Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Don't Tell Me Things Will Get Worse

"Worst decision I ever made," she said. She spoke of adopting nine children.

"Hardest time in my life," she said. She spoke of giving birth to three children in three years.

"Just wait until they're teenagers."

"Small kids. Small problems. Big kids? Big problems."

"I thought age two was hard. But age three was worse!"

Why, oh why, oh why do we do this to each other? At each turn in the path through motherhood, women have stepped out from behind trees to tell others of the horrors ahead. Teething and tantrums. Sassy middle-school sneers. Teenage trials and tribulations.

While I waited to adopt, an adoptive mother of nine told me adopting was her biggest regret. When my boys were terrible toddlers at two, moms warned me that age three was much worse. When they were in elementary school, trying my patience, the warnings were of adolescence. Just wait, they say. Just wait! I had a daughter, after three muddy, loud, video-game-playing boys. If I should mention how much easier she is, what a delight after the sword-fighting and hollering, I'm told that girls are much harder when they are teens. So look out! Don't let your guard down! Beware!

And to the naysayers and the doomsday prophets, I want to say just two words. Shut. Up. Isn't it difficult enough to trudge through the days of making dinner again and washing socks the kids wore outside without shoes and worrying that you aren't doing anything right? When a mother complains and worries outloud, the remedy is not to say, in essence, oh, but things will get worse! Thank your lucky stars, because right now is as good as it gets, as bad as it is.

Here is what I want to hear:

Take more pictures! I know you aren't sleeping much, but those fingers will never again be so tiny. Revel in the newborn moments. It goes by fast, but it gets better. You will sleep again. Meanwhile, look! Memorize that tiny nose.

These baby years, when you wear sweatpants, sitting on the floor and picking boogers from his nose and lint from between his toes, pause. Enjoy the boredom. Take more pictures! Because you will hardly remember this moment. And it gets better.

Because soon, that little one will talk. And when he starts to fling himself to the ground, take heart! Things get better.

See how that works? I don't want to hear about the treachery ahead, the heartbreak waiting around the bend, the steep hills I must climb. I want encouragement. Company for the journey. Understanding, perspective, hope.

So, please. Stop saying stuff that rains on my parade, dampens my frail enthusiasm. My daughter might hate me when she's a teenager, but right now, she delights me, even on days she doesn't nap. My twins, on the cusp of adolescence, are still sweet at the core, innocent in a way that won't last much longer, sorrowful when they are wrong. Only five or six more summers and they'll be slipping out of my orbit and careening into their own lives. And my little boy, the one with Personality, the one who makes me cry on Sunday mornings when he sings with his whole heart with the children's choir, off-tune, but earnestly . . . he'll keep growing up and growing away.

But I have now. And I want to look forward to the future without the cautionary tales of disappoinment. My imagination has its own dark side and I don't need any help picturing possible dismal outcomes. I'm good at that already.

I want to hope. I want to hug today close. I want to loosen my grip and trust that the future will unfold like a paper snowflake, full of holes, sure, but unique and beautiful and just as it was meant to be.

So I will plug my fingers into my ears and hum, if that's what it takes to ignore those who tell me the worst is yet to come.

And I will shine light for those coming behind me on the path. And while it's light, I'll take more pictures because today is the last chance I have to be here today. Blink. It's gone.


Anonymous mopsy said...

I think a lot of people like playing the game I call "My Life is Harder than Yours." My husband and I sometimes find ourselvs comparing our "brutal" days---me at home, he at a mostly-thankless job.

Good for you---this post makes me think of how I am not always an encourager.

12:17 AM  
Blogger The Daring One said...

I love this post and I agree. So far, which is not far, it has just gotten better and better. Every new stage is so exciting. She's starting to be an actual PERSON. I love it.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

I don't know why some people are determined to cast gloom on other people's lives, but perhaps it's something in their personalities. Preparing for the worst means you might be pleasantly surprised, after all.

Personally I ignored the negative comments when my kids were small; I trusted my instincts, and tried to enjoy every moment. Sure there were challenges now and again, but being a mother is one of the BEST things I have ever done.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Amie said...

Thank you for saying it, I need to practice my "shut. up." negitive grouchy people. And thank you for saying what we have to look forward to, I can't wait!

4:57 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ooooweeeooo. The parallel universe speaks.

One thing I used to do everyday when Thomas was growing up (and I still do it) is acknowledge to myself that 'this moment' whatever that moment was, will be gone and so I'll stand still and revel in the moment.

I remember seeing him skip down the aisle at Target on his way to the toy section. I just stood there and admired that skip becuase he wasn't going to have that forever. It was the exclusive skip of a five and six year old.

I can't believe someone told you threes were worse than twos. I told my sister when her first son was a year old that three was the majic age.

I think people like to tell the tales of woe even if the woe never really happened. The woe could be greatly exaggerated but like the evening news, it's somehow a more interesting story to tell the bad than the good.

I keep waiting for the teen years to be brutal. I have two years left. I'll keep my fingers crossed all hell doesn't break loose in those two years.

5:09 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

I disagree with those that say any stage of a child's life is any less full of joy and pleasure than any other stage.

Each stage from newborn to toddler to teenager to adult was filled with things I never want to forget. It didn't get harder, it got better with each passing year.

Mel, the best is yet to come. Past memories will always be there for you as you enjoy the present. So keep taking those photos and just enjoy the anticipation of what will be. Because it's all good.


5:26 AM  
Blogger jennifer starfall said...

that's beautiful, mel. thank you so much.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I used to make a big deal about giving each of my kids a 'last ___ year old kiss' on their birthday eve.

It made a HUGE impression on my oldest son.

It made an even MORE HUGE impression on me.

I can still clearly remember giving him his 'last twelve year old kiss'. That was 13 years ago.

But really. It's the same every momemt of the quickly passing day...

They will never be the same age again.

(here she leaves to pick up grandson and cuddle his warm little 5 week old body)

6:29 AM  
Blogger Jack-on-the-Lake said...

A good reminder to us all - I know I have probably done that at one point or another.

I now have a new pact to make!

6:41 AM  
Blogger Goslyn said...

What a wonderful post. Tommy keeps getting better every day. But I am always aware of all the time that is slipping though our fingers. When he wakes up at night (for the 5th time) I have taken to holding him and thankinig God for the opportunity to cuddle him...these days are fleeting. Already he would rather play with his toys most of the time than be in my arms.

Excellent post. Thanks.

7:19 AM  
Blogger portuguesa nova said...

I would like to adopt a 30-year-old investment banker.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

Mel, my son and daughter are 24 and 20 respectively. I worked outside of the home their entire lives so each moment we were able to have was precious to me.

I've worked very hard to not let other people's pain (or joy) color my experience with my children. I worked at nurturing them and building a rapport with them in the hopes that we would carry the connectedness into our older ages.

So far so good. I am proud to say that I am mom and friend to two strong, bright, focused, cheerful and respectful people.

Granted, there were some trying moments. But, like all champions, I kept my eye on the prize.
Thank you for the post and hang in there. It can and will be grand.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Donna said...

I remember as a new mother someone once told me that I shouldn't take so many pictures. They told me that I should enjoy my new baby while she was still small. Well, now my baby is almost 3.5 and all I have are those precious memories of when she was tiny.

I want to remain delusional and think that my sweet girl will always be my sweet girl. So, I'll put my fingers in my ears and ignore the rest of the world right along with you.

8:15 AM  
Blogger tab said...

I have a 10yo, 6yo and 6-month old. Different phases of lives going on in this household--each unique, each with its own challenges, each with joy and pleasure.

I'm trying to savor every single minute w/my baby girl for I know it goes by too quickly---it won't be long before she'll be off to school. I love her chubby baby fingers, her curiosity and how she just takes everything in, her smiles and laughs, even her impatience---even in my sleep-deprived state.

This also reminds me that time is passing me by with my two older kiddos.

I need to use my camera more. I love looking back at those times--sometimes it's hard to embrace, savor and enjoy the present--but when I look back I see how much fun they are and savor those pics and memories.

8:25 AM  
Blogger tab said...

I forgot to parents said not too long ago....THEY only have a good 4-5 years of really good spoiling before baby girl is in school (as in not restricted by schedules, I'm home then she's home--well unless they came and get her and living just one mile away makes it really easy access and the fact that they are farmers and are not restricted by a job that involves employers). Let me tell you, they're not just letting this time slip by either ;) It's fun watching them though.

They pretty much drop whatever they are doing to do whatever w/their grandkids--whether it's attending an activity, playing w/them etc. Mom has mentioned "I don't believe that I'll one day say that I wish I had spent less time w/my grandkids."

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Alissa said...

thank you so much for this. i really needed it today. i'm turning off this stupid computer now so i can go breathe in the scent of dirty smelly kids that i love with all my heart!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Vashti said...

Brilliant post, Mel. Thanks.

9:56 AM  
Blogger MissKris said...

Say on, sister! Outside of telling about giving birth to a 12-pound baby boy -- my second child -- which was hard but I think I'm bragging more than complaining, HA! Anyway...this is so, so true. How I'd love to go back to sitting on a curb on the way to the library with my two little toddlers, watching a couple of homing pigeons building a nest up in the rafters of a house...we sat there for what seemed like hours, in the sunshine. Endless walks. Endless story books. Dancing around the living room to Sesame Street and Disney records. Feverish brows. Teen angst. Seeing my two children now both wonderful adults who are two of our very best well as our darling daughter-in-law. And it's all passed by in the blink of an eye. Life is so, so short...truly take time to smell the roses!! Especially when life sends you a 'left curve' like it has to me lately, life is even more precious than ever. Savor it, everyone.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Catharine said...

Dear Mel,

Things will get worse. And then, they'll get better. And then, they'll get worse. Then everyone will catch a cold -- except you, who will nurse everyone back to health, so that just as its time for everyone to go back to work and school, you will catch the cold and be bedridden with no one to take care of you but you.

Because that's how life is. It gets better and worse, ebbs and flows, back and forth... just like the ocean.

So, do take more pictures -- especially of the younger ones, cuz the first ones always get all the good pictures. Save one piece of artwork from every school year from every kid and find a way to archive it forever (scan it to a CD, buy a portfolio, etc.) You can't imagine what finding an old piece of artwork your child drew for you on a rainy day can do for you -- especially as she's perched on the brink of adulthood.

Adolescence is hard. So's adulthood. So's toddlerhood. (If I were going to pick the hardest time, you're already through it -- it's that first freakin' three months when you never get to sleep or shower!) It's all hard. It all has its ups and downs. The good thing about the time coming up is that, if you play your cards right now, and develop ways of communicating with them without making them feel as if you're judging or preaching (that's SO easy for us moms), then you're the one they come to when the big problems come along.

And then you feel honored that they trust you. Now, when they're little, they kind of don't have a choice. You're the only game in town. But if they still come to you when they're teens, it touches your heart in a way you can't begin to imagine, because deep down, you didn't really expect it.

It's the unexpected that make it all worth doing. It's the sudden realization that the three-year-old that followed you around, doing and saying everything just like you, is now going around by herself doing and saying everything just like her. And it turns out, unbelievably enough, that you like her. You really, really like her. Like... if you met her on the street, or at work, you'd be friends with her, even if you hadn't given birth to her and raised her. It's realizing that, in spite of every mistake you think you made when she was little, she's still managed to grow up to be an amazing, talented, lovely person with a tender heart.

And then comes what I predict will be the best part. She'll have a child, and you get to point and laugh.

Now. Don't you feel better?


12:51 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

I always say you can never had too many pictures. Each one freezes time.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Wash Lady said...

I believe it does get harder as they get older....but harder does not always = worse.
I believe that it gets better, more rewarding and more special because we have more invested.
You just keep making those deposits and enjoy the withdrawels each day.

1:36 PM  
Blogger ~Jennifer said...

I just popped over from Lauren's blog, and I've been enjoying reading your posts, especially about the gray days as I also live close to Seattle. So today while the sun is shining what do I do? Why, I sit in my dark bedroom and read blogs, of course. :-)

1:36 PM  
Anonymous ggirl said...

I think in saying those negative things moms are sometimes trying to say exactly what you're saying -- enjoy what you have now, it won't last. I agree though, that moms should encourage each other to enjoy every minute of their time with their children.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous CHris said...

I remember so vividly when my 17 year old was only 3 weeks old he would wake up at about 2 am to eat. I absolutely loved that time with him. No phones ringing, no tv, just him and me. I thought I cherished those times because we tried for so long to become parents before we were blessed with him through adoption. Now I know that it had nothing to do with that, as I felt the same way with both his brothers when they were born (yes, we ARE one of those families that you read about that are suddenly able to get pregnant after they adopt:). Sure there are days where I would like to tell them all to go out and play catch and lock the door behind them but I feel that way about my husband too :) Every age gives you pause at times but it truly does get better as they get older. I can't tell you how many young moms tell me that I am the only one that has ever told them that it gets better every day. People really live to gripe and sadly they are wasting so much time that passes SO FAST.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous mahthellin said...

Seems just like the childbirth stories. Come to think of it, it's just like elementary school. You think second grade is hard? Just wait until third!

We had no idea that one of our three sons was battling undiagnosed OCD in the years that we struggled so deeply in our relationship with him. It was the greatest challenge of my life, but for whom were those desperate years most difficult? When I knew the truth, I did not weep for me, but for him and the pain he experienced in fighting the slavery of that dark master all alone. It may be trite, but parenting isn't a sprint, but a long distance event. There IS joy in the journey, but even greater joys await you.

So, if you think it is pretty good now, just wait. One day your children and grandchildren will all get together at your house just because they want to be together. Everybody will tell funny stories - mostly about things that didn't seem so funny at the time. Grandchildren will squeal and run and make messes that you won't care about. Babies will be passed around. And you will look around and know how rich you are.

It is so worth it. Good days and bad days. Whatever it takes.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Feeble Knees said...

Thanks Mel.

Though now I do feel bad about ranting so much on my own blog... I do need some perspective though.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

It was so strange yesterday. I went to the doctor for an u/s, and found out that my third child is a boy. My oldest child, Kyra, is 3 and a half, and she was heartbroken. She wanted a girl so bad. A lady in the waiting room apparantly knew my mom, and had spoken to her while I was back without mom and the kids. This lady had two boys with her, and said that she had one more at home. She said, "Boys really are easier." to me, and I just smiled. She then noticed that I had a son sitting right beside me. My mom than pipes up, and says, "Until they're teenagers!". I immediately thought of you and your blog post. My mom is queen of "my life is harder than yours". Just thought I'd tell you that your blog is invading my offline life now, too. ;)

7:00 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I'm guessing if you think your teens will be terrible, they'll be terrible, but you don't have to buy into that stuff. (Have you seen this blog:

My boys are 7 and 5 and I've found every year is better than the last. Of course, someone told me that when they were babies and I believed them, so that's how I live it out.

You go girl!

9:17 AM  
Blogger Chantel said...

I featured your post on today. A wonderful post that is so well written, I agree with every sentence.

Thank You.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Caryn said...

What a wonderful post. I don't have kids yet, and every time I start thinking about it, someone comes out to tell me that having kids was an awful mistake, or that it's so difficult to raise kids that it's nearly impossible or whatever. It's so disheartening. And I imagine the stories only get worse.

3:38 PM  
Blogger violet said...


I am the oldest of nine kids. When I was in Grade 9 and the kids on a new schoolbus counted the whole herd of us as trooped on, I went home and whined to mom: "Why did you have to have so many kids." She shot back: "Which one of you should we get rid of."

My memories of childhood are colored by her can-do attitude, the kind you describe at the end of your post. So keep the faith. Not only will it benefit you, but your kids will catch that same love of life.

6:33 PM  
Blogger ilovecheese said...

Mel, you are really very inspiring! This was a beautiful post and its wonderful all these profound thoughts manage to free themselves between all the chores and the routine of life..and make us want to read you and know more about you..
Your kids are lucky to have you as their mother..and I'm sure they'll realize it soon!

10:59 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I LOVE this post!

4:23 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Catching up on reading.

You better believe I'd take more pictures. Next time, I'll have billions.

12:14 PM  

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