Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I was reading a fave blogger of mine, Anymommy, and one phrase of her post about her newborn son, her 4th child, immediately conjured up feelings that I didn't even realize were buried deep in my brain and my heart:
I never noticed that with Gee or Cue. Is it because I was so novice,
so fixed on doing things right that I missed the details?

There are so many moments from the infant and toddler stages of my first 3 children that I just don't remember. And I find that - there's no other word for it - shameful. My kids just love to hear stories about themselves. How Peppermint Patty was my first baby and I was so unsure of myself. I'd constantly cry and say to my husband, "But do you think she knows me? Do you think she loves me?" Charlie Brown, he was my big 'un. Born at a whopping 10 lb 3 oz, my husband and the doctor saw him being born and their eyes turned into saucers. Seeing the looks on their faces, I yelled, "WHAT? WHAT? Is he missing his ears? What's wrong???" To which they just responded, "uh, no. Just keep pushing." They were both just shocked at seeing such a huge baby. And Linus, poor poor Linus. I had a really hard time bonding with him. He was sick a lot as a baby, and he cried a lot too. He had reflux, jaundice, thrush, failure to thrive, and RSV, all before he was 4 months old. I had trouble nursing him and gave up at 6 weeks, so of course I was convinced he was going to grow up to be significantly less intelligent than my other two children. (Correction, I had trouble nursing him while living 10 hours away from my family and also caring for a recently potty trained 3-year-old and an 18-month old in diapers. Plus making dinners. Plus laundry. Plus the occasional shower. Sleep? fah-get-abott-it)

Details. Ah, those precious details. "Mama, what was my first word? When did I start to walk? What was my favorite outfit? How old was I when I got that toy?" The questions linger with no answer. Sometimes I will make up an answer that seems plausible to satisfy their curiosity. It is just too painful to admit, "Um, well, I was kinda going through this thing called postpartum depression, so I don't remember much from those years." I never really suffered from it, but I certainly was not myself. But even after I had gotten my hormones back on track, I felt like the Jill of all trades, master of none.

I felt ill-prepared for all my grown-up responsibilities. Caring for 3 children, keeping a clean house, making time for my marriage, making time for myself, paying the bills, volunteering at church, etc. Looking at other moms only made me feel worse. The reality of their lives didn't matter. They might have been drowning in their own issues at home. The perception I had of these moms was that I needed to do it all at least as well as they were doing it. I had to have my house tidy enough for guests to stop by unannounced. I had to grow a garden with vegetables that I would later grind up for fresh baby food. I had to take my kids to the library regularly (and return the books on time). I had to participate in the ladies circle at church and attend regular meetings. I had to prepare nutritious and filling meals for my husband and somehow get my children to clean their plates too.

So, the details got forgotten. They got left behind. Or, just maybe, I didn't even know there were details to be kept in my heart. I jumped into motherhood with two feet and barreled forward. My first 3 children were born in 37 months. I had read every mothering book I could get my hands on. It helped if I could finish a few pages at a time while on the potty or during their nap time, since I didn't have much spare time for reading. But I asked other moms about their secret weapons of child-rearing. I closely observed families playing at the park. I researched parenting web sites. But, how does a book or website or human advice teach a person how to absorb your children? How can someone be taught to make something inherently important? I don't know if you can.

Having my 4th child, Baby Sally, taught me how to be a mom. I think that before, I was basically a day-care provider. Keep 'em clean, keep 'em fed, keep 'em safe. The rest was just too much for me to put into my head. Frankly, I think I would have gone into overload. I did what I needed to do at the time to keep myself sane. But, the cost is that I missed all the details.

Now that I know what I missed, I am trying twice as hard to remember the details. I cherish my children a little bit more, I think. I snuggle them more often. I never mind when the baby wakes up early from a nap. I try to be more patient when they spill milk or track mud into the house. I feel like, now that I have a better handle on this motherhood gig, I have freed up space in my head and my heart to remember the details. I know how many teeth all my kids have lost. I take their pictures all the time. I know what they want for their birthdays. I remember all the special nicknames I have for them ("Picklehead", "Special Boyfriend", "Special Prince" and "Princess" respectively for Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Baby Sally). I know what games they like to play - and I sometimes play those games with them.

Sometimes details aren't that important, because it's the big picture that matters. But sometimes, details are the only way we can see the big picture.

Texan Mama Peppermint Patty Charlie Brown Linus Sally


Jen said...

I so understand this post.

Christine said...

Wow I have trouble with the detail son just two much less 4-5. The other day one of my girls wanted to know what exat time she was born and I just responded with "exactly way to early in the morning". If you get better with the more kids you have, than maybe I should reconsider the dozen kids my husband initially wanted, LOL

StaceyC4 said...

That is so true. My boys are 8 years apart so really, it was like being a first-time mom, twice. I had forgotten so much because of the time span but I did remember all of the things that I missed the first time because I was a working mom. Baby number 2 got my undivided attention - which was lucky because he was very sickly those first 6 months. We had a lot of time to bond.

McVal said...

I feel the same way. Except with my youngest, I don't remember as many details... Probably because I haven't done as much in her baby book yet to review it all.
They loved to hear stories about themselves when they were little.

Foursons said...

Sometimes the exhaustion from being a mother creates a memory lapse. I think we've all experienced it.

jori-o said...

My mom is always telling me--"write this down--you'll forget it!" and while I know she's right, it totally chaps my hide because who the hell HAS time to write down everything you want to remember? (I tell HER to write it down, GRANDMA)

I, sadly, remember little about M & K being babies / toddlers. Which makes me enjoy X that much more. I think it's seeing how time goes so fast with the older ones, that makes you cherish it so much more with the littler ones.

So unfair.

I have, however, recently bought notebooks for each kid. And I am writing them letters, randomly, when I can and when there is something I want to remember. I just started this in the past month and each kid only has, like, two entries, but it's better than the nothing that was going on before.

As ususal, well said, Texan Mama. Seriously, you put all my thoughts and feelings into such fabulous words. It's a little frightening how in my head you are! =)

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I identify! My 5th was born 5 years after my 4th, and by then my oldest was 10 and a big help. I felt like it was the first time that I had really been able to enjoy the baby. Of course, it helped that I'd had a c-section that time and wasn't able to just keep going like I had with the first four. I was too sore to move around much, but not too sore to sit and enjoy holding my baby!

Jennifer said...

Lovely family picture. I think you are one of the best mom's I know.

Emily said...

I try hard to remember to hold on to the details but they seem to fade away so fast!

Anna See said...

love, love, loved this!

did i ever tell you my mom never filled out my baby book so i filled it out myself in 3rd grade? :)

Karen said...

Beautifully said.

Wendy said...

My parents give extremely differing views on what I was like as a small child. I don't know.

When I was pregnant with my first I read "the girlfriend's guide to pregnancy" - which is funny no matter how many times you've been pregnant - and I remember a line in there about how the baby books become the foundation for all motherly guilt. Who fills them out?

My mother-in-law proudly showed me my husband's, all done. I realized I didn't care. I didn't give a rat's patootie that he got his first tooth at 6 months. SO DOES ALMOST EVERY OTHER KID IN THE WORLD.

What I do wish I had kept is a journal of things they ask and say. Way more meaningful and fun to look back on than facts & figures.

Sometimes, the details just don't matter, too. Not as much as what you're doing today.