Friday, May 7, 2010

Babies Don't Keep

Darcey, at age 2-and-eleven/twelfths, is still sleeping in a crib.  She is quite verbose now, which means that at 8:30 I hear, "Mom!  Wake up!  Get me out of here!" which always makes me chuckle.  Today I picked her up and was rewarded with a rare moment of cuddling.  She laid her head on my shoulder and I rocked her back and forth.  Now, chances are she was just using the height advantage to survey the vast pink wasteland that is her bedroom floor, a suspicion that was confirmed when she got down and immediately used Minnie Mouse's head as a chalkboard eraser.  But it doesn't take away that moment of pure, simple joy of holding my daughter.

I've been trying hard this week to notice the moments and appreciate them, those tiny snapshots of perfection that seem to be all older people remember when they think fondly back on their child-rearing days.  It's been easier than I expected, but I attribute that to the absolutely wonderful week I've had, emotionally speaking.  I have felt so even-keeled that I almost forget that I'm on a boat and there still could be rough seas ahead.  (This good week brought to you by GlaxoSmithKline.)  So I'm shutting my laptop more often when a kid is in the room with me, putting down the morning paper when Zack is getting ready for school, keeping the radio off when I'm driving the boys somewhere.  Not all the time, of course, but a little more than before.

In my house growing up there was a needlepoint hung on the wall that had a picture of a mother rocking a baby and it said:

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow

For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow.

So quiet down cobwebs, and dust go to sleep,

I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

As I held my last baby this morning, I was conscious of the fact that I can no longer hold her brothers the way I hold her.  That part is over, and it soon will be with Darcey as well.  Have I paid enough attention to the moments?  Can I remember what each of their snuggly little bodies felt like?  I catalog all of the failures and the crises and the wish-this-were-overs; my only hope is that when I'm an old lady my selective memory will cobble together a picture of all the moments of perfection and love and joy.

I believe I will.  I believe that all of us mothers that are in the crucible of child-rearing are doing better than we think.  I believe that our kids see through the mistakes and the frustrations and know that they are loved, and that at the end of the day, that's what counts.  Not how clean our house is, or how much they enjoyed our dinners, or how much baby weight we still carry.  When Brad brings me home my daily flower he's picked off the blossoming trees, it's not to thank me for helping him with his homework.  When Noah gives me spontaneous hugs, it's not because I always know where he left his baseball glove.  We judge ourselves so much about what we do as mothers, but fail to realize that all that matters to our kids is that we love them.  That is what we are as mothers - we are love personified.

So as Mother's Day comes up, that most loved and loathed holiday, let yourself off the hook for all of the things you don't do.  Take a small step towards appreciating the moments more.  And if you'll indulge me, here's a modern woman's needlepoint:

T.V. and iPods can wait til tomorrow

For babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow.

So quiet down Facebook, phone go to sleep,

I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.


Ryan said...

Stop, you're making me feel bad for being glad they are growing up!

Emily said...

I specifically made the claim that this was NON-guilt-inducing. I meant that for fathers, too.

Rachel said...

You and I seem to be on the same wavelength - I posted a blog today - before I saw you - that was sort of similar to this (though it included other things that also pass by). I was feeling a bit nostalgic - I have been trying to look for those moments too. The problem is, they tend to make me cry. Ahhh... time goes too fast. I like your modern day version of the needlepoint.

Ryan said...

Hey, I just noticed in the modern needle point, the mom isn't doing any housework, but is just playing with electronics!

Emily said...

Um, yeah - see, I already gave up housework, that's kind of a lost cause. I thought I'd be honest about the things that REALLY stop me from rocking my babies.

Dad said...

I want to say so many things but I'm afraid that some of it would come out wrong... So I'll merely say that I and your mother totally understand what you have said. I'd still love to get a "my child is a honor student at Liberty High" bumper sticker.