Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, April 06, 2018

It Does Get Better

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I had more little children than I had hands. Children do not need as many things as magazines and retailers and websites would have you believe, but what they do need is what cannot be bought: your time, your attention, your love, your protection. These things, though every parent wishes to give them to the best of their ability, are costly. They require vigilance and quick reflexes, and an almost superhuman energy investment. And though love multiplies easily, energy is finite.

Once upon a time, I had no backup. I don't count Darwin as "backup"; a father is an integral part of family life. "Backup" means extra help that frees up both parents, or at least fills in for one parent to some extent. We couldn't afford much help, and sometimes even when we desperately needed a babysitter we couldn't find one. The kids were not old enough to be much help, and trying to get them to do things around the house was far more work than doing it myself.

My friends, those days are in the past.

It is remarkable to me how easy it is to forget the trials of the past. It's been several years now since I had to worry about finding a babysitter. None of my children are of an age to drown themselves in the toilet (though that time is coming around again). I can run out to the store by myself, or go out for hours with just the baby. I can set a timer for ten minutes and reasonably expect to see an appreciably cleaner room at the end of that time. I can ask my oldest child to bring the van up from from the garage so that I can find the four-year-old's jacket while someone else puts the baby into the carseat. On Sunday morning, we make it to mass on time because most people dress themselves.

This week we took a road trip to Maryland to visit the cousins. We had to leave on Easter, and yet I had to sing at mass on Easter morning. We were able to leave within an hour of my getting home, because everyone had packed their own bag and loaded it in the car and helped with the laundry and put together the bag of snacks. We made terrific time because the baby slept most of the trip and the four-year-old is potty-trained. People did not fight in the car because they were singing or writing or reading A Wrinkle in Time or a biography of The Wright Brothers. It was... pleasant.

Parenting older children requires different time investments and different sacrifices. Many's the night Darwin and I have had to give up our own quiet time to chat with a teenager and listen to the triumphs and agonies of her day. The judgment of a nine-year-old boy is generally better from that of the toddler, but it's still dopey in different ways. The children still need your time, your attention, your love, your protection, but they start to give those things back as well.

It gets better!


Foxfier said...

Thank you.

I needed to hear this.

*goes back to checking ill toddler*

Jenny said...

A word of hope!

I feel like I am closer to the babysitter phase than I realize.