My parents joined us on our recent trip to Florida, and kindly let us stay with them. On our first day down there, I had a great conversation with my mom. We were talking about how to fit in more exercise, more time to clean the house… And I looked her right in the eye and said “I barely make it through the days that I have! I love my life, but I feel like I am using every drop of energy every day. Right now, there’s no room for anything else. Do you know what I mean?”
Without missing a beat, she said she knew exactly how I felt. Of course she did! She stayed home with all six of us. The frenzy and glory of a house full of little kids has no comparison. Very few people can truthfully tell me they understand what we’re going through. For some reason (lack of sleep), it’s simply hadn’t occurred to me that my mom got it as well as anybody could.
My first feeling in response was an absolute wave of relief. My mom, who seem to have it all together and raised a bunch of functioning adults, also felt underwater for a few decades. I’m watching her come out of it now, blossoming as an adult who gets sleep and can clean out her closet. I’m mildly jealous, only because I didn’t fully take advantage of my childless window. In hindsight, some of the projects I thought I could take on later I should’ve handled sooner! Now I’ll have to wait a few decades.
That said, the realization hit me that this year, I needed to hear that someone had lived through this and came out the other side. I’m not referring to a nightmare, or a trial; I’m referring to giving 100% every day for years and eventually getting to restock that energy and tone it down a bit.
All of the kids are going through growth spurts right now – both in clothing size and in act. I don’t want to brag, but the last month has been full of behavioral marvels. They share, play together, check on each other and apologize when they do something wrong. Tess and Remy even share an invisible friend, Nina. They’re suddenly remembering family members past visits, and love talking about everyone in their lives in great detail. They tell stories, and create adventures for themselves. They keep each other out of trouble. As much as I’d like to think this is permanent, in all likelihood it’s a phase that will end soon. But the four under four honeymoon is helping me build up enough energy to deal with the outcome when it’s over.
And I don’t feel the need to prove myself as a parent anymore. The relief of letting my hair down and saying out loud to my mother – my amazing mother! – that I’m overwhelmed sometimes? That opened the door to many future commiserations and requests for advice.
Being a grandma must be hard sometimes. Knowing when to share or give tips, knowing when to dive in and be an extra set of hands and when to butt out and let the parents deal with something – that’s all circumstantial and is about as transferable as using one kid’s potty training technique on the next. I don’t know that I’d ever invited her to help us, in terms of yelling at a kid for misbehaving or doling out a punishment. I ask for help all the time in terms of pick ups, babysitting, and stuff like that. But that’s not the same as including someone as part of our village, in the truest sense. When we were new parents, we wanted to experiment with our own ideas and ways of doing things. Now that were worn down enough, we except the hand a little more gladly that we didn’t feel we needed with a cute newborn in arms.
Have I snapped at my mom for the last time? Will I accept all of her help and advice with a smile and a hug in the future? Probably not. I’m not that good of a human being, and no relationship is perfect. But what I learned in Florida is to treat grandparents with the same respect I treat our kids; I don’t have to react immediately. They deserve a minute of space while I try to figure out what everyone’s up to. Sassy’s parenting skills are definitely up to par, and sharing the burden of raising great people with somebody who already has (if I do say so myself) should have occurred to me as a good idea a few years sooner.
And to Sassy, who’s hearing this for the first time with all of you, thanks for the balm to my heart! You’re great, even if I don’t always act like it. Love ya!