He reaches out a pudgy, toddler hand to gently cup my cheek, and locks his deep brown eyes on mine, “I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too,” I reply, thinking there’s no way this little person could understand the depth of that statement. Or, maybe he knows better than I do because his vision is so simple and clear still. I stare at him in wonder.
“I like AND love you,” he reiterates, his hand still on my cheek and waits, clearly expecting my reply.
“Thank you, Bacon (his family nickname). I like and love you too,” I respond and gather up the rest of his tiny, squishable body into my arms. He is my sensitive artist. I have four kids, so I have a sampling of personalities, but these magical moments never lose their potency. I hope I savor them more so because I’ve seen the years fly by and know he will all too soon be seven and then eleven, like his older brothers, who would feel awkward to stand so close for so long.
Another day a different scene unfolds, one that plays out all too often in our house, and is no less impacting. “Mom, I think you should apologize to Bacon for using your ‘angry voice,’” my second-born informs me in defense of his crestfallen brother. I would prefer they referred to my attempts to hurry them along as my “intensely motivational voice,” but that’s not catching on around here. We are running late, and I have begun barking commands like an overzealous drill sergeant at Basic Training. I pause. I breathe. I search for my third-born, with his sad preschool face, trying to muster the composure needed to put his boots on in our garage. I know I was wrong. I was not the example of grace and kindness I hope to be for them. As I step into the garage, I realize I must set aside my mental agenda for the invaluable person in front of me. Once again, I scoop his squishable frame into my arms. “I am sorry I was harsh with you. Will you forgive me?”
I get a soggy nod and desperate hug around the neck in return. “I forgive you.” Magic again. Confessing fault is personal and painful. I was not the parent he deserved at that moment. Admitting my short-coming builds the bridge necessary to reconnect with this amazing soul I’ve been entrusted with. The childish ability to receive confession and freely forgive is such a beautiful reminder of how much I still need those elements actively working in my daily life. These tiny humans show up in our lives, and we think we are training them, but so often, they reveal aspects about ourselves we never imagined existed before their little lights lit up our lives. This light exposes the good, and the not so great things, we couldn’t see about ourselves without them.
I homeschool my boys—5th, 1st, and Pre-K—and even though I educate and help to shape their precious characters, my four boys teach me something far greater. My boys return my humanity to me. They re-teach me the importance of compassion and honest communication. They give me fresh eyes to see all the magnificent things at my feet, and not just stray Legos. My sons invite me to slow down and reconnect with my younger, childlike self that I’ve forgotten as I’ve tended to grown-up concerns and worries.
Keeping perspective is key to being present in the deceptively mundane day to day moments because these seasons with my four sons are beautiful and fleeting. The sleepless nights of infancy did not weary me as much with number four as they did with my firstborn, because I knew they would fade into mere memory far too quickly. I soaked in my youngest son’s baby soft scent, knowing he would all too soon learn to crawl and then walk away from me. I remind myself to sit and listen to my middle ones because I can see how soon their interests will turn from toys to more serious pursuits. I engage my eldest as he rounds the corner on ages I remember for myself so well. How did he become so grown?
Childhood is like a bright, shooting star. We cannot go back and witness it again. Mothering can be hard, lonely, sleep-deprived and overwhelming at times, but nothing will impact our lives, nor those of our progeny, as much as the time we spend together. Soak it all in, my friends. We and they will not pass this way again.
Featured image by Holly Shafer Photography
Heidi Powell writes from the prodigious Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her incredibly insightful husband of 13 years, and their 4 wonderfully wild boys. Like a true PNW resident, she loves exploring nature, discovering new things with her kiddos and a really good cup (or three) of coffee. She is passionate about encouraging other mommas to find their own unique rhythm while in the trenches with littles, learning differences, exploring educational options and the juggling the general chaos of motherhood. When not out exploring or futilely trying to reign in the chaos, you can find her writing on her blog or on Instagram.