Monday, August 15, 2011

bitter-sweet {from babies to EFY teenagers}

I was emotional about babies this summer.
(What else is new? And really, who wouldn't when you have babies like this one around? I can't take photo credit...don't know who snapped this one.)

I'm not talking just a little bit of nostalgia, I'm talking tears-streaming-down-my-cheeks kind of emotional.

Multiple times.

What is wrong with me? I'm tearing up even as I write this for crying out loud!

It all started out one night as we sat around talking at the lake and I glanced over and saw my sister-in-law snuggling with her baby. She was interacting with her as only a mother really can. You know, that pure-love-in-the-eyes oogling and big open-mouth kisses kinda stuff. There is something about that connection that just hit me like a truck.

It hit me how much I miss it. So much that my heart felt hollow.

There is something magical about having a baby. Your baby. The way you know just how they like to be held. The way their eyes light up when you walk into a room. The way you can understand every noise they make (most of the time after you have put in some good sweat and tears to figure that out). The way your heart feels like it just may burst out of you when you watch them sleep at night. I looked forward from the time I was practically a baby myself to that time when I would be able to carry my own around on my hip, their pacifiers as a ring.

Sure, they were trouble. Sure, they caused me to loose sleep and hair and stomach muscles. But they were mine. And I could never, ever seem to get enough of them.

Although these feelings are as real as real can be, I'm not saying I think we should have another one. In fact, I know it's right for us to be done. I honestly and truthfully feel incredibly peaceful about that (although at times Dave doesn't believe me...especially when I'm bawling about how much I love babies).

I just sometimes feel nostalgic for that time of life.

...until I look at the children my babies have become and that hollow feeling in my heart just fills right back in again.

It was lucky that in the midst of my pangs of baby-hunger I packed up the car and took my oldest two babies to BYU for tennis camp and EFY. (Remember this post? If you can believe it, the thrill of how much he loved it was even better than the exhilaration of getting him in.) We put Elle in tennis camp the same week and the two of them had been counting down the days all summer.
(excuse that iPhone picture...)

As I dropped them off I was overcome with how much I adored them. Max's giddy excitement cracked me up as he kept repeating over and over and over again how lucky he was that he got to go. He was so giddy that he even let me take that picture. Now that's saying something.

Elle was a little more apprehensive but still had stars in her eyes about being on a college campus and having her own dorm room, especially since she got to be with her good friend from home.
I blew her a kiss from here and got Max settled in next:

(Interesting to note that those guys are all older than him.)

(that was his roommate from our neighborhood here)

I heard from Elle every night. She had a rough start but ended up adoring her time there.

But this is all I heard from Max the whole time:
Yeah, he liked it.

A lot.

Here's Elle glowing when I came to pick her up at the end of the week:

And this is all I got from Max's pick-up...the sidewalk outside his dorm.
How did it happen so quick that my son is old enough to get sidewalk chalk messages from girls? :) (Yeah, it was for multiple boys but my baby was one of them.)

As we drove away my heart was spilling over with gratitude that I get to be a mom.

Their mom.

Yes, these big kids who have lost any trace of the baby-hood I once cherished.

I love to watch them "become."

I love that we can engage in conversations about how to live life and that they have their own thought-out opinions they can throw into the mix. I love that they are old enough they can explain to me how in the world to get a new app on my iPhone or how to make a slideshow on the computer.

I love how this summer I got to spend so much time with them.

We somehow lucked out and had the opportunity to have multiple "mom dates" where I took them one by one to lunch or out to get school clothes or just run to the grocery store. (That's what happens when you have three very capable babysitters of your own and there's no school to get in your way. See why I'm so mad school came and messed up the good stuff? :)

I love how Max likes to walk so close to me that he knocks into me over and over again in and out of stores.

I love how Elle dared Max to find a cute girl to sit behind in school and braid her hair.

I loved their laughing reaction when I rolled my eyes in mock disgust and begged him to please not do that! (But really, please don't...:)

I love how Claire cannot stop smiling when we're together.

I love how Grace does not forget anything and holds me to my promises.

I love that Lucy can finally understand delayed gratification a little bit more and has cut her tantrum time in half.

There is something magical about having a growing child. Your child. The way you know just what will cheer them up on a sad day. The way their eyes light up when you walk into their classroom. They way you can feel your hearts connect when you gather them in close and look into their eyes and tell them how much you adore them. And the way their eyes adore you right back. The way your heart feels like it just may burst out of you when you watch them sleep at night.

Sure, they are still trouble. Sure, I lay awake at night worrying about them and my heart aches perhaps more than theirs does when something goes wrong. They can be sassy and disobedient and I can see hints of defiant teenager-hood here and there. It's most certainly not all butterflies and rainbows.

But I can never, ever seem to get enough of them...the good and the bad.

Because I get to be their mother, for better or for worse.

I love who they are becoming.

Even though that "becoming" is leading me gradually away from the babyhood I will always adore and get homesick for.

In all my childhood-wishing-for-babies I never knew that what comes next is even better.

48 comments:

  1. Shawn, this is just what I needed to read this morning as I embark on a day full of clearing out all my baby clothes. I've been dreading it for months, but I think it's time. It's so good for me to read that life just keeps getting better as they get bigger.

    thanks. love you.

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  2. Thank you, thank you for assuring me that what comes next is even better! Next week all 3 of my kids will be in school all day for the 1st time, and I'm really feeling sad and sentimental and missing the days that they were home all day with me. PLease keep these reminders coming for me!!! I LOVE your blog, thanks!!!

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  3. Even though I don't get baby hungry, this is a great reminder to me to enjoy and appreciate the magic of the stages my children are in.

    And I teach at EFY, so I love the story of his excitement. Man, I love the kids like that.

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  4. (regular reader, first time commenter) i just had a baby 3.5 weeks ago and thank you for reminding me to cherish this time. right now its all work and no play (crying, diapers, spit up, and crying again) but i know time will fly. i love to cuddle my baby girl and watch her sleepy smiles. thanks for this post!

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  5. This is a great post. I went throughout high school not knowing if I wanted children. To be quite honest, I was a little afraid of kids. I never babysat the neighborhood kids, and I was the youngest (by a long shot) in my family. But now that I'm a little older and finally thinking of settling down, I can't wait for kids. I definitely have baby fever, but need to wait just a few more years. Your posts always make me think what a blessing it will be to have children of my own. And to always enjoy everything that's thrown at you. Thank you for your beautiful words.

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  6. I feel the exact same way about newborns. I crave the time i give birth ( yes, i knowm i loved that part...like LOVED it), and i crave those few precious days in the hospital with my new born. bringing them home, and having them sleep on my chest. I too am done giving birth, but i crave it!! Even though i am also 100% at peace with our 3 wonderful children.

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  7. Oh, how I love this post!! I am right there with you... with 15, 13 and 10 year olds. You explained my heart so well. :)

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  8. Oh shoot, I got up with a big day of work in mind and now I'm crying instead. What a tender post. Maybe in your next life you better just become a full time writer. Beautiful stuff!

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  9. Good grief girl! What a post. I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED it. By the way...I think you need to read this post to Dave. Uh Hmmm.

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  10. EFY is awesome! I didn't grow up in the church, so I didn't get to go as a participant, but I was a counselor in Georgia for 5 summers in a row and I loved it! The kids are awesome and helped me build my testimony as well!

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  11. I truly hope that you read these comments eventually! Summary: Prayer Answered.

    I have been in turmoil for this whole year about this very thing. Lets just say my desire for more, was pretty set on "done" but that choice has since been 100% taken away from me via a very unexpected surgery. So although I have that peace, I am soooo sad about it, that at times I cannot breathe.
    I KNOW how to do babies. Mine are 2, 4, and 6. I don't know how to do teens. I am so scared. It gives me more than hope to have you write this. (I shall print and hang it for reassurance. Sans pix that is!) I have something to look forward to now. Thank you so much for being an answer to my heart's prayers. Who'd have thought God would communicate through a blog?! BUT I too, will always bawl big crocodile tears (like now) at random times as the 'littleness' slowly but surely moves farther and farther away from me. I cry about it at the most random times, and I guess as long as I can learn how to be present now, that is okay too. (either that, or I am doomed to a life a lunacy, because it is crazy)

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  12. What a perfect post for all of us suffering back to school how-can they-really-be-that-big?! syndrome!

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  13. How sweet! This made me cry! It is hard to watch the little ones grow up as my oldest is going to kindergarten in a week and a half!!! I wonder where the time went and how sad it is that she will not be here everyday with me. That Max is too cute! Watch out he is going to have girls writing sidewalk chalk messages to him for a very long time!

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  15. It is hard to see my kids grow up so fast! Time is disappearing before my eyes! I am trying to embrace every age and development of my kids. I miss having a little one around the house I know exactly what you are saying. It is sad those days are long gone! Before we know it we will be having our own grandchildren and the process will start over! Now that is something scary to think about but exciting at the same time! We are getting old!

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  16. So beautifully put. Explains those tender feelings in a mother's heart so hard to put in words. Thanks for inspiring me to enjoy my daily moments a little more and fear the teenage years a little less. Love from Oz.

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  17. Oh man Shawni, this post was so beautifully written, so tender (as your mum said), and had me crying my eyes out. God willing I'm not done with babies (heck I have one right beside me as I write) but I'm sometimes overwhelmed by how fast time flies, so this was a beautiful reminder that what comes after babyhood is equally precious. Thank you!

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  18. Favorite. Post. Ever.
    Thank you!

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  19. I understand, except I am wanting a two-year-old little girl! We are done having kids, and I really don't want to go through that again, but if someone were to hand me a toddler I'd be thrilled. Luckily my good friend has one I can borrow. :)

    I love my big kids, and I am so excited for my son to start Seminary this year (even if it is early-morning). I just read in your parents' great book 5 Spiritual Solutions about the church programs and how wonderful it is that they graduate HS with a 4-year Seminary (Theology) degree. Our youth are so blessed!

    Question about EFY. I want to send my son to EFY next summer, preferably Provo. We live in Alaska, but have friends he could stay with there before & after. How hard is it to get in? How do I get him in? EFY here is really hit-or-miss as to whether they will have it, and I really want him to experience it. Any tips or hints? Thanks so much--I love your blog (it's the only one I regularly read).

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  20. That was a beautiful post. I have a 9 week old little girl (my first) and sometimes I just wish she was older so I could do more with her and actually talk to her. However this post made me realize that I need to cherish this time with her. P.s. if you every need a baby fix, you're welcome to mine. ;) We don't live too far away.

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  21. this is amazing. i love it! my baby is 18 months, and i never want him to grow up. but this makes me excited for that day. it makes me look forward to what comes next (not that i'm wishing away time! no way!) so thanks for this. i am your blog's
    newest, biggest fan! :)

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  22. I have 4 kids almost the exact ages as yours (minus Lucy), and I had the same epiphany this summer. Last year, with them all in school, was a little rough for me, and I missed my babies and having someone with me at all times. I got a bit baby hungry, even though I knew we were done.

    But after this wonderful summer, I'm realizing that I don't need to miss those "golden years" of mothering, because I'm right in the middle of them. My kids are SO much fun right now, they still like me, and they are such interesting people. And we can do fun things together that you just can't do with babies. added bonus: We didn't have a single one of them melt down in a store! :)

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  23. At the risk of sounding kind of stalkerish...I was serving in Ploiesti when several members received a letter from you announcing your pregnancy with Max. They all brought that letter (quite excitedly!) to church and shared it with everyone, and I remember it said how much you looked forward to cuddling your very own baby in your arms. And really....that doesn't seem so long ago!

    I kind of hate every birthday my children celebrate. And I hold babies and feel the same way you do. There is something so wonderful about babies! But they do keep bringing more and more wonderful things to our lives, so it is good that they don't stay babies. :)

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  24. You have such a gift for writing, and hitting the nail on the head for us mamas, especially! I am just now entering that baby phase, with a 3 year old and 3 month old, and this makes me want to just run in the other room and kiss them all over! Because it won't be long before they won't let me, and I'll be longing for these baby days too! ;) Such a beautifully written post! Your kids are gorgeous, and your family values have already helped in forming ours so much! Thanks for being so diligent with this blog!

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  25. Loved this post! While I miss their new baby smells and coos and downy hair, I enjoy watching my children grow up. A bit like a never ending gift - seeing what they will do or say next, every day. :)

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  26. Loved your post - well spoken. I remember thinking that the day would never come that my kids would be out of the baby/toddler phase. Days were long and hard. BUT about a month ago - I sent my "baby" to 1st grade (I also have a 6th grader and 4th grader). I sobbed the night before because I knew that I would miss him so much.
    Now I feel a bit of emptiness without him chattering next to me. On to the next phase of life for us all.
    Thanks for your positive outlook. I always look forward to your thoughts.

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  27. I LOVED this post. It could not have come at a more perfect time for me. My oldest is 13 1/2 and my current youngest is 5 and starting kindergarten next week. We are expecting our long awaited last child this Nov/Dec. This will be our 6th child and we couldn't be happier to be entering this whole new baby phase all over again, but we are as scared as the first time 14 years ago.

    You are such an inspiration and a great reminder to cherish each phase that we are in. Thanks again!

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  28. Hey shawni...finally dealing with I.W.A.N. Myself. My number 6 started walking and I am mourning that I won't have another one that just needs me. I know I am/should be done but it is so sad to face it. It is what we are about for so long. I will always get to have 2 year olds in dance class I guess. They are pretty precious too.

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  29. i've never been excited to have teenagers, but your kids make me excited. my oldest is a boy and second is a girl, so it will be fun to see their relationship blossom and hopefully be as awesome as max and elle's! do you have any tips on fostering a friendship between your kids? mine are still so little, but it's one thing i always have in mind...how to help them not only love each other as siblings, but genuinely LIKE each other as friends too.

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  30. Loved this post! My kids are all older (my baby just turned 23!) and I miss my babies. But I have to tell you that the most wonderful part of Heavenly Father's Plan is that when our kids leave the baby stages and we are really starting to miss them, the grandbabies come along to salve the hurt. I have a quote up on my wall - "I thought I was too old to fall in love. Then I had grandchildren."

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  31. I'm having a really difficult time with my daughter right now and don't like the choices she's making (she's 23) and I'm trying to focus on who she really is, not the stupidity she's creating. Thanks you for this post, the reminder that our children are so near and dear.

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  32. Hey Shawni, so lovely written. My son is 21 and we went to his best mates 21st. And a I looked around the span of the room, at all these wonderful young men and woman, I found myself gazing upon my son, with such admiration and love that tears began to flow down my check. No-one else saw them or felt them, it was purely my gift.xxx

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  33. I love your blog. I don't think I have ever commented, but loving hearing your stories and pictures of your cute family! I think I found your blog through my sister-in-law! I loved this post! I can 14 weeks pregnant, just made me even more excited for things to come! I'm glad your son had fun at EFY, I was lucky to go 3 times as a teen and loved it!

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  34. I so totally can relate to your post today! I too loovve babies and would drop everything to have another if my husband agreed to it, but realistically I know he is right and our 3 wonderful children totally complete our family. My eldest turns 11 soon and every time I think about it I am overcome with sadness that he has grown up overnight. From reading your post I am going to try so hard to look at the positives about this new stage in their lives and focus on all the wonderful blessings they give us!
    Thank you!

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  35. Babies or beautiful blooming new-teens, they are all yours and all wonderful. Thanks for sharing x (NOW I'm all teary!!)

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  36. Thank you Shawni! You are a beautiful mother and fabulous author all in the same. I LOVED this post, my friend.

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  37. This is a popular post. I also love it, with the "toddler/baby" mother perspective. Being right in the thick of getting no sleep, doing anything for a 20 minute power nap, cleaning messes every 30 seconds :), this is a great reminder (along with all the quotes I have up in my home) to enjoy the moments, which is one of my favorite things to do. I always love how your words speak what my heart feels. :) thanks!

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  38. Today I did a dance around my kitchen island. It wasn't a particularly fun dance and it didn't take any skill whatsoever. It mainly involved me and a thrown sippy cup, and then me again and again that same sippy cup tossed on the floor. Then a certain toddler spilling mac and cheese just as I had come over for air and returned that loose cannon of a sippy cup. I wanted to scream! Does it ever end? I have a million things to do and yet I am too busy cleaning faces and bottoms to do it.....thanks for this post. One day (probably too soon) I may just miss my dance.

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  39. Thank you for sharing your joys of mothering older kids. I, too, LOVE babies and often wish mine were little enough that I knew just what they needed and how to protect them and make them feel special. As they get older, I have a hard time letting go and yet revel in the little people they are becoming. Especially since my kids struggle with being on the autism spectrum. You reminded me to find joy in all the milestones they accomplish and, maybe borrow someone else's baby!

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  40. This was a great and inspiring post that I needed to hear. Our summer has been filled with fun and frustrations at the same time. My teen girls are getting more sassy and my youngest a son is picking up their bad ways as well now. We have had some adjusting this summer and sadly are looking forward to school starting so they can finally have a break from each other.
    I have told my hubby many times lately that mothering a teenager isn't for me, the rules, the yelling, tears, pushing my buttons and all attitudes have made me wish they were babies again. I love babies and could hold one all day and be happy. Thanks for reminding me that this should also be a fun time for us and try and relax to enjoy it. I like the for better or worse thought, never thought of it that way.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  41. Shawni~ I live in Colorado...I don't even remember how I came across your blog...but I admire many of your qualities and talents. You make me want to be a better mother and wife. Thanks for this beautiful post...you so eloquently put into words the feelings of my heart over the past week or two as my oldest two turned 16 and 13. I find myself wondering where in the world the time went, thinking in a few short years my oldest will be serving a mission! WOW! Continue to cherish every moment of your sweet children's lives. Thank you!

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  42. YUM!!! Love this post! Thanks Shawni

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  43. Shawni--
    I doubt if you ever have time to read all your comments from readers, but I'm going to join the throngs of people who've said this post was exactly what they needed to read. I've loved following your blog these last few months. Reading about your life has really changed my perspective. I'm 29-years-old and single. For most of my growing-up years, I never thought I'd get married and have a family. I still see no end to "single-hood" in sight. But my heart is changing. Reading your post (and many others) has been a reminder of so many good things that I WANT to have in my life and I know that Heavenly Father wants to bless me with them. Thanks for helping stir up those righteous desires in me. :)
    --Brooke

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  44. Wait until you send one off to college! Yesterday I helped my step daughter move into her first apartment and left her to start her freshman year. I took a deep breath and drove away and wondered how mothers survive leaving their child at college.

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  45. you have just put into words exactly how i feel inside. my family is very similar to yours . . . my oldest of six just turned 14 this month and my baby is 18 months. i feel pretty stongly that she is my last, but that is so hard for me to say because i have just adored my babies. i feel so blessed to be able to be their mother.

    thank you shawni for allowing me to peek into your life and to be inspired by you as a mother and all the wonderful things you are doing with your family. you are sharing a beautiful piece of yourself with so many . . . truly a generous gift.

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  46. So beautifully written! I am all teary now and so grateful for your perspective and attitude. You help me be a better mother. Thank you so much.

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  47. Shawni, I'm so grateful for the words you share, as they are the words taken right out of my thoughts and penetrating my heart. I, too, feel at peace that there will be no babies, and it hurts my heart so much to realize that. But I am enjoying the relationship that is growing between my older kids and I. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and helping others in the way you do.

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