Baloney.

This post may seem like a rant.  It’s not intended to be.  I’m not even angry.  It’s just me analyzing life in general and trying to get past the myths of motherhood. (For the record, I know how bologna is really spelled, but this alternate spelling seemed like the best fit when used as an exclamatory phrase.)

Do you know what one of my least favorite pieces of “advice” is when I complain about something I’m struggling with (because I am a horrible person and I do complain)?  It’s this juicy morsel:  “Just wait.  One day they’ll be grown and gone, and you’ll miss it.”

That’s a bunch of hogwash.  (a.k.a. Baloney.)

I happen to believe that parenting is a little like cancer, not only because it slowly kills you (I’m kidding. Kind of.), but because it comes in stages.  (On the bright side, anyone who has had cancer or any other life-changing trial will testify that it is a refining fire and brings them closer to God.  Also, I haven’t really thought this analogy all the way through, so take it with a grain of salt.) Stage 1 is a very physically demanding stage– it’s the baby and toddler years where everything you do is awash in a haze of diapers and sleepless nights and picking up toys and doing laundry. You wonder if your body and mind will ever return.  I’d say there’s about a 50% chance of full recovery.

Stage 2– where I am now– is when your children finally break free from total dependence and start to exert a tiny bit of functional intelligence.  It means you can step outside and talk to your neighbor on the driveway for 5 minutes and leave your children unsupervised (with an obvious level of assumed risk).  It means you can give out chores and instructions and expect that they can be done.  Unfortunately, this functional intelligence does not come with a social compass or any real common sense, so you spend most of your day listening to your children argue with each other about absolutely meaningless things or constantly talk about poop, farts, or how hilarious it would be if so-and-so tripped and fell in the toilet, etc.  As far as I can tell, this is the mentally exhausting phase because, for the most part, you are required to have conversations throughout the day that make your brain want to explode if you haven’t already self-combusted due to a completely depleted reserve of patience.  You also find yourself repeating the same requests and family rules over and over and over and over and over again and wondering if your children’s brains will ever work rationally.  Again, I’d say there’s about a 50% chance.

Stage 3.  The teenage years. I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve spent a lot of my years working with youth either professionally (as a teacher) or in church callings.  All I can say about this stage is that it seems like it will probably be the most emotionally challenging one.  There will be much to worry about as you watch your children grow and make decisions of their own– often wrong decisions.  You will be in the line of fire of their own hormonal and emotional roller coaster.  There are clearly some things to look forward to (like *maybe* kind of real conversations and camaraderie), but let’s not be naive– it will be challenging.

Stage 4.  This is the stage that Matt and I fantasize about the most– the one where they go off to college or on missions and we only have our very own messes to clean up at home.  I obviously have no real experience with this stage either and I know that like every other stage, it is fraught with challenges.  Adult children still make lots of dumb decisions and come face to face with a cruel world, and you probably struggle with how much to help and how much to let them struggle.  I imagine it is a stage of worry and anxiety with respect to your children, and perhaps a little longing to be more a part of their lives.

However, I promise that when I am in stage 4 parenting, I will not miss stage 1 and 2 parenting.  Will I miss my children and the joys that were a part of that stage?  Absolutely.  I will sometimes crave the sweet little newborn head that fits just right in the crook of my neck.  I’ll miss the eyes that stare up at me with unending trust and love while the baby nurses.  I’ll miss the giggling, the tickling, the hugs and kisses, the holding hands.  Oh, the holding hands.  It’s one of my favorite things– how they reach up for your hand instinctively as you walk them to preschool or through the Costco parking lot, how they choose to be connected to you.  I’ll miss looking over and seeing them sitting on the couch with their arms around each other reading a book together.  In short, there are plenty of things I’ll miss.

But I won’t miss what I’m complaining about in each stage.  I can’t imagine myself in my golden years reaching for the TV remote and wishing that someone had hidden it under the couch cushions.  I won’t walk into a room to find it exactly the way I left it and then wish that there were Legos and wrappers from sneaked food on the floor.  I won’t do a project from start to finish and wish I had been interrupted for 3 diaper changes and argument arbitration.  I’ll admit that I sometimes might think it’s too quiet.  Maybe.

So in summary, when young mothers whine about their exhausting struggles, please don’t tell us that we’ll miss them when our children are grown.  Should we wish it all away?  No.  Should we cherish the parts we love in every stage we’re in?  Absolutely. We will miss our children and the loveliest points of parenthood (and of course there will be new challenges at every stage), but we’ll happily kiss the hard parts goodbye.  President Monson says I’m wrong.

“If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”

I can’t help but think that when he says “them,” he means the children, and not the fingerprints and laundry. Am I delusional? What do you think?

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30 thoughts on “Baloney.

  1. I always say: “it’s not the messes and the fingerprints we’ll miss, it’s what they represented.”. Because I think we will. Of COURSE we won’t miss the actual mess! But we probably will miss those times when we had our babies in our arms and at least a small say in their choices and their safety. But as to what you are saying, I know what you mean, and I agree with you. 🙂

  2. Personally, I think that there is a stage between stages 2 & 3. My baby just turned 6 and I feel like I’m having an identity crisis!! For so long, I’ve been the mom of little kids. Now, I’m the mom of a tween and two elementary aged kids. Kids that in a few months will leave my side for the majority of the day. I feel a little lost, honestly.

    Looking back, I miss the cuddley, singing lullabys of babyhood but certainly not the diapers or car seats. I miss the awe that toddlers find in everything and being able to fix everything with a kiss but certainly not the potty training or tantrums. I think you are right: We miss the children, not the messes.

  3. I really do think we’ll miss the messes, the fingerprints, and the hard parts. I know I do with each baby that grows out of the nightime waking. In the middle of sleep deprivation it is hard to enjoy and cherish the quiet moments in the stillness of the night with a sweet but awake baby who wants mommy. Sometimes I can enjoy those moments, but more often than not I just get through them. However, as each child has moved out of that stage I’ve missed those moments. We have new moments, different ones, but those will never come back with a child once they are no longer a new baby.

    And for the record, I’m still in stage 1 and 2, mostly stage 1. I’ve got 6 children and one on the way – their ages are 10, 6, 5, 3, 2, and 7 months, with baby coming this winter. I won’t really make it out of the sleep deprivation stage with the current baby before I start it again with the next.

    I still miss the midnight moments with my children who are sleeping through the night. I don’t miss it all the time, but more than I would have guessed.

  4. I like what Cheryl said. I also think that maybe different parents experience it differently. I remember when I was growing up that people would say that someday I would wish I was a kid again. I thought they were full of baloney then, and I still have absolutely no desire to do my childhood and teenage years over again. Maybe the best option is to realize that no one experiences things exactly the way I do and refrain from telling people how they will or should feel and instead lift them up and support them in whatever state they are.

  5. Today, Laney Kate took off her own poopy diaper. Once I had cleaned up (what I thought was) the mess by plopping her be-pooped body in the bathtub, clothes (what remained of them and all), scrubbing her down and starting her ensemble over from scratch, then rushing out the door (late) to pick up my two first graders from school, I stumbled upon the true carnage: poop finger paintings on my hallway walls and lovely hardwood floor.

    I will never, in any carnation of any world of any fantasy of any horrible armageddon, wish to do that ever, ever, ever again. I will, however, wish for my children to have to do it. Just like my mom did — because the last perpetrator of any act so grossly heinous in my family lineage was, ahem, myself. At exactly the same age.

    Methinks it’s time to start potty training.

  6. I have two kids firmly in stage 1 and two in stage 2. According to your calculations, I probably will never recover.

    We’ll miss the moments, but I won’t miss the two babies throwing ballistic fits in the post office while 4 postal employees and half my small town look at me and wonder why I can’t control my two year old. I will not miss the car seats, the poopy diapers, or the teething, no matter what President Monson says!

  7. Oh, me oh my! I think you are right. 🙂 And by that quote, I thing he was referring to missing the children. Not the messes. Just my humble opinion. I’m still recovering from Stage one. There is a recovery period, right? Please tell me there is!!! ♥

  8. Steph, I totally agree with you– I have such a hard time finding joy in the midst of these early stages of parenting. As my oldest approaches 14, I only feel more afraid….
    Thank you for your honesty and a sense of camaraderie I feel when I read your blog.
    I love all the sweet things you said too– they are so true and previous.
    My Mom always tells me I will miss it too; don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Mom, but I think this wonderful thing happens when people get older— memory loss. Sometimes it can be a blessing!!

  9. It’s 10:45PM and I just sat down for the first time, all stinkin day. I have nothing new to contribute so I will simply say amen, and amen to everything that you said.

  10. As far as messes go, I will miss coming upon an arrangement of toys and wondering what my boy was imagining when he was playing. I’ll miss watching them make messes because they aren’t quite capable of keeping all of their food on their fork as they bring it to their mouth. And I’ll miss the fingerprints, mostly because they don’t bother me. I have one from (this is going to make me sound ridiculous) 2 1/2 years ago when my then-baby was crawling. He had gotten into a pile of newspapers and made a handprint on the wall next to my front door. I still can’t bear to wash it off. I’m not done having kids, but I sure do miss when he was my baby, even if more are coming.

    But I will not ever miss the piles of laundry or needing to mop the floor all the stinkin’ time. Or the ants that come in because I’m TOO TIRED to sweep AGAIN.

  11. I think you’re spot on! And we’re diving head first into the teen years at our house now, so I’m sure that phase 4 will come too soon…or not soon enough. Yesterday my husband took the kids to do some work at his family’s cabin while I stayed here and the silence was so golden I blogged about it…after my daughter reminded me how golden it was. Seriously, my brain is in a new energized place today and I feel better and don’t even care about the clutter (notice I said “care” not “see.”) Seriously, it’s like child development only it’s parent development. I think we start with the physical, then the mental then the emotional. It’s God’s plan that I don’t understand yet b/c I still haven’t completed the emotional development phase. : )

  12. I love this post!!!! I agree with you and everyone. Especially President Monson. 🙂 I think we will most definitely miss the finger prints…Do I miss the diapers and messes? No…but yes….I just typed what was long enough to be considered a post and erased it. To keep it short and sweet (which is hard for me) NO ONE will miss poop on the wall (Inkmom-I laughed and cried for you as I read your comment…well actually I just laughed, but if it had happened to me I would have cried.), but we will ALL (I promise. Seriously) look back at a moment that seemed absolutely horrible and wish with all our hearts we could go back and do it again. My one and only is about to turn a decade and I soooo wish I had a diaper blowout to take care of. It would make me gag and very flustered, but I pray EVERY day to have those moments happen again with another sweet baby. I am only 35 and I am looking back with fondness wishing for more messes. I think we will all miss all of it-some parts more than other of course. 🙂
    Stephanie: YOU ROCK. All the other ladies that read this blog: YOU ALL ROCK TOO. Heavenly Father really knew what he was doing when he gave us the chance to be moms. He knew we would survive it and look back at the chaos and laugh. 🙂

  13. Well said. It all does go by fast and I get a lot of people saying I’ll miss it. But what I really can’t stand is when I’m told it only gets worse. Seriously?? Makes me want to run far away right now. It has to get better. Right?

      • Agreed! I know teenagers are a pain a lot of the time, and break your heart, but at least they wipe their own bums, right!! I know it’s worse in some ways but definitely better in other ways. I know what they’re saying but sometimes it doesn’t compute to the shellshocked brain of a young mother.

  14. My oldest is now 33 and my baby is 10. I can promise that I miss some of the things and not others. I don’t miss diapers, or total chaos, but I do miss the snuggles, the laughter, the kissing, the happiness, the unconditional love. I miss those memory making moments. So, you can put aside the bad things. You will still remember them, but they take on a softness that fuzzes around the edges and loses the overwhelming moments that you had when you were going through them. Instead, you remember most the sweet, soft moments that got you through the day to day past.

  15. I tend to say both when I talk about the stages you are in. I *DO* miss their littleness, but I also say that in some ways, I think it’s the hardest stage. So exhausting. There is nothing so crazy as having little irrational creatures who are bodily-fluid-disaster producers. In other words, I think it’s important to acknowledge how HARD motherhood can be. Is it possible that you don’t fully think it’s baloney, but don’t feel like the difficulty is validated in such comments?

    FWIW, I feel like the stage I am in is dreamy (all tweens). I am having so. much. fun. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the littleness…in part because I am still mourning not being able to have more little ones, I suppose. Baby hunger can do that to a gal.

  16. Yes! I agree completely! In fact, I have stopped tlaking to my own mom about struggles I face daily with my kids because that is all she ever tells me, and I want to throw something at the phone/screen in response.

  17. I used to clean a lady’s house. She mentioned that when her husband was alive she used to ride him about getting toothpaste spray on the mirror. He would patiently just endure it. When he passed on she still noticed that there was toothpast spray on the mirror.

    I guess what I am trying to say is this, we may not miss the “stuff” that rearing children brings, but we will miss the children. I look at my siblings as the rear their children who are all much younger than mine, and I do not miss that stage at all. I do miss the little things like the amazment of seeing snow for the first time, the utter fastination of watching a bug crawl accross the carpet. The first field trip they go on, or the first bus ride. I miss that. I don’t miss the poop “art”, the diaper changes, the tantrums in the grocery, the utter exhaustion at the end of each day, the midnight feedings, I could go on…

    I do agree with Pres Monson, we will miss our children, but I don’t think he meant we would miss the “stuff”. 🙂

    I agree with the above poster that mentioned that we should uplift eachother instead of telling them they will “miss it” when it is gone. What wise words. That is why I love this blogging forum, there are so many like minded women I get to “meet”.

  18. I would also add that we all probably will have stages that we will enjoy a lot more than others, just due to our own personalities. For example, my SIL says all the time that she just isn’t a “baby person” and she really struggled when her kids were in that phase. But she has found more fulfillment and had an easier time now that her kids are in the other stages.

    I totally agree with Jeannine, though. It is never a good idea to tell someone how they will or should feel in a given situation. Loved this post!

  19. Really loved this post. Thank you! I feel so validated after reading this discussion, and this blog in general. Is anyone familiar with the Cherie Call song, “Leave it Like it Is”? Great song about enjoying stages 1 and 2 (without any guilt trips for not enjoying the not-so-great-parts).

  20. I am ever the optimist when it comes to raising children. I don’t enjoy 2 year olds. I feel like they are something to get through like a big move or a sickness. But I love my babies, and my kids, and tweens and my 13 year old. There may be some get through-ish parts, but the total sum is nice enough that I find motherhood a pleasant place to be. I have always had great doubts that I will miss the never ending loads of laundry and dirty fingerprints too. They seem to be the negatives in the total sum of motherhood. But then in my 35+ years I have found the prophet to usually be correct even when I don’t think so at first.

  21. Mm hmm. I completely agree. And also, it has been interesting to see how I have enjoyed these young stages with Kaitlyn much more than I did with the boys. However, I am tired of picking up the tupperware off of the kitchen floor 10 times a day. I won’t miss that.

  22. Jeannine nailed it.

    And I have to say, I love my babies but I love the QUALITY of the relationship with my 11-year-old even more. So I think I most look forward to grandparenthood when I’ll have their babies to snuggle but my kids to hang out with, adult to adult.

  23. This has always been a tough one for me. I will NOT miss the messes, I’m pretty sure of that. I do know that I will definitely miss my little ones, because I already do. Every time I look at past pictures and realize just how much my babies have grown, I cry. I can’t believe how fast the time goes and how much of it I squander.

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