much easier she is, what a delight after the sword-fighting and hollering, I’m told that girls are much harder when they are teens. So look out! Don’t let your guard down! Beware!
And to the naysayers and the doomsday prophets, I want to say just two words. Shut. Up. Isn’t it difficult enough to trudge through the days of making dinner again and washing socks the kids wore outside without shoes and worrying that you aren’t doing anything right? When a mother complains and worries outloud, the remedy is not to say, in essence, oh, but things will get worse! Thank your lucky stars, because right now is as good as it gets, as bad as it is.
Here is what I want to hear:
Take more pictures! I know you aren’t sleeping much, but those fingers will never again be so tiny. Revel in the newborn moments. It goes by fast, but it gets better. You will sleep again. Meanwhile, look! Memorize that tiny nose.
These baby years, when you wear sweatpants, sitting on the floor and picking boogers from his nose and lint from between his toes, pause. Enjoy the boredom. Take more pictures! Because you will hardly remember this moment. And it gets better.
Because soon, that little one will talk. And when he starts to fling himself to the ground, take heart! Things get better.
See how that works? I don’t want to hear about the treachery ahead, the heartbreak waiting around the bend, the steep hills I must climb. I want encouragement. Company for the journey. Understanding, perspective, hope.
So, please. Stop saying stuff that rains on my parade, dampens my frail enthusiasm. My daughter might hate me when she’s a teenager, but right now, she delights me, even on days she doesn’t nap. My twins, on the cusp of adolescence, are still sweet at the core, innocent in a way that won’t last much longer, sorrowful when they are wrong. Only five or six more summers and they’ll be slipping out of my orbit and careening into their own lives. And my little boy, the one with Personality, the one who makes me cry on Sunday mornings when he sings with his whole heart with the children’s choir, off-tune, but earnestly . . . he’ll keep growing up and growing away.
But I have now. And I want to look forward to the future without the cautionary tales of disappoinment. My imagination has its own dark side and I don’t need any help picturing possible dismal outcomes. I’m good at that already.
I want to hope. I want to hug today close. I want to loosen my grip and trust that the future will unfold like a paper snowflake, full of holes, sure, but unique and beautiful and just as it was meant to be.
So I will plug my fingers into my ears and hum, if that’s what it takes to ignore those who tell me the worst is yet to come.
And I will shine light for those coming behind me on the path. And while it’s light, I’ll take more pictures because today is the last chance I have to be here today. Blink. It’s gone.