I remember when my first went to preschool, I had just had his younger brother. I took naps with #2 sleeping next to me warm and cozy. He was right with me almost all day. When he slept alone (rarely), I was constantly checking on him. Then I had #3 before Benjamin "came home" for good. She was very fussy and having #2 also (a great baby, but very "into everything" toddler) made for a busy day. Those three kept me busy and I remember changing diapers on the three of them until #3 was about 2 1/2. So they were always with me and I was always busy. I never lived near family (or not near enough to get babysitting help often) and there wasn't much money for sitters during the day. The kids, slowly, as they grew up, became my companions. They were always my life, they grew into this new thing. I wasn't always nurturing, but I saw them as an extension of myself. I didn't always do the right thing and was often overwhelmed, but they were my reason to keep going.
Of course, somewhere in that story, #4 was born (2 1/2 years after #3). He was the best baby, the most calm, the most fun (not my favorite - just the last one). We all enjoyed him and he completed our family.
I guess when I look back on the life I had versus what I have now, I am grateful that I had that kind of time with them. I am thankful that I was able to give to them in a way that many can't. I wouldn't take anything for the years we had together. Now that they aren't with me so much, I miss them. I took them for granted in a way. I stressed the small stuff too much. I worried about every little school thing and didn't just let learning happen like I should have. I really look back on those early years and wish I had "enjoyed" them more. I felt at the time, though that it was all about survival.
Now, when they come home each day. I am looking forward to it. I am anxious for them to go outside with me, play ball together, take a walk on the trails that snake through our neighborhood. But they aren't. They are ready to chill with a book or video games. They often have homework (especially the middle school child) and don't have time for me to "enjoy" them. So, I find myself looking for other ways of enjoying them. I enjoy their school stories, success, and getting reports or grades. When the younger two want to do a craft (somewhat rare in these days) I remind myself to drop everything and comply. Because the oldest and youngest want me to drive them home from school each day, I do it. And they do talk to me more then than any other time. When they want to be "visited" each night at bedtime, Kevin and I try to fit it in. We are a little "scared" into cherishing our time a little bit more because they won't be around forever and they probably won't listen to us even that long (although I am hoping they will, by some miracle of nature, listen at least a little). My kids, by some weird freak of nature, are not staying little forever. They are growing up, changing and those diaper days did not last forever. I still have two that aren't teens yet, but even my days with them are numbered.
"God, please help me to remember that and cherish the really great moments as well as some of the more mundane. And thanks for all those years, though not always fabulous, they were memorable and they were spent with people you wanted in my life. I know they taught me some things (and I am still learning), I pray that I taught them what you wanted me to teach them."