Our oldest just turned six.
When I stop and let that sink in, I find I can’t truly wrap my mind around what is happening here. We had a blue-eyed, blonde-haired newborn baby girl once upon a time. Try as I did at the time, I could barely imagine her toddling around, let alone walking, running, having friends, reading, painting, singing…
As a new mom I was unbelievably stressed. I did in-home daycare back then, and I took on three additional babies ranging in age from three to eleven months, shortly after Audrey was born. Other moms would talk about how the addition of their second and third children were huge transitions for them, but for me, each of my children being born was easier than the last. Because of my daycare, I went through each stage of growth so many times that it felt like I’d had way more kids than I actually had by the time our second child, William, was born.
Ryan and I had always talked about stopping after two, but shortly before William turned one, and with four toddlers in the house, we realized we weren’t ready to be done with babies yet. When William was born I had thought every stage was going to be my last and I enjoyed it as fully as I knew how. Then when August came along, I was given an incredible gift that I wish everyone could experience – I got to enjoy every last stage a second time, and I will shamelessly admit that I have done absolutely nothing but soak every precious moment in and drag it out as long as possible. No stress, no impatience, no room for any of that nonsense this time around. Just sweet baby snuggles and laughter behind my hand as he progresses through each adorable, hilarious, sometimes infuriating stage flawlessly.
I have undergone a personal, deeply spiritual transformation over the past few years of growing babies and all that it entails. This transformation was rooted in the hardships that Ryan and I faced for the first five years of our married lives, ranging from losing our apartment twice, to the loneliness of being so far away from my sisters (for me), to our own immaturity and selfishness. In the darkest of places, I rediscovered the brightest of lights. My search for answers uncovered an infinite ocean of unconditional, relentless, Divine love. Every aspect of my soul has been awakened; every aspect of my life has reflected this awakening. My circumstances have remained mostly the same, yet what I once saw as limiting, frustrating, and stressful became filled with beauty, passion, joy, extravagant love, and infinite possibilities – every day, every relationship, every event, every moment filled with glorious potential. And perhaps nothing has reflected this inner change so clearly as my parenting. Before, I was just holding on, trying to keep my temper and make sure the house wasn’t a complete disaster. Now, I see myself as it were a gardener, tending to little souls, creating an atmosphere of goodness and beauty to nourish them.
And as my children grow older and I enter a new season of life, it seems that nothing is substantial – everything about my life is fluid and it ripples in front of my eyes. Right now I still have a baby, barely. I am holding on as hard as I can, yet I am embracing the freedoms that come with my children growing. I am embracing the community of family and friends that surround us. I am embracing the people who have loved us – who have loved ME – through every moment, who have changed me and made me who I am. I am embracing the familiar along with the new – the new freedoms, the new joys, the new experiences, the new richness and variety that life with slightly older kids brings. I am embracing the energy and drive that come with being well-rested, the fulfillment that comes from having quiet time in the morning, the excitement of being able to pack them all up and take them on adventures, the inspiration that comes from watching babies blossom into little girls and boys.
And it occurred to me that I should attempt to capture life as it exists in this present moment, before its intricacies are rearranged with the passing of time into something new. For all of the reasons listed above, I am enjoying this summer more than all the previous summers combined. I don’t allow myself any impatience, any offense, any worry, any negativity. Each moment contains incalculable depths of peace if I will only tune in to it, let go of all that hinders and be filled with the love that surrounds me like oxygen. So we take each day as it comes, imbue it with joyful thoughts and intentions, and make it all it can be, even the days I am tired, even the days the kids are crabby and whiny. It does not matter the situation – where we are or what we are doing. All of that is secondary to how we perceive, and what we envision and create.
Some days we spend at home while Daddy works, and our days are filled with music, worship and prayer, books and art, housework and projects. The kids play the piano, paint and draw, and have pillow fights. We sing and dance. Audrey reads to the boys or writes in her art journal. Our door is always open to visits from sisters and friends, whether announced or otherwise. Our phone is always on for a video-call from aunt Laura, who likes to play the piano for us or just make silly faces at us in the dark before bed. Some days baby Zayden comes to play. I love those particular days a lot. Some days we walk to the park and stay the whole afternoon. Some days the kids play outside with neighborhood friends for hours.
Some days we bake and deliver bread to the neighbors or find other excuses to go bug them, because life is way too short to spend hiding from the people around you. Other days the kids make cards and write notes to every conceivable person under the sun while I catch up on chores.
Some days they go through their toys and pick some to give away to “kids who don’t have any” all of their own volition. Those days I am thankful, thankful that a loving power beyond me is at work in their hearts. Other days I have to blast worship music, lift my hands, and close my eyes to sustain my peace amid the bickering and whining. Those days I am thankful too, thankful for a chance to allow that same beautiful power to manifest through my weaknesses.
Some days we drop Daddy off, pack a bag with lunch, snacks, and swimsuits, and take off for the day. We swim in the river, go to the library, garden at Gramma and Papa’s house (and crash there for naptime), meet with aunts and cousins for activities, go to friend’s houses, or participate in various events with the local homeschool group. We explore the parks around the city and chase prairie dogs, feed geese or hatchery fish, and pet horses. My older two kick their shoes off and climb whatever they can climb as high as they can go, make fast friends with every other kid within shouting distance, and get them all in trouble for wanting to climb up slides backward and do other such apparently dangerous things.
On weekends Daddy joins us on our excursions. We go the farmer’s market, explore shops downtown, get pretzels at the mall, throw the boys in the stroller and go walk by the river. We have homemade pizza and movie nights and picnics at the park, picnics by the river, picnics anywhere. The kids and I go to church, which is without question my favorite place to be. Because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like just letting it all go amid a sea of raised hands in the presence of the Immense and Perfect Love.
Sometimes, especially on the weekends, we spend the whole day with family – Gramma and Papa, aunts and uncles, and baby Zayden. We grill out in the summer and have family game nights in the winter. There is always way too much food involved, lots of joking, laughter and love. To me, family days are the ultimate comfort. Ryan and I will drop pretty much anything at any time to be with family or friends, whether it is a last minute get-together or a phone call for some help moving furniture. Our personal lives are flexible, rearrangeable, built around those we want to share it with. This is, I have discovered, hands down the healthiest way to live. This is true both for ourselves and for our kids, who thrive on the attention and guidance of a deep and rich community.
Our days are long and busy and unbelievably good. And no matter what, when we arrive home at night we all pile on the big bed, hold hands, and pray. And I can feel the atmosphere in our home shift perceptibly, more and more as the days go by. There is less and less time for the anxieties, negativity, the insecurities of the past. There is room for love and only love. For a love so vast and boundless it cannot be imagined let alone understood or explained. For a love too powerful to be contained in the four walls of a home or the hearts that take it in – no it spills out into the streets and changes things. For a love that creates infinity where there was emptiness, that straightens crooked hearts and mends broken ones.
There is room only for enjoyment of what is and expectation of what will be, for the overwhelming of the old with the new. And when six more years have passed and our oldest turns twelve, I know with all my heart that she will be something I cannot even imagine now.. She, if she has her way, will be singing on stage with her Gramma by then, and will have published her own book, and will know every single kid her age within a ten mile radius by name.
And as for me, I will have joy. I will have love. I will have peace. I will have Heaven in my home, I will see it in my families’ eyes, feel it in their hugs, because it is, like springs of living water, overflowing in my heart.