I am mum to two little balls of energy, aged five and seven. Sometimes, I want to explode with the love I have for them. Other times, I want to run away screaming and then hide in a faraway place where I can sleep for one week at a stretch.
Mums of little ones – you understand what I’m saying, right? Our children are the loves of our lives, the very air that we breathe.
But sometimes, you just wish you could grab a fragment of who you were before you became a mum, and hold on to it to remind yourself of a pre-mum you.
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A time when you didn’t have to stay up until past midnight to catch up on work, only to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the kids ready for school.
A moment of peace in the shower without a little voice asking for you. Time to get ready to go out leisurely without always being the last one in the shower after you’ve wriggled little arms and legs through arm and leg-holes.
A chance to eat properly, to savour the flavours, without having to hurriedly gulp down mouthfuls, denied of taste.
This is it, this is motherhood and we all know this. Still, we can’t help but vent, whine, complain – whatever you want to call it – with and to our fellow parents from time to time, knowing they would understand.
But this changed for me one day.
I was at a family event. My boys were running wild with their cousins, leaping over furniture, shrieking with joy, running up to me from time to time to ask random, vague unanswerable questions.
At one point, my littlest guy fell and knocked his knee. He came up to me wailing, asking me to “make the hurt better.” I did and he ran off wiping his tears. The ‘”hurt” was completely forgotten as he re-joined the general chaos. (He only wanted that magical mummy-kiss that makes all ouchies go away).
I sighed, rolled my eyes and turned to my brother-in-law who was sitting near me. His kids are teenagers now. I said to him, “I bet you don’t miss this.”
He looked at me and said, “Actually I do.”
“Really?” I asked him. “But why?”
He then told me there will come a day when all the annoying little things our kids do will stop. But when this happens, it won’t bring you the relief, the peace, the relaxation that you thought it would.
It brings nostalgia, loneliness and longing.
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He told me how seemingly overnight, his kids started to politely decline age-old bedtime cuddles. How they finally stopped running through the house overturning and breaking things. But with the cessation of this, the mad giggles and shrieks that accompany this craziness also stopped. The liveliness that goes hand-in-hand with having little ones around stopped.
Now, instead of a long-winded answer to a simple question such as “How was school?”, a simple “Good” is all he gets, leaving him longing to know more.
His children have grown up. The house is quiet.
Here’s what I learnt that day
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When the million unanswerable questions stop, so will your child’s long, whimsical answers to your questions. The answers that are sometimes just so cute that you want to shout them out to the whole world.
When you are finally able to get a proper night’s sleep and you ask your child to jump into your bed and your arms for a cuddle before he goes to his own bed – he refuses, because he’s too cool and grown-up to do that.
It all stops.
The clinginess, their insatiable need for kisses, hugs, reassurance at all times that sometimes leaves you wishing for just five minutes to yourself – this will stop. Then, a kiss and a hug from them will be as rare and valuable as the most precious jade.
The chaotic days filled with love, laughter, tears and tantrums will stop.
This is what I realized the day I had this chat with my brother-in-law.
There will come a day when the house is silent and clean and there is no more cute chatter and wild giggles filling your ears, no more Lego blocks to hurt the soles of your feet. When there are no more hugs given in that way that only small children know how to give – warm and with their whole being, gazing at you with wide eyes. When your kiss, your touch, your words have no more magical healing powers.
And when this day comes, you will wish with every ounce of energy in your being for those years of parenting small children, that you could re-live them for just one day.
An hour of dealing with your little one’s tantrum, calming him down, cuddling him afterwards – faith and trust renewed – was not a waste of your time. It was precious beyond words because of the deep lessons in patience and love it contained. You will never get that moment back.
There will come a day when you won’t mind going through another sleepless night just to have that little, warm body cuddling up to you, safe in your arms. My sleepless nights are no more. But I know those moments of night-time cuddles and kisses are numbered as my boys grow up, ironically fulfilling my wish of the past.
So, now, when I tuck my boys in bed and ask them “how was your day” and each one starts: “First, I walked into class, then I unpacked my bag…” I don’t rush them through the steps. I let them talk. And I watch their little faces light up with joy as they tell me about something fun that happened. I know that soon they won’t talk like this as they get caught up in the inevitable process of growing up.
Now, I don’t wish they would grow up fast even when I am caught up in a difficult parenting moment. I remind myself that the growing up is happening right before my eyes, in that very moment.
Cherish your little one’s childhood, mums and dads. They will never be as little as they were yesterday and tomorrow they will be a little bit older. And this will happen every day until suddenly, they are little ones no more.
Stop wishing they would grow up soon. They already have, in the second that just slipped by.