Once, when my twins were toddlers, the toilet in our guest bathroom stopped working. That’s not entirely true. It worked, just not very well. It was quite capable of handling the um, lesser liquid challenges of it’s existence, but anything more, shall we say, substantial, and it just couldn’t hack it. We suspected a clog of some sort, but with only one fully potty trained child, it was easy to redirect him to the other fully functioning lavatory and ignore the other, sulking in it’s liquid only capacity.
But then, guests were coming, and we knew it was necessary for the guest toilet to once again fulfill the measure of it’s creation. We certainly couldn’t have guests wandering through the master bedroom at 2 AM looking for a toilet that could fully accommodate their uh, needs. So Josh set to unearthing the mystery of our broken toilet. It isn’t a wonder the poor thing was on the outs. I wouldn’t work too well either if I had a pump head of a soap dispenser, a small hairbrush, and three toothbrushes stuck in my innards.
Heh. Funny toddlers.
Did you know I currently drive with my valet key? I lost my entire key chain, including the original key to my van years ago. Or someone else lost it. Someone small. And less than 4 years old. I knew the keys were lost in the house, because I’d driven home. They had to be there somewhere. After several weeks of totally obnoxious, obsessive searching, I gave up. They would turn up eventually. Or so I thought. When we moved, I still hadn’t found those stupid keys. More than a year later, Sam came up to me and said, “Mommy? Do you remember when I hid your keys inside the wall? That was funny.”
Um, what? Inside the wall? How does a four year old get a set of keys INSIDE a wall? I was totally confused. Still am.
Funny, funny toddlers.
Countless other toddler incidents include entire bags of rice poured on the floor, entire bottles of shampoo poured into the bathtub, permanent markers, freshly painted walls, new carpet, and ruined tubes of my favorite color of lipstick that is discontinued and no longer available in stores.
I bet you have a list just as daunting and overwhelming as mine.
And yet, we still manage to kiss their little heads and love them so desperately, it hurts. It’s a power one can only understand, I think, when you’ve experienced it; that love unconditional that stretches our hearts and binds their little souls irretrievably to our own, regardless of spills, breaks, and total disasters.
Heavy is the burden to turn these challenging little toddlers into capable, responsible adults. At times, it hardly seems possible to overcome the countless challenges, the frustrations that come with tantrums and meltdowns, both theirs, and ours.
But we make it. Toddlers grow up, they start school. They learn to wipe their own noses and bums, to tie their own shoes, and put themselves back in bed after they get up for a drink of water.
And we learn too. We learn what works and what doesn’t. We practice, we stretch, we grow. And it gets easier. Toddler number 4 is a cakewalk when compared with toddler number 1. Maybe a part of that is personality. Henry is, after all, a pretty easy going kid. But his mother is also weathered, conditioned to the storms that toddlerdom brings, experienced in navigation and crisis management.
I remember thinking, when I had three small children age 4 and under, that there had to be light at the end of the tunnel, that it had to get easier, less demanding, more rewarding. I yearned for it, hoped that I could catch even a tiny glimmer of that light, to give me the strength and courage to keep pushing onward. It was so hard sometimes… to have so many, so little.
And now, those three children are all in school. The chaos, the exhaustion, the burden of the constant care and maintenance that comes with multiple little children is so much lighter. Though I fear to say it out loud so as not to jinx myself, I think perhaps I may be close to that light at the end of the tunnel, maybe even standing in the faint traces of illumination on the very outer edge.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t even begin to imply that I’ve mastered all parenting challenges, and that all difficult roads are behind me. Ha! I don’t think that happens even when children are all grown and have left the house. And I would be a fool if I thought I had any clue what it’s going to be like to chart my course through prepubescence and the teenage years.
But you know that feeling – that exhaustion that comes from so many little ones, all under foot at once, wanting so many different things, all at the same time so that your very person feels like it will completely shatter under the emotional and mental stress of your constant caretaking?
That gets easier.
When I see mothers, weary and worn, desperate for adult conversation and the opportunity to pee alone, I want to hug them. To tell them they can’t give up, it will get easier, and they will make it. I will never forget the women that were there for me, a few steps ahead on their parenting journey who said it to me. They lifted, they helped, they encouraged.
And I still look to them – for strength, for guidance, for courage. It’s part of why I love this blogging thing so much. A lot of you have one baby, or four babies, or a houseful of fully grown babies. The roads we each walk are different in so many ways, but essentially, we’re all trying to get to the same place. We want our kids to be smart, healthy, faithful, kind. And we can help each other get there. We can lift, we can strengthen, we can relate. And we can laugh.
And that makes it easier. I’m sure of it.