Four years of motherhood. Four years of breastfeeding. Four years of diapers and wet wipes. For years of tantrums and tickle fights. Four years of costumes and crafts. How much things have changed in such a short time.
I know there are studies that show how parenthood affects bodies and brains, relationships and habits, tendencies towards risk-taking behavior, spending habits. I wonder if those studies track how much effort parents put into birthdays and Christmas, how much money and time and energy they’re willing to spend on surprises, how much sleep they’re willing to lose over a costume or a craft project. I wonder if those studies examine all the places parents decide to hide gifts, and all the ways parents sneak gifts into the house without kids noticing. Do those studies note how even parents’ birthdays are devoted to places and activities the kids will enjoy?
These four years haven’t been easy. The jokes about juggling work and parenthood, about needing wine to survive, about giving your child away, I totally get them. I can’t be the only parent who think, more often than I’d like to admit, what life would be like if we had decided to remain child-free. I can’t be the only parent who fantasizes about a neat, clean house, with rugs underfoot and plants in corners, instead of LEGO pieces and wooden blocks or cars and Play-Doh. I can’t be the only parent who thinks about how much more peaceful meals and baths were before there was a child to feed and bathe.
It’s more than time and money spent, or sleep and tempers lost. It’s dropping everything when your child needs you. It’s putting their comfort and joy and peace of mind first. But it’s also teaching them what’s right even if it hurts, even if it’s difficult, even if it’s not what you grew up with. It’s teaching them that pink is not just for girls, that boys can wear dresses if they like. It’s helping them understand that there are things you have to do even if they’re not fun. It’s making them realize that they cannot touch someone if that person doesn’t want them to. It’s trying to make them understand that when we say no, it’s because we don’t want him or someone else to get hurt. It’s trying to explain that not everything other grownups and even other relatives do is correct and should be emulated.
It’s a lot of patience and discomfort and exasperation. I can’t count how many times we’ve watch Paw Patrol and Blippi over the past four years, or how often we had to get drive-thru because he wanted fries. I dare not count how many times we’ve scolded him, made him sit for a five-minute time-out, withheld YouTube and gaming privileges. I don’t know how many hours we’ve spent trying to get him to sleep early, only to have him respond with giggles and games and requests for stories and songs.
But it’s also been many surprises and a lot of joy. It’s melting when he notices someone is not feeling well, and asks if they would like some water. It’s the random hugs and I-love-yous. It’s when bedtime storytelling ends up with him reciting the words from the book almost perfectly from memory. It’s #ConversationsWithLucas. It’s silly poses and nonsensical vlogs (he likes recording himself). It’s his fearlessness and confidence, his sharp memory and his quick wit, his love of color and cats, and the way he has to choose a stuffed animal to hug at night. It’s his curiosity and joy and enthusiasm and decisiveness.
Parenthood has been an interesting adventure. I wish we could take this adventure to the beach or around the world, but for now we find our adventures in the pages of books, between the paws of Simba and Cat and Giraffe, when he bakes banana bread, when he rides his bike in the Big Outside. For now our escapades are in baths and among the plants, amidst the Paw Patrol cars and the LEGO bricks, between bites of oatmeal and cookies.
These four years haven’t been easy, but Lucas, you have been amazing. It’s your birthday, but sometimes I think of it as the day we were gifted with you.
I love you, my darling baby kitten.