September 29, 2010

The Preschool Stage

No, these are not all my children. Just three of them are mine. The others are my sister's boys.  

After the adjustment of having my first baby, I got my life in order just in time to have a second and, later, a third baby. I remember sitting in the hospital waiting for my husband to bring the car seat so we could take our third newborn home to join his 2 year-old and 4 year-old brothers. Luke lay peacefully in his hospital bassinet, but an overwhelming anxiousness came over me. How was I going to manage this? A quick prayer pleading for help and I was off, running the strenuous race of motherhood.

Mothering preschoolers feels like a test of endurance. At this point in my life (kids ages 7, 4, and 2), I have done routine things literally thousands of times: loaded and unloaded car seats and strollers, nursed three children through babyhood, changed diapers, put on little shoes and jackets, given baths, done loads of laundry, pushed swings, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tucked in sleepy sweeties, listened (and memorized) annoying kids CD's, been home between 1 and 3 pm, and given hugs and kisses.

In the hundreds: I've had one of every human bodily fluid on me, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and broken up wrestling matches and fights.

Just a few times, but still quite a task: I've potty trained three kids.

Unfortunately, I've also forgotten important dates, lost my temper, let them talk me into Cheetos at the store, and many other things that have not been my finest mothering moments.

The repetition, the endless needs, and the lack of sleep make mothering in the preschool stage difficult. We feel far from both the ease of the lone, sleeping newborn (sorry, new moms, it's true!) and from the stage when our children are more independent. We're so overwhelmed that it's easy to lose sight of our purpose and goal in mothering.

My greatest temptation in this stage was and has been idolizing the future. When my children were younger, there were countless times when I would take my children on a walk through our neighborhood and I allowed my thoughts to turn to "the countdown". How many years until the second one is in school? How many until the third? It was a little game I would play in difficult seasons.

This stage is hard, there is no way around it. But, as a mom who is gradually leaving this stage, I am starting to see the fruit of consistency, discipline, training, and, most of all, relationship with my children. Those are all the things that happen on a minute-to-minute basis in the preschool stage. It's so important to get it right.

If we have children, we're going to do all the little things that make up motherhood. That peanut butter sandwich has to be made. That foul diaper has to be changed (please). That boo-boo has to be kissed. Why not enjoy our children in the process? Why not do it all with joy?