Monday, October 13, 2014

Growing Up and Away

"Noi-noi?" She murmurs. "Noi-noi?"

It's 3 AM. I slowly turn over in bed to find little Felicity snuggled in next to me, sleepily patting my chest.

No, I never expected to have nursing or Felicity's made up name for it last this long. But as a pretty laid-back mama, it has, on and off. Of course, I never expected many things to happen to me that have happened. What human can?

"Noi-nois are tired," I sighed."They're just tired, hon. Maybe in the morning." My nearly three year old sighs too, but doesn't protest.... she knows nursing always "work" anymore, anyway. She drifts back off to sleep, her little rose bud lips relaxed, and I place a kiss on her ever-lengthening blond hair.

For a "Lactating Catholic," I don't talk about it much these days. But a state of life that has defined me is slowly changing. Being a MOP--a Mother of a Preschooler--is drifting away too.

I'm losing my current "baby" to toddlerhood, and my toddlers to preschool-hood... it's what all we moms both hope for and dread.

Thank God, the kids are growing up. Strong and healthy. Thank God. But oh, if they could only stay young...

It's something you don't realize is happening till it's already happened. The last time you have to ease their little shoes in and out of the "baby" swing at the playground. The last diaper. The last night in the crib. The last night in your bed. The last time you help them pull on a shirt, wipe their bottom, brush their teeth, wash their hair, slide on their water wings, push them on training wheels. The last time they ride in the grocery cart. The last time they ask you for a bedtime story. The last time they draw on your walls, (from my lips to God's ears.)

(At least she went around the picture, right?)
Suddenly, the helpless cooing creatures become self-feeding organisms.  They grow in confidence and then, slowly, in skill.  And then they don't need us as much anymore. And they put on backpacks and look all innocent when it's so obvious that they're trying to grow up...

"I a baby!" becomes "I do, myself!" Felicity goes back and forth between those phrases all the time.

Cecilia spoke both in the pool last year, all in the space of five minutes. "Don't let go Mommy!" She clung to me in the cold water, not trusting her new "floaties." I held her, encouraged her, easing her into the water. And so much sooner than I expected or hoped, she was calm and confident.

"Mom... I can do it!  Don't hold me; let me go!" And off she swam.

It breaks our hearts. It makes us proud.

Soon, if it hasn't happened all ready, I will no longer be "The Lactating Catholic." Not for awhile anyway. Perhaps never again. You don't know, you see, until you look back, that oh... I haven't had to carry her in days; she hasn't even asked to be picked up. She hasn't used this high chair in weeks. I can take the stroller out of the car, for now. Perhaps forever.

You see, we Catholic mamas sometimes don't know we're "done" until we look back, and we're 44 and our "baby" is five.  Only then do we go to the bins of tiny clothes we saved "just in case" and think about what lucky young mom with a swelling belly could use these now, as we start another, less familiar journey: growing in age and wisdom...right?  Huh.


Felicity turns three this week... Okay, well, to be honest, I wrote most of this weeks ago and she turned three last month (!) and Cecilia turned five.

(With her artwork, on paper and wall)
I'm doing more living of than writing of stories these days, figuring out how to take life one day at a time. 

It's been such a joy to see my girls grow. I wouldn't want it any other way, of course!  And oh, I do like to sleep, and I don't actually like buying diapers, and it's such a delight to have experienced Felicity's pointing fingers and monosyllabic words turn into longer and more colorful sentences. It was so fun to hear her say "Good grief" for the first time. Currently, she is trying to talk like her favorite character, "Peppa Pig"; she regularly requests her "swimming costume," tee hee.

Oh yes, and she really likes band-aids. A lot.

It's an adorable phase.  Soon she'll be on to something equally cute, and then she'll be ready for college.  Okay, maybe not that fast.

Thank God.

How is it that something that feels like it will never end--those sleepless, drool-filled, crazy newborn nights, those hectic shopping trips with little people who intend to buy out the store--how is it that, looking back, it all seems to have gone by so quickly, to go from chaotic present to precious past?

Growth and change, I'm realizing, are earthly activities as we move closer towards our unchanging, all-loving Father.  It is blissful to think of perfection lasting forever, isn't it?  It would be hard to say what that is, here, in this world: the fuzzy warm baby heads, the toddling steps that bring us wilted dandelions, the joyful shouts when they ride their two-wheeled bike away from our careful grasp.

I wouldn't know which moment to freeze.  I'm glad I ultimately don't have to decide. I love C.S. Lewis's take on eternity in The Last Battle... gotta re-read that, now that I have more "free" time.

I admit, I have an ache inside that approaches physical pain when I wonder if I'll have another baby. I'm trying to offer that up to the Giver of all good gifts, and trusting He has a wonderful plan for me, who's now been a mom of preschoolers for almost half her life.

Maybe I will be ready when it's finally, really, over, this phase of motherhood. Gosh, I hope I will feel ready. If the ache does ever completely go away... In the words of fellow blogger Sarah Bessey, whose article I linked here:

"The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen,
 of what love I have experienced, 
of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, 
of all the love that is still here, 
of the wonder and miracle of life, 
of the sweetness of co-creation, 
of the labour and release, of transcendence."

I suppose there is beauty in this pain, too.

Sometimes, I sure do feel "done." For instance, I'm now writing at dawn after four hours of choppy sleep spent dealing with wet beds and bad dreams. Naturally, I'm not alone; an overgrown preschooler has squeezed in to lie down in the other half of the loveseat. Legos litter the floor, birds chirp in the rising sun, and I can smell the faint but unmistakable scent of... pee.  I'm facing the new artwork,,, remember what I said about wall art?  Yeah.

"Sometimes, Mom, I'm just tired of paper,"she had explained. "I hope you like my flowers. And the dinosaur walking down the stairs."

"I love them sweetheart... just not on the wall..."  Though part of me loves them, even there.

Happy (belated) birthday, big girls: five and three.  I loved watching you grow from the babies you were to the wonderful children you are now.  I can't wait to see what you will be.

I take that back: I can wait. Today I'll change your sheets (again) and your diaper and feed you at your little table.  I'll take you on your tricycles to the playground. Then I will put you on the big girl swings, tell you to hold on tight, push you to the sky and watch you fly.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-6